Choosing your Research Adviser will be one of the most important decisions that you will make during your time as a Graduate Student. Who your Adviser will be will have a profound influence on your academic and post-graduate career.
Research Advisers are different than Major Field Advisers (MFAs) who generally represent their research area as a whole (though your Research Adviser and the MFA for your group may be the same person in any given semester). You will normally have a much closer personal relationship to your Research Adviser.
In addition to supervising your research, s/he is your main point of contact for the all of the following:
- Academic Mentoring - S/he will be able to advise you on what Minor courses you should take with regards to research interests and will help shape and expand your interests.
- Committee Recommendations - Though it is likely that your Research Adviser will be your Thesis Committee Chair, s/he can recommend other members for various thesis and examination committees.
- Career Mentoring.
- Financial Support Issues.
It is best that you select your Research Adviser during your first year - the earlier the better. It is a mutual process and it would behoove you meet with faculty in person (at least a few times) to better ensure that s/he matches both your personality and research area. To get a better idea of a faculty's current research and style, you may elect to talk to his/her current graduate students, to read his/her recent papers, to go to any seminars they may be offering, and/or visit him/her during office hours.