Graduate Student Handbook


This document is meant as a guide for Graduate Study in NBB, however policies and protocols do occasionally change. Please check with Graduate Field Assistant, if you have questions about the contents of the handbook.

Department and Field Faculty

Department Faculty: Andrew Bass, David Deitcher, Ian Ellwood, Joseph Fetcho, Jesse Goldberg, Christiane Linster, Aza Oliva, Robert Raguso, Hudson Kern Reeve, Antonio Fernandez-Ruiz, Ben Sandkam, Madineh Sedigh-Sarvestani, Kerry Shaw, Michael Sheehan, Weinan Sun, Melissa Warden, Michael Webster, Nilay Yapici.

Emeriti Faculty: Elizabeth Adkins-Regan, Kraig Adler, Jack Bradbury, Stephen Emlen, Ronald Harris-Warrick, Carl Hopkins, Howard Howland, Ronald Hoy, Thomas Seeley, Paul Sherman, Sandra Vehrencamp, Charles Walcott.

Field of NBB: (all NBB Department faculty, as well as the following from other Cornell departments): Carrie Adler, Richard Cerione, Thomas Cleland, Ruth Collins, Robin Dando, Timothy DeVoogd, Cole Gilbert, Chun Han, Andrew Hein, Michael Kotlikoff, Alex Kwan, David Lin, Nozomi Nishimura, Linda Nowak, Robert Oswald, Ned Place, Chris Schaffer, David Smith, Katherine Tschida, Maren Vitousek, Gregory Weiland.

Field of NBB Emeriti/Retired: Christopher Clark (R), Walter Koenig (R).

Graduate Student Executive Committee Positions

This committee is elected every fall, and consists of the following offices:

President (El Supremo/ La Suprema): 1 Position
President of the NBB grad students; mediate student/faculty issues, assist other positions, and lead the annual meeting. Represent grad student interests to faculty and serve as contact person between department/DGS and grad students as a whole.  Run elections, maintain our group’s “OrgSync” (Now CampusGroups) details, and send what feels like hundreds of emails. An important responsibility is to check up on other officers and committees to make sure that things are running smoothly, and to suggest changes if things need some help. Meets quasi-regularly with NBB Dept. Chair. 

Vice President (El/La Segundo/a): 1 Position + ~3 Recruitment Committee Volunteers
Vice-president of the NBB grad students. Back up to the President; assist Graduate Field Assistant (Katie Arthur) in organizing recruitment weekend and making it happen. Duties may include driving vans, organizing the recruitment party, running people back to hotels, helping to organize wine-tastings or hiking expeditions, etc. Work will be largely confined to the time right around recruitment weekend (usually end of January or early February). 

Treasurer: 1 Position
Fill out paperwork for graduate student society, submit the NBBGSS budget with the President and DGS, secure funding for Symposium and for the NBB Retreat (working the NBB Retreat Committee). Almost all of your work will be completed at the beginning of the Fall semester. 

SNEEB Squad/Committee: All First-Year Grad Students, plus a non-first-year Advisor to train and offer advice. Responsibilities include working with SNEEB committees in other departments.  For NBB SNEEB weeks: get faculty sponsors, buy refreshments, make and hang advertising posters, set up refreshments with ice, sign for pizza delivery and give receipt to Account Representative, and ensure cleanup afterwards. 

Librarian: 1 Position
Assemble and organize Grad Student Handbook website/GoogleDocs archive that will allow all NBB grad students to share helpful handouts (“How to deal with imposter syndrome” “Work/Life Balance” “How many papers a week should I read?”) as well as lists of resources (“List of NBB-Appropriate Grants” “Resources for finding Post-Docs” “Upcoming Meetings and Conferences”).  These resources will be helpful to new grad students but should also be useful to grad students at all levels. Organizational documents will also be included, like this list of grad student officer descriptions, for instance.  The Librarian will not be expected to make these documents but will simply be expected to curate them. 

AV Technician/Pizza Lunch Representative: 1-2 positions
Run projector and lights during department seminars, and set-up and help clean-up pizza lunch following Thursday seminars.  Paid position, comes with a modest stipend.  

Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GPSA) Representative: 1-2 Positions
NBB Representative at monthly GPSA meetings, representing interests of NBB to Grad Assembly.  Report back on developments in GPSA via email updates. 

Grad-Invited Speaker Coordinators: 2-3 Positions
Organize student-sponsored seminars. Responsible for obtaining nominations and holding a vote on who we will invite and organize hosting and scheduling for the speakers. Organize the visits of the grad student invited speakers, including invitees under the Gilbert Lecture Series program.  This is a great way to spend time with a speaker who you might want to post-doc or network with.  In addition, run the nomination, voting, and invitation process for the next year’s speakers. Coordinates with NBB faculty seminar chair. 

Social Chairs: 2 Positions 
Assist in organizing all department social events (fall picnic, holiday party; find volunteers for set-up, clean-up, transportation of food/beverages to sites, purchase gifts, if appropriate). Assist in the set-up and clean-up of the NBB Picnic and the NBB Holiday Party.  

Administrative Calendar for Students



  • ITAP summer program (mid-August)
  • Graduate School new graduate student orientation (Sunday and Monday before classes begin)
  • Course enrollment opens


  • Course enrollment closes (end of 3rd week of classes)
  • Special committee forms due for new students (end of 3rd week of classes)
  • Late registration fees assessed (after 3rd week of classes)


  • Research Travel Grant applications due (October 1)
  • NSF GRFP applications due
  • Unregistered students withdrawn (end of 6th week of classes)
  • Pre-enrollment for Spring semester begins


  • Spring in absentia petitions due November 1


  • Winter commencement event


  • Online course enrollment available (one week before classes)


  • Research Travel Grants for Spring/Summer travel due to Grad School (February 1)
  • Online course enrollment ends (end of 3rd week of classes)
  • Late registration fee assessed (end of 3rd week of classes)


  • Add/Drop ends
  • Pre-enrollment for Fall begins


  • DEI welcome weekend


  • Spring Commencement and Ph.D. Recognition Ceremony (Memorial Day weekend)


  • Fall in absentia petitions due by June 15


Degree Program in the Field of NBB


Fall and Spring Enrollment:
All research Masters and PhD students are automatically enrolled in one of the following graduate research courses for each academic semester. With the exception of GRAD 9000 Non-degree study, all students will be enrolled in 12 credits. Students will be able to enroll in field specific research courses during the Add period as normal. At the end of the drop period, course credit balancing will be performed by the Graduate School, adjusting the GRAD courses down to the number of credits needed for 12 credit enrollment. EDP students and students on reduced load or reduced tuition will be excluded from the course enrollment and balancing process.

GRAD 9010 Graduate-Level Research - pre candidacy PhD students

GRAD 9011 Doctoral Dissertation Research - post candidacy PhD students

GRAD 9012 Master's Thesis Research - research masters students

GRAD 9000 Non-Degree Study - non-degree students

GRAD 8000 In Absentia - in absentia students

As required by the Office of the University Registrar, every graduate research student must be enrolled in a GRAD class and cannot be allowed to drop the class. Department-specific research classes are not impacted by these changes.

**Students who will be away during a semester may register; in-absentia ; and must petition the Graduate School to do so. (See below for In-Absentia instructions). You must register each semester unless you finish the degree, withdraw, or are granted a leave of absence.

Summer Enrollment:
Registration for the Summer term is required for students who:

  • Will receive financial aid during the summer (fellowships, summer loans, assistantships, travel grants, or tuition, awards)
  • Wish to use campus facilities, such as the library or faculty labs
  • Are off campus but need to be registered for summer study

There is no charge to enroll for the summer.

Students enroll through self-service (Student Essentials) in the Graduate School's Graduate Summer Research course GRAD 9016.  The course numbers change, please watch for the annual announcement from the Graduate School in April for specific class numbers.  Students who are not registered for the summer term by the deadline in May will be subject to FICA tax (OASDI and Medicare) withholding from Assistantship Payroll Appointments.

Registration Requirements:
The Graduate School requires that each student in a research degree program complete a certain number of registered semesters of successful full-time study or research.

  • Research master's programs and degrees require two registered semesters
  • Doctoral programs and degrees a minimum of six registered semesters with at least two between the A and B exams
  • Non-thesis or terminal master's degrees require at least four registered semesters

For all research degrees, at least half of the registered semesters must be earned from full-time academic-year study on the Ithaca campus or satellite locations. (Part-time students are exempt from this requirement.)

In conjunction with the registered semester requirement, all research students (2nd year and forward) are required to have an annual meeting with their Special Committee and complete a self-assessment using the Student Progress Review (SPR) form. This is online and the GRA will send a link with a reminder and deadline for completion. This is a graduate school requirement. Failure to complete may affect future student status.

Course Registration:
All graduate students must register at the beginning of each semester and during the summer. Registration is online and instructions will come from the Graduate School on this process. Before registering, all outstanding bills owed to the University must be paid. 

Course Requirements:
Course enrollment can be completed any time during the first three weeks of classes but should be done as soon as possible because some classes fill up, even for graduate students. The Graduate School will send information on course enrollment along with reminders. Talk with your advisor (and anyone else you would like advice from). 

In your first year, the Field requires that you take BIONB 2210 (fall) and BIONB 2220 (spring) the minimum requirement is to audit them, unless your advisor/committee requires otherwise, and any department journal clubs you will regularly participate in. Once your special committee is formed (end of 3rd semester), you will arrange a “prescription meeting”; at this meeting, your committee will consider your academic background and will decide which courses you need in your major and minor areas of concentration. 

The Graduate School requires all students to be registered for 12 credits minimum per semester. Students register for their courses of choice, and a few weeks into the semester, the Grad School staff calculates any deficit to the 12-credit requirement and automatically enrolls students in a Graduate Level Research ‘course’ for the number of missing credits (if any). The GRAD 9010 Graduate-Level Research course number is used for pre-candidacy students, and the GRAD 9011 Doctoral Dissertation Research course number is used for post-candidacy PhD students.

Other Registration Statuses

Events that can Trigger a Change in Status:

  • Completing an internship
  • Personal or health reasons
  • Starting a job
  • Committee chair leaves the University
  • Writing your dissertation
  • Missed conferral deadline

In Absentia Status:
In Absentia is a registered active status that provides an opportunity for graduate students to engage in full-time study at an off-campus location at least 100 miles away from the student's campus. Tuition cost is $200 per semester. 

While in absentia, you may:

  • Conduct research for an extended period at a location far from campus.
  • Travel to another institution for an extended period to use library, archival, laboratory, or other resources to advance your scholarship.
  • Take courses at another university that are not available at Cornell.

Additional Information:

  • PhD students are eligible for in absentia after completion of two semesters, masters students after completion of one semester. Both can be in absentia a total of 8 semesters.
  • PhD students may not complete more than two of the required semesters of registration while approved for in absentia study.
  • Masters students may not complete more than one of the required semesters of registration while approved for in absentia study.

Managing In-Absentia Status:

  • An In Absentia Petition must be submitted by June 15th for Fall, November 1st for Spring
  • Study plan and documentation required
  • Travel registration with Travel Registry required for international travel
  • Not eligible for TA, 20-hour limit for RA & GRA Auto enrolled in GRAD 8000 for fall and spring only
  • Not automatically extended, new petition justifying need is required Auto enrolled in SHP required for fully funded PhD students
  • Domestic students who have alternate health insurance that meets Cornell's requirements may apply to waive SHP enrollment.
  • International students are not eligible to waive enrollment unless they are returning to their home country.  July 31st deadline to waive enrollment.

Leaves of Absence:
You may request a leave of absence for health, parental or personal reasons.  A leave pauses your student status, with the opportunity to return to your program at a set time.

  • For health reasons, medical or mental health, request a health leave, available for up to a maximum of four years.
  • Leave of absence may be requested for personal reasons other than health and parental accommodation for up to 12 months and renewable for a maximum of four years.
  • Maternity and paternity accommodations (parental accommodation), although not technically a leave, offers six weeks of paid accommodation (eight weeks for the birth mother for a cesarean section delivery) OR up to two semesters of reduced load status, depending on your circumstances.  To initiate the parental accommodation, complete and return the Parental Accommodation Request form.

Important Information for International Students:
If you are not an American citizen or permanent resident and hold a nonimmigrant visa, you must talk to a representative in International Services before requesting a leave of absence. International students should contact the Graduate Student Services Office and International Services for information on maintaining visa eligibility for reentry.

For a comparison of different leave statuses, please visit the Graduate School website:

PhD Committee

Provisional Committee: When you arrive, you have already been appointed a provisional chairperson, who may then recruit other faculty into the provisional committee to provide guidance until you select your special committee.

Special Committee: The Graduate School requires that all doctoral students have a full special committee no later than the end of the 3rd semester. 

The special committee is a group of at least four faculty members who help develop and direct your graduate program. The Graduate School requires this committee be officially established by the end of third semester. You will officially declare your committee via your Student Essentials link. Once you have submitted your suggested committee, the GFA, all committee members, the DGS, and the Graduate School will be sent an electronic request to approve the committee. Once this process is complete, you will receive a confirmation that your committee is officially on file. See the GFA if you need assistance with this process. It is very important that there be diversity in the ‘concentrations’ represented on your committee. You can change members of your committee if you find that someone else would be more appropriate.

Chairperson: The chairperson(s) is the most important member of your committee and is usually your major advisor. Your advisor helps direct your thesis and determines your “major area of concentration”. In choosing the chairperson, you may want to talk with several faculty members or consider doing lab rotations, to see whom you find interesting and who will contribute to your training.

Minor Member #1: You must also choose a “minor area of concentration” (which will be represented by the minor committee member). Students can select a minor subject/member from the list of subjects within the Field of NBB or they may select a minor subject/member from outside NBB (current students have chosen minor members in Applied Physics, Biomedical Sciences, Biochemistry, Molecular & Cell Biology, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Electrical Engineering, Entomology, Natural Resources, and Psychology). You are certainly not obligated to choose from that list. You may want to choose a minor/member based on its relevance to your intended research. The minor member may require you to take specific additional courses, which is important to find out early on.

Minor Member #2: The third member of the special committee can be either within or outside the Field of NBB. This will be someone whose advice you would probably be seeking during your research. It is also possible to have additional members on your committee. When you choose members, ask them what they will require of you, and what they will expect you to know for your A-exam. All committee members must attend both exams.

Field Appointed Minor Member: The appointed member of your special committee is a member of the Field of NBB and who specializes in an area outside of your “major area of concentration.” This member is officially appointed by the DGS. Very often the DGS is open to your suggestions or preferences regarding this member. This individual is intended to provide breadth to your degree program.

Power of the Special Committee: The faculty member who represents a particular subject / concentration on the committee determines the specific requirements for that student (e.g. coursework needed). The committee evaluates the student at the time of exams and determines whether they have met the appropriate standards for original research contributing to the knowledge base of the field (approving the thesis or dissertation). Students are encouraged to meet with their full committee at least once a year to ascertain that everyone is in agreement regarding progress toward degree completion. 

Important:  A retired faculty member who remains in the Ithaca or Geneva area may continue beyond one year (and through graduation) as a minor member or chair of those special committees on which they were serving at the time of retirement in that position – no petition required.  If the retired faculty member leaves the Ithaca or Geneva area and wishes to remain on a special committee beyond one year, the student must petition to have the member appointed as co-chair or minor member.

If a faculty member resigned from the University and wishes to remain on a special committee beyond one year, the student must petition to have the former graduate faculty member appointed as a co-chair or minor member.

An acceptable master’s committee (minimum of two members) can consist of:

  1. Chair (active graduate faculty)
  2. Co-chair (retired/resigned faculty)

An acceptable PhD committee (minimum of three members) can consist of:

  1. Chair (active graduate faculty)
  2. Co-chair (retired/resigned faculty)
  3. Minor member (active graduate faculty)

Degree milestones

The A-Exam:
To qualify as a PhD candidate, each student must pass an oral “admission to candidacy” exam (A-Exam) given by the special committee, usually within the first 2 years of study. Its purpose is to test the level of your knowledge and your ability to think on your feet. The exam often involves the presentation of proposed research and a discussion of preliminary data. Some faculty may want a research proposal, and/or written responses to “essay” style questions, before the exam. All exams include an oral examination, but the inclusion of a written portion is up to the committee members. The exam may cover any area of biology related to the thesis topic, minor areas of study, or any other area of biology deemed appropriate by your committee. You should talk with each committee member before your exam to pin down what each expects from you. It is possible to pass the A-exam conditionally, which means that you must carry out specific tasks required by your committee, such as writing up answers to further questions, teaching a course, or reporting again to your committee after doing some research. Not passing generally means one of the following: a one-time retaking of the exam; a decision by the committee to have the student finish at the Master’s degree level; or dismissal from the program (very rare). 

Scheduling your A-Exam (things to keep in mind):
The Graduate School requires all Ph.D. students to attempt the Admission to Candidacy Examination (A-Exam) before the beginning of the 7th semester.

  • The Schedule A Examination and Research Compliance Form can be found online (
  • The form must be submitted to the Graduate School no later than 7 days before the date of the exam. Remember--if you wait until the last minute, you may not be able to get the required signatures in time. 
  • If a committee member cannot participate in the exam, they must designate a proxy, from the same field/concentration, who will participate in the exam in their stead using the Designation of Proxy form. 
  • The hardest part of scheduling an exam is finding a date when all three members of your committee can attend.  Summer can be a hard time to corral faculty and they often disappear shortly after the end of classes so try to commit them to a date well in advance.
  • If a committee member is not physically available to sign the scheduling form, they can give their approval in an email. Email approvals need to be submitted with the scheduling form. 
  • The GFA should be the final signature on the form.
  • You will need to reserve a room to hold your exam and the exam needs to be announced 7 days before it is scheduled. 

Exam Outcomes:

  • Pass - most students pass the A-Exam and may be granted a non-thesis Masters.
  • Conditional Pass - occasionally a student will have to fulfill some requirements set by the committee for the exam to be considered passed.
  • Fail – If a student fails the A exam, he/she can retake it at a future date. It is critical to consult with the Special Committee to understand why the exam was failed. Sometimes a student who is going to fail an A-Exam knows before the exam and takes the exam to be granted a non-thesis masters; in this case they do not continue in the Ph.D. program.

Petitioning to Postpone A-Exam:
If you and your committee chair feel that you are not ready to take your A-Exam at the conventional time, you can petition to postpone your exam for a semester by submitting a general petition asking for an exception to the rule that you need to have attempted A-Exam before the beginning of the 7th semester. This should be used for unusual circumstances such as changing committee chairs, etc. Failure to take, schedule, or petition to postpone your A-Exam before the beginning of the 7th semester will result in a hold on your registration and may affect funding/fellowships.
General Petition Form:

The B-Exam:
Candidates for the PhD degree are required to present a seminar on their thesis work. This seminar is announced and is open to anyone wishing to attend. Following the seminar (usually but not always on the same day), the special committee administers an oral examination in areas related to the thesis topic. Prior to taking the B-exam (at least 7 days), you must file a Schedule B Examination (online) form with the Graduate School; this must be signed by all Special Committee members, the DGS, and the GFA; a copy must be posted in the department. After taking the exam, you required to submit a "Results of Examination" form which is now online:  

On the day of their scheduled exam, students will receive an email from the Graduate School instructing them to initiate the results submission process immediately after their exam takes place. A direct link to the online results submission form is included in the email. Once signed and submitted by the student, the results form is sent automatically first to the chair for official recording of the exam results, then to committee members for review and confirmation that the results reflect the consensus of the special committee and then to the DGS to indicate that the graduate field accepts the results of the exam. Once the electronic review and approval process concludes, the completed form is routed to the GFA to review and acknowledge. Once this last step is completed, the results are automatically sent to the Graduate School.

As with the online exam schedule forms, the results forms are accessed from the forms page as outlined below. Please communicate the online results submission process to your students and again, the Graduate School will remind them on the day of their exam. 

Accessing the online exam results forms:
The online version of the B and M results forms are accessed from the Forms page on the Graduate School web site under Exams and Research ( The PDF version of the exam forms are no longer available from the web page but can be requested if needed. However, we are discouraging continued use of the PDF version of the forms as we progress forward with the automation of all Graduate School forms. 

Notifications and tracking of the online forms:

  • Students receive email notifications of each approval and receive a final notification when all members of the committee and the field have approved informing them that the exam results have been submitted to the Graduate School for processing. 
  • Students can track the approval process by following the Click here to login to Dynamic Forms. link provided in the email notifications sent once each has signed and submitted the form.
  • The student, chair and GFA receive an email from the Graduate School when the schedule form has been processed and approved. 
  • Students are responsible for ensuring committee approval and sign off so please encourage them to track the progress if it appears to be stalled.

After each committee member gets a copy of the thesis for critique, the B-exam can be scheduled. Ph.D. candidates must provide full versions of all thesis chapters to the members of their Special Committee at least three weeks prior to the scheduled B-Exam. Failure to meet this deadline may result in postponement of the B-exam. Exceptions will be granted only under extenuating circumstances and with the permission of the DGS.

Once you have made any necessary revisions to your thesis/dissertation, you will be ready to complete the final degree requirement of submitting your thesis/dissertation to the Graduate School. Please refer to Submitting Your Thesis/Dissertation for instructions and submission steps and Required Sections, Guidelines and Suggestions for formatting requirements.

Please read before you begin the submission process:

Your Primary Name as it appears in Student Essentials must be used on the Title page, Copyright page, and Abstract page of your thesis/dissertation. 

Policy requires the thesis/dissertation be submitted to the Graduate School within 60 days of the final exam. The deadline for the upcoming conferral may be earlier than the 60-day deadline so please refer to the Planning Timeline to make sure you submit on time.

Students who miss the 60-day submission deadline need to determine their student status for the next academic semester by either requesting a Leave of Absence or submitting a Petition to register.

In addition to the Dissertation/Thesis filing fee ($135.00 PhD); ($50.00 Master) a late-filling fee ($100.00) will be charged if you do not submit your dissertation within the allowed 60 days.  Refer to Submission Fees for more information. 

Once the Graduate School has approved your submission, your committee members will be notified by email requesting their review and approval. The Graduate School encourages you to be proactive in contacting your committee members at the time of your submission to meet the upcoming conferral.

OPT Application dates:
Students who are applying for OPT can choose one of four dates as your program end date (see dates below).  If you choose to use either your date of defense or the date you submitted your thesis/dissertation, you would be required to take a leave of absence that would start with either their defense date or their submission date.  Because we are not involved in the OPT process, students need to confirm their plans with the Office of Global Learning.  Their email address is, and their website is:   

  1. End of semester
  2. Defense date
  3. Submission date 
  4. Graduation date


Teaching Requirements and Funding Sources

Teaching Requirements
The Department of Neurobiology and Behavior requires that all PhD students teach for a minimum of one semester. However, the special committee may recommend that the student do more teaching, dependent upon the student’s career goals, educational background, funding situation, prior teaching experience, and other considerations.

Teaching Assistantships (TA’s): Most teaching assistantships for students are administered through the Department. The courses offered vary each semester. The DGS, in consultation with the Department chairperson and course administrators, makes the final selection of TA’s. Most NBB teaching assistantships are available through the Introduction to Behavior (BIONB2210) and Introduction to Neuroscience (BIONB2220) courses. Students may teach courses outside of NBB, but the Department is not responsible for making such arrangements.  In January, students receive an application for Department TAships; contracts are usually issued in April or May. For May, you must petition to extend time-to-degree limits this month (even though less than 7 years have passed). Students may also apply for a teaching assignment in one of the CORE Biology courses: a) BIOG 1445 – Intro to Comparative Physiology, individualized instruction), b) BIOG 1140 – Foundations of Biology, c) BIOMG 1350 – Intro Biology: Cell and Developmental Biology; d) BIOG 1440 – Intro to Comparative Physiology, e) BIOEE 1610 – Ecology and the Environment, f) BIOG 1500 – Investigative Biology Lab, g) BIOMG 3350 – Biochemistry, h) HORT 1115 – Nature of Plants.

Double TAship: As of 2011, if you are interested in a double TAship, you must have the approval of your special committee chair and the Director of Graduate Studies. You will be eligible to receive up to ½ of a Registration Unit (RU) for the semester in which you have a double TA assistantship, unless you petition the Graduate School for eligibility to be able to earn up to one full RU. If you want to be eligible to receive a full RU for the semester in which you are a double TA, you may petition the Graduate School in advance. Requests will be approved by the Dean if the double TAship is to the benefit of the graduate student’s academic goals. Requests to be eligible for a full RU while holding a double TA appointment must be submitted, with the endorsement of the student’s special committee chair and Director of Graduate Studies, through the normal Graduate School petition process. The General Petition form is available on the Graduate School’s website in the “Forms” section at

Payments are distributed over 9 months even though the work is concentrated in one semester. This may have tax implications. Please contact a tax professional if you have questions

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs): Advisors might fund or supplement their students with money directly from grants. Talk to your advisor about this possibility. Some labs allow the work performed during a GRA-funded semester to be in the thesis, others do not (if the grant is independent from the thesis of the student). This can potentially delay graduation, so accepting a GRA should include an explicit statement from the advisor about how much of that work can be part of the student’s thesis.

Non-Cornell Sources:
NSF, Hughes Fellowships, etc.: Typically, applicants must have completed no more than 12 months of full-time graduate study or its equivalent as of August 1. Full-time graduate study is as defined by the universities attended. There is no credit hour limit for students who have completed only full-time graduate study; eligibility for full-time students is based on the length of time enrolled in the graduate program. Applications are available from the Graduate Fellowship Office and on the Granting Agency’s Web Site.

Diversity Fellowships are available to incoming students nominated by the Field for 1-2 years. The level of support changes from year to year. 

If you are successful in obtaining outside funds (NSF, Hughes, etc.) and summer support is provided as part of that award package, the department will not provide additional summer funds. 

Notify the Graduate Field Assistant if you receive funding outside of Cornell.

Summer funding: Summer funding is allocated by the Chairman and Director of Graduate Studies and is determined by monies allotted by the Graduate School and other available funding sources. 
This funding is not guaranteed. Please speak with your advisor about summer funding and his/her ability to provide matching funds well in advance of the onset of summer. Funding usually requires advanced planning.

Research Grants: The following site contains information on grant funding that you may find useful:

Travel Grants – Conference/Research:
The Graduate School sometimes provides a portion of conference travel costs to students who are making presentations at professional meetings.

  • Applications are accepted up to 30 days after the START date of the conference. Previously, all applications were due by the first of the month prior to conference month. This sometimes placed an undue burden on students attending smaller conferences, who may not have been invited to present far enough in advance to take advantage of the Conference Travel Grant.
  • Please note that we still encourage students to submit their application materials as early as possible! Before the conference is preferable, but we will offer full Grants to completed applications submitted within 30 days of conference START date.
  • All RESEARCH students are eligible for one Conference Travel Grant each cycle, July 1 – June 30
  • All LATE Conference Travel Grants submitted after 30 days of START date will be awarded at half the allocated location amount.
  • The Graduate School uses the start date/month of conference for eligibility of conference cycle and not submission date of application.

Application Process:

  1. Download the form from
  2. Prepare a 1-page abstract and statement of relevance
  3. Obtain all required signatures; Electronic signatures/approvals are accepted in lieu of physical signatures
  4. Attach your acceptance email showcasing your date/time of your presentation
  5. Submit the completed application to or 143 Caldwell Hall
  6. The Graduate School will not confirm each individual submission upon receipt 


  • Stipends are disbursed once per month. Notifications and awards are typically processed by the 15th day of the month. All funds are posted directly to student bursar accounts and will disburse as a refund.  To sign up for direct deposit with the bursar visit:
  • Not set up for bursar direct deposit refunds, a refund paper check will be issued, view your student essentials/ bursar account for pickup dates
  • This award is taxable, International students from non-tax treaty countries will automatically have 14% deducted from the reimbursement. More information is located here:

The Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies (170 Uris Hall) has funds for graduate student travel grants for research outside the United States. Application forms can be found at:

Other Requirements:
There may be special requirements associated with various sources of funding, such as taking classes (research ethics, statistics) or doing multiple lab rotations.

Graduate Student Assistantship and Fellowship Stipend Rates:

Graduate Student Health Insurance:  

Fellowship checks are available at the Fellowship Office (Caldwell Hall), but direct deposit is encouraged. Direct Deposit and Student Refunds

For International Students:
Taxes (general):

Tax Preparation Assistance

Apply for an ITIN (for those who need to file tax returns but not eligible for Social Security Number):

Apply for a Social Security Number:
For all cases involving students who are foreign nationals, graduate fields and the student should consult in advance with ISSO before considering and accepting a double TAship. Visa and immigration policies complicate and may prohibit this option for international students. Double TAships cannot be done by international students on an F1 VISA.

Holiday and Vacation Time for Funded Graduate Students

General Principles:
Graduate students can benefit from time devoted to rest, relaxation, and renewal away from the pressures of research, scholarly endeavors, service responsibilities, and academic study.  Graduate fields, special committees (academic advisors), graduate faculty, and assistantship supervisors should encourage graduate students to take time away via university holidays and planned vacation. 

Holiday and Vacation Time Duration:
Graduate students funded on assistantships (see University Policy 1.3 for details) or fellowships for spring, summer, and fall terms are entitled to two weeks (10 weekdays) of annual vacation each calendar year in addition to Cornell University holidays (when the university is officially closed); vacation time will be pro-rated for students funded for shorter periods of time. University holidays generally include 12 days:  Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and the following day, and Winter Break (generally six working days from December 25 through January 1). Assistantship and fellowship stipend, tuition, and health plan packages are financial support for graduate study and are not reduced for holiday or approved vacation time away.

If a graduate student holds an external fellowship whose terms may conflict with this policy, the student should consult with their Director of Graduate Studies or the Graduate School Associate Dean for Administration to determine if the external fellowship policy supersedes Cornell policy.

University Holidays vs. Academic Calendar:
Days on which classes are not in session but the university is open (e.g., “spring break”) are not automatic vacation time nor holidays for funded graduate students.  Graduate students are expected to continue with their research, scholarly endeavors, service responsibilities, and academic progress during those periods, but may request in advance to take vacation during such periods.   

Handling Disagreements:
If a graduate student and special committee chair and supervisor (if any) of the funded position are unable to reach agreement on appropriate scheduling of requested vacation time, use of university holidays, or requests for additional time away for personal reasons, the Director of Graduate Studies should be consulted to help mediate a resolution.  The Graduate School associate dean for academic and student affairs may be consulted as well.

Student Conduct and Support


Responsible Conduct of Research Training (RCR), by end of 1st year - REQUIRED

Effective Fall 2015 and beyond, per Graduate School Dean Barbara Knuth on 10/31/2014: “Every graduate student pursuing a research degree (master’s or doctoral) is required to complete appropriate training in the responsible conduct of research. Each student must complete online training through Cornell Office of Research Integrity and Assurance (ORIA) in authorship, peer review, and avoidance of research misconduct. Required training must be completed prior to the end of the student’s second registered semester. Graduate fields and/or special committees may require additional training beyond these minimum requirements.” When we have instructions from ORIA about the training system that will be available to students to meet this requirement we will let you know. When that system is available, we hope you will encourage all research degree students to complete the training (in addition to the Fall ’15 and beyond matriculates who will be required to complete the training).

Cornell has formal policies on sexual harassment, discrimination, and other misconduct, which can be found here: Graduate School Sexual Misconduct, Including Harassment

Academic Integrity

Concerns: If you any concerns with something in your lab, please go to your PI first, if you are not getting any resolution, please go to the DGS, if they are not available, you can reach out to the Department Chair.

Cornell Health: Talk, Text, Sessions and Resources.


Confidentiality phone numbers

Grievances: There is an ombudsman for grievances from graduate students in dealing with other students, faculty, or staff. 




Corson/Mudd Hall Facilities:
We share the Corson/Mudd building with the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Corson Hall is on the east (room numbers begin with an “E”). Mudd Hall is on the west (room numbers begin with a “W”). Connecting the two halls is an atrium (room numbers begin with “A”).

Mail: US Mail, Campus Mail, packages, etc. arriving at Mudd Hall is sorted into mailboxes in W367 Mudd.  You will receive an email when you receive a package. See the administration office for the code to get into W367 Mudd after hours.

Stamped US Mail: Mail goes in a large (US Mail bin in W367. It is picked up around 11:00am).

Campus Mail: Inter-campus deliveries, use campus mail envelopes (found in W367 Mudd); mail goes in a metal file bin mounted on the side of the mailboxes in W367.

UPS & FedEx: Packages can be sent from W361 Mudd. Please ask your administrative assistant for any questions regarding this service.

Phone/FAX/Photocopying: Long-distance telephone calls - You must use your own phone. There are no exceptions. A photocopier/Fax machine is in W367; please see any of the staff in W361 for assistance. The fax number is (607) 254-1303.

Computers: The Department maintains a microcomputer facility (W157 Mudd; door code=6795) with Apple Macintoshes on the campus network, and a color scanner and slide maker. For assistance, see Brian Mlodzinski (bjm16), Computer consultant (W107 Mudd).

Facilities (NBB and University) CISER: Cornell has an institute for Social and Economic Research. CISER, for short, runs a series of servers which you can access to run massive programs that your person laptops cannot handle. The list of programs on each of the research servers can be found here but it includes Mathematica, JMP, Matlab, and SAS. This webpage has a link to the application  You'll have to specify who you are and who advises you.

Once you've applied your adviser will get an email asking them to confirm that you are a student and need to use the servers. Once they do so CISER will email you a link and instructions on how to use and access the servers. Good luck, and happy computing!

Animal Care: Students conducting research that involves housing animals MUST meet with an Animal Caretaker to fulfill government and University procedures. All students performing experiments involving animals must take one of the Animal Care seminars offered by the Center for Research Animal Resources. See Chad Westmiller (cew22) for information.

Liddell Lab: NBB administers Liddell Lab, a research building located 2 miles NE of campus on Freese Road. Liddell has rooms suitable for housing vertebrates, a greenhouse, a kitchen and test rooms. The surrounding area includes 2 ponds, Fall Creek, and forested and agricultural land. To obtain space at Liddell, submit a request to the department chair specifying how much and what kind of space you need, the nature of the project, and an estimate of how long you need the space. Graduate student needs are given priority when space is assigned.

Seminars and Social Activities

Seminars - Speakers are invited from both Cornell and outside the University to give talks in the NBB seminar series, held every Thursday at 12:30PM in the Morison Seminar Room (A106 Corson-Mudd). Weekly attendance by graduate students is strongly encouraged, as these events represent core intellectual activities in the NBB program. After the seminar there is usually a pizza lunch for grads and post-docs to meet with speakers.

Responsibilities for Graduate student hosting an NBB Seminar in the NBB Seminar Series:
The host will be responsible for setting up the itinerary with the speaker for 45-minute (or 30-minute) meetings and the times and rooms the students or faculty will be meeting. The Administrative Assistant will provide the finalized itinerary to everyone listed on the itinerary.

The host will also decide where and when and who will go to dinner on Thursday evening. The host will also need to provide receipts with the attendee’s name on it, from both the pizza luncheon and dinner to the Administrative Assistant. (*When considering where to go for dinner, please visit the Administrative Suite in W361 for a list for restaurants that provide direct billing. Direct billing does not require a credit card, the Administrative Assistant will process the payment after the dinner.)

The host will provide transportation to and from the speaker’s travel arrangements (airport, bus, etc.) and to and from the hotel. They will typically have breakfast in the morning on Thursday with the Speaker at the hotel.

Journal Clubs: (Students should register via Student Center)
Two journal clubs meet weekly to discuss current literature and faculty and student research:
Research Design in the Study of Animal Social Behavior (Lunch Bunch; BIONB 7201) – Tu, 12:20, W358 Mudd; Topics in Neural Basis of Behavior; BIONB 7202) – Fr., 10:30, A305 Mudd. These clubs provide valuable opportunities to practice public presentation skills, gain valuable feedback on research ideas, strengthen scholarly mastery of one’s field of interest and hone critical thinking skills. Attendance and participation are strongly encouraged. 

Social Life:
SNEEB: NBB together with E&EB and Entomology has a Social Hour (SNEEB) every Friday at 5pm (except during summer and winter breaks) in the Atrium with beverages and snacks donated by faculty sponsors and the departments.

Big Red Barn: is the official graduate activity center where one can buy lunch and coffee, and which holds a weekly Friday Happy Hour for graduate students as well as other activities. Keep an eye out for e-mails from the Grad School outlining the activities at the Big Red Barn.

Places to eat on Campus (near Mudd Hall):

  • Big Red Barn (behind Malott Hall, to the left in parking lot): deli and short-order hot dishes.
  • Cornell Dairy Bar (East up Tower Rd.): bagels, muffins, cheeses, snack items, sandwiches, soup, ice cream – this is closed for a couple of years for renovations; ice cream and snack items, etc. can be found in the Trillium Express (door to the left of the main Trillium entrance)
  • Manndible Cafe (located in the lobby of Mann Library)
  • Trillium (across Tower Rd.): wide variety, often packed with students


Additional Resources

Graduate School Resources:

The Office of Academic and Student Affairs works with graduate faculty and graduate students on academic policy and programs, academic integrity and misconduct, responsible conduct of research, petitions requesting exceptions to graduate school policy as outlines in the Graduate Faculty’s Code of Legislation, and academic progress and students status. The office also offers academic, writing and professional development programs, including proposal/thesis/dissertation writing boot camp, the Productive Writer email (Sign Up), Graduate Write-Ins, Productive Writing workshops, Fellowship Application Writing WorkshopsThree Minute Thesis Competition, and the Advising Guide for Research Students.

The Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement (OISE) supports an inclusive and welcoming environment for all graduate and postdoctoral scholars, but especially for those from marginalized communities and/or backgrounds historically excluded from and underrepresented in the academy. OISE supports systemic change and promotes a climate of diversity, belonging, equity, engagement, and achievement, which are integral components of graduate and postdoctoral education. OISE supports scholar success through recruitment, diversity fellowships, mentoring, professional, leadership, and community development programming, and ongoing support.

Recognizing that health and academic performance are intimately linked, the Office of Graduate Student Life is a source of information, support, and advocacy that creates a more student-centered graduate student life experience.  In addition to being a first point of contact for students who are struggling or experiencing any form of distress, the Office of Graduate Student Life serves as a coordinating hub with campus-partners that focus on promoting a healthy and holistic student experience.  

More information can be found here:  


Graduate School Contacts:

Jason Kahabka, Associate Dean for Administration, 607-254-3324

Janna Lamey, Senior Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Life, 607-255-5184

NBB Contacts:
Andrew Bass, Department Chair       

Michael Sheehan, Director Graduate Studies   

Katie Arthur, Graduate Field Assistant/Course Coordinator

Shannon Spencer, Department Business Administrator, Human Resources, Finance, Grants