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Graduate Student Handbook

Department of Plant Biology

Last updated April 2015

Table of Contents

Welcome to the department! 2
I. Getting Started 2
Before you arrive 2
Housing 3
Your arrival on campus 4
Jeffords Hall 4
Health and Health Insurance 5
Graduate Student Fees 5
II. The Graduate Program in Plant Biology 6
Master of Science 6
Master of Science, Field Naturalist Option 7
Doctor of Philosophy 7
Studies Committee 8
Coursework 8
Lab Rotations (Ph.D.) 9
Seminar Program 9
Comprehensive Exams 9
Thesis Defense 9
Assistantships 10
III. Community: UVM and Beyond 11
Bailey-Howe Library 11
Waterman Building 12
Davis Center 12
Computing and Information Technologies (CIT) helpline 13
Gradnet 14
Pringle Herbarium 13
Proctor Maple Research Center 13
UVM Greenhouse 13
Campus Recreation 14
Where to Eat 14
Explore the Surrounding Area 14

Welcome to the Department!

We are delighted that you chose UVM as the place to do your graduate study. In so doing, you have joined an enthusiastic group of students and faculty who share a common fascination with plant biology. We look forward to getting to know you better in the weeks ahead.

This handbook is intended to provide a basic orientation to the department, the Graduate College, and the UVM community, and to take some of the mystery out of the adventure you have embarked on. It does not pretend to be comprehensive. For more information about the Department, please visit our website at www.uvm.edu/~plantbio. More information about the Graduate College, including the online catalogue, can be found at: www.uvm.edu/~gradcoll

I. Getting Started

Before you arrive

You may have some questions over the summer. Here are some people who can help:

Contact Phone # (802) Email/Web Address Location/Building
Porky Reade,
Plant Biology Student Services
656-2930 Lillian.Reade@uvm.edu 111 Jeffords Hall
Sarah Goodrich,
Plant Biology Administrative Support
656-2981 Sarah.Goodrich@uvm.edu 111C Jeffords Hall
Karyn McGovern,
Plant Biology Financial Services
656-0421 Karyn.McGovern@uvm.edu 111B Jeffords Hall
Mary Tierney,
Grad. Program Coordinator
656-0434 Mary.Tierney@uvm.edu 313 Jeffords Hall
Graduate College 656-3160 http://www.uvm.edu/~gradcoll 330 Waterman
Office of International Education 656-4296 http://www.uvm.edu/oie/ Living/Learning B-162
Student Financial Services 656-5700 http://www.uvm.edu/~stdfinsv/ 223 Waterman

Mail and packages may be sent to the Plant Biology Department at the following address. Some of us have found this address especially useful during the transition to Burlington. You will have a mailbox here as a graduate student.

Use this address:
(Your name)
Department of Plant Biology
111 Jeffords Hall
63 Carrigan Drive
University of Vermont
Burlington, VT 05405


Burlington has a very low vacancy rate (less than 1%), but there is a lot of turnover as students move in and out. Plan to spend a week or more finding a place to live. The first question is whether to live in Burlington or outside, and you may find something slightly cheaper in the foothills. If you commute, parking on UVM campus is limited and expensive.

Rents range with the usual levels of quality in housing. There are many, many dumpy houses in Burlington, and quite a few gems too. A careful search is warranted--best not to accept the first place you visit! Here is what you can expect:

One bedroom apartment $750-1000+
Two bedroom apartment $1200-$1600+
Room for rent $450-$700

Listings may be found in the following sources:

Craigslist (most listings here)
Community Classifieds Website
Burlington Free Press
Local Gannet daily newspaper
Seven Days
Free weekly alternative newspaper, distributed Wednesday.
Get at City Market and elsewhere
Bulletin Boards Muddy Waters Coffee Shop on Main St. between Church and Winooski
City Market 82 S. Winooski
UVM Campus Bailey Howe Library (near reserve desk), outside Bailey Howe and in most buildings.
UVM Res Life Apartments & Family Housing
Housing options at UVM appropriate for grad students
Medical school - Student Affairs Office A list for Medical students that is often shared with those in need (656-2150 or ask in Given E215B)
Gradnet Listserv that tends to list lots of housing opportunities. Click here for instructions on signing up.
Your Arrival on Campus

When you arrive, let Porky know you are in town. Here is a list of some things to help get you settled in with the program and life in Burlington.

  1. Local address and phone #: once you have these, give them to Porky for her list.
  2. Keys to your office: Porky has these; bring $10 deposit.
  3. Email: once you have registered for courses, you will be able to set up an email address at the following website: http://www.uvm.edu/account/. You can check mail via the web (http://webmail.uvm.edu).
  4. Office space: typically you will have office space in the lab of your advisor or the lab in which you are doing a rotation or in a shared graduate student office.
  5. Books: texts may be purchased from the UVM Bookstore in the Davis Center. Wait for the first few days of classes to see which books are essential to buy, which can be checked out from the library or found at the library reserve desk, and which can perhaps be borrowed from another student.
  6. Student ID: You can get your student ID card from the CATCard Office in the Davis Center. Your CATCard is used to borrow books from the library, use the UVM gym, and ride the city buses for free. You can also put money on your CATCard at the same office: useful for photocopies in the library, campus eateries, and some Burlington businesses. Your CATCard will also permit entry to the BRIC (computer and printing room) as well as Jeffords Hall after hours. Sarah can help set up your building access for you.
  7. Parking permit (restricted to students living more than one-half mile from campus): available from Transportation and Parking Services, located at the Ira Allen School on Fletcher Place. A grad student parking permit is currently $115 for the academic year. A parking permit is not required on weekends, holidays, and after 3:30pm daily.
Jeffords Hall

We will try to give a short tour of our academic home, Jeffords Hall, during the grad student orientation meeting, but for your reference, here is some useful information about working and living in Jeffords.

Plant Biology Office

Ask Porky for an orientation when you arrive.

  1. Copier/Scanner: The copier is located in the Plant Biology Office. Porky will provide you with a code for program-related copying. For personal copies check with Porky. You can scan to your email address for free.
  2. Fax: See Porky or Sarah for instructions on sending a fax.
  3. Mail: There is a box for outgoing mail in the office. Intracampus mail can go in the special mailers (ask Porky). Stamped mail goes out each morning. Business mail can be posted by Porky. Next day UPS goes out daily. Note: If you have an urgent package (such as a fellowship application), mail it yourself so that only you are responsible if it does not get out on time. Each of us has a mailbox in this office.
  4. Letterhead and envelopes: Available in the Plant Biology office for program business.
BRIC (Botany Research Imaging Center) Room

A Macintosh computer located in Room 239 is available to all department members and is equipped with imaging software, a scanner, a slide scanner, and two laser printers: a duplex black and white for ordinary printing and a high quality duplex color printer for special applications. The BRIC is accessible by card swipe access, which Sarah can help set up for you.

Health and Health Insurance

The student health center, located at 425 Pearl Street, usually has appointments on short notice.

Another great benefit is free counseling. Working in a small group of intense individuals can be tough and everyone has reasons to talk. Call the Counseling Center (802-656-3340) to make an appointment.

All new students need to file a personal health and immunization record with the Center for Health and Wellbeing Student Health/Medical Clinic at 425 Pearl Street. You must have current MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) shots. You should be sent a form to fill out.

Through an arrangement with a commercial insurance company, students are able to procure health insurance that provides coverage for services beyond those offered by the Student Health Center.

Graduate Student Fees

Comprehensive Fee - Students pay a Comprehensive Fee each semester according to the following schedule: 1 credit, $10; 2 credits, $20; 3 credits, $30; 4 credits, $40; 5 credits, $373; 6 credits, $417; 7 credits, $470; 8 credits, $521; 9 or more credits, $892

Graduate Student Senate Fee - Students pay $7-$10 for the Graduate Student Senate.

Student Health Center Fee - Students enrolled in 5 to 8.5 credits who purchase UVM insurance will be charged the $311.00 per semester Student Health Center fee. For students enrolled in 9+ credits, the health center fee is included in the comprehensive fee.

Student Health Insurance - Students who are not otherwise covered under a health policy are required to purchase health insurance through the university. All international students, regardless of other coverage, are required to purchase health insurance through UVM. There is an additional charge for this extended coverage beyond the student health fee. The 2014-2015 cost for one year's coverage for single students is $2,590. Married students may obtain coverage for their spouse and children at additional cost. Further details are available from the Student Health Center. To participate in this insurance, the student health fee must be paid each semester in addition to the annual insurance premium. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences pays 75% of the cost of UVM health insurance for all full-time graduate students, with a smaller percentage paid for part-time students.

Continuous Registration Fee - When a graduate student has completed most or all of the credits required in the degree program but has not completed all degree requirements (e.g. thesis defense), the comprehensive fee is no longer required. Instead, they must register for GRAD 901, 902, or 903 and pay a continuous registration fee of $100-$300 per semester.

Reactivation Fee - Reactivation following withdrawal or deactivation requires payment of a $40 reactivation fee.

Advanced Degree Fee - The fee charged to each advanced degree recipient is as follows:

This fee may be paid at any time but must be paid prior to the deadline established for submission of doctoral dissertations or master's theses for each of the three graduation periods.

It is the responsibility of the degree candidate to pay the appropriate advanced degree fee at the Graduate College Office, 330 Waterman, in order to have a degree awarded.

II. The Graduate Program in Plant Biology

Overview of the Department and its Programs

The Department of Plant Biology has a strong and diversified research presence, with programs in two areas basic to plant science: 1) ecology, evolution, and systematics, and 2) biochemistry and cell, molecular, and developmental biology. Information on specific faculty research programs may be found on the department's web page: www.uvm.edu/~plantbio

The Department offers three graduate degree programs:

Master of Science

Requirements for Admission:

Minimum Degree Requirements:
All students must successfully complete a total of 30 credits, including a minimum of 15 credits of program-related course work and 9 credits of thesis research. Satisfactory completion of the written and oral components of a comprehensive examination are required. A student’s M.S. degree is culminated by satisfactory completion of a thesis, a public seminar, and a private defense with their studies committee.

Master of Science, Field Naturalist Option

Program Description:
The Field Naturalist Program is a multidisciplinary non-thesis program leading to the degree of Master of Science, Field Naturalist Option. The program is designed to provide students with (1) a solid grounding in field-related sciences; (2) the ability to integrate scientific disciplines into a coherent whole at the landscape level; (3) the ability to evaluate sites from a number of perspectives and/or criteria; (4) the ability to translate scientific insights into ecologically sound decisions; and (5) the ability to communicate effectively to a wide range of audiences. Additional information can be found on the program's web page: www.uvm.edu/~fntrlst

Requirements for Admission:

A subject (advanced) test in biology or geology is advised for students who lack substantive coursework in natural sciences. Recent college graduates are encouraged to pursue interests outside academe before application to the Field Naturalist Program.

Minimum Degree Requirements:
All students must successfully complete a total of 30 credit hours that includes enrollment in the Field Naturalist Practicum (PBIO 311) and Professional Writing (PBIO 333) each semester and at least two courses in each of three core areas: (1) life science (2) earth science, and (3) ecology (course selection to be determined by the student's studies committee). In addition, satisfactory completion of an oral comprehensive examination is required. A Field Naturalist student’s degree culminates in satisfactory completion of a field project for a sponsoring organization that includes a professional report, a focused literature review, a written academic reflection, an oral presentation, and a journal publication or article in the popular mass media.

Doctor of Philosophy

Requirements for Admission:

Minimum Degree Requirements:
All students must successfully complete a total of 75 credits, including a minimum of 30 credits of program-related course work and 20 credits of dissertation research. First-year students participate in at least two rotations in research laboratories before committing to one laboratory for completion of dissertation research. Satisfactory completion of the written and oral components of a comprehensive examination are required for advancement to candidacy. A student’s Ph.D. degree is culminated by satisfactory completion of a dissertation, a public seminar, and a private defense with their studies committee. In addition to research, all students must participate in a minimum of two courses of supervised teaching.

Requirements for Advancement to Candidacy:
Satisfactory completion of the written and oral components of a comprehensive examination are required for advancement to candidacy.

Studies Committee

Role. The studies committee advises the student's program of study and design of the thesis research. They may also administer the comprehensive examination or a separate committee may be formed to administer the comprehensive exam.

Constitution. The studies committee consists of at least three faculty members for a master’s degree and at least four faculty members for a PhD. All studies committee members must be Graduate College faculty, and the Chair of the committee may not have an appointment within the degree-granting program.

Committee Meetings. The student is advised to convene a meeting of the studies committee soon after a research topic has been selected, and at least annually after that.


Registering for courses. Do not register for the fall semester until you have spoken with your advisor. Course registration is done electronically, via the registrar's website (www.uvm.edu/~rgweb) or myUVM (https://myuvm.uvm.edu), where you can add and drop classes, check your grades, and access an online course schedule.

Course credits. Be sure to read the Graduate College's Enrollment Policies and Procedures. This section will tell you what you need to do each semester in order to be considered a fulltime student. In short, you must be enrolled for 9 credit hours (of courses and/or research) during each of the fall and spring semesters to receive the benefits of a fulltime graduate student. Fulltime students who are working during the summer may enroll for up to 5 credits of research during the summer semester. Students who have finished the credits required for their degree (75 for PhD and 30 for MS) but are still working fulltime on their thesis research should enroll in GRAD 903 during the fall and spring semesters to maintain fulltime student status.

Making a 100-level course a 200-level. A graduate student can take only one 100-level course for graduate credit. Many instructors allow their 100-level courses to be changed to 200-level courses through extra work of graduate student quality. If you want to bump a course up to graduate level, see the instructor before signing up for the course and negotiate the graduate level work. It is important not to register for the course until the instructor has assigned it a graduate-level course number.

Lab Rotations, Ph.D. candidates

During the first year, Ph.D. students will do research rotations in the labs of at least two faculty members. Students should contact faculty about potential rotations in the first week or two of the fall semester. Rotations are an opportunity to try out different disciplines and to work with different faculty members. Rotations should be completed by the end of the spring semester. At that time, students will initiate thesis research in the lab of their thesis advisor.

Seminar Program

Participation in the Plant Biology department's seminar program is expected of all graduate students. This includes both regular attendance at seminar and presentation of one seminar per year. (Two graduate seminars are customarily scheduled in a seminar slot; thus each student's seminar will be about 20 minutes long.)

Comprehensive Exams

Comprehensive exams include both a written and an oral component. The exams are customarily topical, related to the student's area of specialization. Master's students typically complete their comprehensive exams by the end of the third semester in residence, and Ph.D. students are encouraged to complete their comprehensive exams by the end of the second year.

Thesis Defense

The culmination of the research performed by masters and PhD candidates is the thesis defense. This defense includes both a seminar-style public component and a closed examination with the studies committee.


Ph.D. students in the Plant Biology Department are funded at the rate of $24,000 per year. Plant Biology Master's students are funded at $20,870 per year.

You will receive your assistantship in the form of a check, which appears in your mailbox on the 15th and the 30th of the month (or the nearest weekday beforehand). Direct deposit of your paycheck is very convenient and highly recommended. You can set this up by visiting the payroll office (ground floor Waterman Building) and filling out a form. It takes 2-3 weeks for direct deposit to kick in.

Graduate Teaching Fellowship. Many graduate students in Plant Biology are supported on a Graduate Teaching Fellowship (GTF). GTFs provide instruction in the laboratory sections of courses taught by department faculty. Typically, beginning graduate students are assigned to the introductory biology courses (Bio 1 and BCOR 011 [fall] and Bio 2 and BCOR 012 [spring]). Prior to the beginning of each semester, you will receive a letter informing you of your teaching assignment. We try to match graduate student teaching interests with the needs of the Department. Tuition for 9 credits of graduate coursework per semester is covered for students serving as GTFs.

Typically, a GTF assignment is for no more than 20 hours of work per week, and includes teaching two lab sections, grading papers, and so on. It is a serious commitment. Most professors express a great deal of respect and admiration for the skills that grad students bring to their teaching assignments. Grad Teaching Fellows often work together to design labs and bounce ideas off each other, striving for quality and creativity. GTFs are encouraged to seek training and feedback on their teaching skills from faculty members. UVM’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) offers regular workshops on pedagogical approaches, which students are encouraged to attend. Graduate students also receive feedback directly from their students through the use of student evaluation forms at the end of each semester.

III. Community: UVM and beyond

Bailey-Howe Library

The library has tremendous resources that you all should explore right away. Library staff often offer library orientations for new graduate students. Inquire at the reference desk. Library hours, the online catalog, and much more can be found at http://library.uvm.edu/

Inter-Library Loan. If you can't find a book or article you need in the library, you can put in an on-line inter-library loan request. This is easy and very useful. If you request an article, they will either send you a photocopy that you can pick up at the Bailey/Howe circulation desk, or they will send you an electronic copy of the article-pretty convenient!

Periodicals/Journals. On the second floor, unbound newest issues to the north side, old ones bound in the stacks. Be aware that graduate students can check out periodicals, new issues for two hours, and bound issues for two weeks. You need to fill out circulation cards at the periodical desk to do this. This is very convenient if you want to photocopy an article elsewhere instead of using the somewhat pricey library copiers.

Reserve Desk. On the first floor is the reserve desk where you can check out course materials for short-term in-library use. When you’re teaching a course, you can place books and supplementary readings on reserve for your students.

Media Services. Located in the basement, this department has a wide range of AV equipment for loan, a photo stand for making slides of art and photos, audio and video rooms, and a couple of powerful Dell computers with full graphics and digital editing software and scanning hardware. You can check out digital cameras and video cameras here (very nice!). With your UVM ID you can sign out any equipment you need. You can also check out DVDs and videos for free!

Map Room. Here you can find ortho-photos, topos, soil surveys, a GIS station and much more. Bill is extremely helpful and has lots of local knowledge (plan extra time for any visit). The Map Room is on the bottom floor of Bailey Howe across from Government Documents.

Special Collections. Located in the basement, this room houses archival materials (including a great collection of Vermontiana) and rare books. Materials from here cannot be checked out, but with the permission of the attendant on duty you can take them to a photocopier (you'll have to leave an I.D.). The Special Collections room has limited hours.

Copiers and Scanners. On the first floor near the reserve desk are copy machines, which can be operated with coins or your CATCard. One of the copiers is equipped with the capability to scan and email copies to yourself. While making hard copies costs money, scanning is free.

Library Research Annex. Located across East Ave. from the entrance to the main UVM parking lot. The Annex is in the cluster of buildings on the way to Centennial Woods. Here you'll find the complete collection of UVM Master's Theses and Doctoral Dissertations, older journals, and the University archives. Although you can't take materials out of the building, there is a photocopier and some places to work.

Waterman Building

Waterman is the administrative center of the campus. Often you can do a number of errands in one trip through its avenue-like hallways. Offices you may have occasion to visit include the Registrar, Student Financial Services, Graduate College, Accounting, Cashier, and Payroll.

Davis Center

Davis is UVM's impressive student center, home to the UVM Book Store, the Computer Depot, CAT Pause (a convenience store), the student government offices, and several eateries. The Computer Depot, located within the book store, is UVM's authorized reseller and service provider of Apple, Dell, and Gateway computers. It is also home to the Computing and Information Technologies (CIT) help desk. More information can be found on the Davis website: http://www.uvm.edu/~davis/

Computing and Information Technologies (CIT) helpline

The CIT helpline is a great resource for any kind of computer-related questions. You can ask them about problems with your own personal computer, or with anything related to the campus computers and network. Call them up at 656-2604, email them at helpline@uvm.edu, get help online at www.uvm.edu/it/help, or visit them at the Computer Depot in the book store in the Davis Center.


Gradnet is a listserv for graduate students across campus. Signing up will keep you in touch with the grad community and will let you know about everything from available apartments and rooms to yard sales and social events to thesis defense deadlines. To join the list, send email to LISTSERV at: listserv@list.uvm.edu. In the body of the message, place the following subscribe command: subscribe gradnet First Last. Replace the words "First Last" with your name. Here is an example: subscribe gradnet Joe Smith. The welcoming message you receive from the listserv will tell you how to unsubscribe if you decide to do so in the future.

Pringle Herbarium (www.uvm.edu/~plantbio/pringle)

This is the third largest herbarium in New England. Here you can find plant specimens (300,000) from Vermont and other parts of the world dating back almost 200 years. It has an excellent library of botanical references. The Pringle Library is not catalogued on the Bailey-Howe system, so you will need to visit to learn what they have. It is located in Torrey Hall, between the Billings and Perkins Buildings. For more information, see Dave Barrington, Director of the Pringle.

Proctor Maple Research Center (www.uvm.edu/~pmrc)

The Proctor Maple Research Center (PMRC), located on the lower slopes of Mount Mansfield, is a Field Research Station of the Department of Plant Biology. The Proctor Center was established in 1946 in Underhill Center, Vermont. Research there has centered on the sugar maple tree (Acer saccharum Marsh) and its products--sap and syrup. Much of the research contributed by the Proctor has provided new and/or improved techniques for efficient sap collection and evaporation systems and for improvement of maple syrup quality. In addition, research there has contributed to an improved understanding of the physiology and continued health of sugar maple trees. It is a great place to see sugaring in the late winter, and the Proctor folks host a wonderful sugar-on-snow party for the department every spring. Tim Perkins (Director of the Proctor) or Abby van den Berg can provide more information.

UVM Greenhouse (www.uvm.edu/~grnhouse)

The UVM greenhouse (connected to Jeffords Hall) is a state-of-the-art facility for research. It contains a permanent collection of plant specimens as well as bench space for teaching and research purposes. It is also a great place to visit, especially in the dead of winter! For questions about greenhouse use, contact Colleen Armstrong, Greenhouse Director.

Campus Recreation (www.uvm.edu/~recspts)
For a fee of $65/semester, you can take all of the athletic classes you want, including yoga and kickboxing. Another treat is free ice skating on the hockey rink during scheduled lunchtime open skate hours. You can check out their website for all the activities that are available.
Where to Eat

The on-campus eateries most convenient to Jeffords Hall are in the Davis Center:

Check this website for more eateries on campus: http://uds.uvm.edu/

The cafeteria in the hospital, adjacent to UVM campus, sells good food for very reasonable prices.

For a quick snack, there are vending machines on the first floor of Jeffords.

Explore the Surrounding Area

Burlington and Vermont are tourist destinations, so there’s plenty to see and do. Here are some websites with good recommendations:




Part of the information in this handbook was taken from the Field Naturalist Program's "Field Guide to the FN Program." We thank them for permission to use their material. Other parts were taken from the UVM Graduate College's website, http://www.uvm.edu/~gradcoll, which is well worth visiting.

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