Academic and Thesis Advisors

First-Year Advisors

In each of the graduate program tracks of Chemistry, there is a faculty member designated as the First-Year Advisor for new students.  The First-Year Advisors mentor students until they have a Thesis Advisor.  They meet with students during Orientation to share the results of their Placement Examinations, to plot out a program of course study for the upcoming year, and to begin guiding the student in the choice of a Thesis Advisor.  First-Year Advisors remain the contact for issues related to the Placement Examination(s) even after a Thesis Advisor is named.

Choosing a Thesis Advisor

Most of a student’s efforts in graduate school are directed toward research for the dissertation, and selection of a Thesis Advisor is of utmost importance.  To assist students with this critical decision, there are First-Year Advisors, the Rotation Program (see below), and faculty talks and/or poster sessions by the faculty during Orientation.  Familiarity with the faculty is invaluable when searching for a Thesis Advisor and a Doctoral Committee, when seeking advice on a new technique or new research direction, and when arranging for letters of recommendation and job referrals.  Students must be very proactive in the Thesis Advisor selection process.  Students can learn more about specific faculty by taking their courses, by seeking them out at seminars and colloquia, or by visiting them in their office/lab.  They can also learn about research groups by talking to postdoctoral fellows and other graduate students.

Thesis Advisor Approval Process

Council (Chair of the Department and four faculty members, one from each division) gives final approval on Thesis Advisor choices.  Students are not considered to have joined a group until Council approval is received.

When matching students with advisors, the preferences of both students and faculty are considered.  Every effort is made to place students with the Thesis Advisor of their choice.  Constraints include acceptance by the faculty, availability of financial support, and limitation on group size.  First-Year Advisors coordinate the adviser selection process.  Thesis Advisor choices are subject to final approval by the Department Council and Chair.  Students must have a Thesis Advisor by the end of Spring quarter to remain in good academic standing and to continue in the program.  The Rotation Program is conducted so that Advisor choice approvals are finalized no later than Winter quarter of the first year.  

The Thesis Advisor must be a regular faculty member of the University of California or an Adjunct Faculty member in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  According to UCSD policy, if the Thesis Advisor is an Adjunct Faculty, a regular UCSD faculty must be appointed as Co-Chair.  Co-Chairs are normally from our Department.

Students interested in research projects outside of the Department should talk to their First-Year Advisor and senior faculty in their discipline about possibilities. The First-Year Advisor must approve Rotations in other departments.  Selection of a Thesis Advisor in another department requires additional consideration.  Moreover, there are different policies governing financial support.  The topic of the dissertation must be sufficiently chemical or biochemical as determined by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  A Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty must be named as Co-Chair of the Doctoral Committee.  The Co-Chair takes an role in monitoring the progress of the student and facilitating interactions with the Department.  Non-departmental faculty must be the functional Thesis Advisor and may not be an intermediary.  Under no circumstances are students permitted to select a Thesis Advisor who does not hold an appropriate UCSD appointment.  

Rotation Program 

The Rotation Program is designed to assist new students with choosing a research advisor by giving them first-hand laboratory experiences.  There are three rotation periods of three or five weeks (depending on track policies).  Biochemistry track students are required to participate in at least three rotations before deciding on a Thesis Advisor.  Only one of the first three rotations may be with a faculty from another department, and the rotation must be approved by the First-Year Advisor. 

Students receive credit for rotations by enrolling in Chemistry 298 (Special Study in Chemistry) for one to four units.  The grading option is S/U only, and a grade of S is required to maintain good academic standing.  Faculty are expected to write an evaluation for each student rotation, and this evaluation is kept on file in the Department.  Students are expected to carry out an assigned project and meet regularly with the faculty member.

Rotation assignments match student preferences whenever possible and are based upon student preferences, faculty preferences, and the number of rotation spaces available in a lab.  Assignments for the rotations will be discussed during the First Year Advising sessions during Orientation. Students are encouraged to talk to various faculty about their research and ask the faculty if it would be an option to rotate in their laboratory.  After students receive their rotation assignment(s), and before the rotation period begins, they need to contact the faculty to make scheduling arrangements. By the end of the third rotation period, each student submits to the First-Year Advisor either a list of acceptable Thesis Advisors, ranked in order of preference, or a list of additional rotation choices, if a suitable lab is not found. In Fall/Winter, each First-Year Advisor interfaces with the Student Affairs staff, faculty, students, and other First-Year Advisors to finalize the choices that will go forward to the Chair and Council for approval. First-Year Advisors continue to work with students and oversee Rotations until all students have a Thesis Advisor that has been approved by Council.

As part of the Rotation process, faculty members are asked to evaluate those students who rotated in their laboratory, and submit the completed evaluation after each Rotation.