Your success as a graduate student depends on developing productive relationships with your Research Supervisor and Advisory Committee, as well as support from the CELL Program Coordinator and CELL Program Graduate Advisor; all of these people have specific roles and responsibilities. In turn, graduate students themselves have important responsibilities. These various roles and responsibilities are summarized below. More detailed descriptions can be found in the Handbook of Graduate Supervision. The Handbook contains extremely useful advice about promoting positive supervisory relationships, time management, setting goals, avoiding common problems, managing any problems that may arise, and many other issues – the Handbook is essential reading for students and faculty alike!
In order to supervise a student in the CELL Program, a faculty member is required to become a member of the Program. Information can be found here.
Your Research Supervisor is responsible for your overall training program. Graduate education is greatly affected by the nature of the supervision and the quality of communication between graduate students and their supervisors. When students work closely and effectively with their graduate supervisors, they improve the quality of their theses and their educational experiences.
In general, Research Supervisors are responsible for determining a viable research project for a student and for clearly delineating what is expected of the student. They are also responsible for ensuring adequate resources and funding for a student for the duration of the student’s program. In addition, the Research Supervisor assists in coordinating meetings between a student and his/her Advisory Committee; aids a student in conforming with the requirements of the CELL Program and G+PS to complete his/her degree; advises a doctoral student in the preparation of the written component of the Comprehensive Examination and reads the final Research Proposal prior to its distribution to a student’s Comprehensive Examination Committee; and is required to read a student’s draft research thesis prior to its distribution to the student’s Advisory Committee. In the case of Ph.D. students, the Research Supervisor also nominates people for the role of External Examiner and nominates University Examiners, making sure they meet the requirements set out by G+PS and that they will be available to attend the final doctoral defense.
A specific responsibility of a graduate supervisor is to make arrangements to ensure continuity of supervision when he or she will be absent for an extended period, i.e. two months or longer. Supervisors on a sabbatical away from the University (or other leave) must provide details of the arrangements that have been made to ensure adequate supervision for the duration of the leave on this form.
Although your Research Supervisor is primarily responsible for your overall training program, an Advisory Committee is critical to your success as a graduate student. Students who set up their Advisory Committees early in their programs and who meet with their committees regularly tend to complete their degree programs successfully, and sooner, than students who wait to establish their committees.
Setting up your Advisory Committee. Your Advisory Committee should be established and must meet within six months of the date of your admission. Discuss possible choices of committee members with your Research Supervisor. The choices are often based on the research interests and areas of expertise of individual faculty. You can contact faculty members yourself or ask your supervisor to approach a potential committee member on your behalf. Typically, your Research Supervisor will Chair your Advisory Committee.
For M.Sc. students, the Advisory Committee will consist of your Research Supervisor and at least two other faculty, one of whom must be a member of the CELL Program and one of whom may be external to the Program. If you transfer from the M.Sc. to the Ph.D. program, you may have to add another faculty member to your Committee.
For Ph.D. students, the Advisory Committee will consist of your Research Supervisor and at least three other faculty, at least two of whom should be members of the CELL Program and one of whom may be external to the Program. In cases where there is insufficient expertise among CELL Program members, up to two committee members may be external to the CELL Program.
The majority of the Committee must be UBC faculty members at least at the rank of Assistant Professor. An Advisory Committee may, with the approval of the CELL Program and G+PS, also include senior instructors, professors emeriti, clinical faculty, honorary faculty, adjunct faculty, off-campus professionals as well as faculty members from other universities. These individuals must be actively engaged in research, experienced with graduate education, and hold appropriate qualifications.
Scheduling meetings of your Advisory Committee. After your Advisory Committee has met for the first time (within six months of your admission), the Committee must meet at least once every 12 months to review your progress and provide guidance for your future work. Additional Committee meetings can be called when necessary. It is up to you to organize meetings – do not rely on your Research Supervisor to do this (although you should obviously consult with your supervisor in decisions about meetings).
To get the most out of an Advisory Committee meeting, at least one week prior to each meeting (except the initial meeting) you should prepare and distribute a 1 – 2 page written progress report to all members of your Committee and prepare a 15 – 20 min oral presentation that emphasizes experimental design, interpretation of data obtained to date and planned experiments. Committee members may suggest alternative approaches, prioritize experiments, set deadlines, etc.
After each meeting of your Advisory Committee, a report detailing your progress, signed by you and all members of your Advisory Committee, must be forwarded to the CELL Program Coordinator. G+PS will require these reports if, for example, you need to request an extension or wish to transfer between the M.Sc. and Ph.D. programs. If your progress is not satisfactory, you will need to develop a formal plan for the correction of any deficiencies in consultation with your Research Supervisor and Advisory Committee.
Getting the most from your Committee. When a faculty member agrees to sit on your Advisory Committee, (s)he is agreeing to be available for consultation and discussion about all aspects of your degree program. Committee members are there to support you (and your Research Supervisor) by broadening and deepening the range of expertise and experience available, and by offering advice, constructive criticism and objective assessment of your work and progress. It is very important to keep members of your committee informed of your research and academic progress – contact them regularly when you are collecting data or developing ideas to ensure that you are on the right track. You can get feedback from your committee by meeting with individual members, sending out print materials or by calling a meeting of the entire committee. Specific duties of members of your Advisory Committee include:
• assisting your Research Supervisor in managing your academic program, including the selection of courses.
• assisting in the development of your thesis research proposal. The thesis research proposal requires the approval of your Advisory Committee within 12 (M.Sc.) or 24 (Ph.D.) months of the date of your admission into the Program.
• contributing to the design, implementation and communication of your research.
• participating in the Comprehensive Examination (Ph.D. students only).
• reading your completed research thesis in draft form, suggesting revisions, and ensuring that your thesis is of sufficient standard for submission to the External Examiner(s) (M.Sc. candidates) or G+PS (Ph.D. candidates). The CELL Program’s M.Sc. or Ph.D. thesis approval form needs to be signed by all Committee members and sent to the Program Coordinator before a student can defend their thesis.
• participating as Examiner’s in final oral examinations.
• ensuring that you are being supervised adequately and fairly. If there are any concerns in these regards, the Advisory Committee must communicate them immediately to the Director/Graduate Advisor of the CELL Program. A student may change Research Supervisor and/or members of his/her Advisory Committee only with the approval of the Director/Graduate Advisor of the CELL Program.
Additional information about Advisory Committees can be found in the Handbook of Graduate Supervision.
As a graduate student at UBC you accept important responsibilities. First and foremost, you must take responsibility for your progress towards degree completion. Although your Research Supervisor, members of your Advisory Committee and others are there to support you, successful completion of a graduate program of study is ultimately your own responsibility. Incoming students are urged to discuss the respective responsibilities of themselves and their Research Supervisor(s) prior to entering the program or soon thereafter.
Important responsibilities. As a graduate student, you are expected to accept University regulations regarding academic and non-academic matters and to:
• Make a commitment to devote the time and energy needed to engage in research and write a thesis or dissertation.
• Make a commitment and show dedicated efforts to gain the background knowledge and skills needed to pursue your research project successfully.
• In conjunction with your supervisor, develop a plan and timetable for completion of all stages of your thesis project, adhere to a schedule and meet appropriate deadlines.
• Meet with your supervisor when requested and report fully and regularly on progress and results. While your supervisor is required to be reasonably available for consultation, it is your responsibility to keep in touch with your supervisor.
• Meet at regular intervals with your Advisory Committee (at least every 12 months).
• Give serious consideration to the advice and criticisms received from your supervisor and other members of your advisory committee.
• Maintain exemplary records of your research activities so that others can replicate your results.
• Complete your coursework and thesis within timelines specified by the CELL Program and G+PS.
• Maintain registration throughout the program and (for international students) ensure that study permits and (where applicable) employment authorization documents are kept up to date.
Conflict resolution. It’s realistic to expect that challenges will come up in the course of your working relationship with your Research Supervisor. G+PS recommends that every effort should be made to resolve differences and disputes as close as possible to the source of the problem. The following steps should be taken in order. Each level will want to make sure that all reasonable efforts have been exhausted at all previous levels prior to launching a formal investigation. Informal advice can be offered by G+PS at any step; additional information is provided in the Handbook of Graduate Supervision.
1. The student and supervisor (or other party, e.g. the student’s Advisory Committee) should first discuss problems frankly and seek solutions.
2. If a problem cannot be resolved at this level, it should normally be referred next to the CELL Program Director & Graduate Advisor who can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. If a problem cannot be resolved at the Program level, G+PS should be consulted.
4. The problem and all steps taken to resolve the problem may progress to a review by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. The problem may ultimately be taken to the Dean of Graduate Studies. The Dean of Graduate Studies will check to ensure that each previous level of problem resolution has been explored to the fullest extent before proceeding to other levels.
A number of impartial and confidential resources are available to graduate students who are experiencing difficulties with their supervisors, advisors, program, faculty or the University.
Program Coordinator and Director/Graduate Advisor
A graduate student’s progress depends upon the support of people at the graduate program and university levels.
The CELL Program Coordinator is the key contact for students in the CELL Program. The Program Coordinator deals with appointment forms, program registration, scholarships and awards, student records, etc. and is the Program’s liaison with staff at G+PS. The Program Coordinator can also assist students with academic matters (including course registration), Teaching Assistantships, study permits, housing, finances, etc.