FAQ For Joint-Doctoral Students at San Diego State University

The Joint Doctoral Program with San Diego State University (JDPE) is a unique opportunity for students to conduct research with faculty at SDSU and UC Davis while working towards a doctoral degree in Ecology.

If you are interested in working with a faculty member at SDSU, you may apply for joint admission under this option. This program requires one year of residence at UCD (three academic quarters), but the majority of your time will be spent in San Diego where you will work primarily with an SDSU faculty member. To apply to the JDPE, you must apply simultaneously to both SDSU and UCD, and must be selected for admission by both universities. Students completing an MS at SDSU are not subject to this requirement, but may apply at a later date for entry into the JDPE by following the dual application procedure. Questions regarding the Joint Doctoral Program should be directed to: Coordinator of the Joint Doctoral Program, Prof. Walter Oechel, Department of Biological Sciences, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182.


Frequently Asked Questions (for prospective and current students)


Am I a student at SDSU or UCD? 

The JDPE is a collaborative program between SDSU and UCD. This means that individuals in the program are considered students of both universities. However, most students spend the majority of their time at SDSU where their Major Professor is located.  Each student also has a mentor (second adviser) at Davis; a student’s relationship with their Davis Mentor should be collaborative, potentially resulting in additional research opportunities for the student.  Students typically only enroll in classes at UC Davis during their second year in the program, although there are exceptions to this rule. For the first year and the remaining years, students enroll in classes/research units at SDSU. The doctoral degree in Ecology is awarded by both universities.


 Will I live in San Diego or Davis?

Generally, JDPE students will reside in San Diego (SDSU) for years 1 and 3-5+. Students typically spend their first year taking classes at SDSU, thus, they live in San Diego during year one. Students then relocate to Davis during year two to take classes at UCD (see Section 8 in the JDPE Student Binder for information on the year spent at Davis). Students usually return to San Diego after year two to prepare for the qualifying exam and complete their dissertation research. While this housing arrangement is most typical, depending on a student’s funding situation and location of field sites, the student may live in Davis, San Diego, or near his or her field site (which might be located in a different country!). The JDPE is flexible and hence customizable for individual requirements.


 Who is my adviser?

JDPE students have two advisers: their Major Professor at SDSU and their Mentor at UC Davis.

1)  Major Professor at SDSU

  • JDPE students need to have an identified Major Professor at SDSU (http://www.bio.sdsu.edu/ecology/faculty.php) who agrees to act as their adviser prior to admission into the JDPE.  The Major Professor is the main mentor of the student, and should be the first person the student goes to for questions about teaching, research, course selection, publications, proposals, and dissertation preparation. Generally, Major Professors hold regular lab meetings and have a mentoring/support group for new JDPE students within their lab.
  • The Major Professor signs the Guidance Committee Form (along with the Davis Mentor and the AOE advisor, see Guidance Committees section on this site: http://ecology.ucdavis.edu/programs/Archive%20Seminars/general_info.html) and prepares the annual progress report of the student. He or she also helps the student choose their dissertation topic, qualifying exam topics, and academic courses. The Major Professor does not sit on the Qualifying Exam Committee but is part of the student’s Dissertation Committee, which approves the dissertation and papers for publication.
  • The student’s relationship with their Major Professor at SDSU largely starts an apprenticeship that advances to collaboration. Students are expected to become a colleague rather than apprentice of their adviser by or around the time of graduation.

2)  Mentor at UC Davis

  • The Davis Mentor is the students’ second adviser and is associated with the Graduate Group in Ecology at UC Davis (although he or she may also be a part of another department at UCD). Students do not need to have a Davis Mentor identified before admittance into the program. Instead, they usually find their Davis Mentor during their first year in the program. The Davis Mentor hosts the student at Davis, providing them lab and office space, involving them in lab meetings, and giving them advice on courses/research.
  • The Davis Mentor is on the guidance committee for the student and is anticipated to be on the Dissertation Committee. Therefore, the Davis Mentor is expected to advise the student on courses, research, publications, resources, etc. throughout the student’s time in the program.
  • The Davis mentorship also provides excellent opportunities for collaboration and professional development during and beyond the JDPE.


What benefits do I gain from each university?

One of the greatest benefits of the Joint-Doctoral Program in Ecology is access to faculty, courses, and resources at both SDSU and UC Davis. Both universities provide diverse sets of faculty and students, studying various aspects of ecology, which can provide unique mentorship and collaborative opportunities.  In addition, students are able to use both the CSU and UC library systems, as well as field stations and reserves, lab equipment, and lab space associated with each university (see below).  While most students take the Ecology Core (Bio 645/745) and a few select classes at SDSU, students are able to take a variety of more specialized classes at UC Davis, as well as attend seminars on a wide range of subjects.  Finally, by working at two universities, students are able to gain perspectives on different types of university systems.


Are there any costs of being part of the JDPE program?

1)  Requirement to move to Davis for one academic year.

  • Most students agree that although having access to UC Davis courses, faculty support, and resources is invaluable, the requirement to live in Davis for one academic year comes with costs. First, the move from San Diego to Davis can be a financial burden on students. Additionally, some students whose field sites are located in or near San Diego report slowed progress on their research during their time at Davis (however, some students’ field sites are closer to Davis and thus moving to Davis aids in their research).

2)  SDSU Campus Mandatory Fee (see Section 5 in JDPE Student Binder)

  • JDPE students are guaranteed 5 years of TA or RA support.  This covers tuition, health insurance, and provides an annual stipend. However, this does not cover the SDSU campus mandatory fee which must be paid every semester a student is enrolled in units at SDSU. This fee is approximately $650 per semester.  Students do not have to pay this fee while enrolled at UC Davis

3)  Extra effort to satisfy requirements of two separate institutional systems.

  • Compared to other doctoral programs, there are additional logistics associated with coordination of the various committees (Guidance Committee, Qualifying Exam Committee, and Dissertation Committee).
  • The Dissertation must be filed and approved at both institutions.


What funding is available and what is it used for?

Funding is available from a variety of sources, although students can only receive funding from the university at which they are enrolled (the exception being JDPE funds).  In most cases, this means JDPE students are only eligible for funding at UC Davis during their second year (and this funding must be applied for during Fall of the first year), however, some students have remained enrolled at Davis to participate in awarded fellowship programs.  The following are financial resources available while enrolled at SDSU:

1)  TA/RAships

  • JDPE students are guaranteed 5 years of TA or RA support.  This covers tuition, health insurance, and provides an annual stipend.  TAship stipends are generally $16,836 and increase to $18,132 after advancing to candidacy (by passing the qualifying exam in year 2-3).

2)  JDPE funds

  • Funding is available annually from the JDPE to support academic-related travel for qualifying exams or committee meetings, as well as research expenses (supplies and travel) and/or conference travel that cannot be covered elsewhere.  A formal proposal, budget, and funding request must be submitted each year to the JDPE Chair and approved before purchases may be made.  The JDPE budget allows up to $1,500 annually, per student, with higher amounts possible based on special circumstances.

3)  SDSU Scholarships through the Office of Financial Aid

4)  SDSU Graduate Travel: https://newscenter.sdsu.edu/researchaffairs/gstf.aspx

  • Due Oct. 1, Feb. 1, and May 1 for research and conference travel.

5)  SDSU Inamori Fellowships: https://newscenter.sdsu.edu/researchaffairs/inamori.aspx

  • Due in October

6)  College of Sciences IRA funds for conference travel

  • Some support is available for conference registration and travel.  Students must be presenting a talk or poster.  Awards typically range from $50-$150 for in-state, $200-$350 for out-of-state travel, and from $400-$500 for international travel.  Applications are due Nov. 1 and April 1.  Contact the Assistant Dean’s Office (GMCS 321) for the application.


What TA opportunities are available?

Generally, students without other support (e.g. NSF Graduate Fellowship) TA two lab sections during their first year, none during their second year at Davis, and one lab section per semester during years 3-5.  Students on other support may want to TA to gain teaching experience. This can generally be accommodated.

Students are able to teach a variety of courses at SDSU including BIOL 100L (General Biology Lab), BIOL 354 (Ecology and Environment Discussion), and BIOL 215 (Biostatistics Lab).  After advancing to candidacy, students may also serve as an instructor for BIOL 354L (Experimental Ecology). Students do not have teaching requirements during their 2nd year in Davis, although it is possible to TA UC Davis courses (especially at research stations).

Advanced JDPE students that have demonstrated outstanding academic leadership may be eligible to teach part or all of a lecture course.  JDPE students interested in this opportunity should let the SDSU Administrative Coordinator or the JDPE Coordinator know (see Section 5 in JDPE Student Binder for more information).


I am admitted to the program but not a California resident.  Should I do anything?

If students are eligible (e.g. most US citizens), they should take the necessary steps to obtain CA residency as soon as possible in order to establish residency by the 2nd year (generally, this process takes one year). NOTE: Residency is critical for continued graduate division support of tuition.  If CA residency is not established by the second year, out-of-state fees may not be covered.

See Section 3, timeline; in the JDPE Student Binder for more information. Also, see http://arweb.sdsu.edu/es/admissions/residency.html for detailed information.

Generally, foreign students on student visas cannot obtain CA residency. International students receive an international student fee waiver from the JDPE during all years in the program enrolled at SDSU. Thus international students do not incur more program-fee related costs than domestic students at SDSU. However, students may incur additional costs while at UC Davis. Information on being an international student as SDSU can be obtained from the International Student Center, http://studentaffairs.sdsu.edu/ISC/



Leave a Reply