Materials Science and Engineering


Research and Coursework Advisors

Students on the Thesis MS and PhD track will generally have a research advisor at the start of their graduate program. The research advisor will also act as the coursework adviser, though discussion with faculty instructors of particular MSE courses should be consulted if the student has a limited background in MSE. Some fellowship students on the thesis or PhD track may not have a research advisor within their first semester. In this case, the graduate program director will act as the academic (coursework) advisor.

Advisory Committee

After passing the Qualifying Exam and prior to the Research Proposal Exam, PhD students,
in consultation with the research advisor and with the approval of the graduate
program/department chair, should select their Advisory Committee members and file the form Advisor and Committee Recommendation Form with the department and Graduate School. The primary purpose of the Advisory Committee is to guide and monitor the research work of the student. A graduate faculty member external to MSE is required for the final dissertation defense, but may be invited to participate on the Advisory Committee sooner.

Changing Advisors or Committee Members

Every graduate student coming into the program must have a graduate advisor. The MSE program will assign the Graduate Program director as advisor to students in the non-thesis degree track. An MS or PhD thesis track student will have an advisor from the faculty that assists in meeting educational and research goals. A change of graduate advisor in the MSE program most often occurs when:

  1. a student changes from non-thesis to thesis degree
  2. a student finishes an MS degree and begins a PhD program under a new advisor.

Under these situations, (i) and (ii), the advisor-committee form must be completed.

Please note that all new thesis track students must also complete and submit the advisor-committee form.

A change of advisor in the middle of a research program is rare, but can happen. In most cases in the MSE program, funding for a graduate position on a specific research project is linked to a specific faculty member. This means it is typically impossible to keep the same research project while changing advisor. In these cases, a change of advisor will involve changing to a new funded position on a different project.

Before initiating the process to change your graduate advisor, please consider all the options listed on the Graduate School’s website for how to address difficulties in the student-advisor relationship.

Once you have decided to change your graduate advisor, you must follow the steps listed below.

  1. Meet with your graduate program director to initiate the process to change advisor. If meeting with the graduate program director is not feasible or appropriate, meet with the Chair or School Dean of the department or school. If you are in a non-departmental program, you may meet with the Chair or School Dean of your administrative home department or school.
  2. Discuss the following with the graduate program director (or Chair/School Dean) and, if appropriate, the current advisor:
    1. Whether additional resources within or outside the department (such as the Ombuds office) could help resolve the situation.
    2. The impact of the change of advisor on your time to complete the degree. Coursework, qualifying exam(s), and the research proposal examination are all factors that could be impacted with a change in advisor.
    3. Your current and future funding.
    4. Research already conducted. Whether this will be incorporated into the dissertation, thesis, or report, and if so, how.
    5. Impact on immigration status (if any). Consult International Programs and Services (IPS), if necessary.
    6. Record the agreement from the discussions in writing, including indications of agreement from all affected faculty advisors, and provide copies to the student, the graduate program director, and all affected faculty advisors.
  3. File an updated Advisor and Committee Recommendation Form for approval by the Graduate School.
  4. If the student and the graduate program director are unable to reach agreement on the advisor change, contact the assistant dean of the Graduate School to determine additional steps to resolve the situation.

Timely Written Feedback from Advisor

Graduate students should meet with their advisors on a regular basis. If this is being done, the student will be fully aware of any issues related to progress in their program. Satisfactory progress should also be reflected in the P (progress) or Q (inadequate progress) grades assigned to research credits at the end of each semester. In addition to these measures, the faculty advisor must complete the form Evaluation of Graduate Student Research Performance annually to describe the students’ progress, strengths and deficiencies. This research evaluation progress form must be signed by the student, guaranteeing the student is fully aware of specific performance issues. This formal process ensures that both students and advisors are aware of the student's academic progress and plans for the future. When completed by the student and advisor, the copies are provided to the student, advisor, graduate program director, and Department Chair / School Dean. If deficiencies are identified in a student’s performance, written feedback will be provided twice yearly, specifically addressing the area(s) of deficiency, timeline for making up the deficiency, and consequences for continued unsatisfactory performance.

For PhD students, there are multiple points for progress evaluation associated with the written qualifying exam, the oral exam, and the proposal defense. The links to the forms specifying the criteria for these points of progress evaluation are listed below.