Grad Policies: Faculty Advisors
Sooner or later (preferably sooner), you must find a Faculty Advisor (often a different person than your Temporary Advisor). Your Faculty Advisor supervises and evaluates your research and decides when your thesis or project work is ready to be approved. Good advisors are your mentor, friend, confidant, supporter, and problem solver. Additionally, they are the first person to turn to for help with financial support.
Master’s of Engineering (M.Eng.) students are assigned a Faculty Advisor, determined by the area of concentration you were admitted to. Fifth year MS students should find a Faculty Advisor upon entering the degree program, if you don’t already have one. If you are an MS-only student, you need to find a Faculty Advisor within your first 2 semesters. If you are a doctoral student, you should find an advisor before the end of your second semester. However, you should not choose an advisor until you are well informed. Here are some ideas for getting the information you need:
- Read the faculty’s personal webpages to find out about their current research projects
- Attend at least one research seminar regularly.
- Talk with the faculty and with senior graduate students.
- Consult your Temporary Advisor.
Formally speaking, your Faculty Advisor will become the chair of your dissertation committee. The Graduate Division’s rules for constituting a dissertation committee are complicated – see Sections F4.5 and F4.7 of Graduate Division Policy and Guidelines.
Here is a brief summary: You can ask any Senate faculty member in the EECS department to be your Faculty Advisor – this includes assistant, associate, full professors, professors-in-residence, Lecturers SOE, and Senior Lecturers SOE, as identified on the EECS Faculty List. Adjunct faculty members in EECS may also serve as Faculty Advisors, provided an exception (blanket or one-time) has been approved. (Check with the faculty member or your Staff Grad Advisor for the current status of Adjunct Professors.) By special request, a Senate faculty member in another campus department can be your Faculty Advisor if appropriate expertise is not available in EECS. Also by special request, an off-campus person of sufficient distinction may serve as a Faculty Advisor, provided a Senate faculty member serves as your co-advisor. For example, such a person might be a faculty member at Stanford or a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory(LBL) or at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI).
Before deciding upon a Faculty Advisor outside the department, you should discuss your plan with a member of the EECS faculty in the relevant research area and also meet with your staff Graduate Advisor. This will help ensure that there are no administrative roadblocks, and provide you with a chance to think through logistical issues, including the availability of funding for your research. Most students find a Faculty Advisor with little difficulty. For those who do experience some difficulty, the least common reason is your lack of qualifications. Professors are likely to be flattered by an invitation to supervise a student’s research, even if they feel compelled to decline the invitation. So be assertive and flexible. The sooner you start looking for a Faculty Advisor, the easier it will be to retarget your research interests, if that should prove necessary.
When you have found a Faculty Advisor, there is no form to fill out, simply email your staff Graduate Advisor with the information, ccing both your temporary advisor and your research advisor. You are also free to change your Faculty Advisor later, and quite a few students do this between the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. However, it can be awkward to leave an advisor who has invested time, energy, and financial support in you. The best way to avoid awkwardness and misunderstanding is to maintain free and open communication; always inform your advisor of your intentions. Do Remember: If you decide on a new Faculty Advisor, or change your Faculty Advisor, send an email to your staff Graduate Advisor with a CC to your current and new Faculty Advisor. The staff Graduate Advisor will update the database.