Tracking, Academic Advising, and Individual Development Plan (IDP)

Tracking, Academic Advising, and Individual Development Plan (IDP)


From G1 to Defense


Tracking Committee and Academic Advisor
Each incoming student is assigned an Academic Advisor, a member of the SHBT faculty familiar with Program procedures. The trainee and advisor meet at least once each semester and discuss the trainee’s plans and options for progressing within the Program as well as potential career paths. The advisor receives regular updates on the student’s academic progress from DMS Student Affairs. At the end of each semester, all academic advisors meet as the Tracking Committee to review the academic and research progress of each trainee. It is the responsibility of the Tracking Committee to ensure that each student reaches major Program milestones in a timely fashion.


Individual Development Plan (IDP)
An Individual Development Plan (IDP) helps graduate students:

  • assess current skills, interests, and strengths;
  • make a plan for developing skills to meet academic and professional goals; and
  • communicate with advisors, and mentors about evolving goals and related skills.


The IDP is a document to be revisited again and again, to update and refine as goals change and/or come into focus, and to record progress and accomplishments.


During the early stages of graduate school, IDP tracking focuses on goals during graduate school and identification of the necessary tools for successful completion of the Ph.D. degree. As students progress, the IDP shifts towards education surrounding relevant career options. In the last stage, this plan focuses on preparation for a chosen career path, academic or alternative.


To implement these policies, the SHBT Program has developed a tool designed to help trainees develop an IDP in consultation with a faculty mentor. For first- and second-year students, the Academic Advisor serves as the student’s mentor; in later years, this role may be taken on by the Dissertation Advisor. The SHBT IDP tool is based on a four-step process:


  • (1) Conduct a self-assessment using a suggested worksheet
  • (2) Identify areas for development
  • (3) Discuss self-assessment and goals with mentor
  • (4) Implement and refine plan over the course of the year


Students are required to meet with a faculty mentor once a year to develop and discuss their IDP. While the content of the IDP meeting is confidential, the SHBT Program keeps track of when meetings occur.


DMS has also developed a Career Paths Program to inform students of the range of career opportunities available to them, and to prepare and mentor them in their career choices. In this program, students with common interests come together in groups to participate in a variety of activities that prepare and position them for careers in these paths. Current Paths include: Biotech, Consulting, Patent Law, Science Writing & Publishing, Education, and Science Policy. The Paths are student-directed and each path has an associated student group or club, representation in the Office of Career Services, a faculty advisor, alumni and other external mentors, networking events, and the opportunity for internships.


The Harvard’s Office of Career Services and the Science Careers website ( provides additional tools for self-assessment and setting professional goals.

© 2017 President and Fellows
of Harvard College