The JDP is a very demanding, but equally rewarding, program for both students and mentors. Students enter the JDP to become scientist-clinicians, and a key component in their training is their four to five years of intensive research experiences in the labs of their mentors.  Mentors provide essential financial support, as well as guidance and supervision leading to increasing roles for the students in a successful research program.  Financial support for students primarily comes from their mentors’ research grants, and the student is expected to perform lab duties required by the funded research project(s).  In addition to performing the more standardized lab activities typical of a research assistant, however, students are expected to evolve with mentor support into what are essentially junior colleagues on their way to becoming independent investigators.  The first major step in the latter process is the student’s Second Year Project (similar to a masters thesis to be completed during the second year) and the final is the dissertation.  Usually there are multiple additional studies leading to joint meeting presentations and publications.

Again, all of this takes a huge, multi-year commitment from both mentors and students.  As important as the lab experience is, the research activities need to be coordinated with other essential and demanding components of the JDP—especially, intensive coursework during the first two years and substantial clinical activities after the first year.  In order to succeed in all components of the JDP, students and mentors need to have close, ongoing communication as to schedules and requirements within and outside of the lab. In general, students and mentors should meet at least once a week throughout the time students are in the program.  This document is intended to outline basic expectations of the JDP for mentors and their students.    

 

Stipend/Support

Steering has set the minimum stipend level as $18,000/ year.  This should be paid in such a way that students can rely on receiving the same amount each pay period (e.g., paid as $1,500/month). Students cannot receive one small amount one month and a large amount the next month; students need to be able to budget and plan. Students and their mentors should discuss the level of stipend support each year and how it will be distributed. For incoming first year students, this discussion will be part of the admissions offer package, typically concluded by mid-April.  Incoming students often erroneously expect that their support will start fairly soon after they get here (i.e., that they will get their first check around September 1 after the August start of Fall semester), and many of them may have planned their finances with that expectation. It is rare that new students will get their first check as early as September 1, and so students need to be told specifically when to expect that first stipend check.  If the first check is delayed beyond this for any reason, the faculty mentor needs to provide that information to the incoming student and let him/her know when to expect the first check.  For each incoming student, this should be discussed before August 1 so students can plan.

For those students already matriculated in the program, discussion of the following year’s stipend should occur on or before the end of April.  We are required to provide stipend information to both graduate offices before the end of the SDSU academic year, and we need final dollar amounts to do that. Kristin Deveraux at UCSD and Lynsey Miller at SDSU will begin requesting these data in April, and we need these data to be as accurate as possible.  Our expectation is that faculty will discuss the next academic year stipend amount with each student before this information is given to Kristin (Kris) or Lynsey.

Faculty should only solicit a student if they anticipate having at least two or three years’ of support for that student at the time the student matriculates. A faculty member cannot ask to seek a new student if they have been or are unable to support any current student (unless the current student is going on internship).  Should faculty begin to have funding problems and should it begin to look as if the faculty member is going to have a problem supporting a student, the faculty member should immediately notify the program co-directors (Bob Heaton and/or Vanessa Malcarne) to discuss options.  The faculty should not require that the student find his/her own funding. In other words, the faculty mentor is responsible for making sure the student is funded. Students may elect to apply for their own funding if they desire and if it is consistent with their career goals; however students should not be “made” to apply for funding because a faculty mentor is running out of support funding and has told the student he/she must find his/her own. There are other options available to students, including teaching, that could be used to support students beyond the third year.  Again this would need to be discussed with the co-Directors.

 

Semester/Quarter Scheduling

Because SDSU is on a semester system and UC San Diego is on a quarter system, there may be confusion about term beginning and ending dates. Do not assume that when classes are out at one university they are out at the other.  During Winter break, for example, the times off are quite different for the two schools. We have modified the start of spring semester at SDSU to provide more time for students who are taking Mind Brain and Behavior-I during the middle of the semester. That means that winter break ends much earlier than it would for other SDSU students.  It is both the student’s and the faculty member’s responsibility to know when each semester starts and ends at each university (and if this is different for different classes in the program). We will provide this information clearly on the JDP website (and update it as needed), but you should check it often during the academic year.

Note that neither SDSU nor UC San Diego tolerates unexcused absences from graduate classes. Students should not schedule vacations or other time away from campus in a way that causes them to miss graduate classes. That means that students must be aware of the schedules of each university.

 

Vacations

In general students should get about four weeks’ (20 days) vacation a year, contingent on Human Resources policy for the institution administering the funding.  Time off between semesters/quarters during winter break and before and after summer count toward these four weeks, as does time off during “spring break.” However, time away at professional meetings, particularly meetings where the student is presenting, does not count as vacation time during the meeting (although any time off beyond the meeting dates would count). Obviously there are differences and/or allowances that from time to time must be made regarding time off, based on student and lab needs. However, students can expect 20 days off a year. Time when the student is interviewing for internship, for example, may require special negotiation.

In all instances we expect that students will meet with their mentor well in advance and discuss not only when the best time to take vacation might be, but also how much vacation should be taken at a time.  This should be done on at least an annual basis.

 

Health Services/Insurance

Student Health Services

Students are eligible for health services at SDSU with a valid ID Card.  Student Health Services on the SDSU campus provide medical services for any health problems listed on their Web site.  SDSU same day appointments:  619-594-5058, other appointments:  619-594-4736/4737 and the main switchboard:  619-452-8182/8183/8184.  There is no health care provision at UC San Diego for JDP students, unless it is provided by the terms of employment there or if he/she is one of a group of JDP students whose tuition and fees are paid at UC San Diego.  Payment of UC San Diego fees entitles the student to medical coverage, and other privileges.

When presenting a student ID card at SDSU Health Services, if Health Services staff raise a question about whether one is indeed a student, please ask the staff person to contact Lynsey Miller for verification of student status.

Health Insurance

Beginning in 1999-2000 the JDP Steering Committee has required that mentors paying student stipends provide health insurance. Optimally this is done through the university, VA, the SDSU Research Foundation, or other well-established mechanism. Rarely, a mentor may need to provide health insurance by augmenting the student’s stipend to cover the cost of individually-purchased insurance/major medical coverage. This additional money is not a salary or stipend raise, but is intended solely for insurance purchase only. Students who purchase their own health insurance must show proof of purchase to Lynsey Miller by mid-September each year. Students who have major medical coverage elsewhere (e.g., through a spouse or partner) may elect not to sign up for or purchase health insurance. If so, the student must decline the coverage in writing, indicating that they will be waiving the program health insurance requirement – and be prepared to show the university proof of coverage – so we can make sure they are not over or under paid.

All students must have health insurance.  If tuition is paid at UC San Diego, students automatically get GSHIP for their health insurance.  The cost for GSHIP is included as part of tuition and fees. GSHIP is fairly simple and all the information can be found on their website here: http://students.ucsd.edu/well-being/health-services/student-health-insurance.html

If tuition is paid at SDSU, faculty mentors need to make sure each student is signed up for health insurance covered through mentor-provided funds.  SDSU faculty now have available to them a doctoral student research designation that allows them to purchase health insurance without paying extra for things like retirement. SDSU faculty must use this mechanism unless they obtain specific permission to not do so from the SDSU Co-Director.  The SDSU JDP office will confirm with the SDSU Research Foundation at the start of each academic year that every student with an SDSU mentor has been signed up on the appropriate designation.

If a student has a UC San Diego mentor and is paying fees at SDSU, (s)he may have had money added to their stipend to help purchase major medical health insurance. If the money is not received by September (or is not in the works) the students should contact Kristin Deveraux immediately. It is recommended to buy the full year of a comprehensive, individual health insurance plan.

Obviously there are a variety of ways the requirement to provide students with health insurance can be met, and students have a right to know how their coverage will occur.  Each mentor must discuss with his/her student how health insurance will be provided for the upcoming academic year.  This conversation must occur by June of each year.

 

Weekly Work Schedules

Students and mentors have been paired because their research interests overlap. Obviously the optimal situation is when doing the mentor’s work also serves to meet student needs for publications, second year project, and dissertation data collection.  However, mentors also typically have specific research-related tasks or duties that they need completed in order to meet funding requirements of research grants; similarly students may decide to do a second year project or dissertation that is loosely related to but not directly part of the work the mentor is doing. Students are expected to consistently contribute about 20 hours a week to mentor work.  Where those 20 hours are on tasks that are directly related to program requirements (e.g., second year project, dissertation) it is not unreasonable to expect that students will spend more hours than the 20.  This is because they are using their time to gather their own data as well as data for the mentor. However, when what they are doing will not directly lead to dissertation or second year project data, students should not be expected to work more than about 20 hours a week on average; this is so they have sufficient time to complete the mentor’s work as well as work on their own research.

First and second year students are uniquely burdened by coursework. The first year, in particular, is often a challenge for students who are trying to balance course demands with demands from the lab. In all honesty, it is unlikely that mentors will be able to have their students consistently available the full 20 hours a week during the first academic year; there will be times students are not available the full 20 hours a week during the second academic year as well. This means that students should be prepared to work more than 20 hours during breaks, over the summer, and at other times, so that the overall average across the entire year is 20 hours per week.  Both the SDSU courses and the Mind, Brain and Behavior courses (taken in the second and third year) at UCSD seriously limit students’ time.

First year: In the first year, there are multiple large writing assignments in addition to statistics; these writing assignments often take a substantial amount of time.  Although at least a portion of them, by design, focus on lab-related materials, the assignments themselves are time-consuming. In general, mentors will likely not be able to count on having the student consistently available for the full 20 hours per week during the first year. 

Second year: In the second year, students begin seeing patients in the beginning of July. Students will be seeing patients in practicum for 10-15 hours a week for the rest of the time they are in the program. Oftentimes the transition to seeing patients in the second year takes more time than expected. Also during the second year, students must take a number of courses both at SDSU and UCSD  including Mind, Brain and Behavior-I (MBB-I).  MBB-I takes place during the second 5 weeks after winter break (February-March). Because of the demands of this course (5 days a week, 4-5 hours a day for 5 weeks), we ask that each mentor reduce lab requirements to a minimum during this time. Second year students may also require an adjustment to supervision and/didactics for these five weeks. Please understand that MBB-I is a full-time course in the School of Medicine—our students are taking it with the medical students, who have no competing demands. Students can be asked to “make up” some of the lab time over the summer or other times after MBB-I is over. But again, during the second year, mentors will likely not be able to count on having the student consistently available for the full 20 hours per week, although second year students should be more available than first year ones.

Third year: In the third year, students should be able to be available for the full 20 hours per week except during the 5 weeks when students are required to take the Mind, Brain and Behavior-II (MBB-II) course at UCSD.  MBB-II begins immediately after the winter break (typically the first Wednesday after New Year’s) and continues for 5 weeks. As in the second year, the lab requirements should be drastically reduced during this time period. Students may also require an adjustment to their practicum schedule for the five weeks of MBB-II. When MBB-II is over, mentors should be able to increase lab demands.  Although the student may have to adjust his/her schedule in order to complete practicum requirements, because in the first two years students sometimes work substantially less than the 20 hours per week required, they should be more flexible and “generous” with their lab time when coursework is not so demanding. 

Final Years: In the fourth year and beyond, students should be able to be available for the full 20 hours per week. Again, students should be more flexible and “generous” with their lab time when coursework is not so demanding; this moderate shift in focus and time commitment also is consistent with the students’ and program’s increased emphasis on specialty and research training in the later years.  Even students who ultimately obtain their own funding (e.g., F31s, Ford Foundation or other Fellowships) should continue working an average of 20 hours a week in the lab on their mentor’s funded projects.

 

Negotiating Scheduling With Mentors

We expect that each student will meet individually with his/her mentor (or the mentor’s supervisory designee) at the start of each semester to discuss plans and schedules.  Those plans include optimal times to take vacations, any potential scheduling concerns, and so forth.  First and second year students who are still heavily involved in coursework should be prepared to provide mentors/supervisors with a calendar of the largest and most pressing class assignments, the due dates associated with those assignments, and the anticipated relief needed from lab responsibilities to meet the requirements of the assignments.

In the great majority of cases students and mentors are able to work these schedules out in ways that enable the students and the labs to be successful.  However, if there are ever concerns that program expectations on either side are not being met, the student and/or mentor are encouraged to seek clarification and advice from the JDP co-directors.