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Committee membership

The thesis committee comprises thesis advisor(s) plus typically four other faculty who, together, can provide relevant expertise and critical insight. The composition of the committee should be:

  • One committee chair: this should be a BCB faculty member who is
    • not the advisor(s);
    • senior, ie, an associate or full professor;
    • chosen by the student as someone they trust to be an independent outside counsel who the student could go to for advice if conflicts arise between the student and advisors;
    • ideally not someone closely supervising the student’s work;
    • ideally a BCB Core Faculty or otherwise a Resource Faculty with good knowledge of the BCB program and its requirements.
  • Two-to-three faculty who are not the advisor(s) or the committee chair.
  • The advisor(s).

Additionally, the committee should be majority BCB faculty and include at least one BCB Core Faculty. The committee membership must be approved by the BCB program director; this includes any changes in the committee membership or roles (eg, chair vs ordinary member) subsequent to its initial formation.

Committee meetings

Specific types of meetings

For each of the following types of meetings, the student should print out and take along the appropriate committee meeting forms.

  • First committee meeting (expected: end of year 2 or beginning of year 3): the student introduces themselves and their research project.
  • Oral exam (expected: end of year 3): the student gives a chalk talk describing their proposed research, having sent the committee a proposal document two weeks prior (more info here).
  • Standard committee meeting (every year after the oral exam): the student updates the committee on progress.
  • Final committee meeting: the student requests permission to schedule a defense within three months.
  • Defense: a public defense of the thesis work (more info¬†here).

General format for all meetings

All committee meetings (not including the defense) should adhere to the following format.

  1. Prior to the committee meeting (eg, in the days or week before), the student checks in with the committee chair, even if only briefly. In some cases, students may also wish to check in with individual committee members especially if there are complex issues to be discussed.
  2. At the committee meeting, the student is forbidden from bringing food or drink for the committee members. Doing otherwise creates ambiguity and potential conflicts of interest. Faculty and student bringing their own food and drink is allowed.
  3. The committee meeting starts with the student leaving the room. The advising faculty then briefly (eg, 5 mins) summarize the student’s progress to the non-advising faculty along with noting any issues to be discussed.
  4. As soon as the student is brought back into the room, the advising faculty must leave. This will give the student some time (eg, 5 mins) to discuss any issues they may have. This time may also be used for the non-advising faculty to engage in other discussions with the student such as their career goals, their own sense of their timeline, etc. Once the advising faculty is brought back into the room, the student’s presentation to the committee begins.