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Academics:

Tutorial Research Experience

Tutorial rotations are experiences in which students learn about the scientific research process. Each tutorial rotation is worth two credit hours (10 weeks per tutorial, 20 hours per week, or other arrangements resulting in a total of 200 hours in the laboratory).

All first-year PhD students are expected to take and pass three tutorials with three different GSBS faculty members during their first year.

Tutorial rotations have two main purposes:

  • To introduce incoming students to a variety of research environments
  • To provide students the ability to make an informed choice of the laboratory where they will do their dissertation research

Having so many GSBS Faculty to choose from can be overwhelming, so here are concrete steps you can take to help you identify tutorial instructors:

  1. Define your research interests, and search the GSBS Faculty Directory using your interests as keywords.

  2. Check out the Faculty Seeking PhD Students list.

  3. Schedule an advising appointment with Dr. William Mattox or Dr. Natalie Sirisaengtaksin to talk about the faculty you like. They can provide information about their training history and contact information for current trainees.

  4. Contact the lab's trainees to talk about their mentor and their work.

  5. Talk with other students about their tutorial experiences, advisors and Programs.

  6. Speak with Program Directors for advice on faculty that are affiliated with their Program.

  7. Set up a meeting with the potential tutorial instructor to discuss timing and details of your proposed rotation.

  8. Prepare for the meeting!

      • Read the lab's latest publications.

      • Ask for further references or reading material before the meeting.

      • Think of questions to ask about the science.

  9. Use these questions to drive the discussion:

      • The major focus must be research interests - do you share them?

      • What are the major projects in the lab?

      • Ask to see the lab facilities

      • How many lab personnel are there now? Which are trainees, postdocs, techs, etc.?

      • Who would you work with during the tutorial?

      • What would your project be?

      • What is the faculty member's Program affiliation(s)?

      • How does the faculty member feel about students attending scientific meetings?

      • How many previous students has the faculty mentored?

      • What are the previous students doing now?

  10. Confirm that the faculty member is willing and financially capable to take on a new student.

  11. Don't be afraid to ask about the faculty member's funding -- it is very important!

  12. After the meeting, reassess your priorities -- is this the best fit for me?

      • Are you excited about the research?

      • Do you like a small lab or a large lab?

      • Do you prefer labs with extensive collaborations or one that is more highly focused?

      • Are the lab personnel friendly and willing to communicate?

      • Are you comfortable talking with the faculty member?

      • Is the lab environment suited to your lifestyle?

  • Guide to Choosing a Tutorial Instructor

    Having so many GSBS Faculty to choose from can be overwhelming, so here are concrete steps you can take to help you identify tutorial instructors:

    1. Define your research interests, and search the GSBS Faculty Directory using your interests as keywords.

    2. Check out the Faculty Seeking PhD Students list.

    3. Schedule an advising appointment with Dr. William Mattox or Dr. Natalie Sirisaengtaksin to talk about the faculty you like. They can provide information about their training history and contact information for current trainees.

    4. Contact the lab's trainees to talk about their mentor and their work.

    5. Talk with other students about their tutorial experiences, advisors and Programs.

    6. Speak with Program Directors for advice on faculty that are affiliated with their Program.

    7. Set up a meeting with the potential tutorial instructor to discuss timing and details of your proposed rotation.

    8. Prepare for the meeting!

        • Read the lab's latest publications.

        • Ask for further references or reading material before the meeting.

        • Think of questions to ask about the science.

    9. Use these questions to drive the discussion:

        • The major focus must be research interests - do you share them?

        • What are the major projects in the lab?

        • Ask to see the lab facilities

        • How many lab personnel are there now? Which are trainees, postdocs, techs, etc.?

        • Who would you work with during the tutorial?

        • What would your project be?

        • What is the faculty member's Program affiliation(s)?

        • How does the faculty member feel about students attending scientific meetings?

        • How many previous students has the faculty mentored?

        • What are the previous students doing now?

    10. Confirm that the faculty member is willing and financially capable to take on a new student.

    11. Don't be afraid to ask about the faculty member's funding -- it is very important!

    12. After the meeting, reassess your priorities -- is this the best fit for me?

        • Are you excited about the research?

        • Do you like a small lab or a large lab?

        • Do you prefer labs with extensive collaborations or one that is more highly focused?

        • Are the lab personnel friendly and willing to communicate?

        • Are you comfortable talking with the faculty member?

        • Is the lab environment suited to your lifestyle?

  • Registering for Tutorials

    Students that begin in the fall semester register for one tutorial in the fall term and two tutorials in the spring term.

    Tutorial Research Experience is a GSBS course worth two semester hours of credit. To register in myUTH, use the course number (GS00 1514) and the unique section number that has been assigned to the tutorial instructor.

    Only faculty who are on the Faculty Seeking PhD Students list are offered as possible tutorial instructors in myUTH. Students who wish to do a tutorial with a GSBS faculty member who isn't on the Seeking List may contact Dr. Natalie Sirisaengtaksin, who will contact the faculty member to confirm that the individual is indeed accepting students. Once confirmed, the faculty will be added to myUTH as a tutorial instructor so that the student can register.

    Students that have not yet chosen their rotation mentor may temporarily register with Senior Associate Dean William Mattox as their tutorial instructor until they've decided with whom they'll work.

    Students that have identified a rotation mentor should:

    • notify Dr. Sirisaengtaksin, so that the rotation is recorded at GSBS and access to institutional resources and buildings are granted, if needed.
    • update their registration in myUTH, if they registered for the course with Dr. Mattox as instructor. Please switch the course instructor from Dr. Mattox to the real tutorial instructor. If the registration period has passed, and the course can no longer be updated, please let Dr. Sirisaengtaksin know.
  • Tutorial Evaluations

    Tutorials are graded Pass/Fail and the instructor provides a written evaluation of the student's performance. The evaluation is sent to the Deans' Office -- it becomes a part of the student's record and is shared with the student.

    In general, faculty will assess students based on the criteria below. However, individual faculty vary so it is important to ask about the tutorial instructor's specific expectations before committing to work in the lab.

    The faculty member evaluates the student's suitability as a member of their research group.  This involves many factors, including:

    • Research Ability: Intelligence, manual dexterity, scientific intuition, originality, independence

    • Reliability of the Student: Intellectual and personal integrity, conscientiousness

    • Motivation: Student's motivation in academic and research pursuits

    • Industry: Drive, initiative, work habits, productivity

    • Communication Skills: Ability to write scientifically and deliver effective oral presentations

    • Personal Interaction Skills: Ability to get along with other researchers and take part in a team effort

  • Tutorial Waivers

    Students may petition to waive their third tutorial if they meet certain conditions.

    Waivers of the third tutorial require that the student:

    • Has chosen an advisor with sufficient funding to support the student when GSBS funding ends, and
    • Has extensive previous research experience, a thesis-based MS degree and/or publications in the biomedical sciences

    Students who meet these criteria and wish to waive their third tutorial should apply for an exception by completing this form. Completed forms should be sent to Natalie Sirisaengtaksin with their new advisor copied on the email. If the GSBS determines that the student qualifies for this exception, an Accountable Mentorship Agreement will be sent to both the student and their new advisor to formalize the lab affiliation.

    Please note that the waiver of more than one tutorial is very unusual and would require additional justification.

    It is understandable that students are eager to get started on their dissertation research and may choose to waive the third tutorial, if they're eligible. However, before taking that step, students should consider the benefits of doing a third tutorial:

    • Exposure to a new research area of science.
    • Opportunity to learn new approaches and methodologies
    • Development of relationships with other researchers who may offer opportunities for future networking, become members of the student's Advisory Committee, and/or authors of future recommendation letters.
  • Fourth Tutorials

    Fourth tutorials are possible but not encouraged.

    Students that choose to do a fourth tutorial delay selection of their advisor by one semester, delay the beginning of their dissertation research, and have less time to prepare for PhD candidacy. However, fourth tutorials are allowed when a student has completed tutorials but has yet to identify an advisor.

    Fourth tutorials should not be to explore additional areas of research or to satisfy scientific curiosity. Instead, they are reserved for students that have not identified an advisor or lab that would be a good fit for the duration of their dissertation research.

    Students who are considering a fourth tutorial should meet with Drs. Bill Mattox or Natalie Sirisaengtaksin for guidance.