Research Group Advisement Manual

Updated 10/03/2019

All Illinois Chemistry faculty are encouraged to create an advisement manual specific for their research group. This manual should be created in collaboration with the students and the postdocs in the group. The manual can be updated regularly as the group sees fit. Once the advisement manuals are created they should be shared with the Associate Director of Graduate Diversity and Program Climate.

1. Introduction

  • General information about the group, such as areas of focus and overarching philosophies towards research.

2. Workplace Expectations

     Responsibilities of the PI

  • Define PIs role in the group.
    • How much attention should students expect to receive from PI?
    • What is the PI’s role in assisting students in finding opportunities for funding, jobs, and conferences?
    • When is the PI available to meet with students?

     Expectations of students

  • Define broad-stroke metrics for productivity here. Are graduate students/postdocs expected to be present during specific hours, or is productivity evaluated purely by results? Is there a weekly/monthly experiment quota that students should meet? What are the skills the PI values most and hopes to develop in students?
    • What expectations does the PI have of students for obtaining external funding?
    • Expectations for postdocs – oftentimes, people are held to different standards of productivity based on experience, TA/RA assignment, etc. If this is the case, outline more specific expectations here
    • Expectations for graduate students (RA)
    • Expectations for graduate students (TA)
    • Expectations for undergraduates/visiting scholars

     Time away from the laboratory

  • Vacation policy:
    • The Department of Chemistry will released a departmental personal time off (PTO) policy in May 2020. This policy can simply be referred to here. If the group has additional policies regarding how to take the vacation days or that are more generous than the departmental policy, those could be described here (e.g., additional number of vacation days, policy for taking those days such as how many days at a time? How much advanced notice? Under what circumstances can time off be denied?)
  • Personal days
    • What is the policy towards time off for illness, mental health, etc.
    • What is the group policy for maternity/paternity leave?
  • Emergency situations
    • What is the lab policy towards emergencies which require an unexpected absence from lab, such as family emergencies?
  • International students
    • Many groups accommodate students who cannot easily visit home, and thus prefer to take less frequent but extended vacation time.
  • Adverse weather
    • Under what conditions is it acceptable to stay home due to hazards associated with traveling to work?

3. Expectations of progress towards degree

     Feedback mechanisms

  • A significant contributor to stress in graduate school is a feeling of not knowing where one stands. By what mechanism(s) can students receive an honest evaluation of their progress towards degree?
  • What types of progress reports are expected (weekly subgroup updates, monthly updates, yearly research presentations, etc.)

     Departmental requirements

  • Literature Seminar:
    • What is expected of a student presenting a literature seminar?
    • How much time is allotted to spend away from research activities working on lit. seminar?
  • Prelim exam:
    • What is expected of a successful student when preparing for their prelim exam? While every situation is unique, it is best to be specific – one common stressor reported by younger graduate students is feeling uncertain of their status when approaching prelim, and feeling that expectations are unclear.
    • How much time, if any, is allotted to spend away from research activities while preparing for prelim.
  • ORP:
    • General expectations
    • Allotted time
  • Graduation:
    • What is the average time to graduation? What constitutes a successful PhD – i.e., at what point should a student feel they are ready to defend their thesis? Again, while situations vary, it is best to set out explicit guidelines
    • What time is allotted to spend away from research activities towards work on a thesis?
    • What format should students follow when preparing their thesis?

4. Lab resources/general policies


  • Group meetings
    • When are group meetings scheduled (start and end times)?
    • What is the format of the group meeting? Research update? Literature presentation?
  • Subgroup meetings
    • When are subgroup meetings (start and end times)?
  • Are students expected to attend seminars? Which seminars?
  • What special meetings (CHEM 5x5 practice, prelim practice, etc.) should a student expect, and what is their format? How are they scheduled?
  • When presenting, is there a group template to be followed?


  • Stockroom budget?
  • How are chemicals ordered?
  • Is there a minimum cost below which reagents can be ordered without approval?

     Data/sample management

  • How are samples/data to be stored to ensure they are accessible and understandable to future generations of students?
  • What, if any, naming conventions are in place for data, lab notebooks, etc.

     Group equipment and responsibilities

  • How are group jobs assigned?

5. Interpersonal relationships

     Expectation of conduct

  • Scientific integrity. Include a statement regarding scientific integrity, for example,
    • Students are expected to uphold the highest level of ethical conduct according to the University of Illinois policies. Unethical conduct such as fabrication of results can seriously jeopardize one’s career, and goes against what we stand for as scientists.
  • Provide a statement regarding workplace harassment and discrimination. For example:
    • All students are expected to maintain an environment free from harassment and discrimination, per the policies set out by the University of Illinois). If you witness or are the target of harassment or discrimination, please consider reporting it to [PI], the Associate Director of Graduate Diversity & Program Climate, department anonymous reporting system or your Title IX coordinator.
    • Behaviors such as unwelcome sexual attention, inappropriate touching or comments, intimidation, and any other actions contributing to a hostile workplace environment are unacceptable.
    • The [PI] group is committed to maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, religion, and other identifiers.
    • As a mandated reporter, the PI is required to report any sexual harassment or abuse he/she becomes aware of to the Title XI coordinator. If reporting to your PI makes you uncomfortable, councilors on campus are available who can maintain anonymity.

     Conflict resolution

  • Authorship
    • What constitutes authorship?
    • At what point will authorship be discussed amongst project contributors?
    • How will the order of authorship be determined?
  • How can interpersonal conflicts between students be mediated when they arise?
  • What avenues are there to address issues that come between a student and PI? Many students feel too intimidated to discuss challenges with their PI, and these issues can ferment unseen for long periods of time.
  • Are there mechanisms in place for younger students to discuss issues that arise with their student mentors?
  • Is there a defined hierarchy in the lab between PI, postdocs, graduate students of different years, and undergraduate researchers?
  • When is it appropriate to send a group email? How can issues with communal equipment be addressed?

6. Lab safety

  • Students are expected to maintain safe laboratory practices at all times, including the use of appropriate PPE when in laboratory spaces. As a PI, it is my responsibility to ensure students maintain safe work practices, and I will enforce this appropriately.
  • Students must receive proper training before any potentially dangerous/hazardous experiments. For more information about safety, refer to the lab safety officers, appropriate safety documents, or the following resources: [list resources]
  • All students/postdocs must complete the SCS Safety Checklist – signed by both student/postdoc and the PI
  • For more information, see: