Thesis Committee Meetings According to the 2017-2018 BE Handbook

This document was prepared by the BE REFS for our first thesis committee meeting workshop on May 15th, 2018. It contains a summary of the information in the BE Handbook related to committee meetings, and includes some REFS remixes which provide our takes on the “requirements.”

What is a committee meeting?

A progress review with the entire Thesis Committee at least once a year, the first being held held within one year of the Thesis Proposal.  

At least four total meetings are expected

  1. Oral examination/Thesis Proposal
  2. At least one regular thesis committee meeting(s)
  3. Final thesis committee meeting/Plan to Defend meeting (~6 months prior to defense)
  4. Thesis defense

Goals are to ensure:

  1. Satisfactory progress towards the student’s intended defense and graduation dates.
  2. Seamless communication across the entire Thesis Committee on the student’s aims, progress, and any issues encountered during their thesis research trajectory.

REFS remix – Goals are to ensure:

  1. Communication, so that everyone is on the same page.
  2. Demonstration of scientific progress, so that committee feels good about graduating you.
  3. Discussion of what comes next, so that you can set yourself up to be successful there.

From Doug and Forest: “committee and student should be working together to move the student forward in the most efficient way possible toward graduation and a successful independent career.”  

Before the meeting

  • Think about whether your committee has the right people on it. If not, committee member changes can be made by submitting a petition to the Grad Program Chair.
  • Share an annotated set of Specific Aims with your committee (encouraged, not required).
    • One to two pages long, with a few sentences describing the status of each Aim
  • Also share a Gantt Chart showing the anticipated timelines for your completion (encouraged, not required) 

REFS remix – prep your committee for the type of meeting that you want to have.

At the Meeting

  • The meeting is held ideally in person with all members present.
    • If that’s not possible, you can also have multiple meetings with parts of your committee and/or call your missing committee member(s) into your meeting.
    • Handbook doesn’t say anything about the duration of the meeting, though most tend to last one hour.
  • You can bring hard copies of your presentation slides for the committee members, and may also include a hard copy of the summary of your specific aims.
  • Make sure to bring the Thesis Progress Report Form. You need to fill out your part before the meeting.
  • You are strongly encouraged to share a Gantt Chart clearly illustrating the timeline towards your defense date .
    • Include specific objectives and deadlines leading up to the anticipated Defense

REFS remix – give them what they want (an update on your scientific progress and the right paperwork) so that you can get what you want.

Plan-to-Defend Meeting

  • Must be at least six months prior to your planned Thesis Defense date

REFS remix – give yourself and your committee enough time to tie up any loose ends in case anything unexpected comes up.

Meeting Accountability

  1. If 1 year has passed since your last committee meeting, you’ll get a gentle reminder to schedule a meeting.
    1. Timing: 6 weeks before the 1-year meeting mark
    2. Recipients: You, Dalia, Advisor(s), Committee Members
  2. If you still don’t schedule a meeting, you’ll get a second reminder.
    1. Timing: 3 months past the 1-year meeting mark
    2. Recipients: You, Dalia, Advisor(s), Committee Members
  3. If 1.5 years have passed since your last committee meeting, you’ll need to meet with the BE Grad Program Chair to explain the delay.
    1. Timing: 6 months following the 1-year committee meeting mark
    2. Recipients: You, Dalia, Advisor(s), BE Grad Program Chair

Bonus: how to graduate!

Check out the REFS summary of the handbook’s graduation timeline on our website: