Student Administrative Policies for the Robotics Ph.D. Program

by the Chair of the Ph.D. Program in Robotics
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213
Academic Year 1994-95
This document defines administrative policies governing the students enrolled in the Ph.D. Program in Robotics. It is maintained by the Robotics Institute Review Committee.

August 17, 1994

Organization of the Robotics Program

The Robotics Ph.D. Program is a free-standing unit of Carnegie Mellon, administered by several groups of faculty and staff as follows:

The Faculty of the Robotics Program consists of a set of research and academic faculty from around the university, all of whom are working in the area of robotics and are participating in the Robotics Ph.D. Program. In addition, there are other Affiliated Faculty who can be co-advisors for students, in conjunction with a regular faculty member of the Program.

The Faculty includes a Chair and possibly an Associate Chair of the Program. The Chair serves the role that a Chairperson would serve in an academic Department.

A Steering Committee, consisting of the Chair and representatives from the several participating Colleges at Carnegie Mellon, authorizes the activities within the Program. The Steering Committee serves the role that a Dean would serve in a specific College.

The Program Committee is the main academic committee, and is responsible for defining the degree requirements and revising the Course of Study and all of the Qualifiers. Students should contact the chairperson of the Program Committee to answer questions about the degree requirements in the course of study and about specific qualifiers.

The Admissions Committee admits new graduate students into the program.

The Marriage Committee assigns new students to faculty advisors. Students who may wish to change advisors at a later date should contact the Chair of the Robotics Program.

The Robotics Institute Review Committee (IRC) establishes financial and administrative policies for the Robotics Ph.D. Program.

Each semester, the entire Faculty meets to evaluate the progress of all students in the Program. This meeting is called "Robotics Black Monday." The students also get to evaluate the faculty, which they do through the student-run Teaching Quality Committee.

Financial matters are handled by the Business Office of the Robotics Institute. Offices, keys, and telephones are handled by the Main Office of the School of Computer Science.

Meanwhile, Marce Zaragoza keeps track of all the madness and makes it make sense.

Student Delegates to Committees

There are two student delegates to the IRC and two to the Program Committee. Each serves a two-year term, and they are "staggered" so that in each year, one of the positions in each of the committees will be filled by election. The students decide on the election procedure and timing.

The two student delegates on the Program Committee have additional responsibilities. One is also the chairperson of the Teaching Quality Committee; the other is also the Robotics Ph.D. Program delegate to the SCS Council, which is concerned with all degree programs and self-defined Ph.D. programs in the School of Computer Science. There are also other student members of various committees, such as the Admissions Committee, but these are decided by negotiation and appointment rather than through an election process.

Course Registration

Fall and Spring

Registration Week provides an opportunity for all continuing graduate students to register for courses for the upcoming semester. Five days of formal registration are scheduled each semester: Fall Registration Week is usually in mid-April, and Spring Registration Week is usually the second week of November. All continuing students will receive a letter from the Registrar's office reminding them of the schedule and other information regarding Registration Week.

The Schedule of Classes document outlining available courses each semester are available in the following locations: the Skibo Information Desk, inside the entrances to Doherty and Baker Halls, and outside the CFA Dean's office (FA 100). To register, students must fill out a Registration/Add/Drop (RAD) form. RAD forms are available in each Schedule of Classes, from the Registrar's office, or from the Program Coordinator.

The general registration process is as follows:

Prepare a tentative selection of courses before meeting with advisor. Review course selections with advisor and obtain advisor's signature on the RAD form. The Registrar's Office requires an advisor's signature on each RAD form.

Go to each department offering the desired courses; for required courses, these will be Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and GSIA. The department will enter the course(s) directly into the Student Information System, then write or stamp approval directly on the RAD.

See the Program Coordinator to register for 16-997 and any other Robotics courses on your schedule. She will enter your courses into the system, give you your copy of the RAD form, and send the original to the Registrar.

Students in the Robotics Program are expected to enroll for 2 to 3 courses per semester while working on the Subject Qualifiers. Students should work with their advisors to determine which and how many courses to take each semester.

The student should add to the qualifier courses to be taken in a particular semester enough units of "16-997 - Reading and Research" to add up to 40-50 units (usually 24 or 36 units).

Those students who have completed their Subject Qualifiers should register for 36 units of 16-997 until their status is ABD (All But Dissertation), when they should register for 5 units.

In all cases, the Program Coordinator can help determine the correct number of Reading and Research units at the time of registration.


Registering for summer is entirely different from the procedure for Fall and Spring.

Near the end of the Spring semester, the Program Coordinator will send each student a "Summer Plans" form, on which they will be asked to indicate whether they will stay at CMU or work off-site for the summer. The student should obtain the advisor's signature and return the form to the Program Coordinator. If the student will be remaining on-site and his advisor confirms that the student will be conducting research through the summer, the Program Coordinator will automatically register the student for 36 units of "16-997 - Reading and Research." (The Program does not offer any required courses during the summer months.)

First Semester

All incoming students will be automatically registered for 36 units of Reading and Research. As soon as possible after the IC, students should work out a schedule of classes and follow the Fall/Spring registration procedure (Section 2.1). The Program Coordinator will take care of dropping the appropriate number of units of Reading and Research so that the student carries the proper number of units for the semester.

ABD Status

The university policy on ABD (All But Dissertation) status is attached.

Residency at the University

Residency at CMU

Students in the Robotics Ph.D. Program are expected to fulfill all degree requirements at CMU except as may be arranged by individual petition to the Chair.

Leaves of Absence

When necessary, a student may apply for a Leave of Absence to the Chair of the Robotics Program. A leave is normally granted for a semester or an academic year at a time, and may be renewed up to a total of two years without affecting the student's standing in the program. While on leave, the "clock" is not running, thus the time is not counted against qualifier deadlines, etc. In many cases, students can arrange to use leave time productively to continue working with their advisor. The University policy on Leaves of Absence is attached.

Financial Issues

Funding and Academic Standing

All students enrolled in the Ph.D. Program in Robotics are fully funded, including university tuition and fees and a stipend for living expenses, throughout the duration of their enrollment at the university. The exceptions are for leaves of absence, which are unpaid, and possible loss of funding due to unacceptable academic performance. Funding is promised as long as the student remains in good standing and is working in a research area for which funding is available. If funding in an area becomes unavailable, in the worst case, the student may have to switch to working in a different area, but will not be required to leave the program for that reason.

Academic performance is evaluated at the Black Monday meeting each semester. If a student's ability to complete the program is in serious doubt, the evaluation letter may say that funding may be terminated at the next Black Monday meeting unless the student achieves certain specific goals before that meeting. If, at the next meeting, the student has not achieved the stipulated goals, then funding may be terminated effective immediately, with notification via the new Black Monday letter. Black Monday meetings are held just after grades are due at the Registrar's office at the end of each semester. One exception to this rule is that all students are informed in the Course of Study document of the requirement to finish all qualifiers within a certain time period; if this is not done, then at the next Black Monday meeting, or any following Black Monday meeting until the requirements have been met, the faculty may elect to terminate the student from the program at that time.

Termination from the program implies that funding will also be terminated. However, there may be exceptional cases in which funding may be terminated or made conditional for poor performance without actually requiring the student to leave, thus giving the student the option to remain at their own expense until graduation or reinstatement to the program.

In addition, the faculty may decide at Black Monday to place the student on "month-to-month support," which means that each month, the advisor will establish criteria that the student must meet during that month. For funding to continue, the advisor must certify to the Chair of the Program each month that funding should be continued the following month. If the criteria are not met to the advisor's satisfaction, then funding will be terminated at the end of the first month in which the failure occurs. Month-to-month support is an exceptional circumstance that is temporary, leading to either graduation, reinstatement in good standing, or the student's termination from the program. It is extremely unlikely that month-to-month support would be continued past the next Black Monday evaluation.

Tuition, Fees, and Stipend

Tuition for the 1994-95 academic year is $18,400, and the university charges a $100 activity fee. The stipend amount for 1994-95 is $1304.44/month after tuition and fee deductions. The stipend will be supplemented by $130.44/month for each dependent if a student's spouse earns less than $200/month. The dependency allowance is in addition to outside fellowships as described below.

Outside Fellowships

Students are encouraged to apply for fellowships to support their tuition and/or stipend. Occasionally, the Ph.D. Program is able to obtain an individual fellowship for a student through external sources. To encourage students to obtain their own external funding, stipends of students with outside fellowships will be supplemented up to the largest of these three amounts: The normal monthly Robotics stipend as above, plus 1% of the total academic year amount of the fellowship; The normal monthly Robotics stipend as above, plus $100; If the fellowship itself indicates a monthly stipend amount, that amount plus $100. If the fellowship pays the student directly, that direct payment will be subtracted from the amount the university pays as stipend. The Robotics Ph.D. Program Coordinator will provide assistance whenever possible in obtaining outside fellowships. As information is received, it will be posted to the Robotics bboard. Consulting and Outside Employment Students wishing to engage in outside consulting must have permission of the advisor and the Program Chair before undertaking a task. A form for requesting permission to consult may be obtained from the Ph.D. Program Coordinator.

Summer Employment

There are three plans to support graduate students during the three summer months (June, July and August):

Work outside the University: We encourage graduate students, especially in their first two or three years, to get summer jobs away from CMU at least once or twice during their studies. This opportunity expands horizons, provides leads for future employment, etc. Advisors should help their students to find such employment.

Work on a research contract: This work should be done under the supervision of a principal investigator, and the student will be paid their stipend from the research contract.

Institute funds support: In general, students must find a faculty or staff member to supervise them in some summer job that benefits the Robotics Institute or the School of Computer Science. Students will be paid their stipend from Institute funds. For example, one might do some work on computer facilities (for Howard Wactlar), develop some robotics educational facilities (for Steve Shafer and/or others), teach in the Andrew's Leap program (for Merrick Furst), or to work for a new robotics initiative (for a Robotics faculty member).

Student Loans

Students may apply for bank or government loans individually. The Robotics Business Office will assist students in verifying employment.

Student Travel

Professional travel is an important part of a student's education. When funding is available, we support travel to present papers at refereed conferences, to attend meetings required by research sponsors, or to attend other functions as directed by the faculty. Up to full reimbursement can be made for expenses incurred in such travel. In addition, students sometimes wish to attend conferences or workshops at which they are not presenting refereed papers. In this case, if the advisor wishes to provide partial funding, the program may reimburse for registration fee plus up to $100 for other expenses.

In all cases, student travel must be approved in advance by the advisor and the Business Office of the Robotics Institute. For a conference, approval must be obtained before the paper is submitted to the conference; for other travel, approval must be obtained before the student can accept a commitment to attend. A form for requesting permission to travel may be obtained from the Ph.D. Program Coordinator. It is generally expected that the student's advisor, or other faculty member overseeing the travel, will arrange for funding before granting approval for the travel. If that is impossible, the Chair of the program may have funds available. Funding must be arranged before the travel request can be approved.

The university policy on travel reimbursements is attached, spelling out what expenses are acceptable for reimbursement at CMU. Receipts are generally required for reimbursement.

University Services


The university does not provide on-campus housing for graduate students. However, the Housing Office, located in Morewood Gardens A-Tower, provides listings of available off-campus housing which are updated bi-weekly.

Another good place to look for apartment listings besides the local newspaper is the electronic bulletin board "" Incoming students who have been assigned their CS computer accounts and are able to access these accounts remotely can access this bulletin board by typing "bb apartments -more".

Good sources of information on desirable areas in which to live are the current graduate students and the CS Guide to Living in Pittsburgh.


The Robotics Institute does not provide parking benefits for graduate students. Information on obtaining a campus parking permit is available from the Parking Office.

Health Care

The Robotics Institute does not provide health insurance benefits for graduate students. A low-cost health insurance plan for graduate students is available through the university. The university's Student Health Service is available to graduate students (but not their spouses) for their health care needs. Visits are free of charge, but any resulting laboratory tests or prescriptions are the responsibility of the student.

Foreign Students

The Robotics Program office has limited documentation which may be useful to foreign students, but the most current and correct information can be obtained from the Carnegie Mellon Office of International Education. Foreign Student Advisor Linda Melville is available to help international students with visa services, including employment issues and other legalities. The office also sponsors an International Graduate Student Orientation each year, during which students may obtain help with finding permanent housing and applying for a social security number.

The ICC (Intercultural Communication Center) is open to all graduate students who are non-native speakers of English. The Center can also provide referrals to other ICC programs close to campus for family members of graduate students. The Center provides diagnostic testing of incoming foreign graduate students just before the Fall semester, and also conducts testing of prospective teaching assistants for certification.

The Robotics Program office will forward all ICC program announcements to students via bboards or email.

The university policy on English fluency for instructors is attached.

Intellectual Property

The university policy on intellectual property rights is attached.

University Policy Attachments

ABD Status (section 3)

Leaves of Absence (section 3.2)

University Travel (section 5.7)

English Fluency for Instructors (section 6.4)

Intellectual Property (section 7)

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