Sample Letter to Graduate Student


As I explained in our earlier conversation, it is my custom to write to all new students in my lab/group in order to set out my expectations. I have found that this prevents any misunderstandings that might otherwise arise. I hope that you will read this carefully, then sign one of the copies and return it to me.

Let me deal with financial matters first.

[details of TAs, RAs, supplements, summer stipends, etc.]

We will agree on an area of research that you will develop under my general supervision. I expect PhD students in particular to develop a good deal of independence, but I will, of course, always be available to help you develop that independence. We will meet informally in the normal course of events, but I expect to be kept informed about the progress of your work. You should expect me to take an interest in your research, to be available for discussions and to read and comment upon drafts of your writing promptly.

While the culmination of your research will be the dissertation, it is also important that you publish the relevant results of your research. This will be done under our joint authorship, [using discipline norms for the order of names].

Publication is important for many reasons, not the least of which is continuing to attract funding to the lab so that other students can be supported. My ability to pay you from the grants, and to support the expenses of your research rests at least partly on the efforts of students who have preceded you. Thus, if there are outstanding papers when you leave the lab, you will have one calendar year to deliver to me a draft manuscript. If, at the end of that time, you have not produced a manuscript, I will produce the paper, but as a senior author.

You will be a co-author of presentations at scientific meetings that feature your work in a prominent way. I hope there will be opportunities for you to present the research, but on many occasions I am invited to summarize the work of our lab at a conference or in a book chapter. Given the number of people involved in the work, I do not usually include as co-authors in such presentations all the people who have contributed, but I always acknowledge the specific contributions of the individuals concerned.

You must keep orderly records of your research data. When you leave UBC, the original records must remain with the lab. You should, however, take copies with you to assist in writing papers and in dealing with any questions that may come up in the future.

If a patentable or commercializable development arises from your work, intellectual property rights will belong to the University of British Columbia under the terms of the Patent and Licensing Policy (UBC Policy 88). If there is a patent or other commercial application that emerges from your work, income is shared equally between the University and the inventors.

When you leave UBC, you must consider the legal implications of any intellectual property developed during your stay at UBC from the points of view of the University and of any industrial partners. Full disclosure of any plans and potential conflicts of interest should be made to me at the earliest opportunity. We will involve the University-Industry Liaison Office in our discussions if needed.

We all share responsibility for the ethical conduct of research.You should familiarize yourself with UBC policies dealing with research, patents and licensing, conflicts of interest and scholarly integrity.

While it is important to have these understandings, I very much look forward to working with you. I hope that our relationship is always one of mutual respect, and that it might grow, as have many other such relationships in the lab, into friendship. My objective is to encourage your intellectual development to the very limit of your capabilities.

Yours sincerely,

I have read the contents of this letter and understand them.

Student's Signature: