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Carnegie Mellon Department of Chemistry

Guide to Graduate Studies

Ph.D. Requirements

Research Advisors

For students entering Fall 2015 and later

The primary responsibility of the Research Advisor is directing the research for the dissertation, but he/she also provides guidance for meeting the other Ph.D. program requirements, general educational advice, career planning, and often job search assistance. The Research Advisor also provides formal written notice when issues in the student’s research performance jeopardize continuation in the group (See Academic Actions and Appeals).

A Research Advisor is to be selected from the Chemistry faculty by mid-semester of the second semester in residence. This involves mutual agreement between the student and the faculty member, and requires approval by the Department Head. Selecting an advisor and joining a lab/group in the first semester is encouraged when the student is confident of his/her interests. The advisor (or co-advisors), the student and the department head must agree for a student to join a group officially.

Process of Joining a Group

In general, the process of joining a group is flexible and students are responsible for actively seeking out faculty during the initial weeks of the first semester to discuss their research interests and possible openings available in the group. While every effort is made to admit students with research interests that match openings in the department’s research groups, student are not admitted to particular research areas and first-year students sometimes develop new research interests that affect the distribution of openings. Flexibility in the process is intended to allow students to find a group suitable for them and for faculty to find good matches for their research groups. These are the major strategies:

Prior to selection of a Research Advisor, students are strongly encouraged to discuss their research interests with a minimum of three faculty members. Moreover, the students should get to know the faculty widely, get advice from students whose studies are further advanced, and visit with faculty in their offices. It must be understood that the chosen advisor will occasionally decline the relationship, either because of overload, lack of sufficient research support or lack of intellectual compatibility.

Expectations and Deadlines

A first-year student must join a research group prior to their first summer in the department in order to remain in the Ph.D. program. Students who have not secured an advisor by mid-semester of their first spring in the department are advised to consult the GPC Co-Chairs. More advanced students who lose an advisor may be eligible to change advisors (see Outcomes, below, and Eligibility to Change Advisors).

The Research Advisor becomes de facto the Academic Advisor to the student making the student aware of Ph.D. requirements in collaboration with the GPC, recommending coursework, and monitoring progress toward the Ph.D.

The research advisor may set his/her own requirements for good standing in the group and has the responsibility to communicate in writing any deficiencies in an advisee’s research activities that are significant enough to jeopardize their continuation in the group and/or in the Ph.D. program as described under Academic Actions and Appeals.

Outcomes

A student without a Research Advisor at any stage in the Ph.D. program typically is not eligible for financial support in the summer and will normally be required to withdraw from the Ph.D. program, with discussion of options to complete the M.S. in Chemistry, if not already completed.

While the advising relationship typically lasts the duration of a student’s Ph.D. studies, either the student or the Research Advisor (or co-advisor) may terminate their relationship according to the approved departmental procedures described under Academic Actions and Appeals. A student otherwise in good standing in the department may then select a new Research Advisor on mutual agreement between the student and the faculty member, and approval by the Department Head.

Normally, for a new advisor to consider a student favorably, he/she must be in good standing and must be making timely progress on program requirements expected for their semester in the program. As described under Academic Actions, the student may request a 1–2 month grace period to search for a new advisor and will have the opportunity to be considered for a teaching assistant or other position during that time, should one be available, although financial support cannot be guaranteed. A student who is changing groups typically needs to join a new group prior to summer in order to continue in the Ph.D. program. See additional information about changing advisors.

For students entering Fall 2014 and earlier

A Research Advisor is to be selected from the Chemistry faculty by mid-semester of the second semester in residence. This involves mutual agreement between the student and the faculty member, and requires approval by the Department Head. Selecting an advisor and joining a lab/group in the first semester is encouraged when the student is confident of his/her interests. The advisor (or co-advisors), the student and the department head must agree for a student to join a group officially.

Expectations

In general, students should actively seek out faculty during the first semester to discuss their research interests. In addition, students are encouraged to visit regular group meetings to learn more about the ongoing research and meet others in the group. A first-year student must join a research group prior to their first summer in the department in order to remain in the Ph.D. program. Students who have not secured an advisor by mid-semester of their first spring in the department are advised to consult the GPC Co-Chairs. More advanced students who lose an advisor may be eligible to change advisors (see Outcomes, below, and Changing Advisors).

Prior to selection of a Research Advisor, students are strongly encouraged to discuss their research interests with a minimum of three faculty members. Moreover, the students should get to know the faculty widely, get advice from students whose studies are further advanced, and visit with faculty in their offices. It must be understood that the chosen advisor will occasionally decline the relationship, either because of overload, lack of sufficient research support or lack of intellectual compatibility. A student without a Research Advisor typically is not eligible for financial support in the summer.

The Research Advisor becomes de facto the Academic Advisor to the student making the student aware of Ph.D. requirements in collaboration with the GPC, recommending coursework, and monitoring progress toward the Ph.D. The primary responsibility of the Research Advisor is directing the research for the dissertation, but he/she also provides guidance for meeting the other Ph.D. program requirements, general educational advice, career planning, and often job search assistance. The research advisor may set his/her own requirements for good standing in the group and has the responsibility to communicate in writing any deficiencies in an advisee's research activities that are significant enough to jeopardize their continuation in the group and/or in the Ph.D. program as described under Academic Actions and Appeals.

Outcomes

While the advising relationship typically lasts the duration of a student's Ph.D. studies, either the student or the Research Advisor may terminate their relationship according to the approved departmental procedures described under Academic Actions and Appeals. A student otherwise in good standing in the department may then select a new Research Advisor on mutual agreement between the student and the faculty member, and approval by the Department Head. Normally, for a new advisor to consider a student favorably, he/she must be in good standing and must be making timely progress on program requirements expected for their semester in the program. When requested, the student will have a 1–2 month grace period to search for a new advisor and will have the opportunity to be considered for a teaching assistant or other position, should one be available, although financial support cannot be guaranteed. A student who is changing groups typically needs to join a new group prior to summer in order to continue in the Ph.D. program. See additional information about changing advisors.