Once accepted into a lab, graduate students need to assemble a committee of five faculty members to help guide them through their graduate career. It is advisable to discuss your choices with the mentoring major professor. This committee usually consists of the major professor (who also serves as committee chair), two additional core or affiliated department members, one faculty member from another department who is interested in your research, and a Graduate Council Representative (GCR) chosen by the student from a short list assigned by the Graduate School. This committee should be assembled for its first meeting no later than during Fall term of Year 2.

The first meeting of graduate committees serves to introduce the student’s current and proposed research, and to plan the remaining coursework to be completed as part of the Ph.D. program. The most effective meetings occur when a 20-minute presentation of student objectives, initial research progress, and proposed future research are followed by discussions of the research, and about which classes are most appropriate to achieve the proposed research goals. These meetings are NOT exams, yet students should be well prepared and likely have rehearsed their short presentation. It is advisable to prepare handouts for all committee members and even be ready to supply pdf files of the presentation as a record for committee members who may want to stay involved with the research.

Gathering five faculty members in one place at one time for two or three hours will require lots of preparation. Students should plan the meeting at least one month in advance and send reminder e-mails one week and one day before the planned meeting. They should reserve the BB conference room (ALS 2040) or library (ALS 2009A) for the meeting at least two weeks in advance (and notify committee members of the location).

Students should have the Ph.D. program forms (see page 6 and below) filled in before the meeting is scheduled with the Graduate School; it’s advisable to consult with the mentoring major professor. This first meeting is one of three that MUST be scheduled with the Graduate School at least one week in advance of the meeting date (the other two are the preliminary and final exams). After the meeting, the Department Chair must approve programs by signature before the forms are submitted.

It is the graduate student’s responsibility to:
-obtain all necessary forms,
-fill them out properly (guided by the major professor), and
-submit the signed forms to the Graduate School.

For acceptable forms to be used in preparation of the committee meeting, updated Grad School forms can be accessed here. Signed originals of the program forms (a copy should be kept by the student and major professor!) must be submitted to the Graduate School, which is located on the third floor of the Kerr Administration Building (across the street from Valley Library).

Graduate committees will meet at least two more times. The second meeting will be for an oral preliminary examination, and the third, and last, will be for the private part of the thesis defense (or final oral exam). Committee members will get to know about the graduate student’s scientific progress and potential through these meetings and the dissertation (or “thesis”). They will then be in good position to write the critical letters of recommendation that a newly minted Ph.D. needs to advance to the next stage of their science career, in either academic or industry research or teaching. Needless to say, students should strive to perform well during all meetings and remain on good terms with all committee members.

Master of Science Candidates

A graduate committee is required, but the make-up of this committee is different from that of a Ph.D. candidate, and it is different for a “thesis” versus “non-thesis” degree. For a non-thesis degree, the committee is composed of three faculty members of the department. For a thesis degree, the committee is composed of three faculty members and one Graduate Council Representative from a short list assigned by the Graduate School.