Research Support Plan (RSP)

This document summarizes the intervention steps by the graduate group in the event that the student is deemed to be not making sufficient research progress either during the annual review or at any time during the academic year. The RSP is not meant to address the lack of progress in other academic milestones (e.g. qualifiers, WPE-1, and WPE-2) where there are existing mechanisms in place.


The RSP should be put in place as a final resort after previously documented communication between the adviser and the Ph.D. student have not been successful in improving the student’s research productivity. Advisers are expected to identify and intervene as early as possible to help students that are not making research progress. Students will be given at least a full semester to meet the agreed upon research progress.  The recommended time to initiate the RSP is either close to the end of one semester or the beginning of the next. Advisers are expected to support students that make it to their terminal year until completion of their degree and the RSP cannot be implemented during that year.


Each student identified to start the RSP will receive a notification email from the graduate group chair, with the academic adviser(s) copied.  The student will arrange a meeting with the graduate group chair to understand the RSP process. Each student on RSP will be asked to put together a semester-long research plan in consultation with their adviser(s), graduate group chair, and one additional faculty member (“Support Faculty”) chosen by the graduate group chair and student as the support committee.  The research plan must include tangible milestones to be achieved by the end of the semester. However, due to the uncertainty inherent in the research process, it is understood that these milestones will serve as an initial plan of action – the expected scope may evolve during the semester as the research progresses. In some cases, the research plan may include a switch of advisers. The academic plan will be signed by the student, adviser, and graduate group chair (email electronic signature works), and an electronic copy is sent to the graduate student affairs office.


The school will preserve all privacy for the student under RSP, limiting any RSP related information to the Associate Dean of Graduate Programs, academic staff at the graduate student affairs office, the department chair, graduate group chair and graduate coordinator of the student’s graduate group, and the student’s support committee.


The student is expected to communicate with the support committee regularly as stipulated by the committee. In addition, the Ph.D. adviser and the Support Faculty are expected to make themselves available to meet with the student on a regular (preferably weekly) basis to discuss research progress, and adhere to the SEAS advising values.


After the first semester, the student will be reevaluated by their support committee (adviser(s), graduate group chair, and additional faculty member). Outcome of this evaluation can include

  1. Getting out of RSP if milestones are sufficiently met or comparable progress has been made,
  2. Extension of RSP by one more semester if milestones are partially met, or
  3. Termination of Ph.D. studies with immediate effect if sufficient progress has not been made and the majority of the milestones are not met.


The student may be terminated before the completion of the RSP period if the support committee deems that the student is not working towards the milestones. For example, the student did not come to the research lab, participate in research activities, or attend any agreed upon meetings with the advisor.


The maximum consecutive RSP period is two semesters, after which a student will be terminated. The school can grant the terminating student a master’s degree if the student has fulfilled the requirements to obtain one.


While a student is on RSP, the student’s current adviser must continue to fund the student. In the event that the adviser has funding difficulties, they may seek the school’s assistance (subjected to approval by the Department Chair, Vice Dean of Finance and Administration, and Associate Dean of Graduate Programs).