students, who do not have an official advisor, are monitored by the 1st
year student advisory committee with biannual meetings. This committee
offers input into course selection and laboratory rotation choices
prior to the selection of an advisor. All incoming students take a
professional development course that teaches survival skills for
graduate school and beyond. The purpose of the course is not to take
the place of mentoring in the laboratory, but to give students a taste
of the skills they will need to develop during graduate school and
issues they should be thinking about.
students complete generally 3 rotations with potential thesis advisors.
These introduce students to the particular lab environment,
intellectually as well as socially, and the style of mentoring by the
potential advisor. There are formal written evaluations of the
rotations by the student and faculty member.
rotations, students choose their advisor and form an advisory committee
at the end of the first year. Thesis committees consist of professors
from three different areas of neuroscience (cellular, systems, etc.),
to ensure a broad range of perspectives. Our training program monitors
the composition of advisory committees carefully for scientific breadth
and depth, but also for experience at advising. In fact, the
composition of all advisory committees must be approved by the Student
Advisory Committee. Students are required to meet twice a year with
their Advisory Committee until the completion of their preliminary
examination and then once a year thereafter. In addition, the Program
chair meets with all advisors of 2nd year students collectively in the
fall of the student's second year to go through departmental guidelines
on advising and expectations. Collegiality amongst faculty enables them
to work well together on graduate committees. The committee consists of
the same members throughout the graduate experience. Disagreements not
resolved within the Advisory Committee can be taken to the Student
Advisory Committee for resolution and finally to the Program's Steering
we have implemented yearly progress report meetings with program chair
for some students. Students meet with the chair in the spring semester
of their first year as well as the summer following their second and
fourth years. Senior grad students have the opportunity to take a new
senior professional development course geared towards securing a
post-doc, interviewing, job talks, and curriculum vitae development.
system in place is traditional with modifications to address some of
the weaknesses of the traditional model and usually works well to
-- intense mentoring from primary research advisor (useful to student for guidance on topic for thesis research)
broad perspective from committee on research direction / duration
(useful scientifically and committee can act as advocate for student).
program is by definition a training program. This means that each
faculty member is part of a respective department (where they seek
tenure, promotion, and grants as well as teach and publish). The sole
goal of the training program is to ensure the well-being of the
student. This is accomplished by layering the mentoring responsibility
with oversight from first the advisor, then the committee, followed by
Tools and Resources
reminders to faculty that they are on a graduate committee, with the
names of the other members, the status of the student (pre- or
post-prelim, whether their coursework and teaching is completed, etc.)
are incredibly helpful, and a good memory jog.
rotations are fully supported by program and allow the interests and
compatibilities to be assessed before strong commitment given by
student or advisor. This optimizes chance of successful partnership.
Advisory Committee composition consists of 5 members spanning the main
disciplines within Neuroscience. The Committee offers a formal setting
in which to outline what is expected of the student.
Student Advisory Committee is important in the first year for keeping
students on track with course requirements, and offers some guidance
with picking a lab and designating thesis committee members once the
lab has been chosen.
meetings are conducted at regular intervals, and reports are completed
by advisor and student together. This process contributes to common
understanding of progress and expectations. A written report of the
meeting is submitted to program office and reviewed by the Chair or
Steering Committee as necessary. It provides a record of progress that
can be used to identify problems.
forms are filled out and signed by all members of the Advisory
Committee certifying completion of milestones towards completion of the
degree as well as coursework.
Development courses are in place to bridge any gap in a student's
knowledge of survival skills for his/her life as a scientist. The
courses provide this knowledge to allow either party (advisor or
advisee) to be able to bring these things up for discussion. While the
course for first-year students in well established, the course for
senior students will be offered for the first time in fall 2005.
is no formal contract detailing what is expected of the student, and
what the student expects from the advisor. This is mostly implicit
and/or established on the discretion of the student and his/her advisor.
Forms for specific mentoring/advising events and milestones
Professional Development Courses
Syllabi of courses that provide students with informal mentoring.
Goals for Advising
graduate mentor is perhaps the most influential source in shaping a
student's professional identity, and a solid mentor-advisee
relationship is thus critical to the future vitality of the field.
Advising provides the student with an organized and secure environment
wherein they can perform to their full potential and do not wander
aimelessly through their graduat career.
advising is best described as being the "champion" of your student and
taking responsibility for them throughout their graduate career and
beyond. This includes good listening, clear communication, creating an
individualized plan for graduate training, being involved in future
project planning, making sure the student receives their degree in a
reasonable amount of time and expressing interest in their future
Roles and Responsibilites of Advisors
PROFESSOR: guides development of research project daily; supports
scientific challenge; provides information about various career
options; helps student to network with people in the area the student
wants to pursue; is a compassionate parental figure who is open to and
encourages independence, but also intervenes (gently and firmly) when
the student is straying off course; is a role model for future
advising; ensures that the student has fulfilled the course
requirements and other major milestones of graduate schooling
broad context of research direction and prioritization; guides
development of research project; is a compassionate parental figure who
is open to and encourages independence but also intervenes (gently and
firmly) when the student is straying off course; role models for future
advising; plays a good cop, bad cop; supports scientific challenge;
ensures that the student has fulfilled the course requirements and
other major milestones of graduate schooling
ADVISING: Shapes the student's critical thinking abilities and
transitioning the student to intellectual independence; provides
information about various career options and helps the student to
network with people in the area the student wants to pursue; role
models for future advising; ensures that the student has fulfilled the
course requirements and other major milestones of graduate schooling
advising system began more than 25 years ago and has been revised and
refined through the years to meet the changes in the students' needs
and backgrounds. There is a system of layers that ensures the
well-being of the student as its most important goal. The thesis
advisors provide close one-on-one mentoring, which is monitored by the
thesis committee. The interactions of the thesis committee, student,
and advisor are also monitored by the Program's Steering Committee. The
current system fits in well with the other elements of the Program
because it has been developed as a comprehensive part of the Program.
How Do We Know?
know from the preliminary results of our survey that the majority of
students are satisfied with their mentoring. As a Program, we also know
that we have created a system of layers so that students who do not
received effective advising from their primary advisor will have other
resources and people to contact.
are able to measure that advising in the Program is effective through
measurements like degree completion rate, time to degree, ability of
students to switch laboratories, and career progression. All of these
measurements indicate that the Program's advising system is effective.
are not evaluated per se except during rotations (see links to rotation
evaluation forms). All advisors meet with the chair of the Program in
the fall following the acceptance of a student in their laboratory. The
Advisory Committee plays an important role in evaluating the advisor by
raising concerns during the required meetings. There has been much
discussion in the Program's CID Committee and Steering Committee about
advisor evaluations. Discussion has focused on the need and utility of
these evaluations as well as who would fill them out and who would have
access to them. It is not clear that a formal evaluation process would
be helpful to either the students or the faculty members at this time.
Much of the information the objective information (i.e., advisor's
availability, style, etc.) that could be gleened from such an
evaulation is readily apparent to those completing laboratory rotations.
Rotation Evaluation for Students
This is the rotation evaluation form that is used by students to evaluate the faculty sponsors of their rotation.
Rotation Evaluation for Faculty
This is the rotation evaluation form that is used by faculty to evaluate student rotaters.
and ideas that will be discussed in the future by the Program's CID
committee include possible implementation of an "Expectations" exercise
for rotations in addition to if and how to give students and faculty
guidelines on running and improving the effectiveness of the Advisory
We welcome all comments and questions.
For More Information Contact:
Rebekah Jakel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Vaishali Bakshi (email@example.com)