Student Advisement

During the week preceding the beginning of the Fall semester, entering students will participate in a departmental orientation. The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and the Graduate Committee will host the orientation to review the student's preparation and interests and to formulate a program of study for their first academic year. The advising process is repeated at the end of the fall semester in preparation for the spring semester.

Please review the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences New Students page for a checklist regarding incoming students. You will be expected to complete any paperwork or enrollment shown there.

Transfer Credit:

A petition to request academic credit for graduate-level courses taken as part of graduate training at another institution should be made during the first semester, first year in the form of an email to the Director of Graduate studies. Please review these details regarding Transfer credit.

Student Advising and Supervision:

The Major Professor (Ph.D. Advisor)

Each student will eventually choose one faculty member in the Biology Department (or a joint appointee faculty member in Biology) to serve as principal teacher and advisor for the duration of their graduate studies. The choice of Major Professor is by mutual agreement between the student and professor and is usually made at the end of the spring semester, after the student's final laboratory rotation. Students send their choice of Major Professor to the Director of Graduate Studies, who then solicits confirmation from the selected Major Professor. Either party can terminate this agreement. In such a case, both student and professor shall provide written notice to the DGS.

If the primary faculty appointment of the Major Professor is in a department other than Biology, then the Chair of the Department of Biology must approve the student’s choice of a Major Professor. In these cases, the Director of Graduate Studies will prepare a letter of agreement defining the financial arrangements for the student; this letter must be signed by the student’s Major Professor, the Chairs of both the Major Professor’s and Biology departments, and the Director of Graduate Studies. This agreement will become part of the student’s departmental file, and commonly stipulates that all student expenses (including stipend/wages, tuition, and health insurance) are the responsibility of the Major Professor, or, should funds not be available, of the Major Professor’s department.

With the guidance of the Major Professor, the student develops a research program appropriate for a doctoral dissertation. The student completes this research program with direction from the Major Professor and the Dissertation Committee who, together, guide the student’s research, evaluate progress toward completion of the dissertation and assess the suitability of the body of work for a Ph.D. degree.

The Dissertation Committee:

By the end of January of the second academic year, the student and their Major Professor choose four additional Graduate Faculty members at the University, in disciplines relevant to the area of dissertation research, to serve together with the Major Professor as the Dissertation Committee.

At least three faculty members of the Dissertation Committee must carry appointments in the Department of Biology. One member of the Dissertation Committee must be a Graduate School of Arts & Sciences faculty member appointed in a department other than the Department of Biology (also known as the Dean’s representative). One member of the Dissertation Committee who is appointed in the Department of Biology, other than the Major Professor, will be designated "First Reader."

The DGS approves the composition of each Dissertation Committee at the time the Dissertation Committee is assembled and when changes in the composition of the Dissertation Committee are requested.

The First Reader serves as the chairperson of the Dissertation Committee, and chairs the Qualifying Examination and Dissertation Defense. The First Reader is also one of the two readers who review the Dissertation Proposal prior to its distribution to the Dissertation Committee, in advance of the Qualifying Examination.

The Dissertation Committee serves as the Examination Committee for the qualifying examination and dissertation defense. It also serves as an advisory body to the student during the tenure of her or his graduate studies. Students are required to meet annually, or more frequently as needed, with their Dissertation Committees.