Graduate Course Load
The following course load regulations apply to all graduate programs within the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Nine semester hours is considered a full-time course load for a Fall or Spring semester, and six hours for the Summer, for both masters and doctoral students. A student working on a thesis or dissertation must be continuously enrolled in a minimum of three hours each Fall and Spring semester, and a minimum of three hours of thesis or dissertation in the semester in which the work is completed and submitted to the dean’s office for approval.
With approval of the instructor and the graduate advisor, graduate students may drop courses, in compliance with the deadlines published by the university in the Academic Calendar. However, international students and graduate student assistants must maintain full-time enrollment in the Fall and Spring semesters.
Thesis and Dissertation Defenses
Students in their graduating semester should schedule their defenses at a time when all their committee members are able to attend. However, it is understood that committee members may have scheduling conflicts and not be in Houston for the defense. In this case, it is acceptable that the committee members attend the defense via video conferencing. If only a phone connection is available to absent member, the student presentation must have been sent to the absent member ahead of time, so all committee members are able to view the presentation. However, at least half of the committee must be physically present at the defense of an MS thesis or a PhD dissertation. The absence of only one member of the committee due to an emergency the day of the defense is permitted, otherwise the defense must be rescheduled.
Any decision regarding the outcome of the defense (either pass or fail) requires full committee approval. If the committee cannot reach a consensus, then the committee chair should request an independent review of the thesis or dissertation by both the Department Chair and the Graduate Chair, or their designees.
The submission of an MS thesis or PhD dissertation to the college must be accompanied with a signature page that has been signed by all committee members (including the committee chair) to acknowledge that the document is approved for submission to the College. If a committee member is absent and the signature cannot be obtained, the committee member must email the Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs to acknowledge the approval of the submitted document. This email must be received by the Associate Dean prior to the thesis/dissertation submission at NSM and no later than the thesis/dissertation submission deadline posted on the NSM website. In no circumstance should another committee member, the committee chair, or any other faculty sign the signature page on behalf of the absent committee member.
All theses and dissertations will be checked by one of the College readers for formatting, grammar and compliance with the guidelines provided on the College website. Students should familiarize themselves with the formatting and submission instructions available on the College website. The College will allow no more than three revisions of a thesis or dissertation within the 2-week revision period following the posted deadline for initial submission of a thesis/dissertation. If the fourth submission is not acceptable by the reader or if the revision period has passed (whichever comes first), the student will need to defer graduation to the following semester, and submit a revised version to be approved by the College.
Graduate Student Assistants
Graduate student assistants are graduate students in good standing enrolled full-time who hold an appointment requiring the performance of such duties as classroom and/or laboratory instruction, grading papers and exams, or research. There are four graduate student appointment categories, encompassing the position of Teaching Fellow, Teaching Assistant, Instructional Assistant and Research Assistant.
Graduate students may hold an assistantship for no more than three years in pursuit of a master’s degree, no more than six years in pursuit of a doctoral degree, or a combined total of no more than six years. Faculty consider such factors as the steady progress toward the completion of an advanced degree and the quality of performance of assigned duties in determining the continued assignment of an assistantship. The college grants exceptions to these policies only in rare circumstances, and these exceptions depend solely upon the written petition of a department chair with the approval of both the Dean of the College and the Dean of the Graduate School.
Graduate assistants will normally be limited to a 50 percent appointment, which usually entails service for no more than an average of 20 hours per week, including time spent in preparation, in the classroom and laboratory, in reading papers and examinations, and in any combination of these or other activities as assigned. In rare instances, assistants may receive up to a 67 percent appointment with the stipend increased and the required course load decreased proportionately. Approval of these deviations must be justified on an individual basis, involve an exceptional set of circumstances, and receive the consent of both the Dean of the College and the Dean of the Graduate School. Teaching Fellows (graduate students teaching a course for credit) must have completed a minimum of 18 semester hours in graduate credit in their teaching field, must be in good standing and must be making satisfactory progress toward the degree. The Teaching Fellow may be listed as the instructor of record.
International and non-resident graduate student assistants are granted a non-resident tuition waiver, which allows them to pay only in-state tuition.
Scholarships and Financial Aid
The College offers students scholarships and fellowships to help defray the cost of their graduate education. The Graduate Tuition Fellowship covers the cost of in-state tuition and mandatory fees for qualified PhD students who are employed as Research or Teaching Assistants. Exceptional PhD applicants to our programs are also eligible for a Presidential fellowship for the first two-years of their graduate study, or a Houston Endowment Recruitment fellowship for five years.
Enrollment and Residency Requirements
The College requires all graduate students to be continuously enrolled in a minimum of 3 credit hours in each Fall and Spring semester. MA and MS students are required to complete their degree in 5 years. PhD students are required to fulfill one academic year of full-time residence and to complete their degree in 10 years.
Leave of Absence
All graduate students (MS Thesis, MS Non-Thesis, PhD) who do not plan to enroll in a long semester (Fall or Spring semester) need to file a leave of absence (LOA) to be approved by the Department and the College. The LOA petition will be approved for only one semester at a time. If a student plans to be away from graduate work for more than a semester at a time, he/she will have to petition for another LOA prior to the beginning of the following semester. Students will not be granted more than three LOAs in their whole graduate career. It can be three consecutive long semesters, or any three individual semesters, or any combination. A Dean’s hold will be placed on the student account once the LOA has been approved. The student will need to submit a general petition for requesting a graduate studies reinstatement prior to the start of the semester in which they plan to return. Once the reinstatement is approved, the hold will be removed and the student can enroll in classes. Students who do not return to school at the end of the approved LOA and have not petitioned for another LOA will be terminated from the program per University policies.
For matters of academic honesty, students should refer to the University Academic Honesty policy. For all other matters, a multi-level procedure for redress of a grievance is available to any graduate student of the college. Every effort shall be made by the student, faculty member, and chair to resolve the grievance within the departmental structure. If the departmental grievance procedures do not resolve the grievance, the graduate student may petition the college for redress of the grievance. The student must file written notice of a formal grievance with the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies within ten calendar days from the receipt of the departmental decision regarding the grievance.
In this notice, the grievant must state:
- The issue being grieved and provide evidence to support the grievance.
- The desired resolution.
The Associate Dean will form an ad hoc committee to hear the complaint. This ad-hoc committee will be composed of two faculty members and one graduate student from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. One of the two faculty members will be from the department concerned, and the second faculty member will chair the committee. A student from the department concerned shall not be appointed.
The ad hoc committee is empowered to know the department’s proposed solutions and, if deemed appropriate, to take testimony from individuals involved in the case. Such individuals will be contacted to set a time, place, and date for their testimony to be given. No formal record of the proceedings need be kept. Normally, the ad hoc committee shall complete its work within thirty calendar days of the request for a hearing unless extenuating circumstances make this deadline impossible to meet.
A brief, written summary of the findings of the ad hoc committee and their recommendations will be provided to the Dean of the college upon completion of the committee’s work. The Dean will make a final decision which shall be binding on both the department and the student, and shall notify the grievant and the department in writing within ten calendar days from the receipt of the committee’s report.
If the student does not find the Dean’s decision acceptable, the student may, within ten calendar days of the receipt of the Dean’s decision, appeal their case to the senior vice president for academic affairs.
*Because assigning a grade or evaluating a student’s academic performance involves the faculty’s professional judgment and is an integral part of the faculty’s teaching responsibilities, disagreement with an instructor concerning a grade or evaluation is not a justifiable grievance under this policy. In cases where such is in question, the faculty member shall be responsible for the assignment of grades.
Special Departmental Academic Regulations
Each department within the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics maintains a detailed set of academic regulations governing both the master’s and doctoral programs. It is the responsibility of students to be informed of these regulations from their respective departments at the time of their initial enrollment.
Students are strongly encouraged to become familiar with the General Information section of this catalog, which details general university information, regulations, and requirements.