Supervisory Committee

When do I need to select my advisor and supervisory committee?

With some exceptions, students will select their advisor at the end of their final rotation. You should have a discussion with the possible advisor and inform the program Chair as well, before you enter your selection into Seguidor graduate student information system, to allow the department to confirm your advisor’s financial commitment to a new student.

After you have entered the advisor into Seguidor and it has been approved by the Program Director and Dean of Graduate Studies, your choice of advisor becomes official. After the approval of an advisor, you will be able to proceed to enter your committee selection in Seguidor for the approval.

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, you will enter the names of your committee members into Seguidor for approval of Program Director and Graduate Studies. Until you have done that and received approval of your committee appointments, the Chair of the Immunology, Pathology & Infectious Disease Graduate Committee is your official advisor. 

Advisor and committee selection will need to be submitted within 12 months of matriculation. MS students will need to complete this within 6 months of matriculation.

Approval of Supervisory Committee composition by the Dean for Graduate Studies must occur before the initial committee meeting.

Can I have more than four faculty members on my supervisory committee?
Yes, as long as the basic requirements for committee composition are met:

1) four Graduate Faculty Fellows;

2) at least three from the IPID graduate program;

3) at least 2 at associate professor rank or higher; and

4) at least one of whom must be from outside the mentor’s department.

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. It is strongly urged that one or more members of the Supervisory Committee be from a field or fields of study different from the major area of interest, whenever such representation will contribute to the student's program and/or the overall effectiveness of the graduate program.

If one of my supervisory committee members leaves UNMC, can she/he continue to serve on my committee?
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.

Why is it necessary to hold a meeting of my committee only a few weeks after it is formed?
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 PhD 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 Responsible Conduct in Research (RCR) course requirement. 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.

What happens if one of my committee members must resign from my committee?
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 are IPID faculty members, then it is unnecessary to do anything beyond notifying the graduate studies office 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 IPID Graduate Committee as well as the Dean for Graduate Studies.

Why is it necessary for my committee to meet as often as twice per year?
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. Besides, this is a requirement of the Graduate College.

How should I prepare for a meeting of my supervisory committee?
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 is the best way to prepare for an upcoming meeting:

  1. Several weeks in advance of the meeting, email or call the members of your committee to arrange a time and date for the meeting.
  2. Work with Ms. Cechin to schedule a room for the meeting.
  3. Update your research description (the 5-page document you use for graduate assistantship and fellowship applications is ideal for this purpose).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Who is responsible for keeping minutes of the meetings?
This is a matter of agreement between the student and the supervisor.

What should be included in the minutes?
Regardless who prepares the minutes, it should include the basic information, such as the date and time of the meeting and who attended. Moreover, minutes should 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 uploaded to Seguidor. Graduate Studies office provides a template which students can download from Seguidor.