Prior to joining Howard University, all graduate applicants are expected to contact a prospective mentor(s) based on their research interest. The prospective mentor has to agree to accept the student in his/her laboratory when the student arrives at Howard. If the prospective mentor’s laboratory is full, the graduate admissions committee may recommend the student to join another laboratory based on the student’s interest. Students are encouraged to discuss their research topic with their prospective mentors, and begin developing the necessary background in specific research area. While some of these initial projects may become the thesis or dissertation topic, students are not required to remain with their initial topic or mentor.
The responsibilities of the thesis advisor is to help the students in formulating a viable and interesting research project, train them in right direction, meet with the students regularly, monitor their progress, and encourage the students to publish their work in peer reviewed journals. It is not obligatory for a thesis advisor to provide summer support but all advisors are strongly encouraged to gather external funds so that students are supported during the summer to maintain the continuity of research and training. Advising and mentoring is only a mutual agreement and not a contract. So, in the event a student wants to work with a different advisor during the course of their MS or Ph. D. work, it is within their rights to do so. However, the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chairman of Biology Department must be consulted if such change is necessary. While biology graduate students may work with an external mentor and these mentors may serve on the Ph. D. committee, but they may not serve as the major advisor for a student.