Skip to main content

Dissertation Committee

Once you have joined a lab, it is time to assemble your dissertation committee. The goal of the Dissertation Committee is to provide you help, support and expertise throughout your PhD. They will mentor and guide you in proposing, writing and defending your thesis.

Committee Formation

When choosing a committee, consider choosing people who will enhance your project as well as people who will invest in your personal and professional developmentConsult with your advisor first for feedback and advice. You do not have to meet all the criteria below but these are some qualities to consider as you form your committee:

For scientific input, consider including:

  • An expert in your field specifically
  • An expert in your field more broadly
  • Someone up to date and interested in cutting edge methods and technology
  • Someone whose lab has some kind of expertise that will benefit your project.

For your personal and professional development, consider including:

  • Someone you rotated with or have interacted with in the past that you seemed to have a personal interest in you and could be your advocate / ally if or when needed
  • Someone you feel comfortable talking to outside of committee meetings
  • Someone who is available for meetings (versus someone who is always traveling or spread too thinly with administrative responsibilities)
  • Someone who has a good track record of working with students
  • At least some members familiar with program guidelines and requirements to help keep you on track

Once you have spoken with your advisor and considered the above, please note the program does require you to meet these criteria:

  • 5 members total, including your advisor
  • Include 3 faculty members of the M&I Graduate program
  • Include at least 1 member who is from outside of the M&I Division but a faculty member at the University of Utah. This can include ad hoc faculty members of the Department of Pathology.
  • No more than 1 Research Track Assistant Professor, if applicable
  • At least 4 members must be present to hold a meeting


After receiving all appropriate signatures students must turn in the M&I Graduate Program Request for Supervisory Committee form to the Program Administrator, Kim Springer to formalize their committee selection.

Committee meetings & Individual Development Plan (IDP)

Committee meetings are held at least once per calendar year, including the final year of graduate study. You must have at least 3 committee meetings prior to the dissertation defense. However, the committee may recommend more frequent meetings as needed to more closely monitor a student’s progress. In order to monitor a timely progression towards completion of the PhD degree; fifth year and beyond all students will have a minimum of two meetings per year.

Together with your advisor you will develop an Individual Development Plan (IDP).  This plan outlines your immediate and long-term goals to help you structure your PhD and ensure a timely progression of your PhD.

At the start of every thesis committee meeting you will include slides outlining the most important part of you IDP in your presentation to help the Dissertation Committee members to ensure that your research timeline is on track. Templates for these slides can be found here (link).

At the end of each committee meeting you should complete the M&I Graduate program Commmitee Meeting form and obtain signatures from all your committee members.

Your mentors will complete the Meeting Summary Letter. Both of these forms should be submitted to the Program Administrator within 1 week following a committee meeting.