Speed-dating to find your thesis supervisor

Four talented students will have the opportunity to progress smoothly from their master’s study programme into a research career. Master’s students in Applied Statistics can compete for one quarter of the € 800,000 grant recently awarded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The students get to choose their supervisor via speed-dating.

Breeding ground for talent

What is he getting himself into, wondered some of the colleagues of Willem Heiser, Professor of Methodology and Statistics at the Institute of Psychology. In early 2013 Heiser submitted an application to the NWO Graduate Programme, completely side-stepping the fact that he will be retiring in 2014. Heiser is Chairman of the Interuniversity Graduate School of Psychometrics and Sociometrics (IOPS), a breeding ground for talent in applied statistics. At the end of August he found out that ‘his’ Graduate School had been granted funding. Now it’s the turn of the master’s students to try and earn one quarter of the € 800,000 subsidy. And they have to work hard for it.


It's all about the student

To begin with, this academic year (2013-2014) the research master’s students are already following their elective courses or internship in at least two of the six participating universities: Amsterdam (UvA), Leiden, Groningen, Leuven, Tilburg and Utrecht. They will then select a thesis supervisor via speed-dating and a thesis topic during a Summer School. Together with their supervisor, they will write a research proposal. The grant is not linked to a university, but to a student. This means that a student can easily move to the university of his or thesis supervisor, taking with him the € 200,000 grant. As for the speed-dating between master’s students and potential thesis supervisors, Heiser is curious about the outcome.

Healthy competition

Heiser is not afraid of a bit of healthy competition: ‘Having to share the loot keeps you on your toes’, although he does hope to be able to supervise a PhD project in what he refers to as his ‘injury time’. He is delighted with the success of the grant application and the direct link between the research groups of the universities, all six of which were chosen on the basis of the 2012 research audits. He sees the Graduate Programme grant as a binding factor and a strengthening of the Graduate School.

In the US, PhD candidates are students

Heiser is a firm believer in the ‘student-centred approach’, which tends towards the American model, where a student transitions from a master’s programme into a self-chosen PhD track. In the Netherlands, former Minister of Education Ronald Plasterk was the person who introduced the American approach to PhD candidates as students, rather than employees. NWO wants to extend this approach to all PhD candidates.

Master's programme in the limelight

Professor Willem Heiser

Professor Willem Heiser

Heiser talks with youthful enthusiasm about a pamphlet to promote Psychometrics and Sociometrics. He sees this as an opportunity to put the two-year Leiden master’s programme in Statistical Science in the limelight. The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences has been working together with the LUMC and the Faculty of Science since 2009 to create this master’s programme. Graduates in Applied Statistics are currently very much in demand. In the slipstream of the ‘evidence based’ movement, they find jobs in the hospital, education and mental healthcare sectors, to name just a few.

(28 October 2013)


See also

Health across the Human Life Cycle is one of the key themes for research at Leiden University.


Health, Life and Biosciences is one of the key themes for research at Leiden University.


Studying in Leiden

Bachelor's
Psychology

Master's

Last Modified: 31-10-2013