Supervision

Last updated on 12.10.2019

How do I look for a supervisor and a thesis subject?

The subject of your doctoral thesis must be related to your field of study. There is a wide range of research groups at TU Wien. Therefore, it should be no problem to find a supervisor. A supervisor must be a person with a habilitation or a full professor.

Either you have an own idea for a subject or you can look for an offered subject.

Offered Subjects

You will find offered subjects

If you don’t find a proper offered subject, you also can contact the heads of the institutes and of the research groups of your interest. Sometimes doctoral theses are offered without publishing the offer. All contacts of the members of the institutes can be found in Tiss. You can find the information about the members of the research groups at the websites of the institutes.

Own idea:

If you have an own idea for a doctoral thesis, you should find a supervisor who can supervise your thesis. All contacts of the members of the institutes can be found in Tiss.

It is important to agree with your supervisor on your employment and place of work.

Can I study at the TU Wien, but have an external supervisor (not associated with the TU)?

Yes. In this case it is advisable to have two supervisors, one being the external one and another associated with the TU Wien. Since the thesis topic must be assignable to a field of study present at the TU Wien, there will in general also be potential advisors. This course of action is recommended because It provides some safety net in case of scientific disputes with your advisor, e.g., on whether the thesis is already mature enough to be handed in. Also, it lessens admistrative friction.

In case this is not possible and you only want external thesis supervision, you should talk to the dean of studies before starting your thesis and reach an agreement. He has to approve of the thesis topic, the advisor and also has to appoint auditors of the thesis.

In general, there are three possibilities:

  1. external advisor, TU doctoral student
  2. TU advisor, doctoral student at another university
  3. TU advisor, TU doctoral student (but working elsewhere)

All of these modi come with some caveats: there might be more administrative friction, or the communication with your advisor might be more difficult. Drop us a note if you are unsure what to choose.

Do I need a second supervisor?

Not necessarily, but it is common practice.

Typically, a thesis is advised by both the group leader, who will oversee the progress, and a professor or post-doc, who will work with you more closely. In inter-disciplinary work, there might be two supervisors from the two fields you are connecting with your thesis.

Is it possible to change the thesis subject after I have started with my research work?

Yes, it is. We want to answer this question only for changing the subject within the TU Wien. We have to distinguish between different possibilities.

  • You want to change the working title of your thesis. Doctoral programme, field of study and supervisor are not going to be changed. In this case you should talk to your supervisor and your dean of studies and agree with them on the change of the working title. If you already have made the announcement of your doctoral thesis please do it again with the new working title. 
  • You want to change the research project, which is responsible for your funding. Doctoral programme, field of study and supervisor are not going to be changed. In this case you should talk to your supervisor. It could be that changing the research project means a changing of the thesis working title either. In this case you should talk to your dean of studies too, and if you already have made the announcement of your doctoral thesis please do it again with the new working title.
  • You want to change your supervisor. Doctoral programme and field of study are not going to be changed. In this case you should talk to your current supervisor and to your new supervisor and agree with them on this change. You should agree with your new supervisor on the announcement of your doctoral thesis and the courses for the doctoral programme.
  • You want to change everything - supervisor, doctoral programme and field of study. In this case you should talk to your current supervisor and to your new supervisor and agree with them on this change. It would be nice to inform the dean's office that you are going to change everything. You should agree with your new supervisor on the announcement of your doctoral thesis and the courses for the doctoral programme. Please note, that you have to apply for admission for the new doctoral programme (Admission to the Doctoral Programmes). You should agree with your new supervisor on the announcement of your doctoral thesis and the courses for the doctoral programme.

I have a (professional) problem with my supervisor.  What do I do?

Talk to your supervisor first and try to work out a solution.  If that does not work, contact us or a mediating party.

Research is often a high-stakes, high-pressure game, and that may reflect on your supervisor, you, and thus also the supervisory relationship.  Common problems are:

  • you feel you made a significant contribution to a paper, but are not offered co-authorship
  • you feel you made the primary contribution to a paper, but are not offered first author
  • you disagree with your supervisor on whether your thesis is ready to be handed in
  • you disagree with your supervisor on your work load and working hours
  • you feel you are mainly given administrative or teaching tasks and do not have any time for your research.

Regardless the exact nature, we recommend:

  • Talk to your supervisor as soon as possible.  Mind that they might not even be aware of your problem.  Prepare for the meeting, and state your observations and concerns.
  • If you cannot find common ground, you may at the very least agree on a system that mitigates the issue in the future.  For example, regarding co-authorship, it may be a good idea to agree on the author list and order on the paper before starting a project.
  • Chances are, you don't have regular meetings with your supervisor, so this is good time to set them up. This will allow you to catch such things earlier.
  • If not already done, you should fill out the thesis agreement together with your supervisor.

If you cannot resolve the issue, the issue persists, or you're uncomfortable talking to your supervisor, you may want to get somebody to mediate: if you are part of a Doktoratskolleg (DK), you may have an ombudsperson, who is charged with exactly those sorts of problems. If not, feel free to contact us!