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Biology PhD

Admission Requirements

Applicants should have an MSc degree in life sciences and will be assessed by the departmental Graduate Studies Committee on the basis of undergraduate and graduate grades, letters of reference and research ability. Applicants should have at least a B average overall. Prior to final acceptance, the student must have a thesis supervisor chosen by mutual agreement among the student, the Graduate Studies Committee and the potential supervisor. Students will normally be accepted only for full-time study. Students with a Master's degree from a foreign university will normally not be directly admitted into the PhD program, but will be accepted into the Master of/Magisteriate in Biology program. They will, however, on demonstration of the ability to complete a PhD, be eligible to transfer to a PhD as described below.

Students registered in the Master of/Magisteriate in Science in Biology who demonstrate exceptional potential for independent research and have attained an A- average in graduate courses in the program may request to transfer to the PhD program during the first six months of the second year of enrolment. The transfer must be approved by the student's supervisory committee and the departmental Graduate Studies Committee.

Proficiency in English. Applicants whose primary language is not English must demonstrate that their knowledge of English is sufficient to pursue graduate studies in their chosen field. Please refer to the Graduate Admission page for further information on the Language Proficiency requirements and exemptions.

Requirements for the Degree

  1. Credits. A fully-qualified candidate entering the program with a master's degree is required to complete a minimum of 90 credits. Students transferring from the MSc program will be required to complete 90 credits in addition to the course requirements for the Master's program (9 credits). Students may be required to take up to 12 credits, at the graduate or advanced undergraduate level, in addition to the above. These courses may be required to strengthen understanding of peripheral areas or of the student's area of specialization. The additional course work may be assigned as an admission requirement or following the BIOL 850 - Research proposal and qualifying exam.

  2. Courses. To graduate, students must meet the following requirements:
    1. 3 credits from BIOL 616, BIOL 670, BIOL 671 or any of the Advanced Topics or Reading Courses listed at the end of the Biology calendar entry. Other courses in the list may be chosen upon recommendation of the supervisory committee and the Graduate Program Director.
    2. BIOL 801 - Pedagogical training 
    3. BIOL 802 - Research seminar 
    4. BIOL 850 - Research proposal and qualifying exam 
    5. BIOL 890 - Research and thesis
       
  3. Research Proposal and Qualifying Exam. The examining committee consists of the student's supervisory committee plus two additional members of the Department of Biology and is chaired by the Graduate Program Director. The student is evaluated on the basis of the quality of the oral and written presentations of the proposal and on responses to questions from the examining committee. These questions extend into general areas as well as focusing directly on the thesis topic. The examining committee assigns one of the following three grades:
    1. PASS: The student is admitted to candidacy for a PhD in Biology.
    2. CONDITIONAL PASS: The student is admitted to candidacy but is required to complete at least one additional course. This grade is assigned only if the background preparation of the student is judged to be insufficient.
    3. FAIL: The student must withdraw from the program.

      If the examining committee judges that the proposal has weaknesses that can be corrected with minor revisions, it may suspend assigning a mark for a period not exceeding three months. The revised proposal then is assigned one of the three above grades.

    4. Thesis. A major portion of the PhD program involves the planning and execution of innovative and original research under the direction of a supervisor. It is expected that this research should result in publication in reputable journals, on which the candidate is the first author and the major contributor of ideas and experimental data. The thesis will be examined by a Thesis Examining Committee and will be defended orally.
       

Academic Regulations

  1. Academic Standing. Please refer to the Academic Standing section of the Calendar for a detailed review of the Academic Regulations.
    Program Specific Requirements. Students must obtain an assessment grade point average (AGPA) of 3.00 based on a minimum of 6 credits.

  2. Residence. The minimum residence requirement is two years (6 terms) of full-time study beyond the master’s degree, or three years (9 terms) of full-time study beyond the bachelor’s degree.

  3. Time Limit. Please refer to the Academic Regulation page for further details regarding the Time Limit requirements. All work for the doctoral degree must be completed by the end of the fourth calendar year following the year of admission to candidacy, defined as successful completion of the Research Proposal and Qualifying Exam (BIOL 850).

  4. Graduation Requirement. In order to graduate, students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.00.
     

Courses

BIOL 801 Pedagogical training 
Candidates are required to give four lectures (normally 75 minutes each) to undergraduate classes. Two lectures are in introductory level courses and two in advanced undergraduate courses. Tutorials are provided to introduce students to teaching methods. The course is marked on a pass/fail basis.

BIOL 802 Research seminar 
Students are required to give one seminar to the Department based upon their research project. Normally the seminar is given in the second or third years of residency. Seminars are graded on a standard scale (A+ to F). The grade is based upon the presentation, content, and the student’s ability to answer questions. The grade is assigned by the Graduate Program Director in consultation with the candidate’s supervisory committee and other faculty members present at the seminar.

BIOL 850 Research proposal and qualifying exam (6 credits)
The student prepares a written research proposal based upon the research topic chosen for thesis research. The proposal is prepared in consultation with the supervisory committee and contains a literature review, a progress report and a detailed description of future experiments. The proposal should demonstrate a good understanding of the background of the project, the questions to be answered, and the experimental approaches needed to answer these questions. Both the written proposal and an oral summary of the proposal are presented to the examining committee within one year of entry into the PhD program.

BIOL 890 Research and thesis (75 credits)

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