Top row (left to right): Guoyu (Gary) Zhang, Brandon Loch, Souvik Mandal, Belvin Thomas, Atul Thakur, Jinzhe Zeng, Lingjun Xie
Second row: Seungwoo Lee, Phillip (Thomas) Blackburn, Wenting Meng, Huan Wang, Zelin Wang
Front row: Ashish Parihar, Allen Park, Sneha Sreekumar, Shilong Yang, Zhuofan Shen
Not pictured: Brandon Conklin, Mark Dresel, Daniel Rothschild
All first year students are supported on fellowships (i.e. no teaching duties), allowing then to focus on excelling in their coursework, and identifying a suitable research advisor. Finding a good fit for one’s interests in a research group is extremely important; in their first year, our Ph.D. students choose two groups in which to do a 6-week rotation. The rotations help students and faculty assess the prospects for future success; every effort is made to accommodate the first choices of both students and faculty to ensure the best fit possible.
In the second year, Ph.D. students finish up their coursework and begin to devote more time to their research projects. This is also when the students choose the members of their Ph.D. advisory committee, and take their qualification exams for admission to candidacy. The exam involves a public research seminar presented to the department, and preparation of a research proposal, which is defended before the student’s Ph.D. committee in a closed-door session.
Once students have been admitted to Ph.D. candidacy, they continue developing their research projects, generating results, preparing manuscripts for publication, presenting their work at research conferences, and helping to prepare grant proposals. By the fifth year, a student has typically progressed far enough in their research to write and defend their dissertation, which is the last step before they are awarded their Ph.D. degree.