Choosing a Research Advisor

One of the most important decisions you will make during your graduate career is the choice of your research advisor. This will influence not only your graduate research and day-to-day activities at UCI, but also the opportunities available to you upon graduation. Therefore, it is extremely worthwhile to make an informed decision about the research group you join. You will want to obtain information on groups and projects by meeting with faculty members, reading papers and/or proposals, and talking with graduate students and postdocs. These activities are one of your major responsibilities during your first quarter of graduate study.

Every doctoral student in the program eventually chooses a research mentor; however, there are times when the Graduate Student Advising Committee can and should provide advisory council to students. First and foremost, prior to officially joining a research group, students should consult with their Area Advisor for assistance in coursework selection and to learn about the procedure for joining research groups and advancing to candidacy in their area of research. When continuing students, who have officially joined a group, experience challenges for which their research mentor is either unable to help or would be an inappropriate person from whom to seek assistance, the Graduate Student Advising Committee plays an important role. The first point of contact in these situations must be the Area Advisors. If the Area Advisor is coincidentally also the research mentor, then the student should contact the Vice Chair of Graduate Affairs.

General Plan for Conflict Resolution

When a graduate student is experiencing problems that cannot, in their opinion, be resolved via discussion with their research advisor, the advice of the relevant advisor from the Graduate Student Advising Committee should be sought. However, it should be understood that, if the seriousness of the problem is confirmed, the research advisor will eventually need to be involved in discussions so that the underlying problem (related to the research advisor, other group members, or other aspects of group management) can be resolved. It is most often the case that the research advisor is the single person who has the ability to remedy group-related problems or advisor-advisee relationship problems. Therefore, while consultations with Area Advisors can certainly be held in confidence, ultimately, progress toward problem resolution will almost certainly require discussions with the research advisor. In many cases, students decide that the problem is not worth pursuing after discussing it with a Graduate Student Advising Committee member. In such cases, the student may request that this initial discussion of the problem is not shared with the student’s advisor.

Changes of Research Advisor

The Chemistry Department maintains a commitment to each graduate student who matriculates to our program, and will therefore help, via the Graduate Student Advising Committee, to ensure that every student finds a research advisor who suits their needs. However, once a student has joined a research group, it is the responsibility of the student and the advisor to maintain a healthy relationship via free and open communication. In other words, if the student has a problem with an aspect of their situation for which the research advisor could provide a solution, it is incumbent upon the student to work with the research advisor to remedy the situation. In general, the Area Advisor should only be contacted for a confidential meeting after a resolution with the research advisor has been attempted.

If the student is sufficiently dissatisfied with their research environment that they are strongly compelled to find a new research advisor, then the student is encouraged to inform their current supervisor of their intent to find a new advisor. Attempts to confidentially find a new research advisor without communicating with the current one, with or without the help of an Area Advisor, create awkward situations among faculty colleagues and are therefore discouraged. Openness and honesty in these situations help to ensure that no relationships are damaged in the potential transition to a new group. The current research advisor is obliged to support the student during their transition period for a minimum of one quarter, provided the student continues to maintain residence and perform research in that laboratory. The department and faculty are committed to the success of all students in the graduate program, and the department has an excellent record of accommodating individual needs.