Welcome New Ph.D. in Biological Sciences Graduate Students-Department of Biological Sciences - Carnegie Mellon University

Welcome Ph.D. in Biological Sciences Graduate Students 2013

Congratulations on being accepted to the Ph.D. in Biological Sciences program at Carnegie Mellon University! We are very pleased that you are joining us this fall, and are looking forward to assisting you as you train to become leading scientists. Use this monthly step-by-step instruction guide in order to prepare for your arrival.

Important Dates and Academic Calendar

The University-Wide Graduate Student Orientation
Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, August 12, 14 & 15, 2013
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all students
The International Graduate Student Orientation
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
MANDATORY for international students
The Department of Biological Sciences Orientation *Coming soon summer 2013
Monday-Friday, August 19-23, 2013
MANDATORY for all students
The Elizabeth Jones Annual Retreat at Hidden Valley Four Seasons Resort
Saturday and Sunday, August 24 and 25, 2013
MANDATORY for all students
The First Day of Classes
Monday, August 26, 2013

Academic calendar (2013-2014): http://www.cmu.edu/hub/calendar.html

Step 1: May Checklist

Various forms need to be completed as soon as possible and returned to the Graduate Programs Manager.

  • Transcript
    • If you graduated in fall 2012 or spring 2013, send your final transcript to the Graduate Programs Manager.
  • Andrew Account
    • Your Andrew Account will give you access to the university’s computing environment, including email, network registration, Computing Services public computer clusters and other resources. To familiarize yourself with all of these computing services and to find your Andrew ID please see www.cmu.edu/computing/new-user. Your Andrew Account password is set to the first 8-digits of your Student ID. The Graduate Programs Manager will email you when your Andrew Account and Student ID number have been generated.
  • Health History and Immunization Information Forms
    • By June 30, students must complete the online Health History Forms and Immunization Requests. You will need your Andrew ID and password to access the site. Select the HealthConnect button, which will take you to a secure site where you can enter your health and immunization information.
  • International Students Information Form (ISIF) and Affidavit of Support Form (international students only) 
    • In order for the Office of International Education (OIE) to generate an I-20, you must complete the International Student Information and Affidavit of Support forms. OIE will process these forms, and will mail you the Certificate of Eligibility (I-20). You should expect to wait at least 3 weeks from receipt of all necessary documents plus verification of your admission from your academic department until you receive your Certificate of Eligibility (I-20). UPS will deliver the package. After receipt of the Certificate, you will be able to pay the SEVIS fee and contact your embassy for an appointment. 

Step 2: June Checklist

  • Health Insurance
    • Full-time, matriculating students must meet medical insurance requirements. Waivers, enrollment forms and deadlines may be found at the Student Health Insurance webpage. Any questions about health insurance should be directed to shinsure@andrew.cmu.edu. During the 2013-2014 academic year, the department will provide a health insurance allowance of $1,090, which covers the basic, individual premium. This benefit is provided in the monthly paycheck during the months of September through May at a rate of $121.11/month. If you elect to carry the enhanced insurance, you are responsible for the difference. You are responsible for setting up payment with the insurance carrier; it is not paid directly by the department on your behalf. Please note that both dental and vision insurances are optional and not paid for by the department.
  • Housing
    • Community Housing services provides the Housing Registry, which is a listing of available rental properties, information about the city of Pittsburgh, and resources for individuals who may be new to renting off-campus housing.
    • Your best resource about housing is our current graduate students. The Housing section from the Words of Wisdom from Current Students webpage is a great reference tool. The webpage may be found at http://www.cmu.edu/bio/graduate/prospective_students/student_life/words_of_wisdom/housing.html

      Disclaimer: This list of advice and information was put together by current graduate students of the Biological Sciences department, and does not express the views of the department. Most of the information below has been verified, but some may have changed including URLs, dates, and email addresses, so self-verification of information is advisable.

Step 3: July Checklist

  • Course Registration
    • During the departmental orientation, you will meet both as a group and individually with the Graduate Advising Committee to discuss coursework. Changes in the curriculum are ongoing. You may want to familiarize yourself with available courses at http://www.cmu.edu/bio/courses/index.html. Also, we do not have a recommended reading list; however, students may want to brush up on fundamentals of cell biology and biochemistry in preparation for the Core Course.
    • During the fall semester, all students must take the combined Core Course in Biochemistry (03-745; 6 units) and Cell Biology (03-746; 6 units); any other courses are of your choosing, depending on your areas of interest. During the first year, each student must carry 48 units each semester; thereafter, students register for at least 36 units (full-time status) per semester. Biology courses taught in the fall may be found at http://www.cmu.edu/bio/courses/.
    • The HUB website and Student Information Online (SIO) are valuable tools that assist student in the course registration process.

Step 4: August Checklist

  • Paycheck
    • Beginning on September 30, you will be paid the last working day of every month.
  • Finances
    • You should arrive with $2,500 to $3,500 in traveler’s checks to cover your initial costs and a small amount ($100- $300) of U.S. currency in small bills ($5 and $10). These funds will be used for your arrival expenses such as taxis, meals, books, supplies, and other personal needs.
  • Emergency Loans
    • All students regardless of their program are eligible for the Emergency Student Loan, which is an interest-free and emergency base loan repayable within 30 days. It is available through the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs; students may apply for the loan by stopping in the Student Affairs Office or by calling 268.2075 for an appointment.
    • First semester graduate students who receive a stipend are eligible for the Graduate Student Transition Loan. The loan is available to assist with transition costs and may not exceed 75% of the student’s monthly gross stipend (exclusive of tuition). The loan must be requested prior to September 15 of the academic year, and it will be repaid through payroll deductions in the months of September, October, November and December. To apply, visit the HUB website at http://www.cmu.edu/hub/billing/departmental.html.
  • Smart Card
    • The Carnegie Mellon Smart Card identifies a campus community member and it is used to access campus facilities and services. The Card Accessible Services website includes a list of the services and resources that the card provides. New graduate students beginning classes for the fall semester may be issued a smart card after August 1 at The HUB.
    • The HUB is located in the lower level of Warner Hall.
    • The HUB is open during regular business hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday - 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday - 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Social Security Form (international students only)
    • International students who will be employed in the U.S. are required to have a Social Security Number (SSN), which is a type of national identification number. A SSN is not required for living in the U.S but is used by the U.S. government to withhold taxes from pay. Prior to the week of the University-Wide Graduate Student Orientation, please make an appointment with the Coordinator, Graduate Student Affairs to pick up the Social Security form. You will then have the OIE Advisor sign this form at your Immigration Check-in. Students then take the form, in person, to the local Social Security Administration office to begin the application process. Take your passport, I-20/DS-2019, I-94 card (found in your passport) to apply.