​Faculty Guide to Student & Division Activities

The following guidelines will familiarize you with the activities of graduate students who choose to rotate or to do thesis work in your lab, and ways you can minimize misunderstandings about student activities outside the laboratory, while supporting Division-sponsored activities. Please refer to the Division Guide to Student Policies for more details.

​Graduate Student Activities

Graduate student life involves a balance between laboratory research and other social and Division activities. Clear communication between a student and their thesis advisor will minimize misunderstanding regarding absences from the laboratory.

Students identify a thesis advisor by rotating through 3 different laboratories during their first year as a graduate student. Typically their thesis lab will have been chosen by September of their second year. It is imperative that as a PI/Mentor/Advisor that you have a conversation up front about your expectations regarding time spent in the laboratory, and to identify any time commitments (Division or Personal) that your rotating or thesis student may have. The DBBS Graduate Student Coordinators can answer questions about Division policies or any specific concerns regarding student activities.

Required - Division Sponsored

  • Coursework: Depending on the program, coursework typically requires from two to five semesters; usually consisting of four to seven courses in areas fundamental to the student’s Program. The typical student takes two or three courses in the first semester of graduate study and one or two courses in each of the next two or three semesters; most often completing by the end of the second year.
  • Mentored Teaching Experience: Students are required to do one MTE for the duration of one academic semester (Fall or Spring). In most cases the MTE takes place during their second year when the students are just starting in their newly chosen thesis lab. Sometimes students ask or are asked to do a ‘Second' MTE. This requires PI/Mentor approval.
  • Qualifying Examination: In their first through third years and at different times of the academic year (depends on the program) students are preparing for their Qualifying Exam. Two examples: 1) Microbiology students begin studying for their qualifying exam (preliminary exam) one year in advance (January of their first year). They meet as a group and study one day each week for an entire year. 2) Neurosciences students are not expected to do any lab work during an 8 week exam period schedule, May-June, at the end of their first year. Check with your Program Director or Program Student Coordinator for more information.

Voluntary - Division Sponsored

  • Pathways: Currently there are 10 pathways for which DBBS students are eligible. Pathway activities may take the student out of lab; however, applying to these pathways requires a recommendation letter from the student’s PI/Mentor. Upon acceptance, you as PI/Mentor will receive an email so stating this acceptance.
  • Recruiting Efforts: January through March, DBBS asks for student volunteers to help with the interview season. These students may be asked to escort prospective students around campus on tours or to interviews. They also attend program lunches and dinners. It is recommended that the students make their PI/Mentor aware of their absence(s).
  • Student Groups: There are several student groups on campus: YSP, SAC, Future Educators, Graduate Professional Council (GPC), ABBGS, GALAS… While many times the activities of these groups take place outside of the normal work day, sometimes the students have meetings or events that take them away from their lab work. As with any absence, the students should notify their PI/Mentor of these activities.

Personal Absences

  • Planned: Students are required to receive approval from their PI/Mentor when requesting vacation time.
  • Unplanned: Must be reported to PI/Mentor.

​Responsibilities of All Rotation & Thesis Mentors


Every semester you are required (as a PI/Mentor) to evaluate DBBS students rotating, or doing thesis work in your lab. The DBBS Program Coordinator will remind you by sending the student’s Rotation Evaluation Form (rotation students) or Research Evaluation Form (thesis students) to you via email.


Every semester for years 1 thru 3 via WEBFac you are required to assign a grade – ‘S’=Satisfactory or ‘U’=Unsatisfactory - to each student rotating or doing thesis work in your lab.

Responsibilities of Thesis Committee Chairs

The thesis committee chair serves as the liaison between the mentor, the student, the thesis committee and the PhD program steering committee to ensure satisfactory progress toward the degree is being made. The chair will notify the steering committee of significant concerns regarding the student progress.   The thesis committee chair is the chair of all thesis advisory committee meetings. The mentor is the chair of the final defense.


Under normal circumstances, the mentor will attend the meeting but allow the student to take the lead in the discussion. Under exceptional circumstance, the chair may call a meeting of the thesis committee absent the student, the research mentor, or both.  However, the principal role of the committee is to facilitate discussion and provide constructive criticism to the student and the mentor.  A quorum of 4 faculty is necessary for a meeting to take place.  The chair is responsible for:

  • Facilitating thesis update meetings every 6 - 12 months
  • Submitting the Thesis Committee Report electronically after each meeting to DBBS-StudentData@wusm.wustl.edu.
  • Confirm that the IDP prepared by the student, including career exploration, has been reviewed.
  • Inquiring whether the student is engaged in research subject to a confidentiality agreement and, if appropriate, the chair will direct the thesis mentor to submit a Conflict of Interest Statement: 
      • Research funding from sources that have intellectual property interests in the research, or in which the PI has personal financial interest, may create a real or perceived conflict of interest, given the dual roles of the principal investigator in obtaining funding for the lab and as a mentor for graduate students. Issues of paramount importance are (i) the ability to publish results in a timely fashion; (ii) the ability to communicate research results openly, especially to members of the thesis committee; and (iii) academic rights to publish and speak freely, especially as related to a graduate student’s thesis and defense. 

​Faculty Involvement in DBBS Activities

Division membership requires the active involvement of faculty in DBBS activities.  Below are some ways you can contribute to its success.

Division - Sponsored Activities

  • Summer Research Programs (Summer): Volunteer to mentor an undergraduate student accepted into the summer research program, or present your research at the Tuesday Talks seminars.
  • Course Master/Lecturer/Discussion Leader (L-41 course): There are over 100 DBBS (L-41) courses in which you can participate as Course Master, Lecturer or Discussion Leader. Visit the WUSTL Course Listings to determine the best fit for you. 
  • DBBS Faculty Profile Webpages: Prospective, New and Rotating students use these web pages to search for research interests and possible labs for their rotations and theses. You are able to make changes to your page at any time by clicking "Update Profile" in the upper right hand corner of your page.  You will be prompted to enter your Wustl Key for authentication.

Program Activities

  • Retreats: Attending Program retreats will help you to get to know students in your Program, learn about work going on in other labs and talk about your research via poster session or short research talk. All Programs have annual retreats scheduled in the Fall or Spring.
  • Committees: Participate in steering committees, thesis advisory committees, qualifying exams, and other activities sponsored by DBBS and your Program.
  • Seminars: Participate in your program’s seminar series by volunteering to talk about your work.
  • Poster Sessions: DBBS-sponsored poster sessions in the fall provide an opportunity to meet incoming students, faculty affiliates and DBBS staff while informing them of your research.
  • Student Interviews: Interviewing prospective students helps to determine the best overall candidates for your Program and those most suited to your research.

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