Required Courses

Students in each cohort are required to take each of the following GES courses:

The content of each course is described on the GES website. The contents of these combined courses are designed to give all students a substantial background in areas of the humanities and social/natural sciences needed to make informed decisions about issues related to genetic engineering.

Because each course will use publications in the primary research literature, students in a course distant from their primary academic background are likely to face challenges in mastering the material. Students should consult with the IGERT director immediately after acceptance to the program to determine what readings or extra courses would be of help prior to taking specific course. Students in a course that is directly within their area of expertise will serve as mentors to their fellow students.

The assumption of the IGERT program is that having students master material outside of their academic comfort zones will position them to succeed in post-PhD interdisciplinary projects.


The GES Colloquium is a one credit course required by all students for the duration of their IGERT funding. This bimonthly meeting is an opportunity for students and faculty come together to discuss issues related to the greater GES community. These discussions include talks from outside speakers on relevant topics, presentations by GES students and faculty, as well as issues related to the continued health and well-being of the GES community. Visit our Colloquium Archives to view past colloquia!

Group Project

Initially conceived of as a white paper or a website, the goal of the project is to foster a deeper, interdisciplinary understanding of a particular cohort’s focal system. By working together with faculty guidance, each cohort is able to gain not only a better grasp of their topic, but to also become a more cohesive collaborative team.The Cohort Project is to be completed within a cohort’s first two years. The first three semesters are spent meeting on non-Colloquium weeks to discuss topic ideas and formulate a plan for the completion of the project. The second semester of year two is spent executing the proposed plan and thus constructing the project. Due to the greater time commitment required during the fourth semester, the Cohort Project is taken as a formal two credit course.

Visit the 2013 Cohort’s page.

Student to Student Mentoring

Due to the very nature of this intensely interdisciplinary program, it is imperative for members of each cohort to mentor each other as they progress through the program. One of the great strengths of each cohort is the wide array of disciplinary backgrounds of its students. Drawing on the expertise of various cohort members is vital to ensuring each student’s success in the GES Program.

Interacting with Home Departments and Programs

Interacting regularly with your home department/program is very important. Because each student and an advisor who is member of her/his department/program must agree to and sign the IGERT Terms and Conditions ( Download PDF ), it is important that the leadership of each home department/program understands and accepts that commitment.

The IGERT leadership recognizes that departments/programs connected with the IGERT have unique requirements for their PhD students in terms of extent of course requirements, timing of thesis committee formation, thesis format, and other academic culture attributes. While the IGERT leaders have been working to interface with departments/programs, unique issues can emerge. If a student or faculty member sees difficulties arising based on conflict between IGERT and department/program requirements/cultures, the IGERT director should be contacted immediately.

Choosing an Advisor and Thesis Committee

Unless a student has already chosen a permanent thesis advisor upon entering the IGERT program, a temporary advisor will be assigned to make sure that each student has individual faculty advice from the outset of the program that will link department/program requirements and those of the IGERT.

As indicated above, departments/programs differ considerably in the timing of assigning permanent advisors and thesis committee formation.

Each student’s advisory committee will have at least two members from the IGERT program, with at least one being from a college outside the student’s major. This outside member will help assure that the student acquires sufficient cross-disciplinary training, and that the rest of the student’s committee, those not in the IGERT, understand the utility of this broad training. (The requirement for one committee member outside of the student’s college can be waived if one committee member within the college is from a discipline distinct enough to offer the appropriate balance between the natural sciences and humanities and social sciences.)

Students will present a written plan of work of their progress to their advisory committee (or temporary advisor) each year. All advisors will sign off on the progress reports. The Director will read and approve all progress outlines and will discuss any problems with the student’s committee and with the Executive Committee if needed. It will be critical for the Executive Committee to be responsive to input from faculty and students so that we develop and maintain a program with demanding but healthy workloads.

Choosing a Thesis Topic

The IGERT program thesis requirement is for each student to have at least one substantial thesis chapter on the area of the cohort focal system. Beyond that one chapter, the student thesis can range from having all chapters on the cohort focal system or no further chapters on that topic.

Developing a specific topic/project for a thesis chapter takes time and typically involves exploring lots of ideas with faculty and fellow students. It’s important to be thinking about these chapters in your first semester, but to expect that your ideas about a substantial contribution will change as you gain more and more knowledge of the field of genetic engineering and society.

Please make appointments with faculty in the IGERT program for one-on-one discussions of potential thesis chapters.

Funding Beyond Year 2

All incoming IGERT Fellows are granted two years of funding from the program (contingent upon satisfactory academic performance and involvement with the program). Beyond the second year of funding the IGERT program has sufficient resources to offer an extra year of funding to about one half of the students in a cohort.

For our first cohort of students the decision about extra funding was made based on:

  1. Strong contribution to program,
  2. Need for IGERT funding versus alternatives,
  3. Academic and research performance,
  4. Relevance of continuing PhD research to the IGERT program.

The executive committee met in 2013 to reassess these criteria and decided to revise them. Our preliminary new decision criteria are:

  1. Proposed interdisciplinary project after 2nd year of funding ends and any time before graduation,
  2. Prospect for continued involvement with the IGERT focus.

Funding for Meetings and Internships

We have set aside funds for each student to attend one GES-appropriate professional meeting each year. From the second year on the students should be presenting a talk or poster about their work unless that is not appropriate for the meeting. Your PhD department/program may also offer funding for meetings.

We have additionally set aside limited funds for students to do international internships/preliminary research studies relevant to their theses, or for workshops in the US or beyond. Students will need to provide the executive committee with proposals demonstrating the need for these funds.

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