Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC)

The DAC is made up of 3 individuals (faculty) considered to have expert knowledge in the student’s chosen field of research.  The Program suggests that at least two of the DAC members hold a Harvard faculty appointment (for reasons pertaining to the forming of the dissertation defense committee, which comes at the time of being ready to defend the dissertation).  The advisor attends the meetings (mandatory), but is not considered as one of the 3 faculty members serving on the DAC.  The Program Chair also generally attends each DAC meeting (or if unavailable, a representative of the Program will do so).

The DAC has several functions.  The first will be to approve the student’s dissertation research proposal.  Second, the DAC, in consultation with the dissertation advisor, will periodically evaluate the progress of the student’s dissertation research.  The DAC may make recommendations to the dissertation advisor as well as the student, with regard to the student’s progress towards completion of the dissertation.  Third, the DAC, in consultation with the dissertation advisor, will determine at what point the student is ready to defend their dissertation.  Finally, students must submit their list of three dissertation examiners for the defense to the DAC for approval.  The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences requires that at least two of the examiners for the dissertation must hold faculty appointments through a Harvard Department (and the Biophysics Program allows students to carry over up to two members of their DAC to serve on their Dissertation Defense Committee).

We ask that students notify us as soon as they have identified a potential committee (in consultation with their advisor(s), and/or the Biophysics Program Chair) and received approval of the committee makeup from their advisor.  Once given approval, we request that students make the first contact with the potential DAC members so that the student can address any questions about the dissertation research and future planned research, as well as the faculty members' relevance for serving on the committee, with them directly.  After a student has had 3 members agree to serve on the committee, the Program Administrator can help begin the process of setting up the first meeting with all the people involved.

DAC meetings generally take place on a yearly basis until the time of being given permission to write the dissertation and defend, although depending on the nature of the research and how quickly the direction of the project may shift based on specific outcomes, some DAC meetings take place on a more frequent schedule.