Advising & Mentorship

PiN provides multiple points of support for students throughout their PhD to help them define and progress toward their personal and professional goals.

Student Advisory Committee (SAC)

Incoming PiN students are each assigned to a member of the Student Advisory Committee, a small group of faculty committed to guiding students through the program from matriculation to graduation. Students are matched with an advisor with whom they have no other professional contact in order to ensure that the advising relationship is not influenced by the advisor's interests. If a conflict of interest arises at any point, students can request a different SAC advisor. SAC advisors take a holistic approach to advising on course selection, rotations, choosing a lab, research projects, mentorship in the lab, career development, and anything else of concern to their students.

While a student may meet with their SAC advisor at any time, PiN formally schedules individual advising meetings at specific intervals. First-year students are required to meet with their advisor in August, December, and May. Second-year students are required to meet with their advisor in September and January. Third-year students (and above) are required to meet with their advisor annually in June, July, or August, depending on their advisor’s schedule.

Students are encouraged to help set the agenda for these meetings and are asked to complete an Individual Development Plan (IDP) each year, which can help guide advising conversations.

Dissertation Advisor

PiN supports students throughout the process of choosing a lab for their dissertation research, helping them find a PI whose research interests and techniques, mentorship style, and lab culture are a good fit for their own personal and professional goals. Students have access to training opportunities in more than 150 affiliated labs that exemplify intellectual curiosity, commitment to excellence in research and training, and intense engagement in each other's work. Students have the option of changing labs should the need arise.

Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC)

After students pass their Preliminary Qualifying Examination, they form a Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC) in consultation with their thesis advisor (typically comprising the same faculty who served on their exam committee). At least one of the DAC members must be affiliated with PiN. DAC members advise on project scope and timeline, elective courses, career development, mentorship, and any issues that may arise. Students are required to schedule formal DAC meetings at least once every 9 months through the end of their G5 year and every 6 months thereafter until the DAC feels they are ready to begin writing their thesis and "checks their box." DAC meetings are designed to guide students toward successful and timely completion of their PhD.

Peer & Alumni Mentorship

All first-year PiN students are paired with a more senior peer mentor within the program. PiN peer mentors undergo training in culturally aware mentorship, mental health first aid, Title IX, and accessing student resources across the University. Peer mentors meet with their mentees once a month in the first year and organize regular themed group "hang-outs" around topics like making the most of your rotations, choosing a lab, preparing for the PQE, and work-life balance in grad school.

PiN students can also connect with program alumni with the help of the program administrator or through LinkedIn or the OCS Firsthand Advisers platform.

SAC Advisors

John A. Assad

John A. Assad

Director of the Program in Neuroscience
Professor of Neurobiology
Rachel I Wilson

Rachel I Wilson

Martin Family Professor of Basic Research in the Field of Neurobiology