Finding and Changing Advisors

A survey we conducted indicated that the strongest part of our program is the relationship a student has with their advisor. Our students are very happy with their advisors, almost without exception. The process of finding an advisor is, for the most part, handled informally, but there is a bit of a system upon arrival.

Initial Advisor

Incoming students are assigned an initial advisor by the DGS (Director of Graduate Studies), with some effort made to match the advisor to the student’s interests. This advisor will guide you through the preliminary written exams and related coursework, which typically takes about two years. These exams and courses cover our core material. As a result, it’s perhaps most important for the initial advisor to have a good understanding of the requirements, and not so important that he or she is a specialist in your areas of interest.

Interim Advisor

After completing the preliminary written exams, Mathematics graduate students are expected to find a new (interim) advisor who will work with them in their area of specialty until they complete the preliminary oral exam, which typically happens toward the end of the third or fourth year. Then they may choose to change advisors once more, to the final advisor, who guides them to the end of the degree. For most students, the interim advisor is also their final advisor, but there are a few who do have three advisors during their stay at Minnesota.

Changing Advisors

Of course, if problems arise, students are always free to seek a new advisor at any time. This is extremely rare, and is to be avoided if at all possible, as it may cause difficulties in keeping to our progress timelines.

When a graduate student wishes to change advisors, the Director of Graduate Studies MUST approve the change.

Procedure to changing advisors:

  1. Discuss the change with your current and proposed new advisor.

  2. If both advisors approve of the change, then email, copying both advisors, the following message:

Dear Director of Graduate Studies,

This is (insert your name), ID #(student ID), and I am requesting approval to change from my current advisor Professor (current advisor name) to Professor (new advisor). I have discussed this with both professors and they have agreed to this change.

Thank you.

Once your request has been approved by the DGS, you will receive notice of the approval.  If you have any questions, please email or see the Graduate Program Coordinator.