Overview of Expectations for Faculty Research Advisors and Graduate Students

The Chemistry Department at the University of Virginia seeks to provide a graduate student experience that fosters professional and academic growth in a transparent, inclusive and collegial culture. Clear statements of mutual expectations between a research advisor and their advisee are crucial for an effective and successful student-mentor relationship. Academic advising is a shared responsibility between the student and the mentor, and it plays a critical role in each student's academic life. The advisee is expected to actively develop and pursue opportunities to achieve their educational and career goals, and to seek advice as they do so. Research advisors are expected to assist and support students in both their academic growth and professional development to promote students' career goals. To provide a framework for advisee and research advisor relationships, the graduate students and faculty of the Chemistry Department at the University of Virginia herein outline their mutual expectations. These expectations are stated with the intention of increasing transparency and establishing clear expectations and communication that will foster successful student-mentor relationships. Generally stated, graduate students are encouraged to be self-directed, responsible decision-makers, and faculty advisors are encouraged to provide advice and to support graduate student development with the targeted outcome of leading the preparation of all graduate students in the department towards a successful and timely completion of their degree and launch of their career.

Expectations for Faculty Research Advisors

It is considered that the role of the advisor is to provide research and professional guidance to help students reach their full potential and career goals. At the same time, it is imperative that the advisor ensures that each student follows the rules and regulations set forth by the University of Virginia, the Chemistry Department and the individual research group. The advisor should encourage each student, provide opportunities that allow each student to mature as a self-directed scientist, contribute to the progress of students’ research projects, and be available to provide feedback to ensure that expected research quality and standards are met by the student. More specifically, faculty research advisors are expected to:

  1. Work to ensure that your research environment is safe and free from harassment and discrimination and provides equitable opportunities for success.
  2. Uphold the highest standards of scientific ethics such as strict avoidance of data manipulation, intentional data misinterpretation, and improper or incomplete acknowledgement of contributions by other researchers. Train students on how to do the same.
  3. Establish a framework of a research project(s) with each student that can be successfully completed within the expected time frame of the program. 
  4. Communicate with each student regarding their Teaching Assistantship (GTA) versus Research Assistantship (GRA) assignment for each semester or summer period in a timely manner. Ideally, a change in support status should be communicated a month in advance of the next term.
  5. Be accessible for discussions about research projects and professional development/career plans.
  6. Participate in reading each student’s annual Individual Development Plan (IDP) and provide feedback on strengths, areas for growth and progress towards their degree. This feedback should include an annual in-person meeting that is focused on student professional goals and strategy to achieve them.  
  7. As needed and appropriate, assist students in finding other mentors for research or professional development topics that are not your expertise as a primary mentor. 
  8. Encourage and support each student’s submission of research to peer reviewed journals. If applicable, clearly communicate with each student the expectation of number of publications needed prior to graduation. Read manuscript drafts and provide feedback in a timely manner. Provide training to students on how to write scientifically as appropriate for their field, including manuscripts for publications, peer review of manuscripts, and proposals or reports.
  9. Encourage and support each student’s attendance at local, national and international conferences to present their research.
  10. Encourage and support each student’s participation in departmental events including, but not limited to, weekly seminars.
  11. Within the framework of program requirements, encourage and support each student’s participation in professional development and other networking events. This could include teaching opportunities, presentations, internships, etc. such as PhD+ courses and workshops.
  12. If a student requests, assist them with creating realistic career goals and help them work toward those goals.
  13. If applicable, nominate advisee for awards if they are eligible and meet award criteria.
  14. Provide letters of recommendation for each student in a timely fashion.
  15. Participate in an annual review of these expectations to discuss whether they have been met by both the advisor and your advisee.

Expectations for Student Advisees

The doctoral program requires that the student take ownership of their education and research to best make use of the considerable amount of time and energy that is required for a successful dissertation that contributes to the advancement of science. The student is required to adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by the University of Virginia while meeting the requirements of the degree program. In addition, the student must adhere to requirements and meet expectations of the research advisor and the research group. It is crucial for students to follow and implement the guidance, support and encouragement that they receive from their research advisor. Although the advisor should be available for consultation and may initiate meetings, it is ultimately the advisees’ responsibility to maintain regular contact with the advisor. Specifically, graduate students are expected to:

  1. Interact with other group members and research advisor in a manner that contributes to a collegial and supportive work environment that is safe, equitable, and free from harassment and discrimination.
  2. Adhere to the rules and regulations, policies, and procedures set forth by the University of Virginia, the Chemistry Department (as outlined in the UVA Chemistry Department Graduate Student Handbook), and the individual research lab.
  3. Meet the safety and training expectations of the research advisor and research group including competence and adherence to safety protocols, chemical hygiene, biosafety (if relevant) and development of research skills necessary to execute research project(s).
  4. Actively participate in discussion and planning of an original research project(s) with their research advisor that can be successfully completed within the time frame of the program.
  5. Read the primary literature and reviews that provide context to the advisee’s research project.
  6. Meet the expectations of the research advisor and research group regarding research productivity. This includes managing time and schedules to achieve agreed upon goals in a timely manner.
  7. Establish a research advisory committee with the help of the research advisor as required by the graduate program and keep the advisory committee informed about any changes that might affect the progress of research.
  8. Attend and actively participate in regular meetings, such as group meetings and consultations with the research advisor to report, present and discuss research progress.
  9. In consultation with their research advisor, draft manuscripts to report their research, seek feedback from advisor and peers and conduct multiple rounds of editing, submit, and revise as needed in response to peer reviews to reach publication.
  10. In consultation with their research advisor, seek opportunities to present their research at local, regional and national meetings.
  11. Maintain high quality records of their research progress in lab notebooks as well as electronic files.
  12. Be a productive and supportive individual in their research group as well as the Chemistry Department, including assisting others and assisting with day-to-day operations in the group, when appropriate.
  13. Actively plan and discuss their career trajectory after graduation with their research advisor. The student should pursue opportunities to accomplish career goals and professional development. This could include research publications, teaching opportunities, outreach activities, participation in student organizations, conferences, internships, additional employment etc.
  14. Uphold the highest standards of scientific ethics such as strict avoidance of data manipulation, data misinterpretation, improper or incomplete acknowledgement of contributions by other researchers. Ask for guidance from advisor or graduate studies director if unsure.

This document was developed with the consultation of:

  1. https://catalog.upenn.edu/graduate/academic-resources/advising-mentoring/expectations-responsibilities/
  2. https://socialwork.uw.edu/sites/default/files/sswfiles/programs/phd/Mentoring%20Guidelines_Final.pdf
  3. https://ecology.colostate.edu/expectations-for-student-advisor-relationship/
  4. https://advisingcenter.uiowa.edu/advising-expectations