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  • Rights: The University of Waikato
    Published 21 July 2007 Referencing Hub media

    Dr Eli van Houten from the University of Canterbury talks about what makes a good student.

    The most important trait in any student is keenness. A good student is someone who is eager and interested, someone who is excited by the problems they are working on and who wants to contribute. It is also important for any student to question things that are presented to them as fact; this is how science develops.


    Finding a good PhD student can be a little tricky. I think that the overall attribute that you look for most is keenness really, you want someone who is eager, and interested and excited by the problems that you are working on and wants to contribute to the project. The knowledge and the intelligence and the wisdom sort of come with time and with learning, but the keenness you can't replace. I was teaching this class here at the University of Canterbury and one week I was a bit rushed for time, so I just quickly came up with a tutorial problem and went into class and after the tutorial I was back up in my office and there was a knock on my door and in came Ashton Peters and he said well, I was looking over this tutorial that you gave today and I actually think you've made a mistake here in this problem and that you wanted to define the boundary conditions as being this instead of this. And I looked at him and said you know what, I actually have a PhD scholarship that I'm looking for a student for and I think you'd make a really good PhD student. So that was how Ashton distinguished himself. I think it’s really important for any student to question the things that are presented to them as fact and try and make sure that it all makes sense in their own head, and if it doesn't make sense then yeah, go to whoever’s told this to you and say are you sure about that. And that’s how science happens and that’s how development happens and I hope he keeps doing that for the entire time that we’re together professionally, because that will help us both, you know we’ll both learn from it and we certainly both have.

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