Graduate Student Handbook

 

 

∧ topPreface

 

This online handbook is intended to provide new and continuing graduate students in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with essential information for the smooth and successful completion of their graduate program. This handbook, while it contains much useful information, is not intended to provide an exhaustive resource for all our students' diverse needs. Should you not find answers here to questions that arise relative to your graduate program at UIUC, abundant additional online information regarding many pertinent issues may be found in the Guide to Graduate Life at Illinois, provided by the UIUC Graduate College. You might also want to subscribe to the Grad College's listserv, Grad Links, which broadcasts regular email bulletins with information of interest to UIUC graduate students.

 

The Plant Biology Department

 

Plant Biology is the largest among the three departments that constitute the School of Integrative Biology (IB) which, along with its sister School of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB), form the core of basic research in biology on the UIUC campus. While some administrative functions have migrated upward to the School of IB since the founding and separation of IB and MCB several years ago, the Department remains the first administrative point of contact for students with questions or problems.

 

The Plant Biology Department office is located in 265 Morrill Hall. Rayme Dorsey can assist you with registration, payroll and other administrative problems. The offices of the School of Integrative Biology are located in 286 Morrill Hall. Their role is to assist faculty and students with accounts, purchase orders and externally funded fellowships.

 

Tom Jacobs is the Associate Head of Plant Biology, Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), chair of the Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC) and departmental webslave. Other members of the GAC for the 2014-2015 academic year are Amy Marshall-Colon, Wendy Yang and James O'Dwyer. Representing our graduate students on the committee is Rachel Paul. The Associate Head and the Graduate Affairs Committee act as ombudsmen to resolve any problems related to a student's graduate program that cannot be resolved between the student and her/his research advisor. Jim Dalling, Interim Head of the Department of Plant Biology, is also available to discuss any academic or research problem with students if necessary.

 

∧ topMaster of Science Program Requirements in Plant Biology

 

The Master of Science (MS) program in Plant Biology is open to applicants who, (1) are not presently interested in pursuing a doctoral program in the field, or, (2) applied to our doctoral program but were directed to the MS program either in lieu of, or as preparation for, the doctoral program.


The Department offers both Non-Thesis and Thesis MS degrees. The Non-Thesis option is recommended for students who, (1) do not currently plan to continue into a doctoral program or, (2) wish to obtain an MS in Plant Biology while concurrently working toward an MS or PhD in another program. In the latter case, students must independently meet all requirements for completion of the Plant Biology Non-Thesis MS described below. That is, they may not use credit from any courses taken to meet both Plant Biology and their other program's requirements. The Thesis MS track is recommended for students who want to experience the post-graduate research environment but are not currently interested in committing to a doctoral program.

Two years is the normal duration of both the Non-Thesis and Thesis MS programs, although the Department guarantees support for three years. All students pursuing an MS are required to complete all requirements for the degree within five years of first registering with the Graduate College. The Plant Biology Departmentís policies regarding Masters degree programs conform, with some additions, to those of the University of Illinois Graduate College. Masters degrees are conferred in May, August and December.

 

MS program requirements are as follows:

 

∧ topFirst Semester Advisory Meeting

 

Prior to the end of every MS studentís first semester in the Department, the advisor, or a temporary advisor assigned by the Associate Head, will assemble an Advisory Committee. This committee will consist of the advisor as chair and at least two other faculty members from the Plant Biology Department or other appropriate units on campus. This committee can later serve as the studentís advisory (Non-Thesis MS) or thesis committee (Thesis MS). Alternatively, the committeeís composition may be changed during the program, should alternative membership better serve the studentís needs. The Advisory Meeting is both informational and advisory, its purpose being to discuss the student's academic background, career goals, planned course work, and (for Thesis MS) research plan. A brief written summary of the meeting is prepared and forwarded to both the Associate Head and the student by her/his advisor.

 

∧ topNon-Thesis MS

 

The formation of a committee (beyond the initial Advisory Committee) is optional for the Non-Thesis MS. Courses intended to fulfill the requirements detailed below are chosen by the student in close consultation with her/his adviser. Periodic (no less than annual) meetings between the student and adviser are required, to plan coursework and assure that adequate progress is being made toward the degree. There is no teaching requirement for the Non-Thesis MS, but students with career ambitions that include teaching are encouraged to work as a teaching assistant (TA) at least one semester.

 

Coursework required for completion of the Non-Thesis MS degree in Plant Biology is as follows:

 

  1. The completion of 32 hours of course work is required, at least 16 of which must be earned in courses either meeting on, or electronically based at, the Urbana-Champaign, Chicago or Springfield campuses, or in other locations that have been approved by the Graduate College.
  2. At least 12 of the 32 hours must be at the 500 level, of which a maximum of 8 hours may be IB 590.
  3. Three areas among anatomy, biochemistry, development, ecology, evolution, genetics, molecular biology, physiology and systematics must be represented within 12 of the 32 hours (but not necessarily at the 500 level).

∧ topThesis MS

 

  • Thesis Committee. Formation of a Thesis Committee for the duration of the program is required for the Thesis MS. As stated above, the committee can consist of the same three or more members as the initial Advisory Committee or be reconstituted thereafter as appropriate.
  • Coursework requirements. Coursework requirements for the Thesis MS are identical to those above for the Non-Thesis MS, with the substitution of an 8 hour maximum of PLBIO 599 credit for the corresponding 8 hour maximum of IB 590 credit in the Non-Thesis MS. In addtion, at least 4 of the 12 hours (in Item 3. above) must be outside the immediate research area of the student.
  • Thesis MS Students are strongly encouraged to enroll in IB546B (or equivalent, should the rubric change), IB's Graduate Student Orientation course during their first year in the program. Through this course, students prepare an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship which you are expected to submit for the Fall (November) deadline.
  • Teaching. There is no teaching requirement for the Thesis MS, but, as above for the Non-Thesis MS, students with career ambitions that include teaching are encouraged to work as a teaching assistant (TA) at least one semester.
  • Thesis preparation and examination. At the completion of the program, the student is required to prepare a thesis that clearly and thoroughly documents research performed, in a format conforming to standards set by the Graduate College for all University of Illinois theses and dissertations.
  • Examination and completion. A copy of the final draft of the thesis is to be provided to each member of the thesis committee one week prior to a scheduled full committee meeting at which the research completed is presented orally by the student. An examination by the committee follows. The student must then obtain each committee member's signature on the appropriate Graduate College form, whereupon the form will be forwarded to the Graduate College with a copy placed in the student's file. A certificate of approval signed by the Department Head is required by the College for completion of the degree.

 

∧ topTransition into the Doctoral Program

 

Any student nearing completion of either a Non-Thesis or Thesis MS in Plant Biology may petition to continue into the Departmentís doctoral program. The petition package is submitted to the department and must include all of the following:
  • A formal letter to the Associate Head, describing her/his interest in continuing into a doctoral program, including specifics about the subject area and advisor of choice.
  • Three (3) new letters of recommendation from faculty within the Plant Biology Department, explicitly addressing the question of the studentís suitability for doctoral study.
  • An up-to-date graduate transcript
  • A current curriculum vitae
Upon receipt of all of the above materials, the Departmentís Graduate Affairs Committee will consider the application and render a decision, with the option of interviewing the applicant beforehand. Successful completion of the MS degree does not guarantee admission into the doctoral program.

 

 

∧ topProfessional Science Master's Program in Plant Biology*

 

The Professional Science Master's Program in Plant Biology is a non-thesis MS degree targeted to applicants who (1) are primarily interested in non-research based careers in industry, government or not-for-profit settings and who wish to (2) pursue graduate training at the interface between science and business. This 16-month option is recommended for students who do not currently plan to continue into a doctoral program. PSM students are not required to have an Advisory Committee, but will be closely advised by the Plant Biology PSM Program Coordinator, Plant Biology PSM Faculty Advisor, and Illinois PSM Program Director. PSM students must meet all requirements for completion of the Plant Biology PSM as described here. The PSM degree is conferred in December.


         *The Professional Science Master's Program in Plant Biology is not currently accepting new students.


∧ topDoctoral Program Requirements in Plant Biology

 

The Departmental degree requirements outlined here have been designed specifically for graduate students in the Department of Plant Biology, as well as to assure their compliance with requirements dictated by the University's Graduate College. Further information regarding University-wide requirements for graduate study can be found in The Graduate College Handbook of Policy and Requirements for Students, Faculty and Staff.

 

What follows are requirements and not simply recommendations. However, some flexibility in program design can be exercised by both faculty and students. For example, additional individualized requirements may be instituted by faculty, and students may petition to waive a particular Graduate College or Departmental requirement or regulation. Such petitions are submitted to the Associate Head, who is also Chair of the Graduate Affairs Committee.

 

The department's Doctoral Program Timetable (click right to download) is an essential tool for organizing and tracking one's doctoral career. Dates should be entered into the form at or before the Stage I Advisory Committee meeting and copies kept by both student and advisor.

 

Overall Structure of the Program

 

The Graduate College divides the graduate program into three stages:

 

Stage I: This initial stage requires completion of the Master's Degree or its equivalent of 32 hours of acceptable graduate study at this or another University. Students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. degree without obtaining a formal M.S. degree are still required to fulfill the coursework and research requirements for the M.S. degree.

 

Stage II: The next stage requires that the student complete a minimum of 32 additional hours of graduate work, meet the special requirements and procedures of the Department, and pass a Ph.D. Preliminary Examination.

 

Stage III: The final stage of the program entails completion of an acceptable dissertation and final oral examination. The student must have accumulated a minimum of 96 hours of graduate study by the time the final examination is taken. At the successful completion of this stage, the Ph.D. degree is conferred.

 

∧ topSTAGE I

 

Stage I covers the period of time required to complete a Masters of Science degree or its equivalent. All students entering the graduate program with a Bachelor's degree complete the requirements for a Masters of Science degree, even if she or he plans to complete the Ph.D. program. Students entering with a Master of Science degree or its equivalent proceed directly to Stage II. Specific requirements for Stage 1 are as follows: (1) the Stage I Advisory Meeting; (2) completion of 32 hours of course work; and (3) engagement in a research project. Procedures for fulfilling these requirements are described below.

 

First Semester Advisory Meeting

 

Prior to the end of the first semester in residence in the Department, the advisor or temporary advisor assigned by the Associate Head will assemble the Stage I Advisory Committee. This committee will consist of the advisor who will act as chair, and two other faculty members from the Plant Biology Department or other appropriate units on campus. This meeting is informational and advisory, its purpose being to discuss the student's academic background, career goals, planned course work, and possible areas for research. A brief written summary of the meeting is prepared and forwarded to the Associate Head and the student by the chair of the committee (the student's advisor). Guidelines for the Stage I Advisory Meeting are as follows:

 

  1. The meeting should be informal and last no longer than one hour.
  2. The student should assemble and distribute to all members of the Advisory Committee at or prior to the meeting a list of all relevant courses taken as well as a list of currently enrolled courses.
  3. The student should be knowledgeable about UIUC course offerings in his/her area of study and be prepared to discuss preferences.
  4. The department's Doctoral Program Timetable should be filled out and copies left with the student and his/her advisor

∧ topCoursework for Stage I

 

  1. Registration in IB546, Graduate Student Orientation, is strongly encouraged for all first-year Plant Biology graduate students. If another (advisor-) required course or activity precludes timely enrollment in IB546, then you must enroll in it the following Fall. This course provides invaluable information on and practice in writing grant proposals in addition to a variety of survival skills for negotiating a smooth and successful path to an advanced degree in Plant Biology.
  2. The completion of 32 hours of course work is required to complete Stage I, at least 16 of which must be earned in courses meeting on the Urbana-Champaign, Chicago or Springfield campuses, or in other locations that have been approved by the Graduate College.
  3. At least 12 of the 32 hours required for Stage I must be at the 500 level. Hours of IB590 may be applied to this 500 level hour requirement and there is no limit on how many hours of IB590 may be applied to the requirement, as long as the classwork requirement in Item 4. below is met.
  4. At least 12 of the 32 hours required for Stage I must be distributed among three of the following nine areas of plant biology: anatomy, biochemistry, development, ecology, evolution, genetics, molecular biology, physiology, and systematics. If an additional area not included in these nine is appropriate to your program (e.g., statistics, bioinformatics, geology), it may be substituted with approval of advisor and department.
  5. At least 4 of the 12 hours in Item 4. above must be outside the immediate research area of the student.

Research during Stage I

 

Research experience is required during Stage I of the doctoral program. In order to obtain academic credit for research-related field or laboratory activity, students must register for IB 590.

 

∧ topMaster's Thesis

 

Preparation of a master's thesis is not required for students in the Plant Biology Ph.D. program. However, should a student elect to write and submit a Master's thesis to the Graduate College, not more than 12 hours of thesis credit (IB 590) may be applied to the 32 hours of course work. The completed thesis will be examined by a 3-member committee selected by the thesis advisor before it is forwarded to the Graduate College. A certificate of approval signed by the Department Head is required by the College. Students pursuing a Master's degree must complete all requirements for the degree within 5 years of first registering in the Graduate College.

 

∧ topTwo-Year Review


The University of Illinois Graduate College requires that all students pursuing a doctoral degree be evaluated by the Department no later than the end of the second year after entering the Graduate Program. The Two-Year Review completes Stage I for students entering with BS degress, and, along with the Preliminary Exam, completes Stage II for students entering the program with MS degrees (see our Doctoral Program Timetable for clarification of these timelines). The Graduate Affairs Committee is in charge of the Two-Year Review. It is the student's responsibility to see that the following materials are submitted upon request of the Associate Head in a timely manner:

 

    2Yreview
  1. Curriculum Vitae. Be sure to include a record of your TA-ing at Illinois, all funding you have applied for (both successful and not), papers published and in press (but not in preparation), presentations at meetings on and off campus and any outreach activities to which you've contributed while in our program.
  2. Graduate Transcript(s) (unofficial U of I is acceptable, order one here)
  3. Research Statement: Describe your anticipated research program,
    including a brief overview of the research problem, your research to date on it and your experimental plans going forward. (Two pages, double-spaced, 1" margins with bibliography on separate page)
  4. Two (2) fresh letters of reference, one from your advisor and the other from a faculty member familiar with your research (preferrably) or classroom work here at Illinois

These materials are to be submitted to the Plant Biology Office Administrator. After evaluating the student's materials, the Graduate Affairs Committee prepares a report (click for sample) to the student and the advisor. This report becomes part of the student's permanent file in the department. The Department views this review as an important opportunity for assessment and uses it to determine whether or not the student should continue into the next Stage of the graduate program.

 

Upon approval by the Graduate Affairs Committee, students who entered with a B.S. proceed into Stage II of their doctoral program. Approval of students who entered with an M.S., permits them to proceed into Stage III of their program, contingent upon passing their Preliminary Exams. Students may not take the Preliminary Exam without a favorable Two-Year Review.

 

 

 

STAGE II

 

Having completed a Master's degree or its equivalent, students enter Stage II of the graduate program. Specific requirements for Stage II include: (1) the Stage II Advisory Meeting; (2) completion of a minimum of 32 additional hours of 400-500 level courses and (3) the Preliminary Examination. Procedures for fulfilling these requirements are described in detail below.

 

∧ topStage II Advisory Meeting

 

The Stage II Advisory Meeting is a Departmental requirement intended to serve the interests of Ph.D. students. Like the Stage I advisory meeting, it is not an examination. It takes place as soon as possible after the student enters Stage II. This meeting provides the opportunity for the student to meet with some prospective members of his/her preliminary and final examination committees in order for them to become acquainted with the student's intended program of study and research. The principal purpose of the meeting is to provide early advisory input. In this way, faculty are able to offer more effective advice in planning coursework, preparing for the Preliminary Examination, and designing thesis research.

Membership on the Stage II Advisory Committee is determined jointly by the graduate student and her/his advisor and includes the major advisor and two or more additional faculty members. A faculty member from another department may serve on the committee. Membership may differ from that of the student's Stage I Advisory Committee.

On Choosing Committees: Students are encouraged to select members of their Stage II Advisory, Preliminary Examination and Thesis/Dissertation Committees with careful thought and consultation with their advisors. These committees provide invaluable objective evaluations and expertise, often outside that of the advisor and laboratory colleagues. Ideally, a minimally altered core committee should guide each student from the initial advisory meeting right through to the final defense. However, personnel changes along the way are understandable and appropriate, as required by each student's needs and progress, and faculty availability.

Guidelines for the Stage II Advisory Meeting are as follows:

 

  1. Prior to the meeting, a Stage II Advisory Committee is assembled
    1. The committee will include the major advisor and two or more additional faculty members.
    2. A faculty member from another department may serve on the committee.
    3. Membership of the Stage II Advisory Committee is determined jointly by the graduate student and her/his advisor.
    4. Membership may differ from that of the student's Stage I Advisory Committee.
    5. The responsibility for initially contacting prospective members of the committee is that of the student and her/his advisor.
  2. As chair of the Stage II Advisory Committee, the student's advisor is charged with the following responsibilities:
    1. Schedule and make all necessary arrangements for the meeting.
    2. Notify the student and the Associate Head of the committee's recommendations in writing
  3. One week prior to the meeting, the student must provide each member of the committee with:
    1. A copy of her/his complete transcript
    2. A summary of completed and anticipated courses, organized by subject area
    3. Her or his Curriculum Vitae
    4. A brief statement describing the anticipated degree program
  4. The Advisory Committee will evaluate the student's progress and make recommendations regarding the remaining portion of her/his graduate program. The meeting should include discussion of coursework, the thesis research subject and its scope, the timetable for the program including scheduling of the preliminary exam and plans for satisfying the teaching requirement. The meeting should be informal and last no longer than one hour.

∧ topCoursework for Stage II

 

  1. 32 additional hours of 400-500 level coursework are required to complete Stage II. Courses may include any combination of classroom and IB590 research credit (including all IB590 research credit).
  2. For the Ph.D., the requirement of proficiency in a foreign language or any requirement for specific coursework is left to the discretion of the advisor and advisory committee.
  3. These coursework requirements must be completed before taking the preliminary examination.
  4. Please remember: Academic credit for field or laboratory research performed during Stage II is earned by registering for IB 590, NOT PLBIO 599.

 

Preliminary Examination

 

For students entering the graduate program with a B.S., the preliminary examination must be taken prior to the completion of the third year after entering the graduate program. For students entering with an M.S. or its equivalent, the examination must be taken prior to completion of the second year. Guidelines for the Preliminary Examination are as follows:


  1. The Ph.D. Preliminary Examination Committee shall be composed as follows:
    1. Four or five faculty members representing a minimum of three of the following defined areas of plant biology: anatomy, biochemistry, development, ecology, evolution, genetics, molecular biology, physiology, and systematics. Should a significant component of the student's research not be represented by these areas, an alternative third area (e.g., modeling, bioinformatics, biogeochemistry) can be designated by the student in consultation with her/his advisor.
    2. At least one faculty member must be from another department
    3. At least three (3) committee members must be members of the Graduate Faculty.
    4. At least two (2) committee members must be tenured Univeristy of Illinois faculty.
    5. A member of the committee other than the advisor will be appointed Chair by the Associate Head.
    It is each student's responsibility to ensure that the composition of her/his Preliminary Examination Committee adheres to Graduate College guidelines. If it does not, the Graduate College will not approve the committee and the examination cannot go forward. Please consult the table here for Plant Biology faculty and check the Graduate Faculty Database to confirm the eligibility of all members of the committee.

  2. The student and her/his advisor are responsible for initially contacting prospective members of the committee.
  3. A written recommendation for the composition of the committee should be made by the advisor to the Associate Head. These recommendations are sent to the Graduate College after Departmental approval.
  4. It is the responsibility of the advisor to schedule and make all arrangements for the examination.
  5. The student must be enrolled during the term in which the examination is taken.
  6. The student must prepare a Research Proposal in the format specified by the Guidelines for the Preparation of the Ph.D. Research Proposal. The Research Proposal must be distributed to members of the Preliminary Examination Committee at least one week prior to the examination.
  7. Three hours should be scheduled for the exam and it should be completed within this time.
    1. During the first hour of the examination, the student will be examined on the three areas of plant biology as specified above in 1. Students are encouraged to talk with committee members prior to the examination, in order to determine the scope of coverage of the topics and receive guidance in preparation for the exam.
    2. In the remainder of the examination, the student will orally present her or his Research Proposal, during which questions regarding the proposed research and related areas will be posed by committee members.
    3. It is the responsibility of the Committee Chair to ensure that this format is followed and that the exam is conducted in the best interests of the student.
  8. The decision to pass the student on the examination must be unanimous and transmitted by the Chair to the Department and the Graduate College. If a student does not pass the examination, the committee must choose one of three of the following alternatives:
    1. Adjournment. The examination can be rescheduled after a period of time not exceeding six months.
    2. Conditional failure. The student may be given another opportunity to take the examination after completing additional course work, independent study, or research. The Graduate College must be informed of the conditional failure, and the committee chair will indicate that the student is to be given a second examination within one year after the first examination.
    3. Failure.
  9. If the Graduate College is not informed of the results of the examination within thirty days after its scheduled date, an adjournment will be recorded.

 

∧ topSTAGE III

 

Upon successfully passing the Ph.D. Preliminary Examination, the Ph.D. candidate enters Stage III as a doctoral candidate. A doctoral candidate must normally complete all degree requirements within 7 years of first registering in the Graduate College or within 6 years if entering with a master's degree from another institution. Petitions for extensions must be filed on a semester basis with the recommendation of the Ph.D. Committee and are carefully scrutinized at both the Departmental and Graduate College level.

Requirements for Stage III are:

 

  1. 32 more hours of coursework (see below)
  2. Completion of dissertation research
  3. Completion of the dissertation
  4. Passing the Final Ph.D. examination ("Thesis Defense")
  5. Deposit of the dissertation at the Graduate College

Stage III Annual Advisory Meetings

 

During Stage III each graduate student is required to hold an Annual Advisory Meeting with his/her Ph.D. Committee until passing the final Ph.D. examination. The format is intended to be flexible. The Ph.D. Committee may have a composition different from the Preliminary Exam Committee. The meetings take place within the same month of the calendar date of passing the preliminary examination. The meeting is not an examination. It should offer the student an opportunity to apprise the Committee of his/her progress during the past year, to outline his/her proposed plans and schedule for the next year (and beyond) of the project, and to seek advice from the Committee on current and projected problems. It is the responsibility of the student and his/her advisor to schedule the meeting. The advisor, as chair of the meeting, must provide a brief summary of the meeting for the student's files. A majority of committee members must be present at each annual meeting.

∧ topCoursework for Stage III

  • 32 additional hours of coursework are required for Stage III. Typically, but not necessarily, these are all research credit (PLBIO599). Thus, by the end of Stage III, the student must have accumulated a total of 96 hours, including the 32 hours required for the M.S. degree or its equivalent. At least 64 of the 96 total hours (which may include IB590 or PLBIO599 research) must be earned in courses meeting on the Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, or Springfield campus, or in courses meeting in other locations that have been approved by the Graduate College. (see A Handbook for Graduate Students and Advisors, Chapter VII, Section 6a).
  • Please note, again, that academic credit for research during Stage III is earned by registering for PLBIO599 (not IB590).
  • Registration is not required after the preliminary examination if the student is (a) making no use of University facilities, (b) has left the campus, and (c) has finished the 96-credit hours requirement.
  • Registration is required, however, during the semester in which the final examination is taken. If registration is not continuous, the candidate should consult The Graduate College Handbook of Policy and Requirements for Students, Faculty and Staff to determine how to proceed with reentry.

 

Dissertation Preparation

 

All candidates for the Ph.D. degree are required to submit a thesis. For details on thesis format, see the online Graduate College Thesis Requirements.

Before her or his degree is conferred, a student may find it desirable or expedient to publish some of the findings, which will later be incorporated into the thesis. If this is done, an appropriate acknowledgment of the earlier publication should be included in the thesis. The Graduate College encourages such publication, but the thesis may not be published in its entirety before all degree requirements have been met. In cases where the early results of thesis research are published, it is expected that they will be integrated into the thesis in the usual way, i.e., the thesis format is carefully regarded and the relationship to the whole study is evident.

 

∧ topThe Ph.D. Final Examination ("Thesis Defense")

 

  1. The Ph.D. Final Examination Committee shall be composed as follows:
    1. A minimum of four (five recommended) faculty members, including the advisor.
    2. The Chair must be a member of the Graduate Faculty but need not be the advisor.
    3. At least one faculty member from another department.
    4. At least three (3) committee members must be members of the Graduate Faculty.
    5. At least two (2) committee members must be tenured faculty members.
    6. All voting members of the committee must be present in person or via appropriate electronic communication media at the preliminary and final examinations.

    It is each student's responsibility to ensure that the composition of her/his Final Examination Committee adheres to Graduate College guidelines. If it does not, the Graduate College will not approve the committee and the examination cannot go forward. Please consult the table here for Plant Biology faculty and check the Graduate Faculty Database to ascertain the current status of members of the committee outside of Plant Biology.

     

  2. Once a suitable examination committee has been agreed upon, the student must see that a Request for Appoint of Doctoral Examination Committee form is completed and submitted by the Plant Biology Office Administrator.
  3. The thesis, in its complete and final form, must be delivered to members of the Examination Committee at least one week prior to the Ph.D. examination.
  4. The first hour of the examination shall consist of a public seminar covering the student's thesis research. Members of the examination committee and the candidate shall then meet for detailed examination of the thesis.
  5. A decision of the examination committee to pass the student must be unanimous and transmitted by the Chair to the Department and the Graduate College. It is the student's responsibility to provide a hardcopy, at the examination, of the Thesis/Dissertation Approval (TDA) Form for committee signatures at the completion of the examination.
  6. If a student does not pass the examination, the committee may make one of three decisions:
    1. Adjournment: Examination must be rescheduled within six months.
    2. Conditional failure: Student may be given another opportunity to take the examination. In this case, the Graduate College is informed of the failure, and the committee chair indicates that the student must be given a second examination within one year after the first examination.
    3. Failure.

If the Graduate College is not informed of the results of the examination within thirty days after its scheduled date, an adjournment will be recorded.

 

∧ topDates and Deadlines for Graduation

 

M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are awarded in May, August and December. If needed (e.g., for a job application), a letter certifying that the student has completed the degree may be obtained from the Graduate College only after completion of all requirements, including deposition of the thesis.

The Graduate College calendar lists the dates of important deadlines for graduate students. Ph.D. candidates must complete all requirements within seven calendar years after the initial registration in the Graduate College. Please consult the department Administrative Assistant well in advance of submitting your thesis to make sure you have completed all the necessary requirements.

 

Teaching Requirement

 

While the Department tries to recognize the capabilities and potential of its students through Fellowships and Research Assistantships as much as possible, it also recognizes the importance of teaching experience in their overall training programs. Therefore, all PhD students (domestic and international) in the Department of Plant Biology are required to complete at least the equivalent of one semester as a half-time teaching assistant prior to completion of the doctoral degree. Teaching assignments will normally be in courses in which there is direct instructional contact with students.

UN flagINTERNATIONAL STUDENTS: Students whose first language is not English are required to satisfy the University of Illinois standard for spoken English proficiency prior to fulfilling their Plant Biology Department teaching requirement. If you took the iBT or the Test of Spoken English (TSE) within the two years immediately preceeding your enrollment into the Plant Biology graduate program and earned 24 or greater on the iBT (Speaking) test or 50 or greater on the TSE, then you qualify to teach at the University. If neither, then you must take the English Profiiency Interview (EPI) test administered periodically by the Center for Teaching Excellence and earn a score of 5 or higher. Students cannot register themselves for the EPI test. Our departmental office administrator must do it for you. It is each international student's and her/his advisor's responsibility to assure that the language proficiency prerequisite for teaching at the University of Illinois will be fulfilled prior to the semester during which the student is expected to teach. The University is justifiably very strict about spoken English standards of its teachers and there are no waiver or petition options around this requirement.

 

 

∧ topRegistration

 

 

UI Direct

 

Registration for classes is done online by going to www.illinois.edu. Under "Resources for: Current Students," select "Register for Classes, Check Records, Financial Aid." On the Enterprise Applicants Self-Service page, select "University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign" and sign in using your Network ID and password.

 

Late registration

 

Students are expected to enroll during the appropriate registration period. Any late registration charges must be paid by the student.

 

∧ topNumber of Credit Hours

 

To be considered a full-time student, all graduate students must register for a minimum of 8 credit hours each semester in Fall and Spring every year. For Summer semester, the minimum registration for full-time status is 4 credit hours (but see below -- Summer registration is not required). These minima are set by the Graduate College.

Some or all of the required 8 credit hour minimum (Fall & Spring) may be contributed by registering for IB590 (before passing prelim) or IB599 (after passing prelim) research.

All students should keep in mind that, despite these per semester required minima, each must accumulate a total of 32 credit hours in order to complete each of the three stages of the graduate program.

∧ topCRN Numbers and Grades

 

Students should sign up for the appropriate CRN assigned to their major professor. Be aware that the CRN number is specific for the advisor and the term of registration; it changes every semester. IB590 is graded satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U), but research advisors may defer grades for this course until the student completes the Preliminary Examination or a Master's Thesis.

 

IB590 versus PBIO 599

 

Students should register for IB590 before they pass their Preliminary Exam (at the end of Stage II) and PBIO 599 for all of Stage III. Grades for PBIO 599 research may be deferred (grade of DF) until the student completes the Ph.D. Thesis. In this case, the student's advisor must fill out a "Change of Grade" form to replace the DF with an S or U grade when the Thesis is completed. No credit will be given for PBIO 599 unless a thesis is deposited.

 

Summer Registration and Health Coverage

 

REGISTRATION: Continuing graduate students are not required to enroll and/or register for credit hours during the Summer session unless:

  1. You are supported by a fellowship that requires you to be a registered student to receive funding,
  2. You plan to take your Preliminary Exam during Summer semester, or,
  3. You plan to take your Final Examination (thesis defense) during Summer semester.

Students who hold at least a 25% assistantship during Spring semester will automatically receive a tuition waiver if they register (again, only required if one of three above conditions applies) for Summer session. The minimum credit load for Summer is 4 hours of either IB590 (pre-prelims) or PBIO 599 (post-prelims).

 

HEALTH COVERAGE: Students registered during Summer semester enjoy the same (fee-requiring) health coverage as during Fall and Spring semesters. However, if you do not register for Summer semester, you will need to pay separate fees for McKinley Health Services and for insurance over the summer. See more about Summer Health Coverage for Graduate Students at the Graduate College's website.

 

∧ topRegistration After Completion of Degree Credit Requirements

 

Students are expected to be registered full time if they are performing research toward their degree. At the time of thesis deposit, neither master's degree students nor doctoral degree students are required to be registered. All doctoral candidates, however, must be registered for the entire semester or term during which they take the final examination. If enough thesis credit hours have already been accumulated, registration for 0 credit hours is acceptable at that time.

 

There is one exception to the above registration requirement. A student who was registered during Summer session need not register for the Fall semester if the final examination occurs on or before the final October examination deadline for the doctoral degree students. This date is published by the Grad College Thesis Office. This exception provides a grace period at the beginning of the Fall semester for students who are unable to assemble their dissertation committees over the summer.

 

Minimum Grade Point Average Requirement

 

The Plant Biology Department requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 in classroom courses (excluding 590 or 599 research credit). A student who completes 12 credit hours of work with a GPA of less than 3.0 (B) will receive a warning letter from the Graduate College. If the GPA is not raised to 3.0 or above upon completion of 3 additional units or subsequently falls below 3.0, the student will be placed on limited status. If the student's GPA is not raised to 3.0 or above at the end of the first term on limited status, the student will be prohibited from further registration. In such cases, however, the department can petition the Graduate College to waive this requirement, thereby enabling the student to register.

 

A student may be placed on limited status for any of the following reasons: (1) if the student is initially admitted to the graduate program with an undergraduate GPA less than 3.0 on the last 60 hours of undergraduate work; (2) if the student's GPA falls below 3.0 during graduate study. No advanced degree will be awarded to a student on limited status. The department must request that a student be changed from limited status to full graduate standing in all cases except when the student's GPA is less than 3.0, in which case the change in status must be made by the Graduate College.

 

∧ topFinancial Support


Funding Opportunities for Graduate Students in Plant Biology


Acquiring grantsmanship skills is a critical aspect of every scientist's professional development. Research costs money and cannot be performed unless granting institutions can be convinced that a project is worth their investment. And competition for such funds grows stiffer every year. Plant Biology graduate students are therefore expected to get in the habit of and develop their skills at preparing and submitting grants to fund their research, regardless of their support circumstances during their graduate training at Illinois (i.e., even if you're on an RA).

Below is a list of funding sources to which such applications can be submitted. In addition, our PEEC program's website provides a good list of funding sources for students in the PEEC program, most of which are applicable to at least some Plant Biology students. All applications should be prepared in close consultation with your advisor, who should provide substantial input on the document's form and substance. In addition, the Graduate College offers one-on-one personal advising for students applying for external fellowships. Your contact and Director of External Fellowships at the Grad College is Ken Vickery.

 Plant Biology Department and School of Integrative Biology∧ top

Program Description Deadline
Plant Biology Graduate Student Enhancement Fund (PlBio GREF) ~$500 for travel to course, workshop, another lab to acquire a skill or collaborate with a researcher or to attend a conference to present a talk or poster. Anytime during academic year, as long as funding is available.
R. Weldon Larimore Scholarship Variable amounts for students engaged in natural history or stream ecology research. Administered through the Illinois Natural History Survey. Early February
Francis M. and Harlie M. Clark Summer Fellowship Variable amounts for "presentation of papers at international and national meetings, short specialty courses offered off campus, and conducting research or making collections away from the UIUC campus." Open only to SIB graduate students. Mid-late February
Francis M. and Harlie M. Clark Research Support Grant Provides two months of Summer support to continuing graduate students in School of Integrative Biology. Mid-late February
Robert Emerson Memorial Award $3000 "to recognize exceptional academic achievement and research potential." Open only to graduate students in the School of Integrative Biology. Mid-late February
Lebus Fund Award $1000 "to provide Summer research support for meritorious MS and PhD students of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences of the University of Illinois in the life sciences and other fields." Each IB dept submits three. Mid-late February
Isabel Norton Award Up to $2000 "to provide research funding for advanced Master's and PhD students for the completion of their thesis or dissertation research." Must be within one year of completion of MS or PhD. Mid-late February
Harley J. Van Cleave Research Award $1000 "to support a graduate student investigating new frontiers and demonstrating promise and high aptitude in the fields of Cell and Structural Biology, Physiology, Ecology, Microbiology, Genetics and related fields. " Open only to students in School of Integrative Biology. Mid-late February
Govindjee & Rajni Govindjee Award for Excellence in Biological Science $1000 "to support expenses for students conducting research in any aspect of plant biology". Open to graduate students in IB and MCB. Mid-April
John R. Laughnan Travel Fund ~$600 for attendance at national or international scientific meeting at which a talk or poster will be presented by the applicant. Students can receive only one Laughnan award while at Illinois. Mid-April
Harold C. and Sonja L. Labinsky Award Recognizes achievement of undergraduate or graduate student in Plant Biology using methods and approaches of plant genetics. Can support participation of grad student in a meeting or workshop. Mid-April


 University of Illinois∧ top

Program Description Deadline
Graduate College Dissertation Travel Grants Up to $5000 to provide reimbursement to subsidize travel and associated costs necessary for doctoral dissertation research, whether for exploring a potential dissertation topic (i.e., before extensive research has been done) or for conducting dissertation research. September 9, 2014
March 10, 2015 (to department one week earlier)
Graduate College Master's Project Travel Grants Up to $500 to provide reimbursement for travel-related costs incurred for the completion of an off-campus, short-term project required to complete a Master’s degree program.  September 9, 2014
March 10, 2015 (to department one week earlier)
Graduate College Conference Travel Awards Up to $350 for travel to professional conferences, intended to support students presenting papers, posters, or creative work at the conferences they attend. September 29, 2014 February 23, 2015 (to department one week earlier)
Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois (DFI) Fellowships Support underrepresented graduate students who intend to obtain a faculty position in the state of Illinois following graduation.  Open to students pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees, the fellowships are based on merit and financial need. February, 2015
Graduate College Dissertation Completion Fellowship $20,000, one-year stipend, "to free Fellows from assistantships and other work obligations, allowing them to devote themselves full-time to the completion of the dissertation." Must have passed prelims and expect to defend and deposit by August of following year. Submit all to PlBio Dept first. April 7, 2015 (to department one week earlier)
Directory of Fellowships provided by the Graduate College
Funding and Employment Information from the Graduate College
Office of Student Financal Aid Virtual Job Board

 

 National and International∧ top

Program Description Deadline
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) ~$30k/yr for 3 yrs for thesis MS or PhD, for US Citizens and permanent residents. Click for program details and application tips. Mid-November
NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants (DDIG) $13k over 2 yrs for research (no stipend) "... to improve the overall quality of research, participate in scientific meetings, conduct research in specialized facilities or field settings, expand an existing body of dissertation research." Focus on environmental biology and animal behavior. Here are some DIGG tips from IU. Second Friday in November
American Association of University Women (AAUW) $18-20k for one-year fellowships for both domestic and international women students. $6k short-term "publication grants" also available. "Scholars engaged in science, technology, engineering, and math ... are especially encouraged to apply" November 15 (American)
December 1 (International)
US Environmental Protection Agency Science To Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowships $25k/yr stipend for 2 yrs (MS), 3 yrs (PhD). Targeted at specific areas of environmental science. Open to US citizens and permanent residents. Attend annual EPA Grad Fellows Conference. Late November
Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Student Research Fellowships (HHMI ISRF) $30k/yr for three years to "outstanding international predoctoral students studying in the United States who are ineligible for fellowships or training grants through U.S. federal agencies." Must be nominated by the University of Illinois. Inquire here. U of I Nomination:
November 29,
Application:
February 7
US Department of Energy Global Change Education Program, Graduate Research Environmental Fellowships (DOE GREF) ~$20k/yr for 3 yrs. Must have completed 1st year of grad school. Program includes travel to DOE-sponsored Orientation and Workshops. December 31
US Department of Energy Office of Science Graduate Fellowship (DOE SCGF) Three year awards to US citizens in first or second year of MS or PhD program. Fellows attend an Annual Research Meeting in summer at a DOE lab. Early January
American Society of Plant Biologists Travel Grant $575 to attend Plant Biology 2013 Annual Meeting in Providence, RI. Award includes meeting registration fee waiver (but no waiver of $50 abstract submission fee) February 12
Terra Viva Grants Directory Not a funding source per se, but a clearinghouse "Developing and managing information about grants for agriculture, energy, environment, and natural resources in the world's developing countries."  
Sigma Xi Grants up to $1000 for graduate (and undergraduate) research. Membership not required, but members 3x more likely to receive awards. March 15 and October 15 annually


Appointments∧ top

 

Three types of financial assistance are available to Plant Biology graduate students: teaching assistantships (TA), research assistantships (RA), and fellowships. TA and RA appointments are made by the department. Many fellowship opportunities are available. See the table above and visit the websites of the Graduate College Fellowship Office and the School of Integrative Biology for further listings of both local and extramural grant and fellowship opportunities for Plant Biology graduate students.

 

All stipends paid to graduate students through the University are divided into 11 equal payment units. A student will receive one unit of payment per month (on the 16th of each month, see below) for 9 months during the Fall and Spring semesters, For the Summer pay period, students receive two full monthly pay units, one on June 16 and one on July 16.

 

Paychecks

 

Payday is the 16th of each month. When the 16th occurs on a weekend, payday will be the last working day prior to the 16th. You should sign and return payroll forms (the W-4 form, insurance forms, and the check distribution form) that you receive as quickly as possible. Failure to quickly return these forms will result in your paycheck being delayed. Paychecks and reimbursements from the university will be direct deposit in your bank account.

 

Tuition Waivers

 

Each student holding an appointment of at least 25% but not more than 67% receive a tuition waiver. Fees must be paid by the student.

 

Fees∧ top

 

Registered graduate students must pay all applicable fees as listed in the campus Graduate Student Handbook.

 

Summer Support∧ top

 

Teaching assistantships are rarely available to support graduate students during the Summer months. The Department of Plant Biology and the School of Integrative Biology offer a number of competitive awards for which current graduate students can apply for support during the Summer. Some of these awards are specifically restricted to supporting travel required for research or travel to a scientific meeting. Others are more flexible and can be used for more discretionary purposes (e.g., room and board). Information on some Summer support options can be found above under Funding Opportunities for Graduate Students in Plant Biology.



Graduate College Resources∧ top