Graduate Student Handbook
INTRODUCTIONUConn graduate students to help new graduate students through the maze of problems, decisions and small joys associated with joining this department, enrolling in this University, and living in Storrs. It contains the collective experiences and wisdom of many people who were once new students; it is a guide to UConn as we have experienced it. This guide is not meant to be a substitute for official information sources rather it is meant to aid finding those official sources and to complement them. We have included a lot of information here because there are so many small things that are hard to find out otherwise. You may, however, run the risk of information overload if you read it all at once. So browse through this using the headings and sub-headings to guide you. Where helpful we have made key words bold. If there is anything you can’t find here just ask your advisor or a fellow student. Please also record your experiences (and your opinion of this manual) and provide these comments to a current member of the EEB Welcome Committee. Your comments can help in the next revision of this handbook.
TORREY LIFE SCIENCES BUILDING
EEB support staff
There are three administrative offices of interest in the building. On the first floor (room 161) is Biology Central Services (BCS), which is a central office for three biology departments: EEB, MCB - Molecular and Cell Biology, and PNB - Physiology and Neurobiology. Here you can find
- Anne St. Onge (graduate records)
- Lois Somers (travel, payroll)
- Stephanie Balogh (purchasing)
- Carol Blow (100's courses, risograph)
- Debbie McIntosh (office manager)
- Lynn Grabowski (grant accounts)
- Paul Betts (Assistant Dean, Life Sciences)
On the third floor (room 314) is the EEB Departmental Office. A number of student secretaries and the mail boxes for all EEB faculty, staff and graduate students (mail box U-43) are all found in this office. Attached to the third floor office is the business office of the Department Head, Kathy Tebo, (room 312, Administrative Assistant), and Pat Anderson, (Fiscal Supervisor). On the first floor (room 175) you can find the stockroom, run by Ken Bernier. You are also encouraged to utilize the unique facilities and staff we have in our University of Connecticut Biological Collections, greenhouse (Clinton Morse, Sandy Ek), herbarium (Bob Capers), invertebrate collections (Jane O’Donnell), vertebrate collections (Kentwood Wells), and our library liaison (Carolyn Mills).
As an EEB grad student you will be assigned an office space, where you will have your own desk and where you will spend the next few years of your life banging your head against said furniture. This desk could be in your advisor’s lab, or it could be in a separate office space with one or two other students. If you wish to re-locate, talk to your advisor and/or Janine Caira. For instructions on how to receive a key for your new space, see Whom To See For What section.
You can obtain your Student ID in the Wilbur Cross Building. If you enter the building by the main entrance there is an information desk – ask at the desk where to go to get your student ID card. You will need to register and pay your fees, or get a fee deferral first, before you can get your card. The bursar’s office handles the registration/fees and fortunately all these services are now in the same area of Wilbur Cross. For more info on Student ID cards, including what to do if you lose yours, see www.onecard.uconn.edu
If your office is in BioPharm, then you can get an ID card that will be keyed to the building doors (instead of needing a separate keycard). For more info, talk to Skip Copeland (firstname.lastname@example.org), whose office is near the loading dock of BioPharm.
Most students who arrive in Storrs without a car find that it is very difficult to get around. It's doable for a little while if you live on campus or near a WRTD bus stop, but most students will eventually want to obtain their driver's license and a car. There are limited bike routes around, but Storrs is not exactly the most bike-friendly town, either, although some avid cyclers have made it work.
There is student parking available relatively close to our buildings. You must obtain a sticker (after paying fees or receiving a fee deferral) from parking services. The cost of the parking sticker will depend on the lot(s) you wish to park in.
- Parking Garage - The most expensive sticker ($400) is for the North Parking Garage. High price but no problem finding a spot most of the time. You can also pay by the hour or day in this lot.
- GA/TA Parking - Your graduate assistant parking sticker (~ $110) allows you to park in any of the lots designated for students (lots with a letter designation). Lots often utilized by EEB grads (roughly in order of proximity) are Farmer Brown Lot (formerly X lot), F lot, T lot, L lot, and W lot.
- Area 3 Parking - Grad assistants can also obtain a sticker to park for free in restricted sections of some of the lots farther from campus. The Area 3 parking in F lot is reasonably close but fills up at an early hour; Area 3 parking is always available in the farther away W lot.
You can park almost anywhere on campus after 4:00 p.m. (beware, however, of employee parking that is restricted until 5:00 p.m.). Parking along North Eagleville Rd. is allowed only from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Visitors need to get a parking permit to avoid being ticketed during normal business hours (7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday thru Friday). The North and South Parking Garages are also available to visitors, but they must pay the hourly or daily rate. Police are prevalent on campus and will give tickets if you park illegally.
For more information, see the Parking and Transportation Services (website).
There are several UConn bus lines. Routes and times can be checked at the Transportation Services site. They are also on facebook. There is also a mobile app. The Red lines and Blue lines can be taken to get to and from W lot. All buses are free with a UConn ID.
UConn Transportation also provides an Accessible Van Service for passengers with disabilities. HuskyWatch is a service provided by UConn police for those who would like assistance walking across campus, or if you don't feel comfortable walking alone at night. Call 860-377-8091.
Windham Regional Transit District offers several area bus lines. The Storrs-Willimantic bus can be used to commute between Willimantic, parts of Mansfield, and campus, and this line is free with a UConn ID (though note that if you ride at certain times you will have to transfer to a Willimantic City Bus, which you will have to pay the fare for). All other buses have a fare of somewhere around $1.
Buses to Other Cities
Megabus offers service from Storrs to Hartford and New York twice a day. From Hartford you can also take Megabus to Boston or other cities. Megabus fares range from $1-$45, depending on how far ahead of time you purchase them. Other bus options are Peter Pan Bus or Greyhound (which are actually the same bus) with service from Storrs to Hartford once per day.
The nearest airport is Bradley International Airport in Hartford, about 45 minutes away from Storrs. Another option is the Providence Airport, which is about 1 hour and 20 minutes away. There are no easy or convenient ways to get to the airport if you don't have a car; the best thing to do is ask a friend or someone from the department for a ride.
THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
The Graduate School (6-3331), located on the second floor of the Whetten Graduate Center, is responsible for a myriad of paperwork: graduate registration; graduate fellowships; approving your plan of study and dissertation prospectus; dissertations; and information about internal and external sources of funding.
How to register and pay your bill
You will first need to talk to your advisor and other students to find out what courses you should take (see the Finding out about courses section). There is a list of classes available online through the Registrar’s office website. The Student Administration System (PeopleSoft) is your gateway to registering for classes. To get in this system you will need your Student ID Number and password (see http://www.techtraining.uconn.edu/ if you need to find out about computer access ID’s).
There is a seemingly endless assortment of links, help pages, and instructions found on the web sites of the registrar. If you cannot find what you need, or can’t do what you need to in order to register for classes, ask someone for help. Either talking to another grad student or a call to the registrar’s office (6-3331) can save you a lot of aggravation and frustration. The online system has been in place since 2001 and is a work in progress. Its use, the documentation, and the help available seem to improve every semester.
Registering for classes allows the bursar's office to be able to generate a bill for you. If you register early enough before the semester starts you may get a bill in the mail. Regardless of having been mailed a bill or not, you need to pay your fees by the tenth day of classes. You can also get your bill by walking into the Bursar's office (Wilbur Cross Building) and asking for it. Your fees will be ~ $1042. You can pay this at the Bursar's office or have this fee deferred via payroll deduction. The Bursar’s office can explain details about deferments and a form can be filled out online.
Whom to see for what
Building and Room Keys
Kathy Tebo is the EEB Department Head's administrative assistant; find her in the third floor office (TLS 312) for appointments with the Head. See Anne St. Onge (TLS 161) for appointments with Paul Betts, the Assistant Dean of Life Sciences.
Graduate Students are entitled to have official University of Connecticut business cards printed with their name and contact information. Consult Kathy Tebo about ordering your business cards; it costs a little less than $20 for 500 cards.
Financial Records System (FRS)
Accounts are assigned a six digit FRS number, with which purchases can be made. FRS numbers for external grants start with 4/5/6, and research foundation grants start with 4. The starting number dictates how funds can be used. For example, some funds are unrestricted, while others can be used to purchase only certain types of supplies. The blanket departmental FRS number is 255200, from which reimbursements are made for, e.g., MNH Research Awards.
Both the University and the State of Connecticut maintain a list of approved vendors with whom they have contracts. Whenever possible, items must be purchased from those vendors. It is often worth checking to see if the state has a preferred vendor contract for certain supplies (e.g., many chemicals can be bought at significant discounts through Fisher Scientific). The state negotiates bulk discounts with preferred vendors (see Stephanie Balogh), but be careful because occasionally items can be purchased for lower than the price offered by the preferred vendor.
- University of Connecticut contracts (Purchasing Department)
- State of Connecticut contracts (Department of Administrative Services)
Certain items are kept on-hand in the BCS stockroom, managed by Ken Bernier. Stocked items include pipet tips, nitrile gloves, microcentrifuge tubes, and paper towels. The complete list is here. Other items are stocked by the Biotechnology facility in BPB, including Big Dye for sequencing and DNA purification kits. If an item is not stocked by BCS or Biotechnology, check the central warehouse list, which Carol Blow has. Carol can also field any questions you may have about central warehouse orders. You only need to fill out an order request form if you get things from the central warehouse.
Field assistants can be hired on research funds, provided they are U.S. Citizens. There are lower overhead expenses for student workers who are hired through student labor; however, these students must be enrolled at the time of employment (i.e., summer workers must be taking summer courses). During the school year and with the right paperwork, work study students can be hired at no cost to you or your lab (see Lois Somers).
Funds administered through the MNH Research Awards (e.g., the Ronald Bamford Fund) may be taken as reimbursement. Documentation is required for reimbursements from UConn funds that is often more thorough than what external fund sources require. Examples of reimbursement documentation:
- Equipment: Copy of credit card statement, online order receipt, packing slip, justification for why purchased.
- Mileage: Gasoline purchase receipt and copy of that day's field notes.
- Airline travel: Itinerary receipt, credit card statement, boarding passes.
EEB Department Credit Card
All purchases under $100 must be made on the departmental credit card (e.g., items not sold by approved vendors, often sold by internet vendors). Kathy Tebo and Pat Anderson are approved to make purchases using the departmental credit card. To have them make a purchase, you will need to print out a copy of the website you visited, making explicit just what item should be bought.
After you receive a delivery, it is essential that you sign and date the invoice/packing slip and give it to Ken Bernier - or else the vendor does not get paid. If the item was purchased on the departmental credit card the packing list must go to Kathy.
If none of these options works, any vendor will do. So shop around. Ask Stephanie Balogh if you have other specific questions or for purchasing orders.
EEB / TLS
Everyone gets a photocopying card (see Pat Anderson or Kathy Tebo) for use in the EEB office or the BCS office. Grad students get 500 free copies for the year - $25 is put on your copy card at the beginning of fall semester (the copy card rate is 5 cents per copy). If you exhaust the funds on your card, you can pay Pat or Kathy to have money added. Don’t forget to have another $25 be put on your card every fall. The card works in copiers in the 3rd floor (TLS 314) and 1st floor (TLS 161) offices. If you are making copies for teaching an introductory biology course (100-level course), use the machine in Biology Central Services and ask Carol Blow for the number code to pay for it. For bulk copying (>25 copies per page), use the Risograph in the BCS office (see Carol Blow, TLS 161). In addition, there are overhead transparenciess available in the EEB office (a box is usually found on the shelf where the copier paper is kept).
If you will be making photocopies in the library for your research you can get a departmental copy card from the EEB Office. Ask the student at the front desk for this card and return it promptly. Be sure to write the amount remaining on the card on the outside of the little envelope in which it is kept. If you are making copies in the library on your own dime, you should use your student ID card – or as they call it the Husky One Card. You can add money to your card by credit card by accessing this website: www.onecard.uconn.edu/deposit.html. Be aware that there are a large number of full text journal articles available online, many of which can be linked to through the library web site from any computer connected to the network.
Departmental Computer Resources
The departmental computer room is on the fourth floor (TLS 477). A fob key can be obtained from Kathy Tebo (TLS 312) with a key request card (Biology Central Services, TLS 161) signed by your advisor. There are Macs, Husky PC’s, a scanner, projectors, laser printers and lots of software. Teaching has priority access to these computers so occasionally you could be kicked out during the day during the semester. You should use the departmental photocopiers for making more than a few copies of anything; this will help conserve toner cartridges and printers. Also, to save trees, try to make use of the draft printer when you have a project that doesn't warrant a first-rate product. Daniel Fan and Charlie Henry manage the computer room and department network. Departmental web pages and the web server are managed by Paul Lewis.
There is a mainframe computer on campus which someone, someday, may suggest you use for something like running SPSS (a statistics package)…….you can log onto the mainframe using your NETID (this is the username/password you use for your Huskymail account). There are mainframe terminals in the computer room (Math Science Building) or you can use a freely available (to UConn folks, at least) emulator program called HostExplorer. This program comes preinstalled on HuskyPC’s and is also accessible from the EEB computer room PC’s. Just ask the resident computer geek how to find the program.
The computer center does not offer dial up accounts to access UConn computers. Instead you will have to obtain an internet carrier at home (SBC, etc.) and obtain a Proxy Account. The computer center website has a lot of information on general computer concerns as well as info on Proxy Accounts. The computer center can be found in the Math Science Building (though may be moving soon) as well as at www.uits.uconn.edu. Hours of operation are M-F from 8 to 5. Calls are favored, leave a message and they will get back to you. Stopping by is not encouraged as they are understaffed and spend more time answering phone calls and messages. To learn more about a Proxy account, go to the Index of Services link from the website listed above, then click on P; or go directly to: http://www.helpdesk.uconn.edu/faq/proxyfaq.html.
Other technical resources
If you should need government documents for your research, check first to see if the library has what you're looking for. There are government journals for things like agricultural research, which also contain articles of interest to EEBians. Carolyn Mills is the biology liaison at the library and often runs special seminars on how to use the library’s electronic resources. View Carolyn's website for contact info and other resources. If you want to make slides for a presentation, you can have them made by Virge Kask (TLS 168). Virge can also help you with posters, banners, digital imaging, etc. Check out Virge's website for more info. Overhead projectors, overhead transparencies, and slide projectors can usually be obtained from the Office Assistants (TLS 314) and computer projectors can be checked out from either the computer lab (TLS 477) or from the Office Assistants (TLS 314).
Communications: mail, phones, faxes, e-mail
If you want to send mail that is associated with your professional work, it will be paid for by the Department. Write the EEB mail code (255200) in the upper left corner or there is an ink stamp with this number in the office. Drop mail in the basket in either the Dept. Office or Biology Central Services. Many student office telephones will only make local or on-campus calls, or 1-800's (e.g. your calling card). For long distance calls from school, make an arrangement with your advisor. To connect to an off campus number, you must first dial ‘8’, and then the number you wish to reach. To connect to an on campus number, you can simply dial ‘6’ and then the last four numbers of the number you wish to call.
There is a fax machine on the third floor (TLS 314). EEB will pay for work-related faxes, but you will be billed for personal faxes. Our university email is the Huskymail system (see http://www.techtraining.uconn.edu/ if you need to find out about computer access ID’s). Some useful email aliases are:
- email@example.com (this reaches all EEBians)
- firstname.lastname@example.org (email to all the EEB grads)
- email@example.com (you get the idea…..)
- firstname.lastname@example.org (graduate students in EEB, MCB, and PNB)
- email@example.com (everyone in EEB, MCB, and PNB)
The weekly Departmental Seminar, which brings in outside speakers as well as members of our own faculty, is usually held on Thursdays from 4 to 5pm. You should go to seminar every week (you're expected to be there, it is good to hear about other scientist's work, it's your duty, etc). Seminar snacks are typically held at 3:30 before the seminar in the Bamford Room. Tuesday Evening Seminars, which are held at a professor’s house, are more irregular and generally less formal. Food and drink are provided. Most grad students give a research seminar in one or the other series, often for their dissertation defense. Grad students also have the opportunity to give research talks in a yearly Graduate Student Symposium, held in the spring semester. Everyone is encouraged to contribute; even if it’s his/her first year (pre-UConn work can be presented as well as ideas for research projects still in the making). Participating in these departmentally sponsored opportunities is a good way to practice before presenting at national meetings.
Watch also for the Teale Lecture Series, an interdepartmental seminar that deals with issues of environmental concern, also held on Thursdays at the Dodd Center.
Graduate students are encouraged to use the Bamford (TLS 171b) for reading, relaxation, informal discussions or organized meetings. However the room is also used for formal seminars, receptions, etc. Events are kept on a schedule that is maintained by Kathleen Tebo (TLS 312). If you want to use the Bamford room for an official meeting reserve it in advance with Kathy. Some labs have a key to the Bamford Room; if you cannot find your lab’s key, ask your advisor. The Bamford has some journals, useful books, good resource for funding of graduate research projects, a microwave and a fridge. The fridge sometimes has leftover wine; there is probably still half a bottle of white zinfandel from the last reception. If you plan to drink anything in the Bamford, take a mug as cups are not always available there. If you use the Bamford, you are expected to clean it afterwards (vacuum cleaner next to sink). Do not leave this room a mess.
Finding Out About Courses
The directory of classes (available at the Registrar and on the Registrar’s web page) is only the beginning of available courses. There are often courses and seminars available that are not announced in the directory. In your first semester, you should ask your advisor about which courses to take. It’s also a good idea to consult the department’s course website to see what is offered during particular semesters. Some courses are offered annually but most are offered every other year. Independent study and reading classes are also available if you or anyone else organizes them. Talk to your professor about a specific course offering if you are not sure if it’s for you. Charlie Henry has a list of courses the department plans to offer in future semesters if you want to plan ahead. Many students take out-of-department classes, especially statistics. There is a list of non-EEB courses that grads have taken and recommend Statistics 320-321 (Applied Statistics). In any case, it’s always best to find someone who has taken the course and get the real scoop (this advice applies to courses in this and other departments).
Some Hidden EEB Resources
- Collections Library: found in the Bio/Physics Building, room 112. This library holds botanical, vertebrate, invertebrate and other biological resources. Some journals that are not found at the library may be found here.
- Connecticut Museum of Natural History –2019 Hillside Road, next to the Co-op, hosts many activities like Insect Days, Herp Days, and Bird Days with which you can be involved and get out in the field. The Museum also hosts BioBlitz every year, usually in early June. This event is chaired by David Wagner and attracts biologists from every area who converge on a selected site in CT and catalogue all species they can find within a 24 hour period. To find out about other events at the Museum of Natural History, check out the museum events website.
- Greenhouse – Collection greenhouses are located behind TLS and are open to the public from 8:00 until 4:00, M-F. Research greenhouses are located on the 6th floor of the BioPhysics building, connected to TLS but access is limited to those performing research in this facility. If you would like to use this space for your research, talk with Clinton Morse.
- Bamford Journals – many of the standard EEB journals. There is a more or less complete collection of theses produced in this department, and many monographs authored by our faculty. There are also some classic books, and a little information on grants. Room 171B.
- Darkroom – Talk with the Department Head if you need access to darkroom facilities (photo processing).
- Automatic collator and stapler -- in Biology Central Services (TLS 161). Very handy if you are preparing a multi-page handout.
In this section is all the basic information you need for completing your degree in EEB. It may seem like too much information to handle as a new student, in which case feel free to skip this whole section. Or maybe you are the type of person who wants all the gory, depressing details right from the beginning, in which case you should read every word. Just keep in mind that you’ve got time. The official word on all these particulars comes from the graduate school catalog – not the document you are presently reading. A link to the official scoop on things, the forms mentioned below, and other useful information about all the hoops you need to jump through can be found by rooting around online at: http://www.grad.uconn.edu/
The graduate student ontogeny, which describes what you should do and when while you are a graduate student can be found at the following link: File:Grad Ontogeny.pdf.
Committee and Advisor
If you are here you already have an advisor. You can change advisors but this is best to do within your first academic year and certainly before starting research. It can be done at any time, but the political and academic repercussions could be difficult. You may lose time in the process. If you change your major advisor, you must fill out the proper form for the Graduate School (form available from BCS). Please be sure to inform Kathy Tebo of the change as well. Your advisor is automatically the chair of your committee, the group of professors who supervise and aid your research. Your committee must include at least three people, counting your advisor; add more members if you want. External (not associated with the University of Connecticut) committee members are possible but not required. The job of forming a committee is in your hands -- you chose the members. When choosing your committee, keep in mind that official committee members must be present for the general exam and oral defense (more on those events below). You have the option of having some "readers" (whose names can appear on the signature page of your dissertation), who do not need to be present at either event. You do not have to choose your committee immediately (committees are finalized generally at the end of your second year/beginning of third year) but you should think about potential committee members as soon as possible. Ask other students about their experiences.
If your committee decides that you need to have proficiency in a foreign language, you will need to show the ability to read a foreign language by the time you leave. The graduate school catalogue gives guidelines on how to pass the language requirement. Most people translate an article into English for a professor in the Department (this professor cannot be a committee member). Keep in mind that it is possible to use statistics as a foreign language, but those credits cannot apply to your total (see the Credit Requirements section). Watch for futures changes that might allow a computer language to satisfy the language requirement. The language requirement is an easy thing to get out of the way during your first couple of years here.
You need to maintain a 3.0 GPA (grade point average) to keep your RA or TA, but falling below this GPA has not occurred in recent memory. For foreign students: details of how the GPA is calculated are outlined in the graduate student catalog and you can ask your advisor or others for help.
You need a certain number of credits to get your degree. Exact amounts can vary but the guidelines are as follows: for a Master’s - 15 credits plus a thesis, or 24 credits and no thesis; for a Ph.D. - at least 40 post-baccalaureate credits (i.e. if you have a Master’s already, count these credits). The Graduate School has been known to approve plans with 39 credits. It is important to recognize that non-departmental courses can qualify (unless you are taking them for the language requirement, in which case they cannot be counted). 200-level courses can also apply up to a maximum of ten, and they must not be open to sophomores (although this rule can be broken if you get permission). Specifics must be approved and finalized in your plan of study. To fill your schedule for full-time status, register for GRAD 395 (Masters) or GRAD 495 (Doctoral). Register for the section that corresponds to the number of credits you need (e.g., section 02 for two credits).
Plan of Study
The graduate school requests that you submit a plan of study before you have completed 12 credits. More commonly students submit their plan later than this (frequently in their third year), and have suffered no repercussions. The plan of study is required by the third semester and must be approved by the Advisory Committee. It is basically a list of the courses you have taken or intend to take. Get the form here. Your committee will look over it and may recommend you take additional courses to fill in any gaps you may have. The plan is submitted to the graduate school and must be approved by them before you can take your general examination. When you submit the form to Graduate School, make sure you have your own (fourth) copy and have them date stamp it. Apparently they're good at losing stuff. They will not approve plans with insufficient credits. It is possible to change your plan of study after it has been approved, but this requires filling out more forms. Call the grad school for advice or assistance.
The General Examination
Also commonly called "the orals", "generals" or "the qualifying exam." You must pass an oral exam conducted by a panel of five professors (your committee plus however many extra professors are needed to make up a total of five). This exam is supposed to test the breadth of your knowledge, your ability to think on your feet, and other such skills. After passing the exam, you are officially "a candidate for the Ph.D." Thus, you receive a pay raise (if you are on an assistantship) and are eligible for some travel money and other minor funds from the graduate school. You must let Anne St. Onge know that you passed before your pay raise can be processed. It’s an intense experience, but they say it’s good for the soul. We’re not sure if we believe it. The EEB faculty recommends we take the “General” before the end of the fifth semester of full-time study. Most students take it the end of their second or the beginning of their third year. As far as we know, no one ever fails the general exam, he/she is simply asked to do it again. This has happened a few times in recent history. It is no doubt preferable to only suffer the experience once but the main thing is to eventually pass it. It is your job to schedule your general exam, and your job to make sure at least five professors will attend. You must advertise the event within the department because other professors are allowed to attend if they so desire. Other students are not welcome. When preparing for the generals make sure you speak to your five professors and ask them what they expect of you. The graduate students keep a book with questions asked of students in previous general exams (as recalled as soon as possible after the experience). This may be helpful in your preparation. Ask around for this book.
The Research Prospectus, the Dissertation, and the Oral Defense
The Graduate School also requires that you submit a research prospectus in addition to your plan of study. This is reviewed by people who may be from other fields (e.g. the arts, engineering etc.), so you want to pitch it to a broader audience. Kathy Tebo has a department form you must complete in order to have your prospectus reviewed. The dissertation is a research paper (or series of papers) you write. It’s long; set aside a couple of years. The oral defense is a seminar you give explaining the research done for your dissertation. Ask a student who is nearing the end of his or her degree about what this entails or you can find out first hand by attending a defense.
Probably the majority of you will be TA’s (teaching assistants) for at least part of your time here. Before you begin teaching, it is mandatory that you attend the graduate teaching assistants' orientation. You should have the details of this mailed to you; it is held sometime in August, generally 5-10 days before classes start. If you do not have any details about this by early August – call or email Anne St. Onge. This workshop covers the support services available to TA’s; gives pointers on lectures, discussions, and lab classes; demonstrates visual techniques using overheads, videos, blackboards and projectors; and helps quell that feeling of “I’m-a-new-teacher-and-I’ve-got-butterflies-in-my-tummy.”
Most beginning graduate students are assigned to TA introductory biology classes (i.e. Bio. 1102, 1107, 1108, or 1110). 1102 is the non-Majors course. 1107, 1108 and 1110 form the introductory sequence for potential majors: 1107-Molecular and Cell Biology, Animal Anatomy and Physiology; 1108 - Plant Biology, Genetics, Ecology and Evolution; 1110 - Intro to Botany for plant science/horticulture majors.
Karen Lombard (Bronwell 103) is the teaching coordinator for all these introductory biology courses. She will hold an introductory TA meeting for your course, at a time and place you will get sent a letter about. She will also provide the lab manual and course text. The full teaching load for Biology 1102 is four sections with a partner (each section requires 2 hrs in the lab), and for Biology 1107, 1108 and 1110 it is two sections alone (each section requires 3 hrs in the lab). A half load is two sections for each of the introductory courses (yes, a half-timer teaching 1107, 1108 or 1110 actually teaches 2/3rds of the full time load). The rest of your paid time is spent in preparation, grading, TA meetings, and sometimes attending course lectures. In these introductory courses, you will not be alone -- two TA’s are assigned per section. New TA’s will usually be paired with more experienced TA’s. If you want to teach something other than introductory biology you are advised to talk to the professor teaching the course of interest.
The Institute for Teaching and Learning offers services, workshops, and courses that are useful for teaching here as well as preparation for future teaching roles. You can arrange to have yourself videotaped too. This is an excellent way to evaluate your own style and presence in the classroom. Staff from the center will also review the videotape with you if you want. Most semesters the Center offers a series of lunchtime teaching oriented workshops. They also offer a semester-long course, Fundamentals of Teaching and Learning, which is intended for graduate students in all departments.
Tuition is waived for students on teaching or research assistantships. There are still fees that you must pay (at the Bursar’s office, Budds Building). For full-time graduate students (if you are a TA, you must be a full-time student), the fees are $1042 a semester. This includes the General University Fee, the Graduate Matriculation Fee, maintenance and new building fees, and fees for the Graduate Student Senate. If you stay in the dorms, your residence fee and room deposit are added on. This fee bill is due immediately after you register. Payroll deduction can be used to spread the cost of the fee over the cost of the semester. If you cannot afford it right now, it is possible to defer payment, either through a series of check payments or through payroll deduction (see How to register and pay your bill).
Summer Work Study
Work-study is available in the Department, but international students (non-citizens) are not eligible. No one is guaranteed such support either. Most graduate students who apply receive $2000 for work-study from the university, which is nice because you essentially end up getting paid to do your own research. You must register for 3 credits during the summer if you're on work study. Check the requirements in the regular graduate student handbook to determine the appropriate course number for your situation. Applications are due March 1, and a copy of your federal income tax form is required. See the office of Financial Aid in the Wilbur Cross building for more information.
- File your FAFSA for the school year in question (e.g. summer 2009 is part of the 2008-2009 school year) by March 1.
- Register for GRAD 5960 (Master's students) or GRAD 6960 (Ph.D. students) by calling the Graduate School (x6-3617).
- Complete the Graduate Enrollment Information form (can be submitted online at the Financial Aid website.
- Complete the Summer Financial Aid Application (can be submitted online at Financial Aid website.
EEB Summer Fellowship
For both international and U.S. students, the Department has summer fellowship funds that are divided among grads that don’t have income for the summer. The amount given out by these fellowship funds has declined in recent years.
Occasionally, there are a few "student labor" jobs available from faculty. Consider applying for extra-mural funding (i.e. grant money) for summer support. There are also job opportunities outside of the department (i.e. KAST, Upward Bound, etc.) which normally involve teaching. It is best to ask around and research these possibilities as there is really no one person in charge of organizing all of them. Getting adequate summer funding from some source or another is certainly possible, but plan way ahead -- start looking into possibilities in January/February.
Income and paydays/TAs and RAs
Most graduate students are either teaching assistants (TA’s) or research assistants (RA’s). Full-time TA’s/RA’s are expected to work 16 to 20 hours per week; half-time TA’s/RA’s receive half the pay for "half" the work. Nine month salaries for the 2006/2007 school year (before taxes) were: Basic level (Bachelor’s degree only): $18,270. After 24 credits (Masters level): $19,226. After passing general exam: $21,371. Payday occurs every other week. Talk to Lois Somers (Biology Central Services) if you want to sign up for direct deposit; your pay will automatically be deposited into your bank account on payday. You are only guaranteed salary for nine months of the year, while you are teaching or on an RA. The web site for the UConn Department of Human Resources has the most up-to-date information regarding graduate stipends, employee benefits, etc.
Grants and Awards
Getting support from some outside source is a good idea. It looks good on your Curriculum Vitae and may free you from teaching. There is information available at the Research Foundation in the Graduate Center and in the Bamford Room (TLS 171b). Many first year graduate students apply for the NSF predoctoral fellowship (ask around about it). This is difficult, but not impossible, to get. The benefits are sweet - unfortunately foreign students are not eligible. Many graduate students find smaller and sometimes obscure sources of funding – ask around to find out where they have gotten grants.
There are several fellowships and awards available from both the Graduate School and Research Foundation at UConn.
- The Graduate School offers a Special Graduate Student Fellowship ($600 per semester, $1200 max; deadlines May 1 and Dec 1) for first-year MS or PhD students.
- The Research Foundation offers a Doctoral Student Travel Award ($1000 max, no competition) that can be used for travel to a professional meeting.
- If you have completed your generals and your dissertation proposal is approved you also qualify for the following:
- Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship ($2000, competition within UConn).
- Doctoral Dissertation Extraordinary Expense Award ($500 max, no competition).
See the departmental websites for additional information and applications. Finally, annual grants are awarded within EEB and can amount to $800 or less (deadline is usually early April); these funds may be used for anything related to your research (field supplies, travel, etc) and you can apply multiple times.
Connecticut State Museum of Natural History Student Research Awards
Small research awards ($100 to $1500) are available to graduate students currently enrolled in EEB. Applications and proposals are due in the spring semester, and the person with whom to communicate is Pat Anderson. The awards cannot be used for living expenses but may be used for travel to scientific meetings, visits to collections, field work, supplies or other costs directly related to research. The funds must be spent within one year; any funds remaining will be returned to the fund(s) from which they were originally allocated. Students who are awarded funding in one year can reapply the next year, but they may be given lower priority. Applications are typically due in mid-March, and notifications sent in mid-late April.
Awards are available from the Museum of Natural History endowed funds listed below. The subject matter of the funds can be interpreted broadly, e.g., forestry can be any study in a forest or using trees or forest plants.
- Henry N. Andrews Endowment (botany)
- George Clark, Jr. Endowment (ornithology)
- Russell and Betty DeCoursey Endowment (entomology)
- Alfred J. Hunyadi Endowment (forestry)
- Jerauld Manter Endowment (ornithology)
- Lawrence R. Penner Endowment (parasitology & invertebrate zoology)
- James A. Slater Endowment (entomology)
- Francis R. Trainor Endowment (aquatic ecology)
- Ralph M. Wetzel Endowment (vertebrate biology)
- Walter R. Whitworth Endowment (fishes)
- Ronald Bamford Fund (botany) - applications accepted up to $1500
Awarded funds are dispersed either as a lump sum directly to the graduate student (minus any money owed to the Bursar), or through reimbursements from the EEB Department. Lump sum dispersals are not restricted, but reimbursements can take advantage of University discounts. There are also Income Tax considerations.
GSS Short-Term Emergency Loans
The Graduate Student Senate offers short-term, interest-free emergency loans to a maximum of $1,000.00 to any graduate student who is registered at the Storrs Campus. See more info at their website.
There are many opportunities to study off-campus and earn extra credits towards your degree. Some of the options used by students in recent years include the courses run by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), various courses run by the Institute for Ecosystem Studies (IES) in Millbrook, New York (which will soon be included in the UConn catalog), and two different courses in tropical botany based at the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami (one run by Harvard, one run by Univ. of Florida). Ask around about these courses. The Department has some sources of funding which might help cover the costs. Students who attend the OTS course have typically had tuition (but no longer airfare) covered by the Graduate School. If you do off-campus study, ask the teaching institution to mail your grades to our Graduate Record Office.
Health insurance is changing for the 2013-2014 school year. There will be insurance available for all graduate students through CIGNA. Details will be available at the Student Health Services site at some point over summer 2013.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ISSUES
The International Affairs Office is your primary source of help and information. You should call or email this office for any questions or help you need that involve your status as a foreign student. It is also a good idea to talk to other international students here or in other departments, so that they can provide guidance about what you may need, or not need, to insure you don’t run into any unexpected problems. Money, visas, taxes, special funding, etc. are all things that other more experienced students are apt to have already dealt with. It is also important to make sure you have all the required vaccinations before you arrive. All the required information can be obtained through Student Health Services. If you are interested in renting an apartment near campus, it is a good idea to email a current Graduate student, who can send an email out to the Departmental listserve. There are often other students who are looking for roommates. Popular places to stay are in Storrs itself, Willimantic, and Mansfield. As you are earning money in the United States, you will have to pay taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the U.S. government. This tax is taken out of pay every pay period and you have to file an income tax form by April 15 every year. If you are paying U.S. taxes for the first time, get started early on the forms. The International Student Office arranges tax workshops, but it is up to you to find out when they are and to attend if you desire assistance. These are very useful, and will make your life much easier. After a Social Security number and a bank account, the other important thing to establish your life in the United States is to get a Connecticut driver’s license. Public transport in the area is fairly sparse, and so a car is extremely useful. If you can’t drive, get a Connecticut I.D. card instead, at least if you want to be able to write checks, or not have to carry your passport around. Licenses and I.D. cards are available at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) (for information, call 1-800-842-8222); the nearest office is in Willimantic. There is a week-long workshop for new international graduate students scheduled for August. For more information see the ITAP web site. Students who do not have English as a first language will have to take a proficiency exam. If you are planning on buying a used car, many of your fellow graduate students have gone through the processes and are willing to give plenty of advice. Basically, the steps are as follows:
If you are planning on buying a used car, many of your fellow graduate students have gone through the processes and are willing to give plenty of advice. Basically, the steps are as follows:
- Find a car to buy through various ad sources.
- Get the car checked out and an emissions test done, for a small fee, by a professional mechanic at a local garage.
- Purchase the car and have the title transferred to your name.
- Buy car accident insurance (required by Connecticut law). Talk to other students to find out which are good insurance companies and how much you should expect to pay. Keep in mind that insurance is sometimes more expensive than the car itself.
- Get your car registration and license plates at the DMV. This also costs some money with your registration based on the value of your car. The more your car is worth, the higher the registration fee. You will also be taxed yearly on your car. The price of this is also tied to the value of your vehicle.
It is a good idea to attend professional meetings and, as soon as possible, to begin presenting your own research in the forms of posters and talks. The various meetings are advertised in journals. If you are in the PhD program it is possible to get money from the graduate school to cover the costs of attending a meeting. Each grad is entitled to $1000 during their stay at UConn. Go to the Research Foundation website for application forms. National meetings heavily attended by department members include: Ecological Society of America, Botanical Society of America, Society for the Study of Evolution, and the Entomological Society of America. The Northeastern Ecology and Evolution Conference is a regional annual meeting that is fairly low pressure -- mostly other grad students presenting their work – and a good opportunity to meet students from other colleges in the area. It is usually in early spring and located somewhere not too far from Storrs. We also have our own Graduate Student Symposium.
EEB GRADUATE STUDENT ASSOCIATION
The graduate students of EEB have an association (the GSA) that meets to discuss departmental issues and to organize things relevant to grads. This guide, for example, is a product of GSA. We have also organized various social events (i.e. parties). The GSA is the organ via which the grad students as a collective unit interact with the department. One grad student attends faculty meetings to report to them on GSA issues and also to report to the GSA on faculty issues. There are other committees and liaison jobs which students are involved in (e.g. the collections committee, computer committee, and the seminar committee). All graduate students are highly encouraged to attend the monthly meetings (you will be notified) to keep this body operating effectively. The GSA sends representatives to GSS, the Graduate Student Senate, which represents graduate student concerns campus-wide. For more information visit the GSS web site.
EEB SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
There are a number of departmental social activities throughout the year. The first week of the semester there is a "bar week" in which the department gathers at a different bar for each day of the week. A special GSA committee send emails informing students of the time/location. There is an EEB Barn Dance at Greg Anderson's house every year in October, which all students, faculty, and their families are invited to. This includes a potluck-style dinner, pie contest, pinata, outdoor fire pit, traditional plant people vs animal people tug-of-war contest, hot pepper eating, fireworks, and typically a keg of Long Trail. This is a great opportunity to socialize with both students and faculty.
There are typically small celebrations after students have passed their qualifying exams or successfully defended their dissertation. Sometimes faculty members will host these parties. Other departmental social activities include an annual Halloween party and post-grad student symposim party, as well as various other birthday/holiday celebrations.
LIFE BEYOND SCHOOL
The University provides graduate dorms. They are located right on campus so they are convenient if you don’t have a car. They are popular with international students and thus provide a multicultural atmosphere. There is also subsidized housing at Northwood Apartments for married students, though there may be a long waiting list to get in. Visit the website for the Department of Residential Life (www.reslife.uconn.edu) for information on these. If you don’t live in the grad dorms you will probably choose to rent a place somewhere in the area. Not surprisingly, rents typically increase as you approach campus. Many people find off-campus housing through various local advertisements. There is a rental directory available at the student union, on the web at the Dept. of Residential Life, and elsewhere. You may find ads for rooms on bulletin boards in the Wilbur Cross Building, in the library, or beside the entrance to the Coop. You may also check to see whether anyone is looking for housemates within the department by sending an e-mail through the departmental listserv. . If you are looking for temporary accommodations, for visitors, there is the Nathan Hale Inn and Conference center on campus (rates are around $90/night). Otherwise the nearest motel is a Best Western on the Mansfield side of Willimantic (south of campus). There are a number of Bed and Breakfasts, which are nicer, but more expensive.
The student recreation facility is located next to the Gampel Pavilion on campus. There are free-weight rooms, cardiovascular equipment, racquetball/squash courts, swimming pool, basketball courts, indoor track, aerobics, yoga, kickboxing, rock-climbing, etc. Access to the recreation facility is free to graduate students (you will need your I.D.). You can also rent equipment (rackets, balls, etc) at no charge with your I.D. via UConn Outdoors. Regular classes of different kinds (aerobics, body building, spinning, etc.) are available through Bodywise, you just have to register in advance on their website. The track is located behind the student rec facility. Call Fitness for Life (486-2735 or 486-5975) for more information. If you prefer team sports, the EEB graduate students organize an intramural summer softball team and sometimes teams in other leagues. One can sometimes find pick-up soccer games, especially in the summer and on weekends. There are also some team leagues organized through the student recreation department. There is also a Crossfit Storrs only a few miles from campus.
Hiking and Camping
There are plenty of good trails for running, hiking, backpacking, and cross-country skiiing, including: (Mansfield Hollow, the Nipmuck Trail, and a number of parks that are part of Joshua's Trust. There are several state parks in the area map. The Town of Mansfield website maintains a list of town parks and preserves. UConn also owns a lot of forested land, some maps are available here. The Appalachian trail runs through Western Connecticut as well.
The Jorgensen Auditorium has a good program for cultural activities; acts are booked from all over the world. Expect to see advertisements in your mailbox. If a show is not sold out students can purchase “hot seats” for $5 (with your I.D.) the day of the performance. The Connecticut Repertory Theater, composed of UConn drama students, performs plays during the year in Jorgensen. Season tickets are only $20 for students. Students in the School of Music perform in Von der Mehden Auditorium.
The UConn Ballroom Dancing Club hosts classes every semester. For live music, local bands play in local bars. Big name bands are not likely to come any closer than New Haven, Hartford, or Northampton. The Iron Horse, in Northampton, MA, has live music every night, with some big names in folk, blues, jazz, etc. For entertainment information the best source is the Hartford Advocate - free and available in newsstands around campus, appearing every Thursday.
Movies and Video
The Von der Mehden Auditorium has films every Friday night during the semester. They show art house and foreign films, and sometimes mainstream movies. The Student Union Theatre shows movies, $2 with an I.D. and $4 without on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, while Fridays are now free. For off-campus movies, the nearest theaters are in Mansfield (Student Union and the Eastbrook Mall), Manchester (near Buckland Hills Mall), and East Hartford (568-8810). For artier films, we recommend Hoyt’s (East Hartford), Cinestudio at Trinity College (Hartford), and Real Art Ways (Hartford). If you want the latest scoop on these films ask Greg Anderson. Mansfield has a drive-in that is operational during the warmer months. This area also has a number of video stores. Video Visions has a larger selection and great mid-week deals; it is located in the Holiday Mall on Route 195, just north of Four Corners.
Thrift stores can be a great way to save on startup costs when moving to UConn, especially for international students. There is a Good Will in Manchester that has a large selection of clothes, furniture, appliances, and cooking utensils. There is also a Salvation Army in Manchester with lots of furniture and some other stuff. Coventry has a Flee Market on the weekends, and there are several small stores that re-sell Flee Market stuff on Main Street south of the center of Coventry.
If you plant to cook, most people get their groceries at [www.bigy.com Big Y] or [www.stopandshop.com Stop and Shop]. There is a Big Y in Tolland and another in Mansfield near Willimantic and the Eastbrook Mall. Big Y tends to be on the pricy side but also is good quality. Stop and Shop is slightly cheaper and also has a deeply discounted dented cans area and day-old racks for bread and vegetables which are still quite useable. There is a Stop in Shop in Willimantic and also in Vernon. There is also Highland Park Market in Coventry and a Walmart in Windham.
You can purchase organic food, bulk dry goods, and herbs and spices at the Willimantic Food Coop in Willimantic, Champlion’s General Store on South Eagleville Rd. near Coventry or at The Healthy Alternative on Rt 44 near campus. Champlions and The Healthy Alternative have minimal fresh foods and The Healthy Alternative has no bulk goods.
There are two farmers markets in the area that are quite good. Storrs Farmers Market is on Saturday afternoon and is held beside E. O. Smith high school on the south side of campus during the summer, and further south on 195 during the winter. Coventry Farmer's Market is one of the premiere markets in New England and is open on Sundays during the summer.
Food and Drink
The University offers a meal plan, which allows you to eat in the dining halls and purchase meals from retail restaurants on campus. To obtain more information, contact the Department of Dining services or check their website. There are a few meal trucks on campus serving general truck-fare (e.g. soups, sandwiches, etc), although Lizzie’s truck (located on Whitney Rd) offers meals with a gourmet twist.
The campus and downtown Storrs are undergoing improvements so there are many new restaurants and cafes popping up every semester. Below is a list of restaurants in the area some within walking distance others require a car (C):
- Sandwich shops: Blimpie’s, Subway, Ted’s, Sara's Pockets (Mediterranean), Dog Lane Cafe
- Pizza: Ted's, New York Style Pizza Co (C), Papa Gino's (Student Union), Sgt. Pepperoni, Wooster St., Willington Pizza (C)
- Coffeehouses/cafes: Uniquely Caffeinated Cafes (campus-run, several located in buildings including one in the adjacent Bio/Physics bldg), Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts (student union and elsewhere on campus and off)
- Asian: Chang’s Garden, Oriental Cafe II (C or bus), Panda Express (student union)
- Indian: Wings Express (they have an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet);
- Mexican: Margarita’s (C), Coyote Flaco (C, near Coventry), Baja Cafe
- American: Chuck’s Steakhouse (C, same location as Margarita’s), Friendly’s, Nathan Hale (on campus), Chuck & Augies (Student Union), Zenny’s Restaurant (C), Red Rock Cafe (C), Yukon Jack's (C), Bidwell Tavern (C)
- Desserts: UConn Dairy Bar, FroyoWorld, Insomnia Cookies, Gino's
- Bars: Ted's, Pub32 (C, $3 pints after 7pm on Thursdays!), Husky's, Willibrew (C), Nathan Hale Inn
- Liquor stores: Sam's (not great), Villa Spirit Shoppe (recommended)
There are tasty eateries in the local area (Willimantic, Manchester, Hartford, etc). Ask fellow grad students for their favorite recommendations! There are a lot of them listed on Yelp, or ask your fellow students.
EEB has departmental coffee on Wednesday and Friday mornings at 9am in the Collections Library. Bob Capers typically sends out a reminder email for this.
The Graduate Student Senate sponsors graduate student parties (with free or discounted food and drink) as well. It is certainly a good place to mingle with graduate students outside of the department.
The local banks include Bank of America and First Niagara (on Rt 44 across from Red Rock Cafe), Liberty Bank (Route 195, south of campus), and People’s Bank (Storrs Plaza and in the Co-op). Payroll now offers direct deposit which could save you on bank fees; call payroll (860-486-2423) or talk to Lois Somers (Biology Central Services) for more information. There is also a Bank of America ATM at the Student Union.
There is a CVS at Four Corners, as well as 2 decent gas stations (Cumberland Farms, Shell), as well as Dick's Auto Care. Cumberland Farms is open 24 hours.
The plazas on the south side of campus have two coin laundries. If you’re living in the grad dorms there are laundry facilities in the dorms.
One final note
Being a new graduate student can be a harrowing experience. We hope that this guide will help alleviate some of your fears and answer some of your questions. If you have further questions, do not hesitate to ask your fellow students, staff, or faculty. As you learn from your own experiences here, jot notes in this handbook and then get them added to the next edition. This way those who follow can benefit from your experience as you did from your predecessors. The current EEB graduate students welcome you to UConn and the department.