Academic Advising

Our Ph.D. program in Biological Sciences has a clearly defined, multi-tiered advising structure that includes faculty advisors, student peer advisor and staff advisors.

Chair of the Graduate Committee

Andrew Chisholm (858) 534-7783


The Chair of the Graduate Committee is responsible for the organization and activities of the Graduate Committee. The Graduate Committee is charged with the evaluation and continued improvement of existing programs and policies, as well as the development of new programs. In addition, the Chair serves as an advisor to all graduate students for general issues as well as specific individual needs of the students.

Peer Mentorship Program

Program Contacts

Peer Mentorship Program Student Coordinators 2019-2020

Michael Mudgett (co-chair)
Tara Spencer (co-chair)

About the Program

The Biology Graduate Student mentorship program matches an incoming first year Biology Ph.D. student with an upperclassman mentor. The goal is for mentors to help guide their mentee through the first year of the Ph.D. program by listening to the mentee’s concerns and questions as well as providing another student perspective and opinion.

What is the time commitment for participants of the mentorship program?

Mentors and mentees will be required to meet monthly for the first year and quarterly thereafter. They will be treated to coffee on the department at Art of Espresso (details will be provided on how to access this benefit).

  • Attendance at an introductory dinner for mentors and mentees to meet.
  • Mentors will be encouraged to attend each Boot Camp happy hour during orientation.
  • Mentors will be strongly encouraged to attend the Biology retreat to get to know their mentee at these events.

Attendance at two more program-wide social events later in the year will be encouraged for mentors and mentees. In November, we will have a social event such as a happy hour to encourage discussions about rotation planning and how course work/social life is progressing. Late in the following April, a second event will be held for mentors and mentees to focus on advising lab choice.

The mentorship program IS...

  • a chance to get to know other students in the program and network between the classes
  • an informal setting in which to discuss issues relating to the first year of grad school – rotations, classes, choosing a lab, etc.
  • an opportunity to make new friends and have fun

The mentorship program is NOT...

  • meant to provide official university advice regarding your Ph.D. degree or replace academic advising
  • a substitute for medical services or advice
  • a substitute for professional mental health services, such as counseling
  • meant to provide legal advice

Staff Advising

EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY: All in-person advising services have been suspended until further notice. Students who need assistance can contact the Program Coordinator via email. Paper forms may also be emailed to the Program Coordinator. Processing times may be delayed. Students are expected to plan accordingly.


Melody Bazyar
Ph.D. Program Coordinator (858) 534-0181


The Student and Instructional Services Staff, located in Pacific Hall first floor, are available to help you through administrative processes. Don't hesitate to call on them if you have questions or problems. The staff advisors in the Division of Biological Sciences strive to develop personal and caring relationships with students and to help all students achieve educational, career, and life goals. Advisors are here to provide academic guidance and encouragement, help you feel part of the biology/university community, and to help you contribute to the global body of scientific knowledge.

Faculty Advisors

First Year Advisor


Provides guidance and support for first-year Ph.D. students. Students should plan on meeting with their First Year Advisor during Boot Camp to discuss their prior course record, research experience and interests.

Subsequently, First Year Advisors will meet with their student at least once per quarter throughout the first year.


First Year Advisors are assigned to each incoming student (Direct Admit students are assigned their research mentor as advisor) by the Chair of the Graduate Committee.

Thesis Advisor (Doctoral Committee Chair)


Selecting your Thesis Advisor to supervise your Ph.D. research and chair your doctoral committee is a crucial step in your graduate student career. You should select your thesis advisor by the end of June of your first year.

Students and Thesis Advisors should establish a program of formal research and courses that is designed to develop depth of knowledge in the area of the dissertation project and the breadth necessary for a career in teaching and research in the biological sciences.

The Thesis Advisor ensures you are making progress in all program requirements and assumes financial responsibility for your support. You should meet with your thesis advisor regularly, with the Advisor (and Doctoral Committee) preparing an annual evaluation that summarizes your progress and outlines goals for the future.


Students select their thesis advisor after completing rotations during the first year. The thesis advisor assumes responsibility for guiding the student’s research and ensures the student is meeting degree requirements.

A thesis advisor may be any ladder rank (Asst. Prof., Assoc. Prof., Professor) faculty member of the Division of Biological Sciences, a participating member of the Salk Institute, an adjunct member of the Division of Biological Sciences, or any ladder rank member of the UCSD faculty.

Doctoral Committee Evaluation Head


You must select a member of your doctoral committee to serve as your Evaluation Head. The thesis advisor cannot also serve as Evaluation Head.

The Evaluation Head, not the thesis advisor, will lead all doctoral committee meetings and examinations. This encourages an objective review of each student’s performance and of the research project. The member serving as Evaluation Head will be an additional mentor during your graduate career.

The Evaluation Head is responsible for facilitating the annual committee meeting and preparing your annual evaluation.


Students select their Evaluation Head after consultation with their thesis advisor and other committee members. The Evaluation Head should be identified before your second year proposition examination.

Doctoral Committee Members


The Doctoral Committee is unique to each student and charged with monitoring your research progress throughout your graduate career. Each student meets with their Doctoral Committee at least once per year (usually during Spring Quarter) to review research progress.

During these meetings the committee provides feedback to the student and contributes to the annual assessment narrative. Committee members are available in case you encounter any challenges or difficulties encountered during your research. It is very important for you to build strong professional relationships with each member of their doctoral committee and to communicate with them regularly.


Students select their Doctoral Committee members in consultation with their thesis advisor. You must have your "Core" Committee in place before your Second Year Proposition examination. The Core Committee is composed of at least 3 faculty members, including the Thesis Advisor and the Evaluation Head.

When you are ready to advance to candidacy, you must form the remainder of your Doctoral Committee. The full Doctoral Committee must consist of at least 5 faculty members, including the Thesis Advisor and Evaluation Head. Get specific guidance on Doctoral Committee membership.