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Lab Policies

Expectations of My Graduate Students

1. A Career in Physical Geography

The fact that you are in this graduate program (either masters or doctoral) shows you have made a decision to pursue a career in physical geography and the environmental sciences. As such, I fully expect students to participate as career scientists in physical geography and to accept a high level of responsibility for your research. You must be dedicated to your profession and to conducting valid science.

2. Timely Progression through your Graduate Program

Your progression through the graduate program requires that certain goals be met at certain stages. For example, proposals are required of all graduate students (usually by the end of your first year) and these have to be approved by your graduate committee before progressing to the field stage of the research. Follow the guides for masters and doctoral programs that are provided in the Graduate Student Handbook. It is ultimately your responsibility to make sure that each stage in your graduate program is met in a timely fashion. As your advisor, I will help, of course.

3. Timely Graduation

I realize that events may happen in your graduate career that could delay a timely graduation, and these of course will be considered. Be aware that I expect master's students to finish in two years while doctoral students must finish in four years from your initial date of matriculation. Also be aware that the department does not provide assistantship support past these two deadlines. If you do not graduate in these time frames, you could be left having to pay out-of-state tuition in order to graduate in later semesters.

4. Making Deadlines for Funded Research

Each project to which you are assigned will have deadlines imposed by me, the funding agency, and the university. It is your responsibility to be aware of these deadlines and to ensure you turn in the annual, progress, and final reports when due. Of course, I will help in this process.

5. Strict Supervision of Lab Assistants

During your graduate training, you may be assigned undergraduate laboratory assistants to help in your research or on other funded research. You as supervisor will be responsible for the training of these assistants and will be responsible for the quality of the work done by these assistants. You must exercise rigid supervision on these students. Although this sounds like an additional burden, this will look very positive when you apply for positions later on!

6. Professional Behavior

Please be mindful of other graduate students and undergraduate assistants working in the lab rooms. Idle chatter, excessive laughter, loud music, and boisterous activity all detract from the working environment and can degrade the quality of research being conducted. Keep the lab room a room where research can be effectively accomplished, please. Also, be respectful of the labs next door and down the hall.

7. Being Helpful to your Co-workers

I expect every graduate student in the tree-ring lab to willingly participate in lab service activities and lab field trips. Please be dedicated to your co-workers and help them conduct their fieldwork and assist in their questions concerning their research. No student works in a vacuum - you must learn to work together as a team.

8. Communicating with your Advisor and Co-Workers

We regularly use email to communicate important events and upcoming trips to all members of the laboratory. It is your responsibility to check your email often. Please be aware that important emails sent by me to all members of the lab require a response from you to me that you have read and understand the content of the email. Failure to do so will result in a reprimand. Also, be very careful in using the "reply" function on your mail system.

9. You as a Departmental Ambassador

We expect students to conduct themselves with professionalism in all aspects of their graduate careers. This includes looking professional when teaching (you are no longer an undergraduate, after all), being professional at all meetings (do not engage in damaging gossip with anyone), and showing respect to your colleagues and faculty members in the department. Under no circumstances should you ever, at any time, discuss laboratory matters with others outside the lab and department, nor perpetuate rumors or myths about departmental and laboratory personnel at any time. A breach of these simple rules will result in my reconsidering being your advisor.

10. Attendance at Conferences and Workshops

Your graduate training involves your learning to effectively communicate with others in your field. I expect all graduate students to present either posters or oral talks at local/regional (SEDAAG), national (AAG), and international (ICD) meetings about your research. This is mandatory. Your attendance and presenting shows to others the high quality of research projects that you and this laboratory are conducting. When giving an oral presentation, you must practice your talk several times to ensure you're confident with the material and to ensure you fit the talk in the allotted amount of time.

11. Grantsmanship as a Graduate Student

You are required to produce a research proposal near the end of your first year in the graduate program, and this proposal should outline the research you expect to conduct for your degree. Use the proposals in the notebook in the workroom as a guide (but still try to improve on these). The proposal (both masters and doctoral) should be formatted appropriately and be ready to be submitted to a previously-identified funding agency. Procuring funds for research is a vital aspect of graduate training. As such, I require all my students to take Dr. Horn's course on writing proposals.

12. Disseminating Results via Peer-Reviewed Publications

As my advisor Tom Swetnam told me back in 1995, "Publications are the currency of science. If our work is not published, then it may as well not have been done at all." I expect all graduate students to participate in the publishing process. Learn which journals are appropriate outlets for your research,  learn to write and write well (read my "canons" article, please), and learn how to format and "sell" your paper to the reviewers and editors. There's a right way to do this and a wrong way. Learn how to do this right.

13. Timely Publication of Thesis/Dissertation Research

Publishing the results from your thesis or dissertation research is expected and should be accomplished during or immediately after you graduate. Delays can hurt the chances of you getting your research published. If you do not publish your thesis or dissertation research within two years of graduation, I reserve the right to publish the research for you, which could (rightfully) result in my being the lead author.

14 Authorship on Publications

Any particular manuscript you prepare for eventual publication should list as authors all those individuals who made a significant contribution to the project, whether assisting in the field or laboratory, supplying critical background information, helping with the statistical analyses, or writing portions of the manuscript. In general, undergraduate assistants are acknowledged at the end of the paper, but occasionally their work may warrant inclusion as authors. Any publication that uses lab space, facilities, equipment, and/or resources must include me as a co-author.

15. Products of our Research

All data, reports, theses, and dissertations must be deposited with me in digital format upon completion of the project. The thesis/dissertation must be consolidated into one Word file and printed to a PDF file, which is now required by the Graduate School. All data, reports, and important documents must be routinely backed up -- the university makes this quite easy to do because OIT provides storage space. Lastly, do not, under any circumstances, distribute the data generated in the lab to anyone outside the university for any reason, unless I specifically give permission to do so. Eventually, after publication, we will deposit the data in the appropriate federal archive.

16. When to Share Your Data

Do not, under any circumstances, distribute the data generated in the lab for your research to anyone outside the university for any reason, unless I specifically give permission to do so. You never know when someone else may use these data to scoop you and the lab. Eventually, after publication, we will deposit the data in the appropriate federal archive.

17. Archiving

I will not sign off on your final defense form until you complete three final tasks: (1) turn in to me all original tree-ring/plot data, spreadsheets, and chronologies; (2) turn in your thesis or dissertation to me as a Word document; and (3) downsize all your samples and then box all your cores and cross sections appropriately so they can be archived permanently in the Archive Facility.

18. Building your Curriculum Vitae

I expect all graduate students to create and routinely update a curriculum vitae (CV) that highlights your career as an academic. This will be the primary document that could get you that good-paying job later on. You can use my online CV as a guide. At some point, you must publish your CV online on your own web site, which you all should consider creating. The university makes space available for web sites free to university personnel. If you'd like, I can link to your CV (as a PDF) file) from the lab's Personnel web site.



1. My Open-Door Policy

You are always welcome to come talk to me about anything at any time, whether related to family matters, health issues, or career concerns, anything that might jeopardize advancement through your graduate career. I will do everything I can to help you through the graduate training process because I was also once of those lost souls that needed excellent guidance from my advisor. If my door is closed, however, that's not a good time to talk with me. Just email me or come back later.

2. Your Graduate Committee

You have a Graduate Committee for a reason. The members on this committee (which I as your advisor chair) are all experts in their fields and can offer advice and make recommendations to ensure your research is conducted correctly and efficiently. Use your committee members. We are here to help, and we're committed to your timely graduation.

3. My Priorities as Chair of your Graduate Committee

I will do all I can to ensure your graduate experience here is a pleasant one. Please be aware that, like you, I seem to be juggling a million things at once, so I have to prioritize the items I have to read. Thesis and dissertation chapters come first (so we can get all of you graduated), followed by answers to your comprehensive exams, followed by the required proposals for your intended research, followed by manuscripts intended for eventual submission.

4. Timely Reading

I try my best to get chapters, papers, reports, and manuscripts back to you sooner rather than later, but please remember that I have many other important research, advisory, departmental, and professional commitments. I will strive to get back to you your thesis and dissertation chapter in 30 days, while other documents may take longer. To graduate in Spring Semester, you must have a near-final draft of your thesis or dissertation to me no later than February 1st. Remember, also, that you must allow 2 weeks for your committee to review any document (proposal, thesis, or dissertation) before you defend it.

5. Critiquing Your Writing

This is never an easy task for a graduate advisor, but remember that I’m committed to transforming you into a scientist that can communicate effectively. That means teaching you to write well. Expect to get back a lot of editorial suggestions and expect sometimes that entire pages and even entire sections may have to be deleted. Learn from my suggestions, however. If you repeatedly make the same editorial mistake, I will admonish you severely.

6. Involving Graduate Students in the Research Process

I'm committed to teaching you the research process, from proposal preparation to budget management to lab assistant supervision. As such, at some point in the coming few years, I will ask each of you to act as a supervisor for an external project that may be completely unrelated to your research. I expect you to accept (enthusiastically) but will of course discuss this with you well ahead of time. Such projects broaden and strengthen your research experience and training and make you a more marketable academic upon graduation.

7. Advising Meetings

In the past, I've found it very helpful to have biweekly meetings with graduate students in their first year of study, especially to ensure you're on track to reach the goals of your graduate program. Feel free to set up appointments with me via email, phone, or office visit. I would rather catch problems early rather than have to deal with them later when they've multiplied into graduate program nightmares.

8. Respect Us and We'll Respect You

Please be courteous in all matters and communications surrounding your graduate career, not only to me, but to the departmental faculty and your lab co-workers. For example, send a courteous and polite email to your committee members when you need to schedule a committee meeting. Respect that we are busy, and we'll respect that you are, too!

9. Letters of Recommendation

Throughout your graduate career, you'll request from me and possibly from your committee members letters of recommendation for a fellowship, scholarship, or academic position. Please know that these take time to assemble. To help us write that letter, we expect you to furnish us with (1) a copy of the job advertisement or fellowship announcement, (2) a copy of your own application letter so we can customize our letter around the content found in yours, and (3) a copy of your updated CV. You must allow at least 30 days for us to write your letter of recommendation and send it off, so please plan accordingly. We can't whip off a letter when it's due in just two days!

10. Access to Resource Material

In case you don’t know, the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Science has the largest collection of dendrochronological literature in the world, over 14,000 articles, theses, dissertations, reports, and monographs. These are housed primarily in Burchfiel Room 403. Also, I maintain a computerized database of tree-ring literature (which I've been doing now for 30 years) – see where to access this from my dendrochronology web site. You can search through this database, find the articles you need, come to my office to pull them, then make copies. Be sure to return these to the exact same place, though. If you don’t, the article is lost forever in the notebooks!

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