The relationship between a faculty adviser and graduate student should be founded on mutual respect and open communication. Advisers and students should discuss the nature of their working relationship early and continue this discussion throughout their period of collaboration to ensure mutually understood and compatible expectations. These discussions should be frequent and open, and should include not only work, research goals, and performance reviews, but also change of status, time for personal and family responsibilities, time off, and concerns about academic or work situations. Both the student and adviser have the obligation to initiate meetings as necessary to ensure the success of the relationship.
After achieving candidacy, each Ph.D. student should be assigned a thesis advising committee consisting of a minimum of three professorial faculty members. This committee typically meets at least once a year beginning after candidacy or the fourth year of graduate study.
The graduate student-faculty adviser relationship should be guided by norms of fairness and professionalism. Both faculty and graduate students should avoid relationships that conflict with their respective roles and duties at Caltech. Both are bound by the prevailing policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment (Nondiscrimination Policy, Sex- and Gender-Based Misconduct, and Unlawful Harassment). Concerns relating to academic or work situations should be raised promptly between the persons directly involved, and handled informally if possible. Both students and advisers have the responsibility to raise and address concerns and conflicts promptly, honestly, and in a manner that conforms with academic integrity and professionalism. Caltech policy requires that students’ concerns be addressed fairly and promptly, and prohibits retaliation or discrimination against students for appropriately voicing or raising a concern.
If a problem remains unresolved or if direct discussion is not possible, a student can seek assistance from division officers (e.g., option representatives) or the graduate deans. At any time, a student may request that discussions remain confidential. For more details about sources of assistance, consult the graduate option regulations and the Student Problem Resolution Process.