When students begin their studies, they will initially be advised by an interim academic advisor whose role is to advise the student about courses and laboratory rotations until a dissertation advisor is selected. The advisor is responsible for proposing modifications to the standard plan based on specific needs of the student and for representing the student for faculty evaluation. This may include guidance to appropriate remedial work as required, in the first year. Students meet with their advisors early upon entry into the program and at roughly ten-week intervals thereafter. These meetings will aid in the selection of the research rotations and include general discussion of the student's progress. Of course, students are encouraged to get to know their interim advisors and consult with them more frequently than is formally required. An informal evaluation occurs at the beginning of the second term when the interim advisor discusses the student's performance during the first term and completes the advisor's mid–year report. Beyond the first year, the dissertation advisor and the dissertation committee will assume the advisory role. Students are required to meet formally with their dissertation committees at least once a year so that the dissertation committee can report progress annually to the oversight and evaluations committee.
The MBSB program also incorporates a number of resources for the active and ongoing support of student growth and development, both in terms of professional skills and towards their future career goals:
Grant writing and long-term research design
- The comprehensive exam at the end of the second year includes (1) a research proposal in an area not directly related to the student's PhD thesis work and (2) a brief thesis proposal, and is aimed to help students develop grant writing and longer-term research design skills.
- Grant-writing support is offered by the University of Pittsburgh's Office of Research, with specific information for graduate students available here.
- The required course of Scientific Ethics (INTBP 2290) ensures that students are prepared for making informed decisions when questions of ethics arise.
Career development training
- Students can participate in numerous career-development workshops offered throughout the year, for instance from the Office of Academic Career Development (OACD).
- Career development activities of local, national, and international societies promoting molecular biophysics and structural biology.
- Students are encouraged to participate in conferences and symposia, both local and non-local, to apply for travel fellowships, and to take advantage of young investigator awards, poster awards, and presentation awards that are available to young scientists.