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TAC Meetings

In addition to a structured study programme, new doctoral candidates for the Dr. sc. hum. also need a Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC).

Constitution of the Thesis Advisory Committee

The graduate student, in consultation with the primary supervisor, chooses appropriate TAC members in accordance with the guidelines for the Dr. sc. hum. structured education programme. The TAC does not need to be the same as the final examination committee, although this is possible. The proposed composition of the TAC must be submitted as part of the application for acceptance as a doctoral student and is subject to approval by the doctoral committee. Unless absolutely necessary, the composition of the TAC should not change during the duration of the thesis work. Changes to the TAC membership need to be approved by the doctoral committee.

Members of the Thesis Advisory Committee

Each TAC consists of the primary supervisor and at least two additional members who should not come from the same department or research group, but who have expertise in scientific topics related to the research topic.

Functions of the Thesis Advisory Committee

The main functions of the TAC are (i) to monitor progress and give feedback and advice, and (ii) to help resolve any conflicts that arise.

TAC meeting sequence and aims

TAC meeting 1 should take place within 6 months after the start of the project.

The aim of this TAC meeting is to ensure that the student has understood the objectives and scientific background of the project and has already made initial progress with experimental work. The scope, feasibility, potential impact and possible risks should also be considered.

TAC meeting 2 should take place after around 12-18 months.

This meeting serves to ensure that the thesis project is on schedule, and that there are good prospects that publications and a thesis will be produced in a timely manner. 

TAC meeting 3 should take place 24-30 months after the start of the thesis work.

In this meeting, progress towards project completion, and timelines for the submission of the thesis and manuscripts should be discussed.

Preparation of the TAC meeting

At least one week before each TAC meeting, the student should circulate a written progress report to the members of the TAC, which should generally be around 5 pages in length, excluding figures and reference lists. This report should include a description of the scientific context and aims of the project, the current status of the work (accomplishments/problems/proposed solutions to these problems), conclusions made, and a work plan for the next period.

TAC meeting procedure

At the TAC meeting, the student gives an oral presentation of around 20 minutes that outlines the project and progress made, problems that were encountered, and the future experimental plans and timeline for the next period of the thesis work. The written report and oral presentation are then discussed by the TAC, and suggestions and advice are given. If appropriate, the TAC can recommend changes to a student's proposal, and may also recommend measures to ensure that the thesis research is completed in time.

The TAC then invites the student to step out of the room so that progress can be discussed directly with the primary supervisor. Thereafter, the primary supervisor leaves the room so that the TAC can meet alone with the student, to ensure that adequate supervision and resources are in place, as well as discussing any concerns that the student may have. The TAC then asks both the student and primary supervisor to leave the room, and deliberates alone to discuss and summarize their views, and to formulate recommendations. These observations and suggestions are then communicated to the primary supervisor and the student.

Post-processing the TAC meeting

The TAC uses the TAC evaluation form to provide a written report, which includes an appraisal of the quality of the written progress report, the oral presentation and the discussion. Critiques should be provided and suggestions for improvements specified. The proposed future plans should be evaluated and recommendations concerning priorities should be made. Any problems that need to be resolved should also be mentioned. The student should upload the signed evaluation form and the written TAC progress report to the STMM platform within one week after the TAC meeting.


Information presented and discussed during TAC meetings should remain confidential. If necessary, a confidentiality agreement can be signed by TAC members. A template is provided here.


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Medical Faculty Mannheim,
Heidelberg University

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