9. New Student Checklist and Policies

9. New Student Checklist and Policies

9.1 New Student Checklist
  • Obtain N-card, parking pass, and/or bus pass;
  • Obtain building access and keys (see below);
  • Update email, address, phone, and other information with the main office;
  • Locate departmental mailbox;
  • Students on GRA should get on the payroll by going to Human Resources in the HAPPI Business Center;
    • U.S. Citizens need to bring their driver's license, social security card, and a voided check
    • International students need to bring their passport, I-94, social security card, and a voided check
  • Make sure you have health insurance (see below);
  • Take all required safety training (see below);
  • Schedule a guidance interview with the Chair of the PPGC;
  • Schedule a meeting with your Faculty Advisor to discuss expectations, including those outlined in this graduate handbook;
  • To avoid late registration fees, register for classes before the beginning of the semester;
  • Email the Graduate Coordinator or Administrative Associate a digital copy of your headshot (head and shoulders) photo for use on the website and hallway photo board.

International Students:

  • Go to International Student and Scholar Office:
    • To receive information on obtaining a Social Security number for tax purposes;
    • Take the English Language Test (ELT);
    • Check in at Graduate Studies to enable registration.

9.2 Office Space and Building Access

Priority for office space is given to plant pathology graduate students. Students who have offices in Plant Sciences Hall will be given a desk space with a computer. Plant pathology students in other locations or those advised by plant pathology faculty that are not enrolled in the plant pathology graduate program will be given space as it is available. Students conducting research or having an office in Plant Sciences Hall will be issued key-card access to the building (you will need your NUID before the request) and issued keys to the office and/or lab. Request key access at the main office during your first week on campus.

9.3 Safety Training

The University requires each person to take online training in safety prior to commencing paid work and/or research in the laboratory, field, or greenhouse. At a minimum, everyone who receives a paycheck (employees) must complete the following EHS training online modules: Core-Injury and Illness Prevention Plan and Core-Emergency Preparedness. If working with chemicals you must take either Chemical Safety (4-unit training) or the Chemical Safety training targeted toward certain worker types. When certain hazards are associated with tasks performed in your research, other EHS related training is required. Additional training includes: autoclave training and biosafety and environmental safety. Most safety training will be through Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) web-based training (ehs.unl.edu/web-based-training), while some training will be arranged by the student’s Faculty Advisor, safety managers in the department (Kyle Broderick and Tim Harris), the Safety and Facilities Committee, or the Office of the Director. Training completion will be documented using class attendance rosters and web forms that, at the end of web-based training, are to be printed, completed by the student, and provided to the student’s Faculty Advisor. Consult with your Faculty Advisor about the safety training that is required for you to conduct research in their lab group.

9.4 Health Insurance

Any student registered for at least 6 credit hours each semester is eligible to purchase health insurance. Graduate assistantships also come with a reduced rate, basic individual student health insurance plan. The student and the University will share in the cost of the premium. Approximately 21% of the annual cost of the health insurance premium will be billed directly to the student’s account. The student will be notified at a later date of the amount for which they will be responsible. All students must confirm acceptance or opt out of the University health insurance. If the student does not require the University health insurance, the student will need to complete a “Waiver of Insurance” form online each semester. If the “Waiver of Insurance” has not been submitted within 14 days of the start of the semester, the student’s account will be charged for the basic student health insurance. The student also has the option of purchasing additional health insurance for family members from the same plan by contacting the business office at the University Health Center. International students are always required to have student health insurance coverage, unless proof of comparable insurance from an outside source is provided. For up-to-date information on health insurance coverage, options, and estimated costs, consult the UNL Financial Services website:

9.5 Tuition Benefits and Registration Requirements

All graduate students receiving an assistantship qualify for tuition waiver. Students should consult the Graduate Studies Catalog for current guidelines on requirements for eligibility. Students holding assistantships may not exceed established registration limitations. During regular academic semesters, students holding full assistantships (0.49 FTE) must register for a minimum of 9 credits and a maximum of 10 credits, while students with 0.33 FTE assistantships may enroll for a maximum of 12 credits. Doctoral students that have advanced to candidacy need only register for 1 credit hour per semester, so long as they have submitted a “Request for Full-time Status” form each semester (see Admission to Candidacy in this handbook for more information). Students who do not hold an assistantship may enroll for up to 15 credits per semester. All related semester fees are the responsibility of the student. For up-to-date information on the estimated cost of tuition and fees, consult the UNL Financial Services website here:

Summer Registration:

Students do not have to be registered during the summer. If a graduate student has a qualifying assistantship that includes a summer tuition benefit, the student may choose to register in the summer terms (for a total of 4 credit hours; 2 credit hours in 8-week session and 2 credit hours in the second 5-week session) but is not required to do so. If you do not enroll, you will have limited access to university facilities, such as campus recreation, health center, etc. International students should visit with the International Student Scholar Office to determine the status of their VISA. For additional information see the Guidelines for Graduate Assistants on the Graduate Studies website.

9.6 Work Hours, Vacation, and Leave

The actual amount of time spent on research can vary considerably from week-to-week, depending on the timing of important deadlines and requirements of the laboratory or field experiments. For example, research projects with living organisms may require prescribed timelines for experiments or maintenance. Students are not required to work when University offices are closed (University identified holidays and inclement weather closures); however, it is often necessary to work on research or other projects when the University is closed or beyond normal work hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The student should seek guidance from their Faculty Advisor to request time off (vacation, sick leave, etc.) and all time off should be approved by the Faculty Advisor.

Guidelines for GRAs

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs) are part-time salaried positions that expect 19.6 hours of work per week (.49 FTE) during the academic year and 40 hours per week during academic breaks and summer sessions when the University is open and classes are not in session. Additional time directed towards research is expected when you are enrolled in credit hours of research and/or thesis/dissertation writing. Because a GRA is a salaried position, these work hours are the expectation and not recorded on a timesheet. Duties assigned to fulfill the time requirements of the GRA need not be in support of your thesis/dissertation project and may be assigned at the discretion of your advisor and/or department, based upon the source of funding for the GRA. You are expected to manage your time effectively and maintain communication with your Faculty Advisor about their expectations for your work and progress.

Guidelines for Students on Research Fellowships / Scholarships

Students not on an assistantship, partial assistantship, or employed by UNL and pursuing a M.S. Option I or Ph.D. should work with their Faculty Advisor to determine class loads and research schedule on a case-by-case basis to ensure timely progression through the program.

Family Considerations

Pregnant and parenting students may have difficulty balancing academic or research duties with family responsibilities. The University encourages faculty members and supervisors to be flexible and accommodating for these students, so it’s important that you let your mentors and colleagues know that family responsibilities may keep you from attending class or working in the lab during certain times. It may also be beneficial to ask professors for a schedule of assignments, so that you can work ahead or otherwise integrate them into your schedule. Time management skills are essential for all students, including parenting students. The Graduate Studies website provides tips on how to more effectively manage your time.

Disability Resources

The University strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience barriers based on your disability (including chronic or temporary mental or physical health conditions), it is recommended that you communicate this with your Faculty Advisor and discuss options privately. To establish reasonable accommodations, it may be recommended to register with Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD). If you are eligible for services and register with their office, make arrangements as soon as possible to discuss your accommodations so they can be implemented in a timely manner. SSD can be contacted at 117 Louise Pound Hall or 402-472-3787.

If you anticipate or experience disability-related barriers regarding responsibilities related to your assistantship, it is recommended that you contact Jill Flagel, University Coordinator of Faculty/Staff Disability Services, at 402-472-2322 or jill.flagel@unl.edu. Please follow-up with the Graduate Chair to discuss reasonable accommodations for employment-related responsibilities.

Emergency Funds

Students who are experiencing financial hardship due to an event outside of their control may be eligible to receive financial support to help with the expenses. Examples may include: an emergency flight home for a close family member's illness or death, or hospital bills due to an accident, or an emergency medical issue. Funding is provided by the Dermot Coyne Foundation Fund. Dr. Coyne was a faculty member for over 40 years whose research and teaching was in the field of genetics and plant breeding. Dr. Coyne advised over 50 graduate students in his career and experienced times when special funding, such as this fund, would have been a valuable resource for helping his students. Decisions to grant funding are made on a case-by-case basis by a committee that must adhere to the guidelines specified for use of the funds when the Dermot Coyne Foundation Fund was established. If you are a current graduate student in the Department of Plant Pathology and experiencing a situation you think may qualify for this support, please send your inquiry to Dr. Sydney Everhart, Committee Member of the Dermot Coyne Foundation Fund.

9.7 Travel and Awards
Funding for Research/Travel

It is unlikely that funding from any single source alone will be sufficient to cover all expenses related to research or attending meetings and conferences. It is advised that any funding you receive for research supplies or travel should be disclosed to your Faculty Advisor so that there can be efficient use of all sources of funding to support your research and professional development. This type of open communication allows the student and advisor to find the best possible use of funding.

Travel Procedures

Prior to traveling for University-related activities, students must submit a pre-trip travel authorization request via Concur Travel in advance of the trip. The travel authorization requires approval of the student’s Faculty Advisor, staff in accounting, and the department head. The Concur Travel website can also be used to book your flight so it can be directly billed to the approved account at the University. However, such actions cannot be taken until the travel authorization is approved. Your pre-trip travel authorization request must be approved before you will be able to request reimbursement for expenses incurred during the trip. Students should consult with their Faculty Advisor if funding is requested from the advisor’s grants or accounts. If you do not anticipate having expenses to be reimbursed, you are to submit a zero dollar trip request. When traveling is of a personal nature, a travel authorization is not required. For additional information, including up-to-date IRS Standard Meal Allowance per diem rates and the Mileage Reimbursement Rate, refer to http://travel.unl.edu. The following individuals may be contacted for further assistance:

Awards for Graduate Students

Plant Pathology graduate students are eligible for numerous competitive scholarships, fellowships, and grants. Some are offered through the Department, College, or University, whereas others are from professional societies or other organizations. The Plant Pathology Graduate Coordinator keeps track of these competitions and announces the availability of these fellowships via emails, newsletters, and the department website. However, it is up to you to make sure you are eligible and that you submit the required materials by the specified time. Below is a list of some of the Scholarships and Fellowships for which Plant Pathology graduate students are eligible.

UNL Department of Plant Pathology

  • The Goss Memorial Scholarship is awarded to principally graduate students on a graduate assistantship in the Department of Plant Pathology on a competitive basis in recognition of demonstrated scholarship and scholastic and creative promise. The primary intent of this scholarship is to help defray expenses for students who are presenting research at regional, national/international meetings, attending and participating in relevant workshops, or any other appropriate scholarly activity beyond the normal execution of their research. Applications due around mid-May.
  • The Plant Pathology Graduate Student Association (PPGSA) Professional Development Award recognizes graduate student involvement and engagement through their student organization. Eligible applicants include graduate students advised by a faculty member in the Department of Plant Pathology that have completed at least one semester of involvement in the PPGSA. The selected awardee is provided financial assistance that can be used to travel to scientific meetings or attend workshops and training events. Applications are typically due in April, and awards are announced in June.

Awards within UNL

  • The Widaman Trust Graduate Fellowship is awarded to students conducting research in agriculture and medicine. Nominations are generally due late June.
  • Larrick Graduate Student Travel Grants support graduate student travel to professional and scientific meetings. The deadlines for submissions are May 15 and November 15.
  • The Shear-Miles Fellowship is awarded annually to outstanding graduate students. Nominations are generally due late June.
  • The Skala Fellowship provides stipends to M.S. and Ph.D. students engaged in research related to industrial uses of agricultural products.
  • The Milton Mohr Program offers fellowships for graduate students enrolled in biotechnology-oriented programs. Applications are due around mid-March.
  • The Milton E. Mohr (Agronomy) and Farmers National Fellowships enhance the educational experience of graduate students, including teaching and other competencies. Nominations are generally due late June.
  • The Hardin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship supports research in plant physiology with an emphasis on genetic mechanisms influencing plant responses to stress. Nominations are generally due late June.
  • The Wirth/McGowen Memorial Fellowship benefits and supports the education and research efforts of graduate students pursuing degree programs that will contribute to significant advancements in ensuring global food and nutrition security for a growing world population through innovative research within agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences. Applications are due around mid-October.
  • The Presidential Fellowship is awarded to advanced doctoral students. The fellowship is $24,000. This award also includes tuition, fees, and the University's portion of the student health insurance for one academic year. Applications are due early February.
  • The Fling Fellowship is awarded to advanced masters or doctoral students. Masters students must be within one year of graduation and doctoral students must be within two years of graduation. The fellowship is $20,000. This award also includes tuition, fees, and the University's portion of the student health insurance for one academic year. Applications are due early February.
  • The Dean's Fellowship will be awarded to advanced masters or doctoral students. The fellowship is $5,000. Applications are due early February.

APS-North Central Division Award

  • Travel Awards from the North Central Division of the American Phytopathological Society (APS). To support student travel to the annual North Central Division APS meeting. Applications are submitted to the department head along with an abstract and a letter of recommendation, usually due in May.
  • Students presenting at the APS-North Central Division meeting can also elect to compete in the poster and oral competition held during the meeting. The student who receives the first place oral presentation award receives a travel award and an opportunity to speak at the APS national meeting in the following calendar year as part of a symposium that highlights student talks from the divisional meetings.

APS National Awards

  • Named Travel Awards from the national American Phytopathological Society (APS). To support student travel to the annual national meeting of APS. Eligible students are APS members planning to give an oral or poster presentation at the next APS Annual Meeting who did not receive a travel award the previous year. Applications are submitted concurrently with abstract submissions for the meeting, usually mid-March.
  • Raymond J. Tarleton Student Fellowship is awarded to one plant pathology graduate student in the U.S. annually. This is considered a top award within APS and provides support to plant pathology graduate students for expenses related to their research, equipment, education, and skill development. Applications are due December 1.
  • I.E. Melhus Graduate Student Symposium provides travel support for graduate student research presentations around a central theme that changes annually. Applications due around the end of February.

International Society of Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions (IS-MPMI) National Awards

  • IS-MPMI provides travel awards for eligible students, postdocs, and early career professionals to attend the IS-MPMI Congress. Award selection is based on the quality of the applicant's science reflected in the research abstract, impact statement and curriculum vitae. Applications are due around mid-March.

North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) Travel Awards

  • For students involved in teaching, there are travel awards (approx. $500) that students can apply for in order to attend and present at the annual meeting of NACTA. See www.nactateachers.org for the latest information about how to apply. Applications are typically due at the end of April to attend and present at the annual meeting typically in mid- to late-June.

Grants to Graduate Students

There are a small number of grants for students to apply for and below are the most popular for students within the plant pathology discipline. This is not a complete list and students are encouraged to talk with others within our discipline and related disciplines to identify opportunities and investigate databases of funding opportunities, such as the UCLA Grapes Database online.

Sigma Xi Grants in Aid of Research Awards

  • The Sigma Xi Grants in Aid of Research (GIAR) program has provided undergraduate and graduate students with valuable educational experiences since 1922. The program awards grants of up to $1,000 to students from most areas of the sciences (average award is $600). Students may use the funding to pay for research supplies specific to their project, research-related travel expenses to and from a research site, or for purchase of non-standard laboratory equipment necessary to complete a specific research project. Priority in funding will be given to members of Sigma Xi and are eligible to receive the award twice. U.S. citizenship is not required. Applications are due March 15 and October 1. Go to https://www.sigmaxi.org for more information.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who intend to pursue research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. The fellowship provides a three-year annual stipend and an allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution). Applicants must be US citizens, nationals, or permanent residents by the application deadline. Students in their fourth-year of college or first year of graduate school, and recent college graduates are eligible to apply. Students must be beginning or continuing a research-based graduate degree in an NSF-approved field. More information and a list of approved fields of study are on the GRFP web page. Deadlines vary from mid-October to early-November each year. Check the website for the deadline in your field.

USDA-NIFA Education and Workforce Development Program

  • The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) - Education and Workforce Development (EWD) focuses on developing the next generation of research, education, and extension professionals in the food and agricultural sciences. The purpose of AFRI is to support research, education, and extension work by awarding grants to solve key problems of local, regional, national, and global importance in sustaining conventional, organic, and urban agricultural systems, including mitigating impacts of biotic and abiotic constraints on food production. Eligible applicants must hold U.S. citizenship and have advanced to doctoral candidacy. Grants are normally provided to the predoctoral scholar through their institution. The maximum award amount for FY2020 was $180,000 for project periods of up to three years. There is a small institutional allowance for supplies and travel, in addition to support for the student stipend, fees, and tuition. The deadline for applications is announced each year, with the current cycle of applications due June 16, 2020. Consult with the USDA-AFRI NIFA EWD website for more information.

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