The department will make every effort to couple admission to the M.S.
program with the awarding of a Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA). These
teaching assignments (TA) are highly competitive and students desiring a GTA
must apply every year in order to be considered. Students that are making satisfactory
progress towards one’s degree (e.g., timely organization of thesis committee,
proposal defense, departmental service, etc.), in good standing, and performing
well in teaching and departmental duties will be most likely to be awarded a
GTA for a second year. A third year may be awarded on a semester-by-semester
basis, following procedures outlined elsewhere.
As a GTA, you will be leading laboratory sections in one of our introductory
courses (typically General Biology I, II and Principles of Biology, but
sometimes other classes). This is a great chance for you to begin learning how
to present information, administer quizzes, and manage students and a host of
other issues which will undoubtedly help you in your future careers. Prior to
the start of the semester there will be a graduate student orientation in which
more details will be presented. In addition, the Lead Professor for the course
will observe all GTAs at least once per semester and evaluate them via the
departmental rubric (available on-line for your perusal). The Professor will
give you advanced warning prior to the event. While this will undoubtedly cause
some level of consternation and trepidation, fear not about such endeavors.
While no one ever likes to be actively observed (hence the blinds that National
Geographic personnel employ), this is one of the best tools available to
understand those things that we are doing well, and try to improve on the rest.
To paraphrase Socrates: the unexamined life is not worth living.
Further, all GTAs will also distribute in-class evaluations for the students
to fill out. GTAs should arrange for one of their peers to assist in this
endeavor, as the class instructor should not be in the room during the actual
At the end of the semester, the Graduate Coordinator (GC) will meet with all
GTAs in order to evaluate their progress. The GC will have access to the end of
semester and in-class evaluations, but this merely provides information on the
teaching component. Thus, all GTAs will also be asked to bring a copy of their
CVs (to be addressed at the orientations) and activities that semester. These
activities include, but are not limited to, publications, meetings (both
attended and presented), grants (successful or not), research productivity
(mayhap augmented by a letter from their major professor), awards, etc. This
body of information will be compiled for a brief semester evaluation, with a
more in-depth report on a yearly basis.
4.1 GTA Commitments
Per everyone’s contract, GTAs are committed to 15 hours of departmental
service per week, in exchange for the vast fortunes heaped upon them. The
weekly commitment is generally broken down as the following:
Task (per week)
Time (hours per week)
2nd Laboratory time
* This is an estimate. Most weeks there will be no proctoring duties, while
others may have 1-4 tests, so please sign up early for times and plan
Class meetings and laboratory prep meetings are mandatory for all GTAs. On rare occasions, however, a student may have a conflict due to a conference, medical emergency, or extreme situation involving their research. Under these situations a GTA can potentially get an "excused absence" from class or laboratory prep. If faced with an emergency situation, the student should contact both lab coordinator and grad. coordinator as far in advance as possible. It is up to the lab coordinator and the graduate program director to determine if the conflict can be considered an excused absence. If a student is potentially missing a meeting of the laboratory class they have been assigned they are responsible for finding another GTA that is willing to cover their class on the proposed date. Missing any mandatory meetings that have not been excused can be grounds for losing a GTA.
4.2 GTA Office Hours
GTAs are expected to conduct regular office hours during the
semester. Typically, this entails one hour per lab, and thus two hours per week
are typical. Your locations during these times should be clearly stated on your
4.3 GTA Prep Work
To run the labs in the department takes a tremendous amount
of coordination and effort on everyone’s part. Thus, a crucial component of GTA
responsibilities comes in the form of prep work for the upcoming week’s labs.
All GTAs will be responsible for 3 - 4 hours of work, as designated by the
respective lab coordinator. Please note that this is a rather flexible
commitment, as some weeks may take significantly less (e.g., during lab exams)
or slightly more (e.g., enzyme labs). However, if you have something which
precludes your attention that week (perhaps a big test, proposal defense, field
sampling, etc.), please let the lab coordinator know so that an alternative
commitment can be easily arranged.
4.4 GTA Proctoring
Many of the courses necessitating GTAs are rather large.
Thus, all GTAs are responsible for helping to proctor exams (handing out tests,
watching for any potential cheating, collecting and alphabetizing tests, etc.).
The lab manager will collect the times and dates of large lecture classes, and
post a list in the office. All GTAs are responsible for assisting with four tests
4.5 GTA Progress towards Degree
All GTAs will meet with the graduate coordinator at the end
of the semester to discuss academic standing and progress toward degree;
examinations of course work (completed and remaining), thesis development and
any general issues regarding progress toward degree.
4.6 GTA Support
A full-time (9 credit hours per semester) graduate student who is making
satisfactory progress and maintaining acceptable student evaluations will be
guaranteed support for four consecutive (fall and spring) semesters.
Maximum support as a Graduate Teachings Assistant (GTA) is for six
consecutive (fall and spring) semesters.
5th and 6th semester support requires:
of justification by student seeking continued support.
and recommendation from student’s graduate committee.
4.7 GTA Semester End Assessments and Evaluations for Continued Funding
At the semester’s end, every student awarded a GTA will have a meeting with
the graduate coordinator to ensure excellence in graduate student scholarship,
teaching and service and provide a mechanism for determining suitable progress
for continued GTA support. This meeting will draw upon the following forms to
clearly delineate GTA progress. The forms follow:
GTA Progress Evaluation
This form will be completed by the graduate coordinator. It will draw upon
the previous two documents, but also include a section on departmental
citizenship, progress towards degree and academic performance. The following
queries will be addressed:
Is the student making satisfactory progress
towards the completion of their degree, as outlined in the graduate student
- Is the student making satisfactory progress
Is the student an active, participating
departmental member? This question relates to the following activities:
at departmental functions (e.g., Thursday seminars)
for scheduled visiting scholars (e.g., lunches with invited speakers, job
in departmental activities (e.g., helping faculty members with meetings,
biology club, general participation in departmental functions
responses to departmental requests/concerns
This file will be integral in deciding whether a graduate students is
fulfilling their contract and whether GTA funding is appropriate after the
typical 2 years. Further it will provide a mechanism for ensuring student
compliance with rules and regulations requisite for continued funding. The
graduate coordinator will construct a comprehensive document compiling all
observations and assessments relating to these issues; this and all documents
will be organized into a file and forwarded to the student, their mentor and
the departmental chair. A typical file will have the following components:
Summary of teaching letter
Summary of service letter
Scholastic, progress toward degree and
- Recommendation to continue funding or not
GTA Service Evaluation
This form will be completed by the laboratory coordinator to which the GTA
has been assigned (e.g. GBIO I, A&P I, Principles of Biology, etc.); the
following queries will be addressed:
Did the GTA make all scheduled lab prep
Did the GTA carry out all prep duties?
Was the GTA available for office hours?
Did the GTA clean up after their labs?
Did the GTA fulfill all teaching
Any additional comments or observations?
GTA Teaching Evaluation
This will be a previously generated form that the lecture professor will
utilize when they observe the graduate students at least once per semester. In
addition, remarks pertaining to the promptness of grade submission will be
included as comments.