Engineering Graduate Studies - Finding a Supervisor

Waterloo professor looks at object with research student

Finding a Supervisor 

Students in a research-based master’s or doctoral program will work with a faculty supervisor throughout their degree. Your relationship with your supervisor is a key part of your experience and success. Investing time and effort into your search and connecting with potential supervisors prior to applying will allow you a strong start.

Below are some resources to help you learn more about finding the right supervisor for your graduate program. The videos below offer recommendations for researching, contacting and selecting a supervisor. We also asked some of our professors and current graduate students to provide advice on contacting faculty members - scroll down to see what they had to say.

Although you do not need a supervisor to apply to a research-based program (MASc or PhD), you do need a supervisor to receive an offer of admission. Course based programs (MEng/MMSC/MBET) do not require a supervisor. Despite being a research program, the MArch does not require a supervisor before an offer of admission can be made.


Advice for contacting a prospective supervisor

Do your research

Explore the program to which you're applying and demonstrate your knowledge. Research and form an opinion on the published journal articles and current research the faculty member of interest is working on.  Identify why the faculty member and the area of research is a good fit for you, why you would choose this program or research area over others, and how your experience would be an asset to the research group. 

Know who you're writing to

Visit professor profiles to learn more about potential supervisors. Visit the Waterloo Engineering Research Strengths page to search for faculty by name or research topic.  These profiles are a great starting point as they include research overviews, video highlights and listings of publications. While reviewing, think about how their area of focus and research methods align with your own interests, skills and aspirations.

Don't send a generic email

While email is the most common way to introduce yourself to a prospective supervisor, there's nothing less authentic than an email that's copied and pasted with a new name dropped in. Seeing a generic email may prompt a faculty member to skip to their next email before even finishing your opening sentence. Use the information you've learned about your potential supervisor and their research to make your email specific to them.

Explain why you're a good fit

Articulate your background and research interests and how they align with those of your potential supervisor. Ask yourself, will the faculty member see you as a strong teammate who can also assist them with their research? Providing a CV/resume is helpful.

Be mindful of their time

Open the door to further discussion about possible supervision over email. Once a connection is established, arrange to meet by phone, online or in person (if safe to do so).

Be succinct

Ensure the information you include is useful, clear and concise. Make it easy for your reader to find the information they are interested in. You want to catch their attention in the opening paragraph, consider how you can make yourself stand out. In this context, less is more. 

First impressions matter

It is important that your correspondence is professional and clear. It is recommended that you ask a colleague to review for grammar and spelling.

Be patient

Graduate programs at UWaterloo are competitive and our Faculty can receive dozens of queries from students like you each week and may not always have time to respond. One follow up e-mail may be appropriate, but after that it's best to research and select another professor you would like to contact. 

Research Areas and Supervisors