After joining a thesis lab, students are required to form a Thesis Committee. CMB students will have a total of five faculty on their thesis committee. One member will be the faculty advisor. Students will choose an additional three committee members by March 15 of their first year, with the input of their faculty advisor. By no later than March 15 of their second year, students should select the last (fifth) committee member themselves and get approval from their faculty advisor. This should allow time for students to select someone they feel comfortable enough to approach for input on a variety of topics as their fifth committee member. Students should meet with the fifth committee member once they are identified to introduce their research project and to review the discussion from their first committee meeting.
The Thesis Committee Approval form, available in the CMB Forms section of the CMB website, must be filled out and submitted to the CMB Office by March 15 of the student’s first year. Students should only have four committee members when submitting this form. Failure to submit the form in a timely fashion will result in a hold being placed on the student’s registration. The same form can be used to add or change committee members. At any point, committee members can be changed.
Responsibilities of the Thesis Committee
- Advocate for the student’s success by being available to discuss issues of importance, including the thesis project, career planning, and equity.
- Meet annually with the student to provide critical evaluation of the student’s scientific progress, in regard to the CMB learning goals.
- Provide feedback to the student and Thesis Advisor regarding the feasibility of research goals and plans.
- Cross-check training in responsible conduct of research and experimental design, as it relates to ethical considerations, rigor, and reproducibility.
- Support the student’s professional development, using the student’s Individual Development Plan (IDP) as one point of discussion.
- Step in should disagreements arise between the student and Thesis Advisor or if other issues arise that impede progress toward the PhD. Communicate serious issues with the CMB Program Chair.
- In consultation with the student and Thesis Advisor, set objectives that need to be met for a student to defend their thesis. Objectives could include completing particular experiments and publishing the findings. The CMB Program does not require publications for a PhD, but for career advancement it is in the student’s best interests to publish their work prior to defending their thesis.
- At the end of the meeting, the student should leave the room and the committee should discuss what the student needs to do over the coming year. When the student returns to the room, a member of the thesis committee other than the thesis advisor should summarize the discussion. It is good practice to do this at every meeting, even if the student is doing well.
Responsibilities of the Thesis Committee Chair
- The Thesis Advisor serves as the chair of all Thesis Committee meetings other than the Preliminary Exam. See the Preliminary Exam section of the CMB Handbook for guidance on establishing a chair for that meeting.
- The duties of the Thesis Committee Chair are to maintain the pace of the meeting, to promote open dialog, and to provide written feedback to the student on the corresponding CMB form.
Composition of the Thesis Committee
- The Thesis Committee consists of five faculty members, including the Thesis Advisor. Students are required to have four committee members by the spring of their first year and five members before the preliminary exam in their second year. The purpose of the later addition of the fifth committee member is to give students time to meet more faculty and to define their research project, thereby allowing them to identify a faculty member that best serves their advising needs.
- Three committee members, including the Thesis Advisor, must be faculty trainers in the CMB Program.
- Two committee members must be outside the student’s direct area of expertise.
- Students may change committee members at any time by submitting a Thesis Committee Approval form with the name of the new committee member and a note indicating who they are replacing. Revised Thesis Committee Approval forms only require signatures from the Thesis Advisor and the new committee member.
- The maximum number of Thesis Committee members is six. A sixth member can be added at any time.
- For more information, see the Graduate School Academic Policies and Procedures website.
- MD/PhD Students: MSTP requires students to have one MSTP Director serve on the Thesis Committee.
Formation of the Thesis Committee
- The student and Thesis Advisor should work together to determine members of the Thesis Committee.
- Fill out the Thesis Committee Approval form, available in the CMB Forms section of the CMB website.
- Obtain signatures of four of the five Thesis Committee members on the form and submit it to the CMB Office by March 15 of the student’s first year. Obtain the signature of the fifth committee member by March 15 of the student’s second year.
- If a member of the student’s Thesis Committee is changed, submit a revised Thesis Committee Approval form with the signature of the new member and the Thesis Advisor (other members do not need to sign the revised form).
- If the student and Thesis Advisor wish to form a committee that does not fulfill one or more of the requirements listed above, they need to request an exemption from the CMB Program.
- If a student changes Thesis Advisors, they must form a new Thesis Committee within three months of joining the new lab and turn in a new Thesis Committee Approval form to the CMB Office.