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Thomas Wang

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Mentoring Plan for PhD Students

Communication and Meetings

How would you describe your advising style? Does your approach vary over the course of a student's progress within their degree?

Most advising is done through weekly meetings with students and post-docs from diverse engineering disciplines, including mechanical, electrical, and biomedical engineering.  Each student has an opportunity to present results, get feedback, and receive guidance on their projects.  A weekly informal meeting is available for students to discuss specific questions pertaining to their projects in the context of previous work completed, better understand fundamental engineering concepts, and master common analytical techniques.

What is the best way/technology for students to contact you? Are there time frames in which students should expect to hear from you?

I can be reached best by email (, and almost always respond within 2 days.

How often do you plan to meet with students one-on-one (be as specific as possible, it's okay to describe multiple styles that may vary with student needs)? Is an agenda required? How long are meetings?

One-on-one meetings can be arranged on an individual basis if a student needs additional guidance.  These meetings can vary from weekly to monthly, and typically last 1 hour.  An agenda is highly recommended.

Do you have regular group meetings? What does student participation look like in a group meeting?

Weekly meetings are scheduled with our own and collaborating research groups.  Students participate by presenting their research results, examining work performed by others, and reviewing external publications in journal club.  Students will have opportunity to practice talks accepted for oral presentation at external conferences, workshops, and meetings.

Research and Teaching Expectations

Describe your students' primary area(s) of responsibility and expectations (e.g., reading peer-reviewed literature, in-lab working hours, etc.).

Most students will develop a miniature prototype imaging system.  Projects involve microsystems design, instrument packaging, optical modeling, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) integration, data acquisition and control, software development, and image processing.  Analytical evaluation for performance verification, device characterization, and image interpretation will be performed.  Instrument design will require mastery of basic concepts in optics, mechanics, and mechatronics.  Some modeling and analysis using standard software, including Comsol and Zemax, is usually performed.  Prototype systems are evaluated in vivo in small animal models (mice and rats) and in human subjects.  Students will collaborate closely with experts in medicine, molecular biology, biochemistry, and nanotechnology.  Students are expected to be familiar with peer-reviewed literature in their field.  In-lab working hours are flexible as long as students are making progress.

How do you decide authorship and/or authorship order?

Authorship is determined by the relative contribution of each student to the final manuscript.  On occasion, joint first authorship is conferred.  Students are encouraged to work collaboratively with others to maximize authorship and number of publications.

Do you ask students in your group to serve as a GSI over the course of their program?

Students are encouraged to serve as a GSI at least once during their graduate program.  Those who are interested in academia as a career will need to build a teaching portfolio, and receive feedback from students on their teaching skills.  Some teaching experience will strengthen communication skills, in particular, with scientific topics.

Do you have general expectations for graduation?

Students are encouraged to pass the PhD qualifying exam (RFE) as soon as possible.  A PhD dissertation committee should then be formed within one year.  Expectations for graduation are established upon completion of the Dissertation Proposal Exam (DPE).

Are you supportive of your students going on internships? If so, is there a time of year that is best? How many internships can they do?

While opportunities for internships will be considered, students are encouraged to maintain steady progress toward publications and completion of their dissertation with the guidance of their PhD advisor and committee.

Opportunities for Feedback

How do you provide students with feedback regarding overall progress, research activities, etc.?

Students are provided feedback weekly on overall research progress and activities during 1) in person meetings at the experimental bench, 2) engineering meetings with other collaborative ME labs, and 3) informal students only meeting.

How far in advance of a deadline should a student expect to provide written work for feedback, such as publication drafts?

Students received detailed feedback on all written work, such as manuscripts and presentations, within a few days after all documents and figures are submitted to me in Dropbox.

How do you solicit feedback from your students?

Feedback from my students are welcome during weekly 1) in person meetings at the experimental bench, 2) engineering meetings with other collaborative ME labs, and 3) informal students only meeting.

Conference Attendance

Which meetings do your students generally attend? What funding is available to attend these meetings?

Students usually attend IEEE Conferences, Photonics West, and Optical Society of America (OSA).  Funding is available from Rackham travel grants and NIH grants.

Time Away from Campus

Discuss expectations regarding vacations and time away from campus and how best to plan for them. What is the time-frame for notification regarding anticipated absences?

Students have some flexibility to take vacation and time away from campus as needed.  A month of advance notice is expected to properly plan.

Are there specific standard times that students in your group generally take vacation?

Students usually take vacation in between terms and during the summer.

What do you do to facilitate students taking time off (e.g., do you proactively encourage people to take vacation after major deadlines)?

Students are allowed to take time off as needed, but they are expected to be in the lab when grants and paper are due.

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