By 20 days into your second semester, you should have an Advisory Committee: additional faculty members who help you and your advisor. The University's Graduate Calendar provides a list of their responsibilities; in a nutshell, these are to provide you and your project with additional expertise and an outside eye; to confirm your progress every semester (see "Progress report" under "Graduate Records Forms"); to co-mark your Major Paper (if you're doing an MSc by coursework); to judge when your thesis is ready for defence; and to to serve as examiners during qualifying exams and defences. They can also act as peer reviewers if your work needs an Animal Use Protocol and was not funded by a peer-reviewed grant.
Establishing an Advisory Committee
The form for establishing an Advisory Committee can be printed for you by the Graduate Secretary, or accessed through the Office of Graduate Studies Forms page (under "Graduate Records Forms & Documents"). If you are a coursework student, you need just one extra faculty member (in addition to your advisor). If you are a thesis student, you at least two graduate faculty members (in addition to your advisor). Members of the committee do not have to be in the department, nor even UoGuelph faculty if your advisor nominates them as "Special Graduate Faculty".
Advisory Committee Meetings
You can meet with all or some of your committee members whenever you choose, but your full committee should meet every semester. They are especially useful when you have reached a significant point in your research program (e.g. planning an experiment, etc.). Presenting to your committee is a great way to get help with difficult research issues, as well as for you to gain practice presenting and discussing your research.
In our department, your committee meetings can be conducted in any of the shared spaces that can be booked by the main office (please see the Booking System page).
Your Degree Timeline
A coursework degree is typically finished in a year, a M.Sc. by thesis in 2 years, and a Ph.D. in 3-4 years. When you arrive, it's a good idea to talk to your advisor about how they envision the trajectory of your degree, including when your Qualifying Exam might be (if you're a Ph.D.). For more on defences, go to our defences page.
Note: the Integrative Biology department provides its students with semester by semester expectations, and while we are not so prescriptive in this department, you might find their guidelines useful to discuss with your advisor as a template for your degree.