Yearly Progress Reports & Faculty Evaluations

Yearly Progress Reports

By June 15th of each year all students must submit a progress report summarizing their activities during the past year and their future plans.  This report will serve as the focal document for the annual student evaluation, although reports from the student's research advisor, committee chairpersons, course instructors, teaching supervisors, etc. will also be considered.  Therefore, the progress report should incorporate everything the student wishes the faculty to know at the time of their evaluation.  At minimum, it should include the following information, when applicable:

  • a statement of last year's goals and the extent to which they have been achieved
  • a list of the courses taken and the grades attained
  • a summary of research efforts
  • a list of program "milestones" completed
  • a list of any awards or honors attained
  • a list of manuscripts and abstracts published
  • attendance and presentations at scientific conferences
  • a statement of specific objectives for the coming academic year

The length of the progress report will vary depending upon the student’s history in the program.  Detailed reports are particularly important as they form the basis for evaluation and permit the Graduate Evaluations Committee to determine if a student is progressing through the program in a timely and appropriate manner.  These reports should be submitted to the department's Graduate Program Administrator (currently Bridget O'Neill Bennet, bmo25@pittedu, A210 Langley Hall).

Yearly Evaluation

The Graduate Evaluations Committee evaluates the performance of each student each summer. Results of these evaluations are reported to each student in a letter from the Chair of the Evaluations Committee, the Director of Graduate Studies.  This letter may be supplemented by a discussion between the student and a member of the committee to clarify the letter or to discuss additional aspects of the student's progress.  Students are also encouraged to discuss this evaluation with their research advisor.  In evaluating students, the committee considers performance in laboratory research, course work, teaching, journal club, mastery of the relevant scientific literature, and the outcome of any major examinations that have been taken during the past year.  Copies of the yearly evaluation letter are sent to the student's research advisor and become a part of the student's file.

Mid-year Evaluation of First-Year Students

First-year students are also evaluated at the completion of the first term of study. This early evaluation is designed to ensure that the student has successfully adapted to graduate study.  This evaluation will focus primarily on how well the student has initiated his/her graduate studies and will typically not be as thorough as the evaluation at the end of the academic year.  Results of the evaluation will be communicated to the student in a written communication from the Graduate Evaluations Committee.

Termination of a Student from the Graduate Program

Students may be terminated from the Graduate Program for:

  • failure to pass required core courses
  • failure to pass the Reprint Exam
  • failure to make adequate progress in laboratory research
  • violation of the University of Pittsburgh Honor Code

Except for instances involving breaches in legal or ethical behavior, students will not be terminated from the program without first being notified in writing that they have been placed on probation. This written communication will include a detailed description of the reason(s) for placing the student on probation and the goals that the student must accomplish in order to be taken off probation.  Students will typically have one term to regain good standing in the program or they will be terminated from the program.

When a student who is not on probation fails one of the major examinations (Reprint Exam, Master’s defense), the student will be placed on probation and given a second opportunity to pass that examination.  This second examination must be taken within three months of the first examination.  Failure on the second examination will result in termination from the program.  When a student who is already on probation fails one of the major examinations, they may or may not be given a second opportunity to pass that examination, at the discretion of the Graduate Evaluations Committee.

When evaluation reveals that a student's laboratory research progress does not meet program standards, the student placed on probation and will be given one term to improve laboratory skills and productivity before being reevaluated.  A subsequent determination that laboratory performance is substandard in any future evaluation will result in the student's termination from the program.

In all cases, termination of a student requires a decision by the Graduate Evaluations Committee and cannot be made by an individual faculty member or examination committee. Terminations are final.

Special Status: Leave of Absence

Students may request a leave of absence from the program.  Such requests must be made in writing to the Director of Graduate Studies.  Requests should include the reason for the request and the duration of the requested leave.  Leaves of absence are subject to the approval of the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences Associate Dean for Graduate Studies.  Students considering a leave of absence should consult the Regulations Governing Graduate Study at the University of Pittsburgh regarding policies that guide decisions on this issue.  These regulations are available on the University of Pittsburgh website.