Skip to main content

Graduate Appointments

Policies & Procedures

The goal of these policies and procedures is to ensure that the Department of Biological Sciences graduate programs admission applications and award appointments are handled with respect and efficiency, distributed fairly, and contribute to increasing the quality of the Biology graduate programs.

Graduate Application    Awarding Appointments   |  GTA Appointment Policy  DA Appointment Policy

 

Graduate Application


Approved by the Graduate Education Committee: 27 August 2015
Revised: 10 September 2015

The goal of these procedures is to ensure that each application for admission to Biology graduate programs is handled with respect and efficiency, evaluated fairly, and contributes to increasing the quality of the Biology graduate programs.

  1. The ISU Graduate School application deadlines are April 1st for summer and fall semester enrollment and November 1st for spring semester enrollment. Biology graduate programs will use these application deadlines, admitting students as applications are complete. However, as graduate assistantships & fellowships will be awarded on December 15th (for “early offers”), January 31 (for “regular offers”), and March 15th (or later, for “late offers”), the recruitment materials and websites will list December 1 (early offer deadline) and January 15 (regular offer deadline) as application deadlines for student who wish to be considered for graduate assistantships & fellowships.
  2. An application is received and processed by the Graduate School; when complete, it is transferred to Biology; the Graduate Programs Administrative Assistant logs the application (including date received/complete, biology program, GRE/GPA, previous degree, previous institution, and desired mentor) in the log of applicants for the current academic year.
  3. The Biology Graduate Programs Administrative Assistant will fill out an application checklist form, listing application highlights (GRE, GPA, prior coursework, etc) for rapid assessment.
  4. Biology Graduate Education Committee evaluates and discusses each application to ensure the applicant meets the minimum standards and has the potential to succeed in the Biology graduate program to which they are applying. (Evaluation occurs at regular Graduate Committee meetings as a standing agenda item, “Review of applications received since last meeting”.) Evaluation is based on the following criteria, which are considered indications of potential success in Graduate school:
    1. Availability of a suitable faculty advisor
    2. Competitive GRE scores (verbal and quantitative scores in the upper 50th percentile and analytical writing score of at least 3.5)
    3. GPA above 3.0 in science and mathematics courses during the last degree-earning program
    4. Letters of recommendation from three individuals who can comment on the applicant’s ability to succeed in a biology graduate program
    5. Prior training commensurate with completion of a B.S. degree in Biology or a related field
    6. If the applicant’s English is a second language, they must have a TOEFL score above 577 (paper-based), 233 (computer-based), or 90 (internet-based, iBT, with a score of at least 23 on the speaking section and 20 the other sections)
    7. Availability of financial assistance

Rejection of the application may be based on any of the criteria. Applicants who lack sufficient prior training may be assigned a coursework plan to be incorporated into the student’s program of study; the plan should include courses, seminars, directed learning, or other appropriate components that will allow the student to succeed in their proposed area of work; development of this plan should include input from the potential mentor.
The Graduate Education Committee has the prerogative to recommend admission (pending approval of potential mentor) if one or more strong indicators of success outweigh other, weaker indicators. (For example, a student holding a M.S. in Biology might be recommended for admission even with GRE scores in the 40th percentile.) This should occur only rarely, be thoroughly debated by the Graduate Committee, and, if appropriate, involve the potential mentor.

  1. The Biology  recommends a course of action for the application:
    1. If “deny admission” is recommended, the Graduate Programs Director prepares a denial memo (to the Graduate School, addressing perceived deficiencies)
    2. If “accept, pending approval of potential mentor” is recommended, the file is forwarded for evaluation to Biology faculty members listed on the application and identified by the Graduate Committee potential mentors for the prospective student. The Graduate Programs Director will make every effort to identify an acceptable mentor for high quality prospective students. If the Graduate Committee recommends Biology-specific admission or performance requirements or conditions, these will be noted in the Acceptance Letter (see below) and must be listed on the student’s initial and final program of study
  2. Each Biology faculty member listed as a potential member by the student (or by the Graduate Committee) will evaluate the file, to which a “potential mentor form” has been attached.
    1. If a faculty member is unable or unwilling to mentor a prospective student, they will select “deny,” provide a brief explanation, and sign the form
    2. If a faculty member is willing to mentor a prospective student, they will select “accept” and sign the form; if there are Biology-specific admission or performance requirements or conditions, these will be noted in the Acceptance Letter (see below) and must be listed on the initial and final program of study
    3. If more than one faculty member is willing to mentor a prospective student, the faculty member listed by the student will have priority; otherwise, a meeting will be held between the faculty members and the Graduate Programs Director to discuss options for selecting a mentor for the student, including lab rotations, co-advising, and other options
  3. Graduate Programs Director will sign the application:
    1. The application will be marked “deny,” and a denial memo (to the Graduate School, addressing deficiencies) will be attached, if the applicant is rejected by the Graduate Committee or if no suitable faculty mentor is identified
    2. The application will be marked “accept as Classified,” and a faculty mentor will be assigned, if the applicant is found to be acceptable by the Graduate Committee and a suitable faculty mentor is identified
  4. Acceptance letters will be sent by both the Graduate School and the Department of Biological Sciences:
    1. The regular Graduate School letter will be sent by the Graduate School
    2. The regular Biology letter will be signed by the Graduate Programs Director and sent by the Biology department. Copies will be provided to the faculty mentor and placed in the student’s file. If there are Biology-specific admission or performance requirements or conditions, these will be noted in the letter and on the initial and final Program of Study
    3. A letter offering a Biology TA, RA, or DA award, if appropriate, will be sent at the same time as the Biology letter. These awards will be made using the approved procedures for Awarding Appointments.
  5. At each Biology Faculty meeting, students admitted to a Biology program (since the last Bio Faculty meeting) will be introduced: The Graduate Programs Director will describe the student’s application and the faculty member who agreed to mentor that student will briefly describe plans for the student’s project.

 

Awarding Assistantship & Fellowship Appointments


Approved by the Graduate Education Committee: 10 September 2015
Revised: 14 January 2016

The goal of these procedures is to ensure that the Graduate Teaching Assistantship, Graduate Research Assistantship, and Doctor of Arts (DA) Fellowship appointments are awarded with respect and efficiency, distributed fairly, and contribute to increasing the quality of the Biology graduate programs. These procedures will be guided by the Biology TA Assignment Policy, Priority and Usage of DA Fellowships in Biology, and other relevant policies.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs)

  1. At the beginning of each academic year, GTA lines for the next academic year will be assessed:
    1. Lines committed to current students (indicating Flexible or Designated GTA lines, and duration of each commitment)
    2. Lines committed to Biology faculty members who wish to be assigned a Designated GTA line (chosen based on the Biology GTA Assignment Policy, if necessary); biology faculty members will be reminded of this opportunity at the faculty retreat and again early in the semester
    3. Open lines, potentially available for assignment to incoming students
    4. The total number of lines may be adjusted annually by the College
  2. The  will create maintain a GTA Priority List for the next Academic Year.
    1. The List will include all students requesting GTA support, including students newly admitted to a Biology program (i.e., application has been accepted) and current students
    2. The GTA Priority List ranking will be adjusted as students are admitted to the program
    3. The ranking order of the GTA Priority List will be based on the probability that the student will successfully complete the graduate program, the potential contribution of the student to the department, and the teaching needs of the department
  3. Early offers: On about December 15 (or the week before fall finals), open lines will be assigned to students based on the GTA Priority list. The Graduate Committee may choose to offer all open lines, or withhold open lines for subsequent applicants. GTA offer letters will be sent immediately. A report of awards will be presented to Biology faculty
  4. By January 15, faculty members will be consulted about unassigned Designated GTA lines
    1. Biology faculty members to whom a line was committed will indicate whether they anticipate assigning that line to a new student for the next academic year; if application materials have not started arriving for a recruited student (indicating that the designated line is likely to go unfilled), that line will be returned to the general pool and the faculty member will be offered another Designated GTA in for the next year
    2. The number of open lines may be adjusted based on these consultations
  5. Regular offers: On about January 31 (or the second week of spring semester), remaining open lines (and lines opened due to rejected offers or other reasons) will be offered based on the GTA Priority list; the Graduate Committee may choose to withhold some open lines for subsequent applicants. GTA offer letters will be sent immediately. A report of awards will be presented to Biology faculty
  6. Late offers: On about March 15 (or the week before spring break), unassigned Designated TA lines will be released (see Biology GTA Assignment Policy) and, along with lines opened due to rejected offers, change in support (e.g., acceptance of a DA or GRA offer), and any other open lines, offered to students based on the GTA Priority List. GTA offer letters will be sent immediately. A report of awards will be presented to Biology faculty
  7. In order to assign any late-opening GTAs (e.g., if a non-DA student holding a GTA is awarded a DA Fellowship – see below), the GTA Priority List will be maintained until the start of the academic year. At that time, a new GTA Priority List for the next academic year will be created

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs)

  1. Most GRAs are created by individual faculty members through granting efforts, in which case the faculty member is responsible for recruitment of applicants and awarding GRAs
  2. The Graduate Committee can be involved in recruiting and awarding GRAs if requested by the person responsible for creating the GRA (e.g., if created by the VP for Research, or if the grant is a large research-training grant for which the GRAs would not be assigned to a given lab)
  3. For these cases, the  (and/or the person responsible for creating the GRA) will develop procedures for assessing applicants and awarding the GRAs
  4. A report of awards will be presented to Biology faculty

Doctor of Arts (DA) Fellowships

  1. At the beginning of each academic year, the number of GTA lines for the next academic year will be assessed:
    1. Lines committed to current students (indicating duration of each commitment)
    2. Lines committed to future DA Fellows (indicating faculty member to whom that line was committed and the conditions of that commitment)
    3. Open lines, potentially available for assignment to incoming students
  2. The Graduate Committee will create and maintain a DA Priority List for the next Academic Year
    1. The List will include all students requesting DA support, including students newly admitted to a Biology program (application has been accepted) and current students
    2. The DA Priority List will be adjusted as students are admitted to the program
    3. The ranking order of the DA Priority List will be based on the probability that the student will successfully complete the graduate program and the potential contribution of the student to the department
  3. Early offers: On December 15 (or the week before fall finals), open lines will be assigned to students based on the DA Priority List. The Graduate Committee may choose to offer all open lines, or withhold open lines for subsequent applicants. DA offer letters will be sent immediately. A report of awards will be presented to Biology faculty
  4. Regular offers: On January 31 (or the second week of spring semester), remaining open lines (and lines opened due to rejected offers) will be offered based on the DA Priority List; the  may choose to withhold some open lines for subsequent applicants. DA offer letters will be sent immediately. A report of awards will be presented to Biology faculty
  5. Late offers: On March 1, lines opened due to rejected offers and any other open lines (e.g., lines obtained from other departments) will be offered to students based on the DA Priority List; the Graduate Committee may choose to withhold some open lines for subsequent applicants. DA offer letters will be sent immediately. A report of awards will be presented to Biology faculty
    1. At this time, open DA Fellowships can also be assigned to non-DA students according to the Priority and Usage of DA Fellowships in Biology policy. A call for nominations will be sent to Biology faculty and current graduate students; the call will include the number of Fellowships potentially available and a copy of the Priority and Usage of DA Fellowships in Biology policy (outlining expectations of DA Fellowships to non-DA students); this call for nominations should occur earlier in the year if openings are anticipated. Note: Since some of the non-DA Fellowship awardees might vacate a GTA line, it may be necessary to make additional GTA awards at this time
    2. The Graduate Committee may choose to withhold some open lines for subsequent DA program applicants
  6. In order to assign any late-opening DA Fellowships, the DA Priority List will be maintained until the start of the academic year. At that time, a new GTA Priority List for the next academic year will be created

 

GTA Assignment Policy


Approved by the Department of Biological Sciences Faculty: 11/9/2014
Revised: 1/14/2016

Teaching Assistant (TA) appointments are made only to qualified Department of Biological Sciences graduate students. To be qualified, a student must have completed their graduate applications to both the ISU Graduate School and to the Department of Biological Sciences. This requirement includes having completed the GRE general exam with scores that meet or exceed Biological Sciences minimum scores and, for doctoral programs, the appropriate GRE subject exam.

There will be two types of TA appointments; Designated TA Appointments and Flexible TA Appointments that will be distributed among the faculty. Designated TA appointments are used for student recruitment; Biology faculty members may be pre-designated for these awards, using them to identify and recruit qualified students to their labs. It is hoped that 3-4 Designated TA appointments will be distributed each year. Flexible TA appointments are short-term appointments.

Designated TA Appointments

Designated TA Appointments consist of a 3-year appointment defined as 6 consecutive semesters of Fall/Spring TA support across three consecutive 9-month academic years. These appointments will be made to a new graduate student with approval from his/her major advisor or with the approval of the Biological Sciences department chair for those students entering the program and being awarded a TA appointment prior to identifying a major advisor.

The Designated TA Appointment runs for 6 consecutive semesters regardless of whether or not the student chooses to participate as a TA during one or more semesters during that time. In other words, a student cannot reserve TA semesters for future use when the student does not participate as a TA for one or more semesters during the 6-semester sequence. However, a student who has been awarded a Designated TA Appointment can move in and out of the appointment on a semester-by-semester basis. For example, a student may be a Fall Semester TA (semester 1), step out of the TA for Spring Semester (semester 2), then return to the TA appointment the following Fall Semester (semester 3) and continue in that TA appointment for 1-3 of the subsequent consecutive semesters of the 6-semester award.

When a student voluntarily steps out of a Designated TA Appointment for 1 or more semesters, that student’s major advisor can secondarily award the vacant semesters of the TA appointment to an alternative, qualified graduate student.

When a student graduates prior to the end of the 3-year TA appointment, the TA appointment is vacated and the vacant TA position reverts to a pool of open TA positions for assignment by the Graduate Committee to an eligible graduate student. Students who otherwise are qualified to graduate may not linger in a TA appointment or nominally decline to graduate for 1 or more semesters in order to allow his/her major advisor to assign the remaining TA semesters to another student.

Flexible TA Appointments

As a result of graduations, students leaving the program, students who are making good progress requiring an additional period of support, and research awards, often it will be beneficial to award students 1-2 semester TA appointments. These are Flexible TA Appointments. The Graduate Committee will make Flexible TA Appointments on an ad hoc basis following written request from the student and the student’s major advisor and after evaluating any competing requests for the Flexible TA Appointment. The Graduate Committee must be fair, equitable, timely, and open in this process, and act to promote graduate student success.

Distribution of GTA Appointments

Designated and Flexible TA Appointments will be made by the Graduate Education Committee in a manner designed to: (1) promote teaching and learning within Biological Sciences, (2) promote recruitment of qualified graduate students into Biological Sciences, and (3) promote research success among faculty members who choose to mentor graduate students.

To aid in the recruitment of new graduate students, forthcoming Designated TA Appointment positions will be pre-designated to named, individual Biological Sciences faculty members who meet the following qualifications:

  1. They have Graduate Faculty status.
  2. Their academic appointment is > 0.5 in Biological Sciences and their annual and periodic performance reviews occur within Biological Sciences.
  3. They accept the role of major advisor for the graduate student who is awarded the Designated TA Appointment that was pre-designated to the faculty member.
  4. They proffer the TA appointment only to prospective graduate students who will be fully qualified to be a TA at the start of the TA appointment.
  5. They make a good-faith effort to recruit a qualified graduate to the Designated TA Appointment by January 31 of the Spring Semester that precedes the start of the TA appointment.

Annually, all Biological Sciences faculty members with graduate faculty status will be surveyed for their desire to have a Designated TA Position pre-designated to them.  All qualified faculty members who affirm a wish to bring in a new graduate student to Biological Sciences using a Designated TA Appointment will be considered. Preference in pre-awarding Designated TA Appointments to qualified faculty members will be given based on the following hierarchical criteria:

  1. New, qualified faculty upon being awarded graduate faculty status.
  2. Faculty members without an active TA appointment of any kind within their lab.
  3. Faculty members without an active Designated TA Appointment within their lab.
  4. Faculty members with the fewest active Designated TA Appointments within their lab.

In cases where more than one faculty member equally meet these criteria, faculty members will be selected for pre-designated TA appointments based on random draw. The list ranking faculty eligibility will be remade by the Graduate Committee each year early during Fall Semester.

 

Doctor of Arts (DA) Fellowship: Usage and Priority


Approved by the Department of Biological Sciences Faculty: 3/9/2015
Revised: 1/14/2016 (proposed)

DA Fellowships will be awarded to Biology graduate students in the following circumstances:

  1. DA students, in accordance with the DA program guidelines. DA students will be offered 3-year Fellowships on admission to the DA program. DA students may request subsequent years of support, which will be awarded based on productivity and availability of Fellowship lines of support. The 4th year of support will be awarded if adequate progress is being made; subsequent years will be awarded in competition with non-DA students (see below). Goal: Provide support for graduate students in our DA program and recruit the very best students.
  2. PhD students who are pursuing the minor in Biological Education, in accordance with the PhD program guidelines, for 1-year appointments. This involves enrolling in the Seminar in College Teaching (BIOL 6693/6694) and participating in a supervised teaching internship. Goal: Provide an incentive for graduate students to pursue a value-added minor in Biological Education.
  3. PhD students (not pursuing a minor in Biological Education) who make a commitment to embody the spirit of the DA program, for one-semester awards. Awards will be made to outstanding students, typically in the last year of graduate work. The Fellowship involves enrolling in the Seminar in College Teaching (BIOL 6693/6694) plus participating in a more limited version of the supervised teaching internship, participating in TA training, and/or assisting professors teaching in the biology curriculum. These experiences will be developed by the graduate program director working with the student’s advisory committee. Goal: Reward exceptional doctoral students and provide added value to their training, better preparing them for careers with teaching and learning expectations.
  4. MS students who make a commitment to embody the spirit of the DA program, for 1-semester appointments (rarely, extended to 2 semesters). These will be awarded to outstanding students, typically in the last semester of graduate work. The Fellowship involves enrolling in the Seminar in College Teaching (BIOL 6693/6694) plus serving in the biology tutoring center, participating in TA training, and/or assisting professors teaching in the biology curriculum. These experiences will be developed by the graduate program director working with the student’s advisory committee. Goal: Reward exceptional masters students and provide added value to their training, better preparing them for careers with teaching and learning expectations.

The Graduate Committee will solicit nominations for DA Fellowships to fill open Fellowship lines. Awards will be made based on Fellowship availability student qualifications and accomplishments, and the following priority ranking:

  1. Current DA students in good standing (making adequate progress) seeking a 4th year of support (for 1 year of support)
  2. New DA students (for 3 years of support)
  3. Current Ph.D. students with a Biological Education minor (for 1 year of support)
  4. Current DA students in good standing seeking a 5th (or subsequent) year of support, PhD students (without BioEd minor), and MS students (for 1 semester of support)

IDAHO STATE UNIVERSITY

921 South 8th Avenue
Pocatello, Idaho, 83209

Discover opportunity at Idaho State University