Students

Your Advisers and Committees

To help you navigate through the Ph.D. process, ensure you meet your educational goals, and achieve the level of expertise expected, you work closely with staff and faculty in the Materials Science & Engineering department and the UW Graduate School.

Choosing a faculty adviser

assignment You must choose and confirm a faculty adviser by the end of your first quarter.

Your faculty adviser is generally a regular, research or adjunct faculty member of the MSE department. In special cases, faculty advisers can be from related departments with the selection of an MSE co-adviser.

Your faculty adviser is usually a regular, research, or adjunct MSE faculty member who:

  • Helps direct and ultimately approves your course plan and research topic
  • Is your dissertation adviser as you select your dissertation research problem and doctoral supervisory committee
  • Is the chair of your Doctoral Supervisory Committee
  • Generally assists with RA/TA and fellowship support

Coursework and extra-curricular activities are important, but for most students research determines the quality of the graduate school experience. Therefore, choosing an adviser is probably the most important decision you will make in graduate school. Your choices are important to both you and your adviser. Consider:

  • Nature of the research project (fundamentals or applications)
  • Research group size, makeup, equipment and other resources
  • Personality match and working style of the adviser, including communication style
  • Adviser’s academic and scholarly reputation
  • Adviser expectations for research productivity
  • Project’s funding stability
  • Post-graduate careers of adviser’s former students
  • Advice from current graduate students and faculty members

Speak with members of research groups to discover additional considerations, such as:

  • During the course of your graduate career you will develop communication skills that are essential in any career. Does the adviser provide opportunities for poster presentations?
  • Will you present talks at group meetings, on campus, at technical meetings, or in a journal club?
  • Companies and universities both value instructional skill. How will your adviser help you become a better teacher?
  • Will you be mentored as a TA?
  • How will the adviser react when you are discouraged?
  • How will the adviser stretch you? Help you excel beyond your expectations?
  • How long do the adviser’s students take to finish on the average?
  • Will you participate in writing research proposals? This is especially important for those interested in academia.

Some students have a particular area of work in mind when they start graduate school and others do not. Graduate education is so different from undergraduate experiences that students seldom have an adequate basis for choosing a research project. We strongly suggest that you keep an open mind about this choice until after you have evaluated the possible projects carefully. If and when you have questions about this process, please feel free to talk with the graduate program coordinator, the department chair or assistant chair, or any MSE faculty member.

Establishing your Doctoral Supervisory Committee

assignment Have your supervisory committee selected and confirmed during/by autumn quarter of 3rd year.

assignment After your committee is determined, contact the Graduate Program Adviser to have the committee officially established with the UW Graduate School.

Your doctoral supervisory committee guides and evaluates your work toward a doctoral degree. Work with your faculty adviser to establish this committee.

The Doctoral Supervisory Committee consists of a minimum of four members, as follows:

Your responsibilities toward your doctoral supervisory committee include:

  • Working with your faculty adviser to establish this committee and having the members confirmed by the UW Graduate School before or during autumn quarter of 3rd year.
  • Providing all members with a short summary of the program of study and research interests and an examination timeline.
  • Providing General Examination materials to all committee members in a timely manner.
  • Providing Final Examination materials to all committee members in a timely manner (including a draft of the entire dissertation to reading committee members);
  • Keeping the committee membership current and notifying the department’s Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC – faculty adviser) and Graduate Program Assistant (GPA – staff member) of any committee changes in a timely manner.

Learn more about the role of supervisory committees on the UW Graduate School’s website.