Graduate Student Mentoring & Support

Graduate students with a faculty advisor at NSCL are either in the Department of Chemistry or in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. These departments have separate Ph.D. requirements and based on your background, the Graduate Advisors in each department will put together an individual curriculum for you. In addition to the mentoring provided by your advisor and the staff of your department, the NSCL Associate Director for Education provides additional support and mentoring, based on a dedicated NSCL graduate student mentoring plan. This mentoring plan outlines a wide variety of processes and activities aimed at optimizing the support for graduate students at NSCL and help them to be successful. NSCL is very keen to ensure that you not only get the state-of-the-art education and guidance you deserve, but also that you become prepared for the next step in your career in a reasonable amount of time: the average time to Ph.D. is about 5.4 years (counted from the moment students enter the graduate program), which is significantly below the national average.

When you arrive as a graduate student at NSCL, the Associate Director for Education and faculty at NSCL will work with you to discuss research opportunities. We offer all incoming students the opportunity to perform research in the summer prior to starting the regular Ph.D. program, which is a great way to get a flying start. To make things even easier, a NSCL Graduate Student Handbook is available (which is separate from the Handbooks from the academic departments that outline the program requirements and guidelines) that provides a lot of practical information about performing graduate research at NSCL. The NSCL Graduate Student Handbook has been drafted primarily by graduate students at the Laboratory and is a great resource for incoming graduate students.

To help you get started, you’ll meet with the Associate Director for Education, shortly after your arrival at NSCL, in addition to meeting with representatives from the Department you are enrolled in.

As a graduate student, you’ll form a Guidance Committee to guide your course and research work. In addition, through a variety of activities, we help you create an informal mentoring network of faculty and staff who will not only help you be successful in graduate school, but who can also provide information and contacts for next steps in your career. 

NSCL realizes education is not cheap, which is why our Ph.D. students receive sufficient support to allow them to complete the doctoral program without the need for other sources of income or loans, provided they make adequate progress on their Ph.D. thesis. Usually, this support consists of half-time graduate teaching assistantships in the first year and half-time graduate research assistantships after advancement to Ph.D. candidacy and in the summer months. Half-time assistantships include a waiver for tuition and matriculation fees for all recommended physics and chemistry courses in addition to health insurance. A higher stipend is provided after the graduate student advances to candidacy to the Ph.D. degree.

Especially qualified incoming graduate students are considered and nominated for a limited number of honorific fellowships, e.g., the NSCL Fellowship, the College of Natural Science Fellowship and University Fellowships. NSCL guarantees the fellowship level of support provided the student makes good progress towards the completion of her or his doctoral degree and remains in good academic standing.

Graduate students are supplied with office space and the computers. Graduate student office assignments are managed by the graduate students. The Laboratory has swell-developed business, purchasing, electronics, and mechanical engineering departments, as well as a state-of-the-art machine shop and detector lab. Professionals in these departments help students be successful in their research, and make valuable contributions to the education of students.

If you are interested in teaching you can consider pursuing a Certification in Teaching College Science and Mathematics. This is a voluntary comprehensive program to prepare graduate students in the College of Natural Science for careers in post-secondary education, and it provides demonstrable evidence of your qualifications as a teacher.

The Graduate School’s website is also the authority on dissertation and graduation information.

Finally, the Writing Center offers a variety of services for graduate students when writing papers, journal articles, or dissertations, while the Counseling Center offers consultation and assessment, time-limited professional counseling, self-help resources, and appropriate referrals to MSU students who are in pursuit of academic and personal goals.