Thesis Mentors

The MSTP expects students and Thesis Mentors to focus both on outstanding scientific productivity and completion of the PhD research within a 3 – 4 year time frame. Each faculty member may only be the thesis mentor for 3 or fewer MSTP students at any one time. Thesis Mentors are responsible for providing clear communication of the requirements and expectations to the student, guidance in the scientific focus and technical expertise for their project, and completion of their administrative responsibilities to the MSTP. Below is a list of criteria Thesis Mentor’s must follow.

Thesis Mentor’s Responsibilities to Student:

  • Clearly understand and discuss with MSTP student the formal requirements for completing the PhD degree in their particular department/theme, including the formal course requirements, the procedures for Advancement to Candidacy (both written and oral examinations), the formation of a Dissertation Committee within 6 months of the student starting in the lab, and rules concerning the writing of the Dissertation and formal completion of the PhD degree
  • Discuss expectations for scientific productivity with the student.  Issues including the scope and focus of the student’s project, the number of first-author papers expected, and specific milestones of accomplishment over the next several years should be discussed and agreed upon between the mentor and student
  • The Dissertation Committee should be formed and the first meeting held no later than 6 months following the student’s entry into the mentor’s laboratory.  The student’s MSTP advisor must serve as a full member of the Dissertation Committee
  • Thesis Mentors should guide the student in conducting responsible research, developing informative poster presentations, presenting at scientific seminars, and preparing and submitting grant applications. 
    • All MSTP students are required to submit individual training grants to the NIH (F30/F31) during their first year of thesis research (on or before April 18th of the GS2 year). Assistance from the MSTP Office in regard to budget, biosketches, and format is available as needed.

Thesis Mentor’s Responsibilities to MSTP:

  • If the Thesis Mentor has not previously graduated a PhD student, the MSTP requires that a Senior Advisor also be identified for the MSTP student.  This Senior Advisor should be appointed as a member of the thesis committee
  • Effort Reports are an important part of any funded work.  There are several types of funds that students may be paid from that require them to certify an Effort Report.  This report indicates where the funding for the student’s stipend came from over the past 3 months.  If a student is paid from the mentor’s funds, the effort report must be certified by the thesis mentor (in order for the student to continue to receive his/her/their stipend). To do so, login to UAB Admin Systems:  Click on Oracle HR & Finance.   Login using your Blazer ID and password.   At the next menu, click on UAB Effort Report User and then Effort Report Worklist, where the effort report that needs to be certified can be viewed
  • Submit a written progress report to the MSTP Program Manager within 2 weeks of each dissertation committee meeting (meetings should occur every 6 months, or 2 per year).  The dissertation committee meeting forms are sent to the student by email prior to the scheduled meeting so he/she/they can distribute accordingly (see Forms)
    • If meetings are not held every 6 months and the written progress report is not received by the MSTP office within 2 weeks of the committee meeting, the Thesis Mentor can be put on a probationary status and will not be allowed to take new MSTP rotation or thesis students until corrective action is taken.
  • Provide a written final evaluation of the student's thesis years upon the student's completion of the PhD dissertation
  • Provide financial support as described in the Thesis Commitment Form for the first 4 years the student is assigned to the lab and all of this support after the student has been in the lab four years (See Forms)
  • Provide information for continuing review of appointment to MSTP faculty status


Thesis Mentor’s Financial Duties

The MSTP will pay for 100% of the student’s stipend, tuition, and fees for 16 months after the student selects a research lab (usually starting in September of the GS-I year).  Thereafter, the MSTP will cover tuition and fees for the first 4 graduate years, and the Thesis Mentor is responsible for providing 100% of the student’s stipend for 2.5 years.  For MSTP students with Advanced Standing, the financial responsibility for the student’s stipend will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

For all students, after 4 years the Thesis Mentor will be responsible for the student’s entire stipend, tuition, and fees until their thesis is successfully defended and they return to clinical rotations.  These costs can be covered by a research grant, an individual NRSA award, or another NIH training grant subject to some limitations. 

If the student is awarded an individual training grant (F30/F31/AHA), the Graduate School is responsible for supplementing the stipend to bring it up to the UAB stipend level. If the student is appointed to an institutional training grant (i.e., T32), the Thesis Mentor is responsible for supplementing the stipend to bring it up to the UAB stipend level; this money cannot be paid from other federal funds.  If the Thesis Mentor does not have access to funds from a source other than NIH, he/she/they should consult with their department chair. 

MSTP students are not allowed to have dual assignments.  They are appointed as either Graduate Research Assistants or Graduate Student Trainees, but cannot have a combination of appointments


Thesis Mentor’s Role in MSTP Student’s Return to MD

It is required that the student be finished with his/her/their PhD prior to re-entry into the MD curriculum.  In order to schedule a return to MD curriculum, the student must submit the Transition from Research Phase to Clinical Phase Form at least 3 months prior to the planned transition.  This form indicates the date the student will finish his/her/their PhD and must be signed by the student, the Thesis Mentor, and the MSTP Director, and delivered to the Associate Dean for Medical Students. 

Exiting Thesis Mentors

Should the Thesis Mentor leave UAB, the student has the option of going with the mentor in order to complete the research project.  However, the same time line for completion of the research project is to be maintained.  If there is a significant probability that a faculty member plans to leave UAB within a year, no new MSTP students will be placed in that faculty member’s lab.