Trevor De Freitas PhotoCropped

The privilege of supervising an Honours student for the first time

By Nathan Ning

About 3 years ago I received the privilege of being asked to co-supervise my first Honours student. At first I wondered if I had enough knowledge and experience to be of any assistance as a co-supervisor because I had only graduated a couple of years earlier myself. Nevertheless, I tentatively agreed to take up the opportunity to co-supervise the student, Trevor, and so began 9 months of steep personal growth for both of us.

Trevor’s project investigated the diel, vertical and lateral migration patterns of microinvertebrates in the Broken River. The project involved undertaking a multitude of roles and tasks, ranging from working as a colleague alongside Trevor in numerous white-boarding sessions, being his lackey whilst sampling mosquito-infested backwaters in the pitch black of night, mentoring him in identifying microinvertebrates and undertaking multivariate analyses, and acting as a reviewer for his literature review and thesis.

I can’t deny in admitting that the workload associated with being a co-supervisor for the first time often felt a bit overwhelming when combined with the tasks and deadlines associated with my own project responsibilities, but the sheer number of rewarding moments derived from being a co-supervisor always outweighed any of the challenges. For example, there was the time when I got to see Trevor’s sense of relief and accomplishment when he finally submitted his thesis for examination, and the time that I saw him completely full of joy and pride when he graduated.

However, the most rewarding aspect of all was getting to watch Trevor grow during the 9 month period from being a relatively quiet and tentative student to a much more confident student that was now completely capable of undertaking his own research and thinking for himself. I learnt a lot of things during that first experience as a co-supervisor. Most of all I learnt about how rewarding it is to help mentor someone through the highs and lows of an Honours year and to know that you may have contributed to their personal growth in some small way.

Nathan Ning

Nathan Ning, by his own admission is only part fisho , other parts aquatic ecologist, and is beyond being labelled.