COVID 19 – Information for MCB Graduate Students

APRIL 20, 2021

Following up on the feedback from the graduate student survey on the effect of COVID-19, we have reserved the following times for virtual meetings with MCB graduate students. This time, Office Hours with MCB Graduate Students, is available to any MCB graduate student or groups of MCB graduate students who would like to talk to me regarding issues they are facing in graduate school or if you have ideas how the department can help you better. 

Tuesday, April 20th 1 pm Meeting Link

Monday, May 3rd 3 pm Meeting Link

Thursday, May 20th 1 pm Meeting Link


On Friday 23rd of April from 2:30 to 3:30 pm Kristina Stevens, the Director of Mental Health Services, and Mary Painter, the Associate Director, have set aside one hour to meet with the MCB graduate students and discuss with you how to support you as a student and as a teacher. The link to the meeting is Meeting number: 120 436 8780 and the Password:  nFPq2Y4cgS3


In addition,

  • If you feel like you do not receive enough accommodations, understanding or flexibility from your advisor, TA supervisor, instructor or the department please reach out to me. In addition, you can contact the following individuals or groups.
  • If you have ideas on how we as a department can help you in these challenging times please share them with me. We are looking for suggestions. If you prefer to do this anonymously you can send an e-mail to Chelsea or put a note in my mailbox.
  • The faculty voted unanimously to extend the deadlines for the Ph.D. student’s milestones by one year. If you prefer not take the extension that is perfectly fine and it is your decision to make.
  • When I shared the key points of the survey with the MCB faculty, I asked the major advisors to reach out to each of their mentees and ask how you are being affected by COVID-19 and if you need accommodations or other means of support. Some of you might want to have an informal meeting with your committee to discuss the effect of COVID-19 on you.

For more information you can go to and for free and confidential support for mental health crises the phone number is 860-486-4705.

  • If you need emergency loans, there are short term loans by the graduate student senate and through the Dean of Students Office available.

  • CRRSAA Emergency Funding for students:  This is a result of Congress approving support for higher education which includes emergency grants for student expenses due to COVID 19.
  • Many of you voiced concerns about how to improve social interactions between students from different labs and buildings. We are exploring ways to do that by assisting with the virtual coffee hours, setting up social gatherings using Wonder, Spatial Chat or Gatherly. We are prohibited at least until the fall semester from having larger social in person gatherings but we are also exploring smaller social gatherings that might be permissible. I would really appreciate your input on how to do this best.Joerg Graf, Ph.D.


APRIL 28, 2020

When will we find out about graduate student summer support and will some lose that support?
All of the paperwork was already submitted to HR for approval. Once Chelsea Bartos receives the okay, she will send out the offer letters to the graduate students. No PI changed their summer support plans due to COVID-19.

When will we find out about fall TA-ships and will there be fewer TAs?
Offer letters for TA-ships will be sent out 60 days prior to the start of the appointment. We are not aware of planned cuts to TA-ships. Teaching on-line labs and discussion sections still require TAs.

When do the research labs reopen?
The Vice President for Research is working on a plan to reopen labs once the governor allows for non-essential workers to return to work. The current Executive Order extends through May 20, 2020, and this is being used as a target date. It will likely be a phased approach with critical infrastructure and instrumentation coming on-line first, followed by labs. This might require labs to develop COVID-19 safety guidelines that could include face masks, disinfection of surfaces, alternate work schedules and reduced occupancy. A research ramp-up plan and guidance will be available April 30, 2020.

What is happening to the Milestones?
The faculty agreed that we will not enforce the milestone deadlines during these times. We encourage you to have “remote” committee meetings or “remote” 2nd year exams but if you do not feel like that you can do well in them due to the current circumstances you can cancel and postpone them at any time. We also recognize that some first-year students feel like they cannot make progress as they cannot go to lab and if instead they want to read and work on preparing with their mentor for the 2nd year exam. They can take it early if they want to.

What is the format of the 2nd year exam?

a. The student independently writes a 2-3 page-long document (the "second-year review") that describes background material for their research project. This can serve as the introduction to the prospectus proposal and should be properly referenced. (Note: the research advisor will not correct or review this document)

b. The committee asks the student questions about the general area being studied and related to the 2nd year review document.

c. The examination will not be chaired by the major advisor, but rather by another member of the committee. The outcome of the exam will be "pass", "conditional pass" (which will require additional coursework and/or rewrite of the 2nd year review document), "fail" with permission to retake the exam, or "fail" with dismissal from the program.

d. The signed report on the 2nd year exam is given to the MCB Graduate Program Coordinator, Chelsea Bartos (BPB108).

How do I get signatures for degree audit? (

a. Thesis or Dissertation Approval Pages – please meet the requirement for original signatures in ONE of the following ways:

i. Original wet ink signature on an approval page, mailed to the Registrar’s Office

ii. Scanned image of an original wet signature or an electronic signature on the approval page emailed directly from the faculty member’s UConn or UCHC email address to the student’s degree auditor*

iii. An email sent directly to the student’s degree auditor* from the faculty member’s UConn or UCHC email address indicating approval.

b. Plans of Study, General Exam reports, etc. – please meet the requirement for original signatures in ONE of the following ways:

i. Original wet ink signature on the form, mailed to the Registrar’s Office

ii. Scanned image of an original wet signature or an electronic signature (not a computer font of the advisor’s name) on a copy of the appropriate form emailed to the student’s degree auditor*

iii. An email sent directly to the student’s degree auditor* from the faculty member’s UConn or UCHC email address indicating approval.

How do I set up a virtual committee meeting?

Concerns about advisor/committee support, understanding, and flexibility:

a. At the next faculty meeting, we will mention to faculty the importance of holding virtual lab meetings, providing support to our graduate students, and being understanding and flexible during these challenging times.

b. Students who are planning to defend in the near future and their progress is affected by COVID-19, should discuss options and potential changes with their major advisor and their committee.

c. The graduate school defines a master's thesis as an "important" contribution and a doctoral thesis as a "significant" contribution to one's field. The interpretation of what comprises such a contribution falls into the purview of the advisory committee.

Can there be centralized departmental communication?
We are posting all the COVID-19 related information on the MCB website. This will include today’s questions and answers. Depending on the availability of new information, we will hold more Graduate Student Open Forums. Additions to the COVID-19 related information to the website will be announced in an e-mail with a header: COVID-19 information for MCB graduate students.

Will there be summer internships?
Yes, off-site summer internships are possible. The employer is responsible for ensuring a safe work environment for the intern and the COVID-19 lab safety plan needs to be sent to the UConn instructor. We have to vet the safety plan and get approval from the Vice Provost for Academic Operations.

Is there a possibility to get a short-term loan?
Yes, there is the Graduate Student Short-Term Loan Fund: a: Short-Term Loans through the Graduate Student Senate that is funded by graduate student activities fees and the Short Term Emergency Loans (STELF)

If you received a departmental travel grant and your conference was cancelled you can use the travel grant at a later time or for the registration fees of a virtual conference. Regarding virtual conference just be careful that it is a real conference and not some money-making scheme.

President’s response to the graduate student letter

Questions or concerns:
Please feel free to contact me or and we will try to answer your questions. We are here to support you in these challenging times.