Expectations for Graduate Students

I want you to become a leader in your field.  My mentoring will not be perfect, but I will have your success in mind. 

I think science is fun, and I am passionate about it. I expect you to be very dedicated to the science that you do.  I will push you very hard and challenge you.  But, I will also provide support for you. 

On a day to day basis, I will probably be a little Jekyl and Hide.  On the one hand, I will sometimes micromanage you to keep things moving along.  However, I will not give you cookbook instructions on how to do things; much of the actual logistics of doing innovative science will be up to you to determine.  You need to become increasingly independent from me over the course of your graduate career, so solving your problems won’t always help you.  That being said, I am always here for you when you need me (and sometimes I’ll force my help on you).

Research first! This is a thesis-based Master’s degree, and I expect your primary educational objective will be to produce the highest-quality thesis possible.  That means I expect you to make decisions on how you allocate your time within the context of research being your top priority.  If you do it right, your education and your research will be synergistic.

Despite what you’ve heard, it is actually possible to balance working long hours on your graduate studies with a personal life outside of academia.  Nevertheless, science doesn’t always follow banking hours, so I expect you will be willing and able to pull an extra load and buckle down at crunch time when it is necessary and appropriate. 

Go team!  I expect you to develop a sense of community within the laboratory, AWRI, and GVSU.  This means you are expected to help out your lab mates and colleagues when they need it; they will help you out too.  The deal with the graduate assistantships is that you technically work in the laboratory for up to 20 hours per week.  I prefer you to use the majority of that time be making progress on your own research since progress on your research is ultimately progress for my lab.  However, I reserve the right to allocate some of your 20 hour assistantship to helping out on other projects when it is necessary. 

Publish or perish!  This is a common phrase invoked by academics to forecast their career development.  It applies to grad students to some extent too.  In addition to the requirements for completing the MSc degree (proposal/qualifying exam, courses, thesis defense, etc), I require all graduate students to produce at least one manuscript targeted for a peer-reviewed academic journal before I will let them schedule their thesis defense.  This is not an onerous requirement if you work hard and work together with me throughout your degree. 


Be ‘visible’ to me and your colleagues.  There is no clock to punch, but I strongly recommend that you work during the daytime hours (and then some) each day.  From an educational perspective, putting in the time is how you will learn.  From a pragmatic perspective, being visible means I know you are working hard, which means that when things aren’t going well (and they won’t sometimes) I won’t wonder whether you aren’t just being lazy because I never see you. 

Interact with your peers and colleagues.  Interact as much as possible with your committee members.  Perhaps more importantly, interact as much as possible with your fellow graduate students and lab mates.  Talk about your research so you can get feedback and crystallize your ideas, etc.  Also, talk about their research so you can give feedback and ideas.  Sometimes that leads to excellent future research collaborations/opportunities.  Plus, remember that your fellow grad students will be your colleagues later on in life!

Try to be as articulate as possible when talking to others, in particular about science.  This is something I struggle with, and I constantly have to work on it.

Authorship -

As your major advisor, I expect to be a co-author on most everything that you would publish as a student in my lab.  There are exceptions, such as when you develop a side-project that does not detract from your primary research and that is for the most part independent of me intellectually and financially (including your ‘time’ that would otherwise be dedicated to the assistantship).  Ask me for clarity if this does not make perfect sense!

Sometimes, helping me out on my other projects will result in coauthorship, but other times it will not.  It depends on many factors, and you should feel free to discuss authorship with me at any point and candidly share your thoughts and opinions.  In fact, it is very important to learn how to do this, and it’s best to start with your advisor! 

Where do the finances come from?

In general, I will not take students into the lab to work on projects that I don’t have funds for. In the best of all worlds, your project will be fully-funded by an external grant.  But that won’t always necessarily be the case. 

Regardless of the funding situation that you walk into in the lab, , you are best off spending a significant but appropriate amount of time applying for external grants that you are eligible for.  Obtaining grants, regardless of their size, looks great on a CV, and the funds can always be put to good use to improve projects.

Page last modified August 6, 2012