To facilitate timely progress towards degree completion, students will be connected with a faculty advisor affiliated with the department upon admission, based on shared research interests. (Note that students may work with more than one faculty member, but one will be the primary advisor responsible for officially guiding and relaying student progress to the department.) The advisor will work out a plan of coursework and research with the student commensurate with fulfilling all the necessary degree requirements, and serve as a faculty mentor for the student.
To facilitate regular communication about academic progress, students will be evaluated individually each year and given written feedback about their progress. In preparation, students will write a statement about their progress and meet with their faculty advisors, who will give some initial feedback. The program faculty as a whole will then meet to discuss all the students, with a letter written to each individual student summarizing the assessment and, if necessary, deadlines for specific activities to be finished or goals to be achieved. This evaluation letter will state either that the student is making good progress or has been given cautionary status. Students will thus be well aware on a regular basis of whether they are on track to complete their degree, and if not, what should be done to get them back on track.
We strive to create a supportive scientific environment that promotes health and well-being. To do this, we promote the following general practices in departmental culture (adapted from Maester, F. 2019. Ten simple rules towards healthier research labs, PLOS Computational Biology, 15(4): e1006914):
- Promote the well-being of department members: Make sure everyone can work in the best conditions possible while also enjoying doing science. For instance, be kind and listen carefully to others
- Let people set their own schedules: Be flexible regarding working time preferences, even if there are set times when department members should aim to be present in the department.
- Show gratitude: There are multiple psychological benefits to showing gratitude, and doing so is crucial to the smooth running of a research group, from the administrative support staff to the undergraduate RAs to the graduate students to the faculty.
- Treat department members as collaborators: Listen to everyone, because you never know where good ideas will come from. Trust others who have the relevant knowledge to do the work they need to do, and be gentle when asking for help or giving it.
- Create a collaborative environment: Science is often a collective endeavor, and collaborations allow that to happen as well as fostering long-term professional relationships. Encourage meetings, discussions, and conversations. Graduate students should know about each other’s work.
- Remember that every department member is unique: Help foster everyone’s capabilities in order to help them fulfill their potential and professional ambitions. This means different people may need different types of guidance and support.
- Respect the work-life balance: Working outside what someone considers their normal working times should be the exception, and not the rule -- this enables a healthier work-life balance and more productive normal working time. But keep in mind that different people may have different working times that are normal for them.
- Give credit where credit is due: Openly discuss contributions to any project and the authorships or acknowledgements that are appropriate.
- Destigmatize failure and celebrate success: Rejection is a normal (and important) part of the scientific process. Share experiences openly, highlighting how to navigate rejection. Also highlight the relative (in)frequency of success, and celebrate it when it happens.
- Promote professional development: Discuss openly the pros and cons of different career options, and offer opportunities to develop key skills and contacts that will lead to the career choices that are desired. This includes attending networking events, such as professional conferences or pedagogical workshops.