Academic Plan AY2023

Welcome to the OIST PhD!

An important first task as you enroll in the PhD program is to meet with your Mentor and plan your academic curriculum and future professional development. This is done through the following Academic Plan.


The PhD program at OIST offers continued and dedicated mentoring and development in academic and professional skills, preparing you for your life beyond graduation.  As you progress through the program, you will continue to reflect on and revise your training and development in academic, scientific, and professional skills. Your Mentor, and later your Thesis Supervisor, are an important part of this process.

The OIST PhD program includes a Professional and Career Development (PCD) program to help you develop professional skills and explore career options. Professional skills development is a proactive and continuing process, and is a strong indicator of success in many careers, including science. Many granting bodies (including NIH) now require evidence of such planning, and many other institutions also now require this of all their academic and research appointments. 

Mentoring at OIST 

Your Mentor is a faculty member initially appointed by the Graduate School considering shared research interests, background, and academic history. Your Mentor will serve as your guide in all aspects of your academic development over the duration of your PhD program. As such, having a good working relationship is important, and it is possible to have a new mentor assigned if unresolvable issues arise or there is simply a lack of rapport.  

Your Mentor is distinct from your Thesis Supervisor, so if you are accepted into Mentor’s unit for thesis research, you will need to seek a new Mentor and advise the Graduate School of the change.

Your Mentor will be a first point of contact for academic advice and support, including your choice of courses and lab rotations. Your Mentor should also be one of the people you turn to for advice on other necessary academic and professional development training. Of course, you are encouraged to develop other informal mentoring arrangements inside and outside OIST as you build your professional network.

From your third year of enrolment onward, you will undertake an annual research progress review with your Mentor and Thesis Supervisor, looking at your research progress through the year and at your plans towards completion. Concurrently with this process, you should reflect on your previous year's academic and professional development plan and adjust that as your needs change. 

Your Academic Plan 

The Academic Plan is an individualized plan tailored to your specific needs to prepare you for your research and for your future career. You work with your mentor and with Graduate School advisors to build your own plan of elective courses and rotations before commencing studies at OIST, and then submit it to the Graduate School as part of the initial onboarding and enrollment process. Submitting your academic plan helps us to place you into appropriate and available laboratories for rotations in the first year, helps us plan for you to attend the classes and courses you ask for, and helps you and your mentor plan ahead for your future needs in professional and career development.  

Planning for your First Years in the OIST PhD 

First, read through the Academic Plan and consider your answers to these questions.  Then, arrange a meeting, online or in person, with your assigned Academic Mentor where you will complete several steps. First, discuss your needs and research interests with your mentor. Then, choose your elective courses from the OIST courses available, identify suitable and relevant lab rotations, and indicate any additional training needed for your research and to develop skills and confidence across a range of professional and soft skills.

A brief synopsis of your achievements so far: Where did you graduate from? In which field? Have you received any special awards or recognition? Have you written any research papers yet? Any special extracurricular achievements or interests?
What general area of science are you interested in right now? Do you have a specific research topic in mind already? Do you have any other areas that you may consider researching? Do you prefer experimental, theoretical, or applied sciences?

One of the most important parts of your PhD training is to develop a skill set transferrable beyond graduation. An honest self-assessment and discussion will help you set goals for your training. Later, you will work with your mentor and with our Professional and Career Development program to identify areas of focus for your professional skills development. 

Rate your confidence in your ability to do the following activities (check one column for each skill):
ConfidentSome ExperienceLess Confident
Technical and experimental skills needed for my research *
Experimental design and planning *
Statistical analysis and interpretation of data *
Sufficient background knowledge of my field *
Broad knowledge of other areas of science *
Ability to critically read scientific literature *
Creativity and innovative thinking *
Placing my knowledge and research in context *
Recognizing when and how to seek advice *
Time and work management *
Scientific record keeping *
Coding and computing *
Rate your confidence in your ability in the following communication skills (tick one column):
ConfidentSome ExperienceLess Confident
Writing of a research proposal or publication *
Written English (grammar, structure, and style) *
Presenting data as figures and graphs *
Oral communication and English fluency *
Speaking to a range of different audiences *
Experience as Teaching Assistant, lecturer, lab demonstrator, tutor *
Giving and receiving constructive criticism *
Giving feedback to peers and juniors *
Managing conflict and dealing with teams *


Instructions for Course Selection

  • Refer to the course catalog here for the course contents and the term offered. While this is correct at the time of this survey, changes are made to course availability from time to time.
    UPDATED October 2023
  • Only nominate Elective courses on this form.
  • Choose the course from the drop-down list. This form has entry areas for two courses per term. If you need to add more courses, use the Remarks box at the end of the form. 
  • Please list sufficient elective courses to fully cover your credit requirements. You can change your course selection after enrolment.
  • A maximum of 4 credits worth of Elective courses per term is permitted considering the balance between course work and lab work (each course runs about 10 hours per week total time, in and out of class, and labwork should be at least 20 hours). You may choose one course or none to tailor your program as needed. If you choose to study no course in any one term, please choose the "No Course Selected" option.  
  • Please note that you must be enrolled in at least one course per term in your first year.
  • A small number of courses are worth only 1 credit; please check the course description for more details (e.g., B31).  
  • Basic courses are usually aimed at non-specialists and allow you to experience other disciplines or revise previous knowledge from a new point of view.  But some are hard!
  • Credit requirements for Electives: A minimum of 20 credits of electives for Bachelor degree holders; for STEM Master's degree holders, a minimum of 10 elective credits are required. Please be reminded this is a minimum requirement.  Some supervisors may require students undertake further courses as necessary to improve research outcomes, including prior to being accepted as full-time research students in the unit. Conversely, students should feel free to undertake further courses voluntarily. OIST does not limit the number of courses students may take.
  • If you have graduate level science courses that were not credited to your previous bachelor's or masters's degree, contact Curriculum and Programs Section at for discussion about possible transfer credit toward your OIST degree. 


  • Plan a program of courses that complements what you already know and develops your knowledge in the core area more fully in consideration of your background, aims, and intentions at OIST.  You must take some courses outside your specialization to better prepare you for collaborative and interdisciplinary work. Choose a mix of advanced and basic courses. Pay attention to the correct sequence so that your choices build upon previous courses in a logical sequence.
  • Some courses have a cap on the maximum number of students.  Early return of this form increases your chance of successful entry to that course! These capped amounts (if any) are listed in the course catalog Notes column. 
  • Additional material not offered at OIST may be taken as an Independent Study via directed study with an OIST faculty member. This can only be planned after your arrival at OIST.  Please contact Curriculum and Programs for advice and support. 
  • All Advanced courses assume significant pre-knowledge and some have prerequisite courses that must be fulfilled before you can take the course  (▲).  Some are only held in alternate years (★).  Please check the course catalog and the individual course descriptions for these details before you select these courses.   If you are uncertain about your qualifications of pre-knowledge/ prerequisites, please discuss in detail with your mentor.


Laboratory Rotation

An important part of the OIST program is the laboratory rotations.  During the first year of enrolment, all students are required to do three rotations to experience a range of scientific approaches and to broaden their skill set.  

Use the name of the Professor as Unit identifier. The Graduate School will make every effort to accommodate your choices, but cannot guarantee a place in any unit due to space and availability constraints.

Students must complete rotations in two laboratories in their broad area of academic background and intended thesis research, and one laboratory from another broad area of science.  At least one of the rotations must be outside your research area.  You may be asked to defend your choice of out-of-field rotation to ensure that it is indeed out-of-field, to ensure that you are gaining experience in a complementary field (and are in fact meeting OIST curriculum requirements).

Discuss your Laboratory Rotation preferences with your Mentor, and in the boxes below, please provide FOUR unit options for your in-field and TWO unit options for your out-of-field rotation, in order of your priorities (with the most important first). If you have more units you would like to be considered, please provide these names in the “Notes” section. If you intend to work in a different research field to your previous training and experience, it should also be noted in the "Notes" section.

Information about each research unit may be found on the Research Units page.

Again, please be reminded your choice of research units will be honored as far as possible; however, please bear in mind that not all requests may be accommodated due to the availability of faculty members and space.

Importantly, please note units of adjunct professors may not be available for laboratory rotations.  

Your selection is non-binding, as the OIST program allows for flexibility and a change of your preferred units as you move through the program.

Why are these out-of-field rotation units complementary and/or beneficial to your overall training goals? Do you intend to change your research field away from your previous training and experience? And if you wish to suggest other units as alternatives, please list them here.
Discuss with your mentor additional training that you may need, in areas not covered by OIST courses. These may include specific skills training such as programming languages, experimental and instrumentation techniques, or professional skills development. The Grad School will assist in meeting your needs by provision of on-campus training, online courses, and other opportunities. Some of these may be available for credit as Independent Study or Special Topics, or as part of the Professional and Career Development courses that are an important ongoing part of the OIST curriculum.
Discuss with your mentor the frequency and type of interaction you and s/he will maintain. The Graduate School suggests an informal meeting once a term, and requires a formal meeting once per year. The formal annual meeting eventually becomes part of your annual research progress review. Although primarily for research purposes, during this process, with the permission of the Thesis Committee, your professional development plan may also be updated. You are free to meet as often as you are both comfortable with, but it helps to have an idea of your shared expectations from the start.
Is there anything else that your mentor should know that may assist with the mentoring process? Are there any circumstances that may affect your academic progress? We will not record any details to protect your privacy.
Please enter any remarks and/or comments you wish to convey to the Graduate School that will help us implement your preferred plan.

Statement on access, disability, illness, special consideration request

If you have or experience any disability or condition that may require reasonable accommodation to allow you to participate equally at OIST, please contact the OIST Health Center (