Much of the information of interest to faculty can be found elsewhere on this site.  BGS policies relating to faculty appointments, service, and roles are provided below, along with information for faculty about student funding and managing visiting students.


Faculty Appointments

The University has rules about faculty appointment to graduate groups. The BGS rules follow. Graduate groups may adopt additional requirements for faculty membership.

Eligibility for graduate group membership

In order to be eligible for appointment to a graduate group, an interested individual must have a University appointment. Research faculty and individuals with a Penn adjunct appointment are eligible for graduate group appointment.

Criteria for membership

Among the BGS graduate groups, there is no uniform set of criteria for graduate group membership. Each graduate group may establish its own criteria for membership. As a minimum requirement, a faculty member recommended for membership in a graduate group must be able and qualified to supervise the thesis research of a graduate student.

Recommendation and confirmation of appointment

Appointment to a graduate group begins with recommendation by the graduate group. The graduate group chair sends his/her recommendation to the BGS Director, along with a copy of the individual’s CV or NIH grant style Biographical Sketch and proof of University appointment.

Several times per year, the Director of BGS submits recommendations regarding the appointment of new faculty to the Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine for approval. The approved appointments are reported by BGS to the Office of the Provost via the faculty information system (FIS).

Service requirements for membership in biomedical graduate groups

Each new appointment and reappointment to a BGS graduate group is for a three-year term. At the end of each three-year term, the individual’s service record must be evaluated by the graduate group chair. At the chair’s recommendation, the term may be renewed for another three years. In order to qualify for renewal of membership, an individual must meet the service requirements outlined below.

Each graduate group member must complete an average of 50 service hours per year (per graduate group in which s/he is a member) over the three-year period. In general, graduate group chairs, training grant principal investigators, and directors of major courses are considered to have automatically fulfilled all but the RCR training service requirements.

  • Teaching/Academic Committee Service: A minimum of 15 of the 50 hours must be devoted to teaching and/or service on academic committees. Individual graduate groups may require a minimum of up to 25 hours in this category. Teaching is defined to include directing courses, preparing and giving lectures, other course preparation and in-class time, grading, and the like. For lecturers, course preparation time should be counted as equal to the amount of time spent in the classroom. The teaching of courses that have sizable numbers of students in each of the graduate groups to which a faculty member belongs may be applied to the teaching requirement for each of those groups with the approval of each graduate group chair. Academic committee service includes participation in preliminary exam and thesis committees. This service category does not include supervision of a rotation or dissertation student.
  • Administrative Committee Service/Supervision of Students in the Lab: The remaining hours per year must be performed in areas such as serving on administrative committees (e.g., admissions, curriculum, and seminar committees), and supervising rotations and dissertations.
  • Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) and Scientific Rigor and Reproducibility (SRR) Training: In addition, as a requirement of membership in any and all BGS graduate groups, each faculty member is expected to participate in a BGS RCR workshop or comparable activity at least once during each three-year term. Additionally, each BGS faculty member is required to organize and report at least one lab-based session on an RCR topic and at least one lab-based session on a Scientific Rigor and Reproducibility (SRR) topic each year. Details, including topics, sample case studies, and a link to the reporting form are here

Graduate groups contact their faculty each summer to collect service data.



BGS developed a set of expectations for thesis mentors, students, and thesis committee members in 2016.  It can be found here. BGS has also created a mentor compact to be completed when a student joins a thesis lab.

There are other very useful guidelines on this topic.

The University has issued an extensive set of guidelines for Advising and Mentoring PhD Students

The AAMC has developed a Compact Between Biomedical Graduate Students and their Research Advisors.  

Students or faculty with questions or concerns about expectations should contact their graduate group chair or the BGS director.



Expectations of Course Directors

BGS Course Directors are required to oversee all aspects of a course, including:

  • Course scheduling, conforming with University, BGS, and grad group policies
  • Coordination with co-directors
  • Course content and organization
  • Formulation and communication of of overall goals of the course
  • Course materials, including any Canvas site
  • Confirmation of lectures and receipt of course materials
  • Examinations, papers, and/or student presentations
  • Small group or review sessions, if applicable
  • Grading
  • Supervision of any teaching assistants
  • Communications with students

In addition, course directors are expected to:

  • Present proposals for new courses to the Biomedical Curriculum Committee
  • Attend all lectures to ensure course quality and continuity; make notes of strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations regarding improvements for the next iteration
  • Review student course evaluations, and make recommendations for next iteration
Resources for Course Directors

The following resources are available to course directors:

  • BGS Curriculum Committee -- for approval of new courses and course reviews
  • BGS Curriculum Coordinator (Colleen Dunn) and Graduate Group Coordinators – for help with course and room scheduling, course advertising, Canvas, grading, and evaluations
  • Teaching Assistants – provided by BGS for BGS core courses (BIOM 600, 555, 611) and by graduate groups for their courses
  • Canvas - Penn's courseware, managed by the Library, available to all BGS course directors
  • The Center for Teaching and Learning - provides extensive resources for course directors



The Graduate Group Chair is the primary academic leader of the graduate group and is responsible for the guiding the graduate group towards continued preeminence in its field. The graduate group chair oversees graduate group administration by performing the following duties personally or by delegating as appropriate. Graduate groups have the option of creating a vice chair position and delegating some duties to that role.

Admissions & Recruitment
  • Make appointments to Admissions Committee; select chair
  • Organize and preside over program overviews (1-3 times/season)
  • Create lists of appropriate faculty to interview each applicant
  • Select recruitment seminar speakers, if applicable
  • Attend recruitment dinners
  • Interview applicants
  • Assign appropriate student hosts for interviewees
  • Send acceptance letters to all accepted applicants
  • Follow-up contact with recruits
  • Communicate with accepted students until their arrival in June/September
MD/PhD Recruitment
  • Provide 1-hour overview of program (1-3 times/season)
  • Assign MD/PhD Admissions Committee members and chair
  • Meet individually with interviewing and/or accepted students as requested
Student Advising                            
  • Course, lab rotation, and general purpose advising for all students in first 2 years
  • Assign Candidacy Examination Committee members and chair
  • Ensure all post-candidacy exam students have thesis committee & meet regularly with the committee (according to program guidelines)
  • Ensure all students beyond year 5 develop plan for completion of degree
  • Address special problems needing additional attention                             
Financial Support of Students   
  • Contact every PI once a student has identified a thesis lab and ensure that a funding mechanism is in place
  • Consult on relevant training grant slots for students
  • Help identify sources of emergency financial aid
  • Periodic urgent issues plus regular review with BGS Finance Director
  • Approve student travel money requests                                           
MD/PhD Students          
  • Communicate periodically (several times/semester) with MD/PhD office about program rules, pre-grad student plans                
  • Organize the annual retreat
  • Identify and allocate financial support for seminar series and/or retreat
Executive Committee
  • Prepare agenda, call and chair periodic meetings of the Exec Com (~1/x month)
  • Assign Curriculum Committee members and chair
  • Help assure balance of courses offered each semester/course directors available
Other Committees         
  • Dissertation award committees, travel award committees, faculty award committees, ad hoc committees
New Student Orientation           
  • Meet with incoming students to provide perspective, context, guidelines
  • Attend Welcome party for incoming students                                    
  • Ensure that faculty regularly attend conferences such as ABRCMS and SACNAS, give scientific talks at local colleges, supervise SUIP and/or PREP students, and do other recruitment and training activities with underrepresented populations
  • Organize and maintain group website and any other promotional materials
Program Review                             
  • Formalize/write/modify guidelines for various aspects of the program
  • Monitor the graduate group governance and committee structure; make adjustments
  • For 7-year graduate group review: prepare resource document, assist in the organization of the review process, analyze review findings and recommendations, and implement necessary adjustments and improvements                                 
Office Administration                   
  • Oversee Graduate Group Coordinator and any other staff, vice chair, and/or program chairs
  • Provide input on annual evaluation of coordinator
Program Financial Support
  • Oversee graduate group recruitment and office budgets from BGS
  • Work closely with associated departments, centers, institutes, training grants to raise and administer funds for shared functions (seminar series, retreats, etc.)
Thesis Defenses                              
  • Attend thesis defenses; sign dissertation title pages and graduation forms
Faculty Membership
  • Appoint Membership Committee members and chair
  • Advise prospective members about process & requirements for membership
  • Nominate new faculty to BGS
  • Review faculty participation and determine reappointments
  • Inform faculty about changes in status (probations, drops)
Faculty Meetings                            
  • Prepare agenda, call and chair group-wide meetings once or twice/year
  • Attend monthly BGS Advisory Committee Meetings
  • Consult with BGS Directors as needed        
  • Relay important information and policies to the graduate group from BGS
  • Survey faculty on issues and report back to BGS Advisory Committee and BGS Directors
  • Serve as arbiter in conflicts/grievances among students, faculty, students and faculty
  • Involve BGS, Office of Student Conduct, and other offices as necessary
  • Attend the BGS component of graduation, hand out diplomas to GG students
TA Assignments                              
  • Make all TA assignments, if applicable
  • Review all student requests to TA in various courses outside of group or associated department(s)



General information about Student Funding is available on the Resources tab. 

Thesis mentors assume responsibility for a portion of a student’s support.  Mentor support normally begins on June 1 after the student’s second year in the program. 

Mentor Funds Check

When a student is selecting their thesis mentor, the mentor is asked to submit the BGS Mentor Funds Check Form.  Each June, BGS sends a memo to all faculty members indicating their costs for the upcoming fiscal year [here]. 

Emergency Financial Aid

If an established mentor anticipates a funding shortfall, he or she should discuss the matter with the Graduate Group Chair and the Director of BGS. A BGS Emergency Financial Aid (EFA) Committee evaluates requests from mentors for temporary financial assistance; the mentor and graduate group chair should complete and sign the EFA Committee request form.

Contact Jill Baxter with any questions at jabaxter@upenn.edu.


Procedures for Managing Visiting Students

Students who are enrolled in a graduate degree program at another university may visit the University of Pennsylvania as a “visiting student”.  With approval of the Director of Biomedical Graduate Studies, a visiting student may engage in research training within the laboratories of the BGS faculty.  Normally, such a visit will be limited to one year; however, with the approval of the associate dean, it may be extended but shall not exceed three years from the time of registration as a visiting student.  

The visiting student is not permitted to enroll in Penn courses for credit or audit.*

The visiting student will be enrolled in VSTG 9930-Visiting Student Registration during the fall and spring semesters.  If the visiting student’s initial entry or exit month is during summer semester (between May and August) he/she will be enrolled in VSTG 9930 for that summer.

FY24-25 fees:
$1221 Fall/Spring Semesters each term
$563 Summer Session

FY23-24 fees:
$1175 Fall/Spring Semesters each term
$542 Summer Session


A faculty member requesting appointment of a visiting student to his/her laboratory must provide the associate dean and the sponsoring department’s business administrator the following required documentation (there is no application).

  • Letter of appointment (sample template) certifying provision for the student’s stipend, health care costs, home school fee, and Visiting Student Registration fee during the length of the visit.
  • Letter from student’s home school stating that the student is enrolled there in a graduate program and will continue to be enrolled during his/her visit at Penn, and anticipated date of graduation.
  • Visiting Student Data Form (to be completed by the visiting student prior to their arrival at Penn).

For international students, additional documentation is needed from the sponsoring department:

  • Copy of Form DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status
Time Extension

To extend a student’s visit beyond the one year limit, the faculty advisor must submit a letter to the associate dean requesting additional time. The letter should state the length of time (beginning/ending dates), the reason for the extension, and certify financial support. In addition, a letter from the student’s home school verifying continued enrollment during the extended time and anticipated date of graduation. Once approved, the sponsoring department must provide a copy of the J-1 when a new one is issued.


Sponsoring Department: Will serve as the responsible entity for hosting the visiting student and will ensure adherence to all relevant university and school policies and procedures.  The sponsoring department will:

  • Coordinate with the applicant to put together the J-1 Application Packet for ISSS to issue the DS-2019.  (http://global.upenn.edu/isss/j1scholar)
  • Provide the required documentation listed above.
  • Oversee the health insurance requirement for visiting students.  Visiting students must provide evidence of health insurance coverage or participate in the Penn Student Insurance Plan (PSIP).  (http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/shs/insurance.php)
  • Be responsible for the visiting student’s payroll entry.
  • Provide fee and health insurance payment information to BGS when requested.
    • In order to process payments a 26-digit account number and 6-digit legacy number is required.
  • Assist the visiting student in obtaining a
    • PennKey
    • PSOM email address
    • Penn Card, available at the Penn Bookstore at 36th and Walnut

Biomedical Graduate Studies:  Oversees the visiting student appointment process as well as:

  • Enters data from the Visiting Student Data Form into Penn’s Student Records System (SRS).  Once this information is entered, a PennID number is assigned.
  • Registers the visiting student under VSTG 993-Visiting Student Registration.

BGS Contact:

Kyle Brown, Registrar
kyle.brown@pennmedicine.upenn.edu or (215) 898-9180
160 Biomedical Research Building/6064

Research Training Finance Office: Supports financial aspects of the process:

  • Oversees the visiting student’s fee and PSIP charges and payments.
  • Offers guidance in the department’s payroll entry.

Finance Office Contact:

Sherita Blair, Financial Coordinator
blairsh@pennmedicine.upenn.edu or (215) 573-2458
414 Anatomy-Chemistry Building/6110

* In order to take courses for credit or audit, a student must be admitted to the LPS Non-Traditional Graduate Studies Program. The student must then obtain permission from the course instructor and pay the LPS tuition rate.