Committees and Advising

The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) has overall responsibility for administering the graduate program. Currently, the DGS is Charlie Conroy.

Serving as an important connection between GSAS and academic programs, the Directors of Graduate Studies (DGS) plays a critical role in helping GSAS students navigate the resources available to help them thrive in graduate school. The DGS serves in some capacity on the Admissions Committee each year, chairs the Committee of Academic Studies (CAS) and makes certain that all graduate students are on track towards accomplishing their education and research goals and PhD thesis.  The DGS regularly reports at the faculty meetings on issues of importance discussed by the CAS. The DGS is the first point of contact between the Dean and Associate Deans of Students at GSAS. 

The DGS chairs the standing Committee on Academic Studies (CAS), which monitors the academic progress of all graduate students. The CAS is normally composed of the DGS, the department chair, four members of the teaching and research staff, and two graduate students. Current members of the CAS are: David Charbonneau, Alyssa Goodman, Lars Hernquist, John Kovac, Locke Patton, and Student TBN.  Daniel Eisenstein as Department Chair is ex officio.  

The purpose of the CAS is to ensure that students receive adequate guidance at various stages of their graduate study, to see that uniform academic standards are applied, and to define the professional qualifications expected by the department for advanced degrees in astronomy and astrophysics. At regular intervals the CAS reviews the progress of each graduate student. It also reviews and approves study plans, arranges the astrophysical inventory and oral exam, and appoints and maintains contact with a students advisory and exam committees.

An initial academic advisor is assigned to each incoming graduate student to help the student make informed decisions about coursework and research opportunities when registering in My.Harvard for the first time.  By mid-January of the first year, each first-year student should choose a research advisor who will assist in selecting a project and the submission of a research proposal and then supervise the actual research leading to the student’s research exam.

Once each student has registered his or her research advisor with the office the CAS will assign each new student an advising committee which will provide the principal guidance and mentoring throughout a student’s graduate program. The membership of this committee, composed of faculty and SAO scientists at the Center for Astrophysics (CfA) or other Harvard University departments, will shift as a student’s projects and thesis topics shift. Members of this committee could also form part of a student’s thesis defense committee.  Students must meet once per semester with their advisory committee and all students will email the date of their semesterly meetings on or before November 1 and April 1 to the office.  The Research Exam counts as one of these meetings as does the Defense.

Each student is free to choose a new advisor at any subsequent time, but should inform the department administrators of such changes immediately after obtaining the new advisor’s consent.

. See PhD Thesis for more details.