Expectations for Graduate Students

All Graduate Students

Before you begin your research, you are required to perform all required lab safety training from UT Environmental Health and Safety and all online IRB training prior to assisting with ongoing experiments.

It is good to begin by helping other students with their projects so that you learn how to use the equipment. Speak to your advisor and Dr. Saddicky, the MCRS Core Lab Director, about how to receive research training in one of the core labs.

If you play a significant role in an ongoing research study, ask to be added to the IRB proposal as key personnel. All research must be approved by your advisor and submitted to the IRB before you begin collecting data for a new study. Be aware of the monthly IRB deadlines. 

Desks for all students are assigned at the beginning of each academic year with preference given to students with Teaching Assistant positions and senior students in the lab.

You should begin working on your research ideas as soon as you start your graduate degree. It is expected that you will be working on your research continually throughout your graduate program with the understanding that your required coursework also needs to be completed. You will be evaluated on your research productivity every year and will receive feedback from your evaluation from your advisor and one other MCRS faculty member. You will receive appropriate grades when enrolled in an independent study based on the expectations that you set with your advisor at the start of each semester.

You may be expected to attend weekly lab meetings, the time of which will be determined at the start of each semester. Please notify your advisor if you cannot attend a lab meeting and provide the reason for your absence.

Once you start your data collection, arrange a time with your advisor to attend the first few experiments to make sure the setup is correct. It is best to analyze the data from the first few study participants and discuss the data and analysis with your advisor before continuing. Frequent discussions throughout your data collection should occur on a timely basis so you will be able to modify experiments in a timely manner as discussed with your advisor. This way, oversights can be caught early, and things won’t have to be repeated.

If you plan to travel or not to work on your research for a period longer than a week (including summer plans) please notify your advisor and identify the reason for your absence.

Once you have enough data to establish significance for a given study, you should present your results at a scientific conference to receive input from experts in the field before you submit your manuscript for publication. Students typically send their abstracts to ACSM, Society for Neuroscience, American Society of Biomechanics, or a conference that has similar professional standing. Please be aware of the deadlines for abstract submissions.

Having abstracts and publications will also increase your chances of receiving scholarships and fellowships awarded to graduate students within the Department. You are encouraged to always apply for these scholarships, including travel awards. Students are typically notified about these deadlines via e-mails from Phillip Salazar, Graduate Program Coordinator.

All papers published from data collected at UT must list your advisor as the corresponding author.

Students are typically the first author for their research and are encouraged to help each other. If you help another student with their work and provide a significant intellectual contribution, you may be listed as a middle author on their abstract and/or manuscript. You are strongly encouraged to work together and help each other with your research endeavors.

Masters Students

A reasonable goal is to complete a master's degree in two years.

Masters students are expected to produce a thesis that is of quality to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Most students spend their first semester getting trained in the lab and helping with other projects while they develop ideas for their own thesis. They generally take Proposal Writing in their first year and prepare the IRB documents. You are strongly encouraged to have extensive discussions with your advisor during this initial design stage.

Your completed thesis will need to be approved by your advisor and another faculty member Reader within the Department prior to graduation. Please discuss with your advisor the selection of an appropriate Reader for your thesis. Your Reader must be designated at the time of your Application for Graduation which will be at the start of your last semester. Please discuss the timing of your desired graduation date with your advisor so that he/she can assist you with your thesis and will be able to advise you on whether it is a reasonable deadline for completion.

You must have your thesis approved by your advisor before sending it to your Reader. Final approval from your advisor typically involves several revisions after all data and figures have been discussed/revised. Please send your thesis to your advisor a month before sending it to your Reader. It is best to give the Reader two to three weeks to review your thesis. Also, you should request that they give you their comments a couple of weeks before your graduation deadline so that you have time to make any revisions.

It is preferable that the manuscript be submitted for publication prior to graduation. Please note that the graduate school will require a different format than the scientific journal.

Ph.D. Students

A reasonable goal is to complete a Ph.D. degree in four years.

A Ph.D. dissertation generally consists of three separate studies that link together over a common theme. This typically results in at least three papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

The general ideas for your dissertation research should be developed within your first year. Once you and your advisor agree on a plan for your research, your Program of Study for your planned coursework should be submitted GSC for approval at the start of your second year. You will be expected to attend the MCRS meeting and to explain your research plans for your dissertation and how your coursework selection was designed to support your research.

During your first two years, you should be working on the first study of your dissertation to determine if your study is technically feasible and working as you predicted. It is a good idea to take Proposal Writing during your first year to write your IRB proposal for your first study (even though Proposal writing is not a required course for Ph.D. students). Ideally, it is best to have your first paper finished before you do your comprehensive exams and advance to candidacy. This is because once you advance to candidacy, the graduate school allows only two years to complete your dissertation. It typically takes a year to get trained in the lab, plan your dissertation and set up for your first study. After that, the data collection, data analysis, and manuscript writing take about one year for each of your three papers. Try to take Proposal Writing before your comprehensive exams as this is excellent preparation.

Ideally, it is best to take your comprehensive exams shortly after your second year and after your first study has been submitted for publication. It is beneficial to have a strong understanding of your research field before you take your Comprehensive Exams because you will be asked to write a research proposal in your area of research for your exam. Comprehensive exams take one month, so plan to do this during a time when you won’t have too many distractions.

After you pass your comprehensive exams and advance to candidacy, you will present your dissertation proposal to your dissertation committee for revisions and approval. It is preferable to have the same committee members on your comprehensive exam committee and dissertation committee if possible because they will be familiar with your work. Discuss this with your advisor. There needs to be three faculty members (with at least two from MCRS) on your comprehensive exam committee and three MCRS faculty members plus one faculty member from outside the Dept. on your dissertation committee.

Think about who your committee members might be during your first two years as you are designing your initial studies and ask for their input early on, especially if your research involves their area of expertise. This way you will be more likely to have your work that was done prior to candidacy accepted as part of your dissertation research proposal.

Once your proposal is approved by your dissertation committee, you typically will not have another formal committee meeting again before your defense. Again, this is why it is very important to be fully ready to complete your dissertation research before your comprehensive exams. If for some reason a major change needs to be made after the committee has approved your proposal, you should request to meet with your committee again before your defense so that there are no surprises and things run smoothly.

It is best to set your defense date for at least a couple of weeks before the graduation deadline in case major revisions are requested. Your dissertation should be given to your committee three to four weeks prior to the defense and to your advisor four weeks prior to giving it to your committee. This process is easiest if you submit your publications as you go and present your dissertation in manuscript format (see graduate school requirements). In the manuscript format, it is best to include an introductory chapter that precedes the three papers and a conclusion chapter at the end that ties everything together. The more that is published prior to your defense the more impressive it will be.