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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Advising Information

AOS Handbook: Advising

Role of the Advisor The advisor serves a dual role: first, to assist the student in acquiring the highest level of knowledge and competence in the field that is possible; and second, to chair the committee that will determine whether the student has performed acceptably at each of their degree milestones. The chair or co-chair of the committee must be Graduate Faculty from the student’s program. Advisors may often play a role in tracking the student’s progress toward degree completion, assisting with course selection and academic planning, and helping students identify possible research mentors, committee members, and opportunities.

Advisee: Knowing the procedures and requirements of the University is the student’s responsibility. Since the advisor’s role can vary, students should discuss roles and expectations with their advisors or prospective advisors.

Both the student and the advisor have a responsibility to make their expectations clear to each other.

Advising Resources Beyond this handbook, there is resources on advising in the AOS Primer, the Graduate School’s website, and the Graduate School’s Academic Guidelines.

Advisor Selection Your advisor is normally assigned to you upon entry into the program. There are cases where a temporary advisor may be assigned or the student may want to switch advisors, in which case, you should find a permanent advisor within one year. The advisor should be a faculty member whose expertise and project/research interests match closely with those that the student intends to acquire. Students are encouraged to gather information from courses, faculty and student seminars, the program website, and publications to help identify faculty with matching interests. While no faculty member is obliged to accept a student’s request to serve as advisor, invitations are usually accepted except in cases where the faculty member judges that a different advisor would serve the student’s needs better. For more information see the Advisor policy from the Graduate School.

A student who later decides that a different faculty advisor would be preferable should discuss this with the current advisor and then feel free to seek the change. Selection of an advisor, or a change of advisors, should be based on the faculty member’s ability to guide the student expertly into the chosen area of interest/research. When a student has selected, or change, advisors, file the appropriate form with your program’s graduate coordinator. 

Students may see their official advisor listed in MyUW. (The official advisor is entered in SIS by the graduate program coordinator.)

Additional Advising Contacts When students need further clarification on any of these policies or procedures they should contact the Graduate Program Coordinator. The Graduate Program Coordinator may play a role with issues including satisfactory academic progress, academic deadlines, graduation completion, program-related forms, advising/course holds and permissions, and course offerings.

Questions To Ask Of Prospective Advisors  Adapted from IPIB handbook

Many of these questions are not simple and may not elicit a quick answer. However, any advisor should be willing to discuss these important issues with you. You may also want to discuss these issues with any students that are currently in the prospective advisor’s group/lab. This list is by no means complete; you should spend some time thinking about what is most important to you in your graduate training.

  1. What thesis projects would be available to me if I were to join your group?
  2. Would these projects expose me to a variety of different approaches?
  3. In general, how available will you be to answer questions I might have?
  4. What is your philosophy regarding the amount of guidance the advisor should provide to a student during preparation of the thesis proposal, literature seminars, thesis, etc.?
  5. What are your expectations for the amount of time I should spend each day/week in your group/lab?
  6. What regularly scheduled activities (e.g., group meetings, joint group meetings, research clubs) does your group participate in that provide an opportunity to get outside input on my (research) project and to hear about the work of other students and postdocs?
  7. Do you encourage your students to attend seminars and journal clubs, including those that may be outside of their narrow field of interest/research?
  8. Do students in your group/lab have the opportunity to attend professional meetings where they can interact with colleagues/researchers from other institutions?
  9. Do you include your graduate students in professional activities that will familiarize them with their field of interest/research, such as reviewing manuscripts and meeting with visiting speakers?
  10. How long do you think it should take me to get my degree?
  11. What are your former graduate students (if any) doing now?
  12. What is your general philosophy of graduate training and what goals do you have for your graduate students?