Q: Why do I need to set up my supervisory committee so soon after choosing my advisor?
A: Your choice of advisor does not become official until the Dean of Graduate Studies has been notified in writing as to the graduate faculty members who have agreed to serve on your supervisory committee. It is the responsibility of each graduate student, in consultation with her/his advisor, to select the faculty members to serve on the committee and to make sure that all potential members have agreed to serve. Once that is done, inform Ms. Hankins and she will complete the necessary forms and submit them to the Graduate Studies Office. Until you have done that and received approval of your committee appointments from the Dean of Graduate Studies, the BMB Graduate Committee is your official advisor and the chairman of that committee must sign your registration forms and other important documents.
Q: Can I have more than four faculty members on my supervisory committee?
A: Yes, as long as the majority of members hold appointments in BMB. In some cases, there have been committees having as many as six members. The advantage of having a large committee is the diversity of expertise and perspective available to help the student in planning and executing his/her research. The disadvantages of a large committee include difficulty in scheduling meetings at a time when all can attend and the varied opinions and questions the student may need to deal with in writing and defending the dissertation.
Q: If one of my supervisory committee members leaves UNMC, can she/he continue to serve on my committee?
A: Yes, if you and the other committee members are amenable, that individual may continue to serve on your committee from a distance via phone hook-ups and correspondence. However, in order to be able to sign your dissertation, that individual would have to be physically present at your defense. It would be necessary that the individual involved retain some sort of faculty appointment at UNMC (adjunct, emeritus, etc.), so it would be advisable to consult the Office of Graduate Studies to obtain information and advice on how this may be done.
Q: Why is it necessary to hold a meeting of my committee only a few weeks after it is formed?
A: The purpose of the first meeting is to allow your Supervisory Committee to assist you in setting up your Program of Study. This represents a plan for the courses that you will take and other requirements that you must fulfill for the Ph.D. degree. This document also will stipulate the "Research Tools" that you need to complete or master as part of your graduate studies, which normally include the Ethics Course requirement and becoming a Radiation Worker. It is beneficial to complete this paperwork as soon as possible after choosing your supervisor so that the relationship between you and your supervisory committee can be formalized. This meeting need not be a long one, as it is not expected that many students will have accumulated very much data by that early point in their graduate career. However, it is helpful to the committee for the student to give a brief overview of their research area so that the committee will be informed as it recommends coursework.
Q: What happens if one of my committee members must resign from my committee?
A: In this case, what would need to be done depends on how many members remain on your committee after that member's resignation. If there are still four remaining members and the majority have BMB appointments, then it is unnecessary to do anything beyond notifying the Dean of Graduate Studies in writing that one of the members of your committee has resigned. If there are fewer than four members left after that member's resignation, then it would be necessary to add a new member to bring the committee membership back up to a minimum of four. The new member would need to be approved by the BMB Graduate Committee as well as the Dean for Graduate Studies.
Q: Why is it necessary for my committee to meet as often as twice per year?
A: First, semi-annual supervisory committee meetings are a requirement of the graduate studies program. Second, it is in the student's best interests to keep your committee updated on your progress or (in some cases) to seek their assistance in solving problems with your project. Students should look upon the "required" semi-annual meetings as opportunities to inform and communicate with their committee members, rather than treating the meetings like visits to the dentist.
Q: How should I prepare for a meeting of my supervisory committee?
A: The first and foremost suggestion is NOT to assume that, other than your supervisor, your committee members will remember exactly what you told them at the previous committee meeting. As you progress through your graduate career and have more meetings, the committee will become more familiar with your work and get to know you. But it is up to you to make sure the committee members are updated about your work. So here's the best way to prepare for an upcoming meeting:
- Several weeks in advance of the meeting, email or call the members of your committee to arrange a time and date for the meeting.
- Work with Ms. Hankins to schedule a room for the meeting.
- Update your research description (the 5-page document you use for graduate assistantship and fellowship applications is ideal for this purpose).
- Distribute the updated research description and any accessory documents to the committee members as an email attachment (preferably) or hard copy several days before the meeting.
- The accessory documents that you are hoping the committee will discuss or consider at your meeting may include future research plans, special requests for modification of your Program of Study, outline of your dissertation, etc.
- Prepare a PowerPoint presentation on your new work, providing sufficient background information and key pieces of older data to provide orientation to the research in progress.
Q: Who is responsible for keeping minutes of the meetings?
A: This is a matter of agreement between the student and the supervisor.
Q: What should be included in the minutes?
A: Regardless who prepares the minutes, it is important to write a cover note addressed to the Chairman of the Graduate Committee and describing the date and time of the meeting and who attended as well as to summarize the major suggestions from committee members about the research progress and to state any conclusions reached by the committee (e.g., that you may stop experimentation and prepare for your defense). Any handouts given to the committee members should be attached and the minutes should be submitted to Ms. Hankins for review by the Graduate Committee and deposition in your student file.