TUTORIAL LABORATORY REQUIREMENTS
The tutorial rotation is a short-term (10-week) research project in which students begin to learn the scientific research process. All first year graduate students in the Ph.D. degree program are expected to take and pass three tutorials with three different GSBS faculty members. Tutorials are an integral part of the training for a student enrolled in the Ph.D. program for three primary reasons:
1. They provide training in how to conduct doctoral-level research.
2. They allow for careful evaluation of students' research abilities by faculty.
3. They provide the primary mechanism for students to make an informed choice of the laboratory where they will do their dissertation research.
The tutorial is a GSBS course, and thus requires a grade at the end of the term. Each tutorial is worth 4 credit hours and is expected to take a minimum of 200 hours over a 10-week period, or approximately 20 hours per week. In reality, students may expect to spend more than 20 hours per week during their tutorials.
It is the express wish of the GSBS that students find the optimal laboratory in which to conduct their research in order to avoid delays in their training and in order for both the faculty member and the student to benefit from a productive training process. The tutorial rotations are intended to facilitate this goal.
Academic Evaluation of Students' Tutorial Performance
Tutorials are graded Pass/Fail (P/F). It is the expectation of tutorial faculty advisors that during the tutorial students will carry out defined research projects and develop their scientific skills. Faculty will provide a written evaluation of the student's performance to GSBS at the end of the tutorial. In general, faculty advisors will assess students based on the criteria given below. However, individual advisors and projects can vary considerably so it is important for students to ask, prior to committing to work in that advisor's lab, about their advisor's specific expectations.
1. Lab Performance.
In general faculty advisors will evaluate students' development and ability to:
- Critically read and evaluate the scientific literature
- Creatively identify questions of interest that are in need of exploration
- Form a hypothesis that could be the basis for future research, and develop Specific Aims designed to resolve the hypothesis
- Design experiments that will address the hypothesis
- Develop the dexterity and technical skills to carry out the experiments
- Understand the methodology used in experimental procedures
- Interpret experimental results
- Communicate experimental findings to the public via written and oral media.
2. Written Report from Student.
At the end of the tutorial the student will be required to complete a 5 page report on the tutorial project. This report will be an important factor in the advisor's evaluation of the student's performance. The Office of Academic Affairs requires a copy of this write-up for each tutorial taken. In some cases, individual advisors will require students to give an oral presentation of their results at the end of the tutorial to their group, department or graduate program.
The Role of Tutorials in Selecting a Ph.D. Advisor
The tutorial experience provides an important opportunity for the faculty advisor and student to work together and determine if the match is suitable for future dissertation research. Thus students should carefully select tutorial advisors who are potential dissertation advisors. Students must take their tutorials in the first year (normally in the first two semesters) without interruption so that they may expeditiously choose their advisors and begin their research projects.
It is important to realize that during the tutorial two reciprocal evaluations are taking place.
1. The Student evaluates the faculty member's suitability as their Ph.D. advisor and whether the area of research is of interest. Some of the key factors in that decision will be:
- Project - availability of a project in the advisor's lab that is appropriate for a Ph.D. dissertation and will yield peer-reviewed publications
- Interactions with Advisor - the potential for a positive training experience
- Laboratory Training Environment - size of lab, available technology, personnel
- Research Funding - availability of financial funding for the research project
- Career Development - opportunities for exposure to the larger scientific community by attending national and international meetings, and the opportunity to publish peer-reviewed papers.
- Quality of Life - enjoyment of the research project and the lab environment
2. The Faculty Member evaluates the student's suitability as a member of their research group. This involves many factors, including:
- Research ability - intelligence, manual dexterity, scientific intuition, originality, independence
- Reliability of the student - intellectual and personal integrity, conscientiousness
- Motivation of the student in academic and research pursuits
- Industry - drive, initiative, work habits, productivity
- Communication skills - ability to write scientifically and deliver effective oral presentations
- Personal interaction skills - ability to get along with other researchers and take part in a team effort.
SELECTION OF AN ADVISOR
Students who are funded by the GSBS for their first three tutorials may select the faculty with whom they wish to do a tutorial from among the entire GSBS faculty. Students who are funded by individual faculty, a department, or a Program must do their tutorials with those faculty (but are free to choose their advisor from among the entire GSBS faculty after they complete their tutorials). In either case, students eventually must decide on the individual faculty member with whom they wish to do their degree research. It is our hope that this decision will be based upon information exchanged with prospective advisors so students will know what is expected of them, and will be aware of the environment they are about to join.
Students should take into consideration the factors listed above when they are looking for a tutorial faculty advisor. We further encourage students to utilize the questions listed below to obtain information from prospective advisors. Students should discuss their options with GSBS Deans, Program Directors, and other students who are working with or have worked with the prospective advisor, and then make an informed decision as to whom their advisor should be.
Sample questions to ask a potential advisor:
- What does the faculty member expect from students?
- Does the advisor have a project that is suitable and reasonable for a student?
- For how much of the assigned project will the student be responsible? How much will the student have to depend on others?
- How often is the faculty member available for one-on-one advising?
- Who will train the student in the laboratory (the faculty member, a senior student or a postdoc)? If not the faculty member, is the person responsible willing and able to provide advising?
- What is the advisor's funding status? What grants does the advisor have? How long are they good for?
- What is the lab meeting schedule?
- Are journal club presentations required? Are there any other presentation requirements?
- Does the advisor send students to national/international meetings? If so, is the student limited to the number of meetings they can attend? What are the usual meetings in their field of study?
- How often does the lab publish?
- What is the advisor's philosophy on authorship? Who would be first author on a manuscript?
- Does the advisor require students to perform general lab work? How much and how often?
- How many students have graduated from the advisor's lab?
- What is the average time for a student to graduate from the lab?
Questions to ask students in the lab:
- How helpful is the advisor at dealing with problems that arise?
- How does the advisor handle times when the research is stagnant or failing?
- Do the current students feel like they can communicate efficiently with their advisor?
- What are the advisor's expectations about working hours and vacations?
- How well do the researchers in the lab get along? Do they help each other?
REGISTRATION FOR TUTORIALS
Each tutorial is for 10 weeks with a minimum investment on the student's part of 200 hours. Students should register for one tutorial in the fall term, and two in the spring term. The fall and spring terms are 15 weeks in length. In order to fit two 10-week tutorials into a 15-week spring term, the first tutorial usually begins in the first week of January, prior to the beginning of classes, and runs to mid-March. The second tutorial begins in mid-March and runs past the end of the spring term until the last week of May. Students who wish to take a tutorial in the summer should register for one tutorial in that term.
There is one GSBS course number for Tutorial, GS000514, and a section for each GSBS Faculty member (please see: http://registrar.uth.tmc.edu/SOC/Class_Search.asp for the Schedule of Classes). Therefore, if a student needs to register for Tutorial, the course number and the section call number unique to the faculty member should be used to register in UTLINK.
Students have the right to expect that their tutorial experience will include scientific advising by the faculty advisor, as well as funding of their assistantship, benefits, tuition/fees, and the provision of a laboratory environment suitable to the completion of high quality research.
PETITION TO WAIVE THIRD TUTORIAL
The Academic Standards Committee (ASC) will entertain petitions to waive the third tutorial if a student has chosen their advisor, and if the student has extensive previous research experience, a previous thesis-based M.S. degree, or publications in the biomedical sciences. The ASC requests two letters for their evaluation: one from the advisor stating that he/she has taken the student into his/her laboratory and will fund the student's stipend, and one from the student stating the reasons for the request to waive the third tutorial. No student is allowed to waive more than one tutorial.
Students who wish to get started on their degree research may want to consider waiving the third tutorial if they meet the above listed criteria. However, we urge the students to consider the benefits of not waiving the third tutorial, including the acquisition of laboratory techniques potentially useful in the future, experience with another method for laboratory management by a faculty member, and the development of relationships with other scientific researchers potentially useful for future networking opportunities.
Students who matriculate in the Fall term and who wish to petition to waive their third tutorial should do so early enough in the Spring term so that if the petition is approved they may still drop the tutorial from their registration. Otherwise, a grade will have to be submitted for the student.
AVAILABILITY OF FOURTH TUTORIAL
Ph.D. students may do a fourth tutorial if they wish, but are strongly encouraged to think wisely about choosing a probable mentor in the first three tutorials. Doing a fourth tutorial delays the selection of an advisor by one semester and thus delays the beginning of the student's thesis/dissertation research. Fourth tutorials may be allowed when a student has completed the first three tutorials but has yet to identify an advisor. A very limited number of these tutorials may be funded by the GSBS; generally, however, the faculty member with whom the fourth tutorial is conducted funds it. Ultimately, the GSBS Deans strive to assist students in finding the optimal laboratory for their research because that is a key factor for success at the Graduate School, but, depending on the circumstances, may discourage a student from doing a fourth tutorial.
For students who enroll for the first time in the 2007 Fall semester, the tutorial schedule will be as follows:
|Tutorial 1||Tutorial 2||Tutorial 3|
|Start Date||September 10||January 3||March 17|
|End Date||November 16||March 13||May 23|
- In order to fit two ten-week tutorials into the Spring semester, the first tutorial will begin on January 3, a few days before the start of the semester, and the second tutorial will end on May 23, three weeks after the last day of the Spring semester.
- Students will register for the 2nd and 3rd tutorial at Spring registration.
- At registration in the Spring, students should name the instructors for tutorial 2 and 3; they may temporarily name their Dean's Office Advisor as the instructor for tutorial 3, if they do not know the 3rd tutorial advisor yet. Students must provide the Office of Academic Affairs with the name of the actual instructor for tutorial 3 by March 13.
- Grades for tutorial 2 and 3 will be awarded at the end of the Spring semester.
- Four (4) semester credits will be awarded for each of the three (3) 10-week tutorials.