Graduate students may provide their own financial support or receive financial assistance in the form of fellowships, research assistantships, or teaching assistantships.
Fellowships come from the UPRM or from external sources. Examples of external fellowships include: NSF, DOD, NIH, NASA, GEM, Ford Foundation, Sloan Foundation, Merck, and Whitaker Foundation Fellowships. UPRM’s Office of Graduate Studies may have a more complete listing of outside fellowships. Internal fellowships are typically limited to first- and second-year doctoral students. Funds for such awards are usually provided by gifts from alumni or donations from industry. Fellowships are awarded on the basis of academic merit, and a high level of performance in coursework and research activities is expected of each recipient.
Recipient of Departmental Fellowships are under no obligation, either real or implied, to the donor of the fellowship, other than to complete his/her program of study and research diligently. Recipients of external fellowships should check with the appropriate coordinating official to determine any existing obligations regarding their fellowships. The recipient of an institutional or departmental fellowship is allowed two weeks vacation per calendar year, which should be taken in consultation with the thesis advisor. Additional vacation time is allowed only by permission of the thesis advisor(s).
Research Assistants (RAs) are supported from research contracts or grants, and are supervised by faculty members of the Department. In this case, the Principal Investigator (PI) has a responsibility to the funding organization to conduct research in specific areas covered by the grant. In most cases, an appointment as a RA coincides with the selection of a research topic and a thesis advisor(s). This means that the selected or assigned thesis advisor is the PI, co-PI or senior personnel of the grant funding the student.
In the case of RAs, an arrangement is made with the thesis advisor(s) to provide project funds for tuition and/or stipend. When paid on a 12-month basis, a RA is allowed two weeks vacation per calendar year, which should be taken in consultation with the thesis advisor. Additional vacation time is allowed only by permission of the thesis advisor(s).
Teaching Assistants (TAs) play a central role in the Department's educational program. Service as a TA, which requires working closely with one or more faculty members, is an important and beneficial aspect of the graduate school experience. Each TA is assigned to a specific undergraduate or graduate course. While the exact duties of the TA vary depending on the course and the instructor’s teaching methodology, typical duties may include the following:
- Developing and grading problem assignments
- Grading reports and examinations
- Holding regular office hours (6 per week) for individual students and group sessions
- Leading recitation sections and tutorials
- Planning, designing, and supervising laboratory experiments
- Proctoring examinations
- Preparing a course solution book to be archived in the Department
- Attend the classes of the course they are TA'ing
- Attend orientation and training workshops organized by the Department or by the University
Not all students may be selected for TA appointments. Upon assignment as a TA, the student will be provided with a list of detailed responsibilities. TAs are expected to be available for the complete academic period of their assignment. A student working as a full-time TA (6 credit-hours) is expected to devote 18 hours per week to TA duties. Some courses with limited enrollment require only a fractional TA effort, and in those cases, partial TA appointments are made. TAs’ stipends are set by the institution and announced each term by the Office of Graduate Studies.
A limited number of positions known as graduate graders may be available to assist in the teaching of some high-enrollment undergraduate courses. Graders are involved in grading homework assignments, photocopying handouts, and preparing audiovisual materials for class. Graders should not be responsible for any activity involving direct contact with students. Graders’ stipends are set by the institution and announced each term by the Office of Graduate Studies.