UCSF Biophysics Graduate Program Bylaws

Administrative Home: Dept. of Pharmaceutical Chemistry

Revision Date: June 20, 2023

Graduate Council Approval: October 19, 2023

Article I. Objective

  1. Degree(s) offered by the program: PhD
  2. Discipline: A brief statement on the discipline(s) of the program.

The UCSF Graduate Program in Biophysics spans research at the interface of physics, chemistry, and biology. Research groups in the program work in several broad areas including:

1. Biophysical approaches to cell biology

2. Complex biological systems

3. Computational and theoretical biophysics

4. Membrane biophysics

5. Protein engineering and synthetic biology

6. Proteomics and genomics

7. Structural biology

  1. Mission of the Program:

The mission of the UCSF Graduate Program in Biophysics is to train diverse students to tackle some of the most challenging problems in biology and biomedicine at the interfaces with physics, mathematics, chemistry, and engineering, while equipping our graduates with the knowledge, tools, and skills to become leaders in academic science, biotechnology, and affiliated sectors.

Article II. Membership

  1. Criteria for Membership in the Graduate Program

Authority to define criteria for faculty membership in the various graduate groups is delegated to the executive committees of these graduate groups, including criteria for inclusion, exclusion, and removal, unless otherwise specified. Further, authority is also delegated to graduate group executive committees to propose and administer bylaws governing faculty participation and conduct. Membership is independent and separate from academic department appointments. Membership is based upon disciplinary expertise and active research, so members throughout campus are eligible for consideration to membership in the group.

  1. Voting rights

Graduate program membership will be determined by a vote of the Executive Committee members. All members of the Executive Committee will have an equal vote.

  1. Application for membership.
    1. How faculty may apply:
      • To become a member of the Biophysics Graduate Program, faculty must formally apply to the program and have their application approved by the Biophysics Executive Committee. The application consists of a CV, a statement of interest in the program and anticipated contributions, a statement of previous mentorship experience, and a nomination letter from a current Biophysics Graduate Program Member. Membership in the Biophysics Graduate Program is considered a privilege and a responsibility.
    2. Anticipated contributions that graduate faculty members will perform as a member.
      1. Faculty in the Biophysics Program are expected to demonstrate their commitment to the training program by regularly participating in program activities. These may include teaching in courses; presenting or serving as a coach for the journal club series; serving as an academic advisor; serving on thesis and qualifying examination committees; outreach and other activities that promote diversity and inclusivity in the Biophysics program; participating in recruitment and interviews; regular attendance at program events; and Biophysics Program committee service.
      2. Mentoring and teaching in the lab: Program faculty are expected to maintain a productive and inclusive training environment for thesis students. Relevant measures may include evidence that the laboratory environment is welcoming to and supportive of trainees from all backgrounds; that lab students produce rigorous and reproducible publication-worthy research; that research is conducted in the spirit of open science; that lab students complete their degrees in a timely manner; and that students successfully transition into careers in the scientific workforce.
      3. Participation in faculty mentor development activities: Program faculty must participate in the Thesis Mentor Development Program. Specifically, each faculty member with a Biophysics student in their lab must take part in at least one mentorship development activity of their choosing each successive year. Typically, an “activity” will be a University-sponsored training, such as the courses offered by the Graduate Division (Graduate Faculty Development Program Trainings). However, the development of strong mentorship skills is an ongoing process that extends beyond any single course, and faculty are encouraged to seek mentorship development opportunities in many different ways. Faculty who undertake significant activities outside of the University-sponsored training may petition the program to allow these activities to satisfy the mentor development activity requirement in a given year.
    3. Compliance with University policies and Program values

Program faculty are expected to comply with all university policies and uphold the values of the training program, including but not limited to the University Code of Conduct (APM-016); UC Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment; the UC Policy on Discrimination, and the Harassment, and Affirmative Action in the Workplace; scientific misconduct and/or financial improprieties.

  1. Emeritus Status

Emeritus faculty with active research programs may remain members of the program and are afforded the following rights: they may attend and participate in program activities (including meetings and administrative committees), may teach graduate courses, and may serve on student committees. Emeritus faculty on the Executive Committee have voting rights.

  1. Review of Membership

The criteria for reviewing members of the program is the same for all members. Each faculty member’s contributions to the program shall be reviewed once every three years for the purpose of identifying faculty members who are not providing a minimal level of service to the program.

  1. Obtaining relevant information

To ensure compliance with these requirements the Program Director(s) and Executive Committee need to have the relevant information about faculty conduct. While information about faculty participation in program events and training is readily attainable, information about other types of violations may be difficult to obtain if, for example, the University is not forthcoming with information about faculty violations of University policies, or an individual who experiences a hostile interaction in the workplace does not report it. Thus, considering the different types and sources of information that are needed, the Biophysics Program proactively seeks to track compliance with these requirements in multiple ways, as described in section E.2 below.

  1. Violations of program expectations for faculty conduct

The Graduate Program Directors, Executive Committee, and Program Coordinators are in frequent communication with trainees, faculty, the Graduate Division, and the University administration to monitor for compliance with all membership policy requirements. This can include reports from the Bias Response Team (once it has been established) or other communications from the Graduate Division, and communications from the University administration about faculty violations of the University Code of Conduct. The Executive Committee will promptly revoke program membership at any time upon learning about faculty conduct detrimental to the program or the safety and welfare of its members. Examples of evidence of this type of detrimental conduct include (but are not limited to), official findings by the University that a faculty member has violated Title VII or IX, or legal determinations of guilt (including settlements out of court) that may not have resulted in a University sanction.

In addition, faculty may also be put on suspension or removed from the program for conduct that has not resulted in a University or legal sanction but nonetheless has been determined by the Executive Committee to be detrimental to the program or the safety and welfare of its members. This may include serious or sustained actions that create a hostile work environment such as a pattern of racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks or behavior, or a significant lack of professionalism or integrity.

The Executive Committee will develop a course of action on a case-by-case basis. For example, faculty who are found to have violated Title VII or IX will be removed from the program immediately and are generally not eligible to whereas the plan of action to address less severe violations may include interventions by program leadership, mediation, additional training, etc. before a decision to suspend or remove a faculty member from the program is reached. In any of these cases, the program may seek guidance from University offices and resources, such as the Office of Academic Affairs, the Office of the Ombuds, and the Graduate Division.

  1. Membership Appeal Process

If membership is denied or not renewed, faculty can appeal to the Executive Committee for reconsideration.

Article III. Administration

The administration of the program and its activities will be vested in the Leadership Team, consistent of the Program Director(s), Associate Director(s), and the Program Manager. The Leadership Team will be advised by the Executive Committee.

Article IV. Graduate Program Leadership Team

  1. Director or Co-directors appointment process

The graduate program director or co-directors will be nominated in consultation with the Executive Committee and approved by a 2/3 vote of the Executive Committee provided that a quorum is present. Optionally, an Associate Director can be appointed by the Director or co-directors, with advice from the Executive Committee.

  1. Director or Co-director terms of service

The Director or Co-directors commit to serving for at least three years unless extenuating circumstances call for a shorter term.[NT2]

  1. Duties of the Director and Co-director

The Director or Co-Directors: a) provide overall academic leadership for the program; b) represent the interests of the program to the campus and University administrators; c) call and preside at meetings of the Executive Committee; d) call and preside at meetings of the program; and h) take responsibility for the submission of competitive and non-competitive renewals of the training grant, if applicable (and are often the Lead PIs of the training grant).

The Director, Co-Directors, and Program Manager: a) develop and implement policies for the program; b) are responsible for coordinating all administrative matters with the Graduate Division; c) submit course change or approval forms; and d) are responsible for the accuracy of all publications related to the program including web pages and catalog copy.

  1. Duties of the Associate Director

The Associate Director will work closely with the Director or Co-Directors to carry out all duties described in (C) above. The Co-director will serve as chief officer of the Group in the absence of the Director(s). Typically, the Associate Director will rotate into the Director role when the Director resigns.

Article V. Committees

  1. Executive Committee

The Executive Committee shall consist of the director (and co-director and / or associate director, if applicable) of the program plus at least four faculty selected from the membership and two students. The student members are nominated by the students and selected by the Leadership Team. All members have voting rights, including the student representatives, unless the students do not participate in the discussion due to the nature of the item (see below). The faculty members of the Executive Committee shall serve for a five-year term, which is renewable.

Election of faculty members of the Executive Committee: nomination shall be made to the Program Director or Co-director, or the Program Manager. Appointments will be decided by the Leadership Team.

The principal duties of the Executive Committee shall be to advise on and implement policy for the good of the program, determine program membership, and to represent the interests of the program generally to various universities and other agencies.

The chair of any committee with student members must excuse the student representatives from meetings during discussion about personnel actions or disciplinary issues relating to faculty, during rankings of existing students for funding, and for disciplinary issues related to students.

The Executive Committee shall meet at least annually. Additional meetings and executive sessions may be held as deemed necessary, or upon petition by five members of the program. In some cases, decisions can be made by email without calling a meeting of the committee members.

  1. Admissions Committee

The Admissions Committee shall consist of at least six faculty members of the program, and two students. The faculty members of the committee will review and rank the written applications to select applicants for an interview. All members will assess interview evaluations to select applicants for admission. Faculty and student members will serve for one year renewable terms.

  1. Curriculum Committee

The Curriculum Committee shall consist of the Leadership Team, the Directors of all Biophysics core and elective courses, and two student representatives. The function of this committee shall include discussion of the curriculum considering student feedback, and suggestions and development of curriculum changes. The student members of the Curriculum Committee will serve for offset two-year terms.

  1. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Working Group

The DEI Working Group shall consist of the Leadership Team, four faculty members, and four student representatives. The function of this committee shall include discussion, review, development, and implementation of the Biophysics DEI plan The members of the DEI Committee will serve for two-year terms that are renewable.

Article VI. Student Representatives

Student representatives are self-nominated or nominated by the students, typically in response to a Committee Service Announcement sent out by email. The nominees submit a short description of their interest in the position and particular qualifications, if applicable. The Program Leadership Team will select the student representatives from the list of nominees. The term of service and voting rights of the student representative will be determined by the Chair of the committee.

Article VII. Graduate Advisers

Each year, Biophysics assigns Graduate Advisors for the incoming class. MSTP students joining will keep their MSTP advisors. Students must meet with their assigned Graduate Advisor quarterly during Year One, and optionally in later years. The purpose of these meetings is to discuss the student’s coursework, lab rotations, and general academic progression. The Graduate Advisor is someone who will typically be outside of rotation or thesis lab choices, and thus a neutral person to confide in and discuss issues that may be uncomfortable to discuss with a rotation or thesis PI. The advisor can be an important ally during the student’s time in the program in case of conflicts with faculty, postdocs or other students. Advisors will focus on career advice rather than scientific advice, so students may be paired with advisors outside of their field of interest.

Article VIII. Quorum

All issues that require a vote must be:

  • Voted on by at least 50% of the Executive Committee Membership
  • On graduate program matters other than amendment/revision of bylaws, passage requires a supporting vote by at least 50% supporting vote of the Executive committee members voting.
  • On amendments and revision of bylaws: passage requires a supporting vote by at least two thirds of the Executive Committee members voting.

Article XI. Amendments

Amendments to these bylaws may be made in accordance with program’s quorum policy in Article VIII. Program members may propose amendments by petition to the Program Director(s). The Program Director(s), or relevant program committee, may ask for revisions from the faculty who submitted proposed amendments before forwarding the revisions to the Executive Committee for review and voting. Quorum, voting and passage is prescribed in Article VIII. All amendments and revisions must be submitted to the Graduate Council for review and approval; changes in the bylaws will become effective upon approval by the Graduate Council.