Frequently Asked Questions for Current Students
This listing has been made to address the questions that are most often asked by graduate students in our program. The answers to these questions are described in detail in the other materials that are distributed or available, but sometimes it is helpful to have them summarized in one place. From time to time, the rules and regulations change, so this document is to be used only as a guide. The official answer to the questions may still be found in the latest rules of the University of Florida, the Graduate School, and the Department of Physics. Naturally, if you have any questions or if you would like further clarification, please meet with the Graduate Coordinator or one of the Program Assistants in the Office of Student Services, NPB 1210.

FAQs are provided in the following subjects:

   [Definitions]    [Appointments]    [PhD Program]    [MS Program]    [Research]

                          [General Advice]    [Qualifying and Final Exams]

APPOINTMENTS

My TA appointment is for a FTE of 0.33, but I am putting in 20 hours per week to complete my assignment. How did this happen?
First, you need to realize that your appointment is for the entire semester. A linear equation does not exist to describe the amount of work that you will need to do for each given week. For example, during the first week of classes or during finals week, the discussion sections or laboratory sections may not meet. Consequently, your workload for that week may be very low. On the other hand, during some weeks, you might be very busy. If you average over the entire semester, then your TA responsibilities should be close to your FTE. If you find yourself spending a huge amount of time to complete your TA assignments, then please talk to the faculty member supervisory your work and/or speak with the Graduate Coordinator. These faculty members might be able to provide some ideas on how to improve your efficiency. Finally, you should note that the Department understands that you need to balance your coursework, research efforts, and teaching assignments. The Department is dedicated to making fair and equitable assignments, which is in the best interests of all students at every level.

I am a TA and my friend is a TA. But her load is different than mine! How are the teaching loads assigned and what is a fair assignment?
The actual teaching loads vary for each semester. The Department makes TA assignments based on many factors. These factors include input from the students who expecting to be a TA. So, when your appointment sheet arrives, please return it before the deadline and please note any special requests that you might like to make.

I have a Fellowship, and I have not yet joined a research group. What do I do with the time that RA, TA, and GA students use to perform their assigned duties?
Students who have a Fellowship are in a unique position to actively seek research opportunities in their first semester. The Fellowship should allow the student to accelerate along the path toward a PhD degree. Consequently, students with Fellowships should be meeting with faculty to discuss possible research opportunities. These discussions may lead to a project that can be performed during the time that would otherwise be spent teaching as a TA or GA.

During the summer, I want to take a vacation for the entire summer. I have enough money not to be a supported in the summer. May I take this vacation?
Progress toward a PhD is a full-time commitment, so vacations of this type are strongly discouraged. Your path to your PhD is considered to be a full-time obligation. All degree candidates are required, as part of their graduate education, to participate continuously in the research and/or teaching programs of the Department. Naturally, vacations are a part of the schedule, but they have to be discussed, and approved in advance, by the Faculty member who is providing RA support. If the student is a TA or GA, then the vacations must be scheduled around these assigned duties.

I need to travel home for a very special reason (for example: marriage) and the summer is the best time to do it. May I have a longer vacation for this reason?
The Department recognizes that various extenuating circumstances might arise over the course of the program. Special requests should always be brought to the attention of the Graduate Coordinator and/or the Chair of the Supervisory Committee, and these requests will be judged on a case-by-case basis.

How long will the Department support me as a TA?
Registration for each semester is contingent upon the student making reasonable progress toward a PhD degree. Although the budget that the Department receives is always fluctuating, the Department is dedicated to supporting students for at least their first two years in the program as long as they are in good academic standing. Additional support beyond the first two years is contingent upon the availability of funds, the progress that the student has made toward the final thesis, and the availability of other funding sources. Support as a TA is sometimes offered to students as late as their fourth year. However, senior graduate students are expected to be supported by RA appointments.

What does 'reasonable progress toward a PhD degree' really mean?
Reasonable progress depends on the unique program of each student, but globally it refers to maintaining a GPA above 3.00 and timely completion the requirements for a PhD degree.