The Berkeley Astronomy Advising System

The advising system of the Astronomy Department aims to provide a support network for BADgrads—and faculty (research is a two-way street).

Though the advising system's mission is to address all non-research needs, research-related issues are very much within its purview, including research strategy (e.g., “How should I prioritize my activities?”), relationship with one's Research Adviser (e.g., “What are my Research Adviser's expectations of me, and what are my expectations of my Adviser?”), and job hunting (e.g., “How can I get one?”).

The advising system breaks down as follows:

  • The Mentor is an older graduate student who provides advice to younger graduate students from before they arrive in Berkeley.
  • Each graduate student has an Academic Adviser, a faculty member who provides non-research advice.
  • The Graduate Student Grandmentors are BADgrads who manage the mentoring program for a year. They are currently (Spring 2022) Kishore Patra and Bryan Brzycki.
  • The Head Graduate Adviser is the faculty member (currently Dan Weisz) responsible for overseeing the advising system.
  • It is hoped that your Research Adviser is a valuable source of advice for non-research matters too, but Research Advisers intentionally have no formal responsibilities in this system.
  • The Annual Progress Report is a way for the department to monitor students' progress and ensure that minimal advising interactions occur.

Mentors and Grandmentors

The BAD mentoring system is described on the mentoring page. It's an entirely informal program, with the only departmental support coming in the form of funds for a few meals. We hope that younger BADgrads will find their mentors to be helpful and that most of their “advising activities” occur with their mentors.

Responsibilities. Responsibilities of the mentors and mentees are flexible. Mentors should take an active interest in their mentees' situations and meet with them at least semesterly, and more often if appropriate. Mentors and mentees should both show up to group mentoring activities when possible.

Academic Advisers

Every BADgrad has an Academic Adviser, a faculty member who is not the student's Research Adviser. Academic Advisers are assigned by the HGA at the start of your second year. In your first year, the HGA acts as your academic adviser. The assignment of Academic Adviser is not permanent and can be changed whenever the student so desires. If a particular pairing isn't turning out to be very helpful, there's no reason to continue with it! Seek out the Head Graduate Advisor for a new assignment/with your preference for another adviser.

Responsibilities. (1) Students should meet with their Academic Advisers one-on-one at least once a year, but are encouraged to do so more often. The content of these meetings is entirely open. It can include research progress; classes; job hunting strategy; and science! The Annual Progress Report can serve as a natural launching point for discussion. (2) Academic Advisers should help students meet the formal deadlines for their Prelim and Qualifying Exams. (3) The Academic Adviser may also be called upon to mediate specific problems with their Advisees—including problems in relations between the student and their Research Adviser.

Head Graduate Adviser

The Head Graduate Adviser (HGA) is a faculty member responsible for overseeing the entire advising system. The current HGA is Dan Weisz (as of Spring 2022), and Raffaella Margutti is a second Graduate Advisor who will be taking on the role of HGA for the Fall 2022 semester. The HGA has weekly office hours, or can be contacted via email to set up a meeting.

Responsibilities. (1) The HGA is on-call to dispense of advice to all students. (2) Improving adviser-student relations, and identifying and defusing problem situations, are tasks very much shared between the HGA, the Academic Adviser, the Research Advisers, and the Chair. (3) The HGA solicits feedback and ideas for improving the advising system, and implements changes to the system, in consultation with other faculty as necessary. (4) The HGA maintains the Grad Handbook, which is the official location of all policies/requirements for the program.

Annual Progress Report

BADgrads who have completed their first year are required to submit an Annual Progress Report (APR) every Fall. The Report is reviewed by your Research Advisor and one other advisor, who provide feedback as necessary, and sign off on it. The second advisor is usually your Academic Advisor. The Head Graduate Advisor will email out a cover sheet to complete, and then you will attach another document with your APR. Your response can be as short or long as you'd like, as long as you broadly address the following themes: 1) Research Activities 2) Classes 3) Directions for the coming year 4) Outreach activities 5) Successes/challenges of the past year 6) Plans for prelim/qual/job search.

There is a section on the APR cover sheet that requires that the student's source of funding be explicitly spelled out.

Once filed, all Reports are read by the Head Graduate Advisor.

The purposes of the APR are many:

  • It can serve as a helpful retrospective for students (e.g., “How have I grown and developed as an astronomer? As a teacher?”)
  • It is an opportunity to chart the way forward (e.g., “What should I do next for the coming year? What can I do better?”)
  • It helps to ensure that the student and Research Advisor are on the same page with regard to their progress—and their funding.
  • It helps the faculty identify problems, so that they can begin solving them.
  • It is an opportunity to celebrate accomplishment—either in research or teaching, including outreach. Write down your bibliography!