Setting up your "First Committee Meeting" as a Graduate Student in Biomed

No doubt, being in graduate school in and of itself is a daunting task. If you are the type that borders on paranoia, you will forever be looking over your shoulder mentally thinking everyone is out to get you. And if you are the type that's complacent, well, let's just say by the time you realize what time it is, you will be "forced" to graduate. Needless, to say, being a graduate student is an experience best lived or better yet, left alone.

One of the most crucial decision made in graduate school - apart from choosing a mentor/lab -  is choosing a committee member. I wrote some suggested criteria to choosing committee members that you can access here. After choosing committee members, you will want to set up what I call the "first meeting".

1. This first meeting is important in starting you off on the right foot. Some of the members of your committee might not know each other, so having them in the same room is essential in  getting them to know each other.

2. It gives them a chance to know you in depth. There's something about communicating face-to-face that  overrides the communication via phone or internet. There's a lesser chance for miscommunication, and a greater chance to read body language. Introduce yourself even when they all know you. Give a brief bio, i.e where you did your undergraduate studies, your major, extracurricular activities, hobbies and clubs you were part of while in college. If you did undergraduate research or summer programs, it doesn't hurt to mention it. Shows you have a few years experience, including one or two years of grad school.

3. Print a list of classes you have taken and a CV. Yes, you told them about yourself but now they have a paper that can go in their folder designated for you. Yes, they probably have a folder on you. Best to give them these papers as they come in the room (that way they can refer back to it as you talk).

4. Give your mentor/PI the chance to talk. No brainer! Don't hog the communication channel. What your mentor/PI has to say about you is equally important if not more important than what you have to say about yourself.

5. Provide a brief intro into your work/project/thesis research, or whatever. You are the most knowledgeable of YOUR work, let them see that. Be brief, this is not your exam.

6. Provide them with a plan, i.e what are your plans in 3 months, or about a year or two from now? Hopefully, you have thought about this, if not you can always mention that you wish to master a particular technique (short term goal) or you hope that your results (whatever you have so far) will help prove or disprove your hypothesis (long term goal). Whatever you say, DO NOT say "I don't know". Not knowing = BAD. You should have a goal, no matter how small.

7. Finally, feel free to ask them questions as well. It should be a two way channel and it shows you did your homework on them.

Good luck! Graduate school can be daunting in many different ways, hopefully your rapport with your committee won't be one of them. Graduate school is also very rewarding. Remember, the goal is never far, the journey just seems slow.


  1. Where's my last comment in this post??? It's so weird.

    1. Sorry about that. I'm not sure what happened either. o_O


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