Guidelines and forms for establishing the dissertation committee.
The cognate member’s role is to broaden the scholarly representation of the dissertation committee beyond the candidate’s home program. The cognate member also serves the Graduate School and its Faculty by providing a non-specialist’s perspective on the quality of the dissertation.
You are not at the mercy of your thesis committee.
This conversation was an eye-opener for me, because I realized that as the doctoral candidate I had to take leadership of my thesis and the committee meetings.
It is recommended that the membership of the dissertation committee be submitted to the Graduate School for approval at least 6 months prior to the student’s oral defense
The purpose of the dissertation committee is to provide a wide range of faculty expertise that will contribute ideas and suggestions to the progression and successful completion of the Ph.D. dissertation project. Students are required to meet with their dissertation committee once every 6 months after the Prospectus meeting.The first meeting between the student and the core thesis committee should take place early in the first semester of the third year. Here the student will present their Year 2-to-3 summer research as well as their initial thesis research plans.A core thesis committee, consisting of 3 faculty members must be selected by each student at the earliest opportunity, either in the second semester of the second year or in the first semester of the third year. The committee composition can be changed later.Subsequently, each student must meet periodically with their core thesis committee in closed session to discuss progress. These meetings will occur at least once per year, but could be more frequent. It is the student’s responsibility to arrange these closed session meetings at least once per year or more frequently if deemed necessary by student or the committee.Format for the Dissertation Committee Meeting
It is the student’s responsibility to schedule each dissertation committee meeting. Each meeting consists of a student oral presentation (PowerPoint talk) that briefly reminds the committee of the specific aims of the project before proceeding to the experimental results obtained from each specific aim. The student should be prepared to answer questions during the presentation as per the request of individual committee members.During the meeting, the advisor should not attempt to speak on behalf of the student. The advisor can help ensure that committee suggestions stay within the boundaries of the project and inform the committee whether the suggestions are feasible within a reasonable time frame that will ensure the successful completion of the project.After the student's presentation, each member of the dissertation committee will have an opportunity to make comments and suggestions designed to strengthen the project. The Graduate Director will take careful notes on committee suggestions during the meeting that will be referred to in future meetings.The purpose of these closed-session meetings is NOT for the student to provide a formal scientific presentation to the committee. An update on the student’s research progress is appropriate, but should not be the sole focus of this session. Rather, the goal of these meetings is for the committee to assess the student’s overall progress as a physicist. For example, one important role of the core thesis committee is to ensure that the student has a sufficiently broad knowledge of their subfield. The committee may choose to do this via a variety of procedures at their discretion. Questions on, and related to, the field and on physics in general will be a typical part of these sessions. In addition, the committee should assess the student’s professional progress, i.e. exposure to the literature and the work of other groups e.g. via conferences; opportunities to write and present their work orally; attendance at relevant seminars and/or classes; etc.All subsequent meetings held every 6 months should focus on new results obtained for each Specific Aim of the project. The student should present these results in Powerpoint format at each meeting. If significant changes are made to the project that go beyond the original Prospectus, the student should provide this information to the committee in written format as an Addendum to the Prospectus.The ongoing monitoring of a student’s research progress through these meetings should diminish the chances of surprises at the thesis defense. Such monitoring can also provide a protection to both the student and advisor: First, if a student has sufficient material for a PhD, then the committee can push a reluctant advisor to agree to a thesis defense. Alternatively, if a student’s research performance is inadequate, the committee can support academic sanctions on the student, i.e. that the student is not in good academic standing.