"One of the main reasons I decided on KSU for graduate school was because of the Ecological Genomics program.  Ecological Genomics offers
the opportunity to research and contribute to a relatively new field where the main goal is to investigate genes that are important in organisms in nature."

-- Lindsey Fallis


Student Expectations & Responsibilities

Admission into our graduate program is a first step toward what we hope will be a long and productive career in science. In order to take full advantage of the many opportunities that are available to you, both now and in the future, it is important that you understand the responsibilities and expectations for graduate students in the KSU Division of Biology. Thus we have created this short document, which will enable you to be more productive during graduate school, and more prepared for a productive career at the end of your graduate program. In some cases you might notice that these policies differ slightly from the more general policies of the KSU Graduate School. In those cases the Biology Division policies take precedence.  It is also important to understand that this document is not meant to be comprehensive. It is likely that you will have additional questions that are not addressed here, or that your graduate advisor has additional expectations besides those listed below. So in addition to reading and retaining this document for future reference, you should also communicate with your advisor (or prospective advisors, if you have not yet decided about your research program) in order to ensure that all expectations are understood and mutually agreeable. Other graduate students may also be a good source of information, but in general, if you have questions not addressed in this document, it is best to ask your advisor, or a member of the Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC). GAC members are responsible for admission decisions, policy development, and oversight of graduate students in the program, so they should be good and objective sources of information and advice. In addition, many GAC policies and documents are available.

 Responsibilities of all Biology Graduate Students
(for more information on KSU degree requirements, see the Graduate Catalog)

 1.     Graduate students must maintain a 3.0 G.P.A.  Students who fail to maintain grade standards will be dismissed from graduate school after 2 semesters on probation.  Biology graduate students must enroll in 9 hours in the spring and fall semesters, and 1-3 hours in the summer. Note that this is above the minimum number of hours required by the KSU Graduate School.

 2.     All graduate students in the Division of Biology, regardless of the source of their stipend support, must teach in our undergraduate or graduate courses during every semester in residence. During your first semester in residence you will usually be assigned to one of the larger lab courses (introductory biology or microbiology). In subsequent semesters you can express a preference for these or other teaching opportunities, and if you are planning to pursue a career in academia, it would be prudent to try to teach a broad range of courses. The amount of contact time (time spent in the classroom) can be variable, and depends upon the courses that need to be taught as well as on the number of graduate students in the program. Typically you should expect to commit 6-8 hours to teaching responsibilities per week; details will vary for each course and you will need to communicate with the course coordinators to understand your responsibilities. Your instructional efforts will be evaluated at least once a year; results of these evaluations are helpful in improving your teaching and in documenting excellence (as part of the application for some teaching awards). A Graduate Handbook is available.

3.      Please keep in mind that your stipend is NOT a wage for doing this instructional job. The purpose of stipend support is to allow you to pursue a graduate degree. Teaching, coursework, and research are all part of your graduate education, and are equivalent responsibilities for all graduate students in our program. We expect a high level of commitment to all three of these responsibilities from all students whom we admit and support.

4.      All graduate students must submit an annual progress report in collaboration with their advisor. Forms for completion of this report will be distributed in January, and you and your advisor each are responsible for completing appropriate sections of this report and submitting it to the GAC in a timely manner. The information in these reports allows the GAC to stay informed about your progress, and to make informed decisions about future admissions to the program.

5.      All graduate students are expected to devote their full-time efforts to their teaching, classes, and research. Sufficient (although not extravagant) stipend support is provided to allow full attention to be paid to these responsibilities. No additional employment may be undertaken without the permission of your research advisor and the Graduate Affairs Committee. For more information, see this memo on the GAC web page.

6.      All graduate students must have a thesis/dissertation committee formed and a program of study prepared, in collaboration with this committee, by the end of their second semester in residence. This is not just a formality; there are important reasons for this requirement. Advance planning for your courses and other responsibilities will enable you to use your time here most efficiently, will help forestall surprises (e.g. a course that you wanted to take is not offered during the semester that you planned to take it), and will involve your committee members from the initial stages of your research all the way to the end. The KSU Graduate School requires that all programs of study must include 24-30 hours of course work at KSU, and varying amounts of research hours (depending on whether you are getting a master's or doctoral degree). However, it is very likely that your committee will have additional recommendations for course work, depending on your individual circumstances, that go beyond this 24-30 hour minimum. The only hard rule is the Graduate School requirement for 24-30 hours of course work; additional course work (or not) is left to the discretion of the thesis/dissertation committee. Please keep in mind that every student is different, and that the purpose of the thesis/dissertation committee is to ensure that your individual graduate education is best adapted for your background, current research project, and career goals. Your research advisor and committee will be dedicated to ensuring that your graduate education is the best that it can be.

7.      Doctoral students must schedule preliminary examinations no later than their 5th semester in residence if they enter the doctoral program with a bachelor’s degree only, or no later than the 3rd semester in residence if they enter the doctoral program with a master’s degree.  In some cases, extenuating circumstances might delay the scheduling of the preliminary exam, and waivers can be requested by submitting such requests in writing to the chair of the GAC.

Expectations for all Biology Graduate Students

1.     All graduate students are expected to meet with their advisory committee at least once a year. Although your major professor is the major source of both ideas and advice for you, the other members of your committee can be equally important. Thus it is critical to involve them early and often. Even if your major professor seems reluctant to schedule regular committee meetings, you can schedule them yourself!

2.      Your research is expected to generate data that are publishable in peer-reviewed journals. Publication of research results is one standard by which you will be judged by your peers. In that light, guidelines for publication might include these additional expectations, although it is recognized that different research programs, advisors, and/or grant/contract restrictions may modify these expectations in some cases.

    1. Publish in the top-tier journals in your area.
    2. Publish 1-2 peer-reviewed publications from an M.S. thesis.
    3. Publish 3-5 peer-reviewed publications from a Ph.D. dissertation.
    4. Present your research findings regularly at regional, national or international meetings.

3.      All graduate students are expected to participate in Division activities including:

    1. Division Seminars, usually scheduled at 4 PM every Friday.
    2. Meetings with candidates for faculty positions, scheduled after seminar presentations by these candidates.
    3. The Biology Graduate Research Forum, scheduled for late winter or early spring every year.
    4. Thesis defenses, which can occur at any time throughout the year.

      Most of these activities are scheduled well in advance so that you can plan to participate.  These events should have high priority in a graduate student’s life, both because of the scientific knowledge which can be gained by participants, and because they provide opportunities to develop presentation and networking skills which will be useful both during and after graduate school.

4.      Participation in the KSU Biology Graduate Student Association  (BGSA) is strongly encouraged. This organization of your fellow graduate students offers opportunities for scientific as well as social interactions, and is a good avenue for addressing concerns or questions about graduate student expectations. BGSA members are involved in Division events such as orientation. They also schedule social events such as pot-luck dinners, picnics, and other opportunities to learn more about the lives and lifestyles of the international community to be found in our graduate student population.


 A graduate student. . .

  1. is creative and broad-minded.
  2. sets clear research priorities and career goals. This includes planning their research and dissertation/thesis in detail and ensuring that it is question/hypothesis driven.
  3. acquires the information and skills necessary to fulfill research and other goals.
  4. must take the initiative in setting goals and takes responsibility for meeting goals.
  5. is productive in the currency needed for meeting career goals (e.g. publishing refereed papers for an academic career).
  6. is task-oriented rather than time-oriented (understands that science is a career, and is not an hourly job).
  7. integrates different ideas, concepts, and bodies of knowledge (part of being creative) and is willing to learn some of the methods, and at least some of the language of other disciplines. This enables a graduate student to think creatively about his/her own subject, and enhances the required ability to collaborate effectively. 
  8. realizes that it is scholarship (broadly defined), and not just credit hours and data collected that earns one a degree.
  9. works well with others and in teams.
  10. develops excellent communication skills. Satisfactory completion of your degree requirements will conclude with your public seminar and defense of your research to your committee, both of which require effective communication of your knowledge.
  11. recognizes that enthusiasm, optimism and dedication towards achieving their goals, along with satisfying the above criteria, are critical aspects that help provide him/her with the best opportunity for success 
  12. is available to colleagues and students on a regular basis. Balancing research (both experimenting and writing), coursework and teaching will most likely require working nights and  weekends.
  13. views graduate school from the prospective of professional development, which is different from the undergraduate student’s perspective of college.  This means that there is always something you can be doing to develop your professional skills (e.g. scan the literature, discuss new theories and ideas with colleagues, look for available grants and fellowships.).
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