IV. Advising & Department Review

A. Faculty Advisors

1. Role of the Faculty Advisor

  • The role of the faculty advisor is to support students through their progression in the program and development in the field.
  • Students who have a research advisor outside of the UCSC Astronomy & Astrophysics Department are also required to maintain an internal co-advisor.
  • Students must meet with their faculty advisor at least once per quarter to discuss current research projects, goals, coursework, and other relevant issues. 
  • Mentoring in Graduate Programs 

2. Choosing a Faculty Advisor

Topic is currently under discussion

  • The student’s advisor will be someone with whom their research interests and research styles align. 
  • Advisors agree to provide research opportunities and funding through Graduate Student Researchships (GSR) for students as available. Students will still be required to TA twice during their time in the program and may be asked to TA more for funding reasons.

3. Changing Faculty Advisors

  • Students choose their first project advisor and may change advisors for their thesis. Students can also change from one first project advisor to another.
  • Students considering changing advisors should discuss their plans with the advising committee, graduate program director, and other department supports. It is also important for students to communicate with their current advisor.


B. Advising Committee Meetings 

Graduate students in their first three years of the program will hold meetings with an advising committee at different points throughout the academic year. The committee is selected on a yearly basis and is made up of faculty within the Astronomy Department. The purpose of these meetings is for faculty to learn how students are progressing in the program so the Department knows how best to support them. It is also an opportunity for students to ask questions (ideally from someone in the department who is not their advisor) about research, their career goals, and anything else they would like to discuss. Advising committee meetings focus on the following topics:

  1. Current research progress
  2. Program milestones
  3. Funding
  4. Department and work environment
  5. Any other questions, issues or concerns the student may have
    1. First and Second-Year Students
      1. First and second-year students meet with the advising committee during the fall and winter quarters.
      2. During the first two years of the program, the committee will focus discussion on the completion of core courses, research progress, FLASH, and the first-author paper requirement.
    2. Third-Year Students
      1. Third-year students meet with the advising committee during the spring quarter.
      2. During third year advising committee meetings, the committee will focus discussion on the student’s research progress and plan for the qualifying exam.

C. UCSC Astronomy Department Review

Topic is currently under discussion

The UCSC Astronomy Department Review is a holistic review of student progress in the graduate program and is typically held annually in June or July. The goal of the Department Review, in addition to evaluating any issues and assessing whether a student can successfully complete a PhD in the program, is to generate advice for students and advisors and celebrate achieved milestones. The Department Review evaluates the student’s record in the courses and their progress in their graduate research at UC Santa Cruz. Advisors discuss each of their graduate students, providing information about student goals, course completion, research progress, conferences attended, talks, teaching, outreach and mentorship, internships, funding, and any other relevant details pertaining to the student's progress in the PhD program. 

The list below describes the expectations for the second-year students at the Department Review. If a student meets all of these, they will successfully pass the Department Review. The student should have:

        1. Taken all 6 of the required core courses and received a satisfactory grade in ASTR 205 and a grade of B or higher in the 5 other core courses.
        2. Taken the 2 required elective classes and 3 required Equivalent Educational Requirements (EERs) and received a passing grade in all.
        3. Given a  FLASH-style talk on the original research they did in their first graduate project at UC Santa Cruz. 

The talk should demonstrate understanding of the scientific motivation and astrophysical context of the problem, describe the investigation and present the results. The talk should also demonstrate the ability to communicate research to others.

        1. Submitted a lead author research paper on the results of their first project for publication in a refereed journal, SPIE, or equivalent. 
        2. Optional: provide a written self-assessment to the department.

This should cover mastery of the graduate astrophysics curriculum, research progress, and any additional professional development activity during the first two years at UC Santa Cruz. The entire self-assessment should be no more than three pages.

As part of this self-assessment process the department will arrange to record the student’s research talk, and the student should re-watch their talk and describe ways the talk was successful and ways to improve future talks. 


1. Extensions and exceptions

If a student does not meet all these milestones by the time of the Department Review it is still possible to pass the review but will require extra steps. In that case, the student and the department will together develop a plan for completing the remaining milestones with the expectation that they will receive additional feedback from the department on their progress in six months.

The department will develop a plan for how to address the case when students do not reach all of these milestones by the time of the Department Review.  It will take some time to discuss a range of possible scenarios and reach consensus, with the goal of having a framework for consistent and constructive outcomes from the Department Review for all students. 

The Graduate Adviser will track progress toward completion of outstanding or supplemental work required of a graduate student. It is the responsibility of the graduate student to regularly communicate updates and changes to the Graduate Adviser.

The department will hold a faculty meeting every December to discuss extensions and exceptions from the Department Review. Graduate students are required to submit all outstanding work before the December faculty meeting.


2. Feedback

After the Department Review, feedback will be provided to all students in the program. This is an opportunity for students to have in-person meetings with faculty to discuss their progress, ask questions, and address any other concerns or needs they may have.

  • A team of faculty and the Graduate Adviser will hold in-person meetings with all first and second-year students after the Department Review.
  • First- and second-year students will individually meet with no more than two faculty and the Graduate Adviser during the feedback meetings.
  • Students in their third year and above will have feedback meetings with their advisor and, if desired, the Graduate Adviser.

3. Academic Probation and Dismissal

Topic is currently under discussion

For more information on Academic Requirements and Standards including the definition of Academic Good Standing, please see this link: https://graddiv.ucsc.edu/current-students/academic-regulations/graduate-student-handbook/section-nine.html#9