COVID 19 – Information for MCB Graduate Students

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? (https://grad.uconn.edu/coronavirus/faq)

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?

https://its.uconn.edu/services/teaching-learning/web-video-conferencing/

https://its.uconn.edu/webex/

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) https://grad.uconn.edu/financing/loans/

Conferences:
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
https://grad.uconn.edu/coronavirus/response-to-concerns/

Questions or concerns:
Please feel free to contact me Joerg.graf@uconn.edu or chlesea.bartos@uconn.edu and we will try to answer your questions. We are here to support you in these challenging times.