Preparing PhD Committee Meetings

In my experience, PhD Committee Meetings are an obscure, secretive part of the PhD requirements. One reason for this is that they vary greatly from student to student and discipline to discipline. Still, it is undeniably yet another way in which people without family/friends in academia are gatekept away from it.

When it is your time to prepare a PhD Qualifying Exam or PhD Yearly Checkpoint, it is likely you have never even seen what one looks like before, since they are private events, and have to rely on asking around for examples of successful ones. I know this because it is what I did when I was starting out and because, in the past two or three months, I have been asked for my own old documents many times. Therefore, I am posting them here so they are accessible to everyone, regardless of whether they email me or not.

As it is now tradition with these types of posts, I must precede everything with a big DISCLAIMER. While these documents worked for me, I am not claiming they are perfect or a model to follow. I post them here so you can look at them and judge for yourself which parts are good or bad or which parts you should take inspiration from. Furthermore, obviously my documents are very related to my own line of research, so copying what I wrote word for word will be of little use to you. And finally, I have found PhD requirements vary heavily from institution to institution. I used the following documents to survive to my third PhD year at the University of Toronto Computer Science Department. If you are reading this from another institution, I strongly recommend you look for examples there.

Okay, that being said, here you go (I’ll try to update this list as I progress):

Qualifying Exam

  • Here’s the pdf document I sent to my committee one month before my qualifying exam in 2020
  • Here are the slides (keynote (recommended) , ppt ) I used for my qualifying exam 15 minute presentation in 2020. Make sure to enable presenter notes to also see my script.

Yearly PhD Checkpoint

(Please email me if any of the links above are broken)