Concordia University

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Biology

Doctor of/Doctorate in Philosophy (Biology)

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.

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 Research Proposal and Qualifying Exam (BIOL 850).

  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. 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 credits). 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.
    3. BIOL 802: Research seminar (3 credits). 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.
    4. 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.
    5. BIOL 890: Research and thesis (75 credits).

  4. 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.

  5. 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. GPA Requirement. The academic progress of students is monitored on a periodic basis. To be permitted to continue in the program, students must obtain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 based on a minimum of 6 credits. Students whose GPA falls below 3.00 are considered to be on academic probation during the following review period. Students whose GPA falls below 3.00 for two consecutive review periods are withdrawn from the program.

  2. C Rule. Students who receive more than one C grade during the course of their PhD studies will be required to withdraw from the program. Students may apply for re-admission. Students who receive another C after re-admission will be required to withdraw from the program and will not be considered for re-admission.

  3. F Rule. Students who receive a failing grade in the course of their PhD studies will be withdrawn from the program. Students may apply for re-admission. Students who receive another failing grade after re-admission will be withdrawn from the program and will not be considered for re-admission.

  4. Time Limits. 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).

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

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Master of/Magisteriate in Science (Biology)

Admission Requirements. The admission requirement is a BSc degree or equivalent with specialization in biology with good standing (B average) from a recognized university. Exceptionally, applicants not meeting the GPA requirement may be admitted on the basis of outstanding academic letters of reference, good performance and high standing in advanced courses or exceptional research experience.

Requirements for the Degree

  1. Credits. A fully-qualified candidate is required to complete a minimum of 45 credits.

  2. Residence. The minimum residence requirement is one year (3 terms) of full-time study.

  3. Courses. Three 3-credit courses (9 credits), to be chosen in consultation with the candidate’s advisory committee.

  4. Thesis (BIOL 696, 36 credits). The thesis will be examined by a committee composed of the student’s supervisory committee plus a third examiner chosen at the discretion of the Graduate Program Director. An oral examination chaired by the Graduate Program Director or his/her designate will be conducted before the examining committee to test the student’s ability to defend the thesis.

  5. Seminars. Each student is expected to attend and participate in departmental seminars. In addition, students will be required to present a short (20-30 minutes) seminar to the department on their research once during their residency, normally on completion of their first year.

Academic Regulations

  1. GPA Requirement. The academic progress of students is monitored on a periodic basis. To be permitted to continue in the program, students must obtain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 based on a minimum of 6 credits. Students whose GPA falls below 3.00 are considered to be on academic probation during the following review period. Students whose GPA falls below 3.00 for two consecutive review periods are withdrawn from the program.

  2. Progress Report. Each student’s progress is formally evaluated by the student’s advisory committee every six months and a report is submitted to the Graduate Program Director.

  3. C Rule. Students who obtain less than a grade of B- in a course are required to repeat the course or take another course. Students receiving more than one C grade will be withdrawn from the program.

  4. F Rule. Students who receive a failing grade in the course of their MSc studies will be withdrawn from the program. Students who receive a grade of less than B- after re-admission will be withdrawn from the program and will not be considered for re-admission.

  5. Time Limit. When students do not complete their master’s program within two years, a reasoned request for an extension must be submitted to the thesis committee before they can maintain their registration in the program.

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

Courses

The content of the following courses will vary from year to year and will reflect the interests of the department and the instructor in the course. Not all courses will be offered in any given academic year. Details of the courses to be given together with their respective course contents will be available at the beginning of the academic year. All are one-term 3-credit courses.

The following reading courses are designed to meet special needs of students in their areas of research, and involve the presentation, discussion and critical analysis of information from current journal articles.

BIOL 601 Readings in Ecology and Behaviour I
BIOL 602 Readings in Cell and Molecular Biology I
BIOL 606 Readings in Organismal Biology I
BIOL 607 Readings in Ecology and Behaviour II
BIOL 608 Readings in Cell and Molecular Biology II
BIOL 609 Readings in Organismal Biology II
BIOL 612 Advanced Topics in Evolution
BIOL 613 Advanced Topics in Behavioural Ecology
BIOL 614 Advanced Topics in Ecology
BIOL 615 Advanced Topics in Animal Biology
BIOL 630 Advanced Topics in Bioinformatics
BIOL 631 Advanced Topics in Biotechnology
BIOL 632 Advanced Topics in Cell Biology
BIOL 635 Advanced Topics in Molecular Genetics
BIOL 640 Advanced Topics in Plant Biology
BIOL 680 Advanced Topics in Biology
BIOL 685 Advanced Topics in Microbiology
BIOL 696 Master’s Research and Thesis
(36 credits)

The following courses in Biochemistry may be taken for credit in the program.

CHEM 670 Selected Topics in Biochemistry and Biophysics
CHEM 671 Structure and Function of Biomembranes
CHEM 673 Neurochemistry
CHEM 677 Enzyme Kinetics and Mechanism
CHEM 678 Protein Engineering and Design

BIOL 616 Current Advances in Ecological Research
This course is given in alternate years and reviews selected areas of current research in ecology, evolution and behaviour through critical analysis of recent publications. Topics vary from year to year, and are determined in part by the interests of the students. Material covered may include papers published in refereed journals, monographs or books on specialized topics, or new textbooks covering advanced topics in a relevant area. Students are responsible for giving class presentations of selected material, leading class discussions, and submitting critiques and answers to assigned essay questions. Grading is based upon class participation, oral presentations and written work. Lectures only. (No laboratory component).

BIOL 622 Advanced Techniques in Ecology *
This course introduces students to a variety of techniques of experimental design, data collection, and quantitative analysis. Students participate in a series of modules, each of which presents experimental and analytical techniques appropriate for one area of modern research in ecology, behaviour, or evolution. Some modules require students to collect and subsequently analyze original data from field or laboratory settings. Modules and their contents may vary from year to year. Tutorials and laboratory.

BIOL 623 Advanced Applied Ecology and Conservation *
This course applies principles of ecology at the individual, population, community and ecosystem level to identify and solve practical environmental problems. Topics include pollution, climate change, and farming, harvesting renewable resources, designing nature reserves and conserving bio-diversity. Lectures and tutorials.

BIOL 624 Advances in Decomposer Communities and Nutrient Cycling *
This course examines the role of the microbial community in the fundamental processes of decomposition and nutrient cycling. We discuss the role of microbes in the breakdown of organic molecules and the release and transformation of mineral elements. Emphasis is placed on the interactions between decomposition and on the interactions between bacteria, fungi, and the microbes in the maintenance of nutrient cycles. Lectures and laboratory.

BIOL 633 Advanced Immunology *
The role of the immune system in maintenance of body homeostasis will be presented with particular reference to cells and tissues of the immune system, their organization as well as their structural and functional relationships. Topics include: maturation and differentiation of B and T lymphocytes; structure and properties of antibodies; immune responses to antigens; genetic aspects of antibody synthesis; immunological considerations in AIDS, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. Lectures and seminars.

BIOL 634 Advanced Cell Biology *
Lectures dealing with selected topics in mammalian cell biology. These include introduction to the elements of cell biology. Introduction to the elements of cell culture with reference to the growth and function of non-differentiated and differentiated cells. Control of cell cycling under normal and abnormal states, mechanisms of peptide and steroid hormone action with emphasis on intracellular signaling pathways. The control of gene transcription and detailed analysis of the effect of host cell factors on virus replication. Lectures only.

BIOL 660 Advanced Plant Biochemistry *
Biochemical study of the natural constituents and secondary metabolites unique to plants. Their biosynthesis, biotransformations, and functions in plants, as well as their economic and pharmacologic importance are stressed. Lectures only.

BIOL 661 Advanced Tissue Culture *
This course looks at plant-growth regulators, nutritional requirements, and other factors necessary for in-vitro culturing of plant cells and tissues. The course also discusses methods available for nuclear transfers and the propagation of transformed plants. Lectures only.

BIOL 670 Scientific Communication
This course is offered every other year and is open to all graduate students in Biology or by special permission from the instructor. It is designed to present the requirements for publishable scientific writing, successful research proposals and the presentation of oral papers at scientific meetings. The course emphasizes good writing habits, focuses on the importance of thought, the conciseness of statements and clarity of exposition. The course combines lectures, group discussions, workshops and oral presentations. Marks are based on a number of written assignments, oral presentations as well as participation in class.

BIOL 671 Scanning Electron Microscopy *
This course is given alternate years in the Summer session and explains both the theory and practice of instrumentation and methodology. Students learn to operate the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and ancillary equipment such as sputter-coater and the critical point drier. Hands-on learning experience is stressed to acquire familiarity with special techniques. Instructions cover three aspects: instrumentation, specimen preparation (fixation and drying), and specimen mounting and coating. Tutorials and laboratory.

BIOL 687 Advanced Molecular Genetics *
This course concentrates on basic microbial and molecular genetics, introducing isolation and characterization of mutants, methods of mapping mutants, transposons, episomes, and recombinant DNA techniques. Lectures and conferences.

BIOL 688 Advances in Biological Regulatory Mechanisms *
This course examines the molecular basis of the control of metabolic pathways with an emphasis on procaryote systems. The course concentrates on the analysis of the rationale of experimentation used to elucidate these regulatory mechanisms. Lectures and conferences.

BIOL 689 Advanced Techniques in Molecular Biology *
Theory and practice of modern experimental procedures of molecular biology, including use of restriction enzymes, gene cloning, and hybridizations, DNA sequencing, site-directed mutagenesis, and the use of bacteria and phage in biotechnology. Laboratory and tutorials.

BIO 690 Advanced Gene Structure *
This course deals with gene regulation in eukaryotes. Topics covered include transcription, transcript processing, translation, and post-translational processes. Lectures only.

* Course descriptions listed here correspond to undergraduate course descriptions except for BIOL 616 and 670 which are not available to undergraduate students. It is understood that an instructor who grants written permission to register in the course as a graduate student will require extra work from the students for graduate credit. These courses are open to doctoral students only under exceptional circumstances.

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Diploma in Biotechnology and Genomics

Admission Requirements. To be considered for admission, students must hold a BSc degree from an accredited university with at least fifteen credits in courses at the 200 or 300 level in the following subjects: genetics, cell biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and 3 credits of laboratory in one or more of the previous subjects. In addition, applicants should have obtained an undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 (on a scale with a maximum of 4.30).

International students whose undergraduate degree was not obtained in an English-speaking university must have recently achieved a TOEFL iBT score higher than 100 (600 for TOEFL PBT). A recent advanced GRE is recommended for international students.

Requirements for the Diploma

  1. Credits. Students are required to complete a minimum of 30 credits, comprised of 24 credits of course work and a 6-credit research project. Of the 30 credits required, 21 are designated as core.

  2. Courses. Credit courses for the diploma program are listed below. All courses are 3 credits unless otherwise indicated.

    Core Courses (21 credits)

    BIOL 510 Bioinformatics
    BIOL 511 Structural Genomics
    BIOL 512 Functional Genomics
    BIOL 515 Biotechnology and Genomics Laboratory
    BIOL 516 Project in Biotechnology and Genomics
     (6 credits)
    PHIL 530 Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Biotechnology

    Elective Courses (9 credits)

    BIOL 520 Bioinformatics Programming
    BIOL 521 Industrial and Environmental Biotechnology
    BIOL 523 Agriculture and Agri-Food Biotechnology
    BIOL 524 High-throughput Instrumentation
    CHEM 678 Protein Engineering and Design
    CHEM 690 Selected Topics in Instrumentation

Academic Regulations

  1. GPA Requirements. Students having completed at least four courses are assessed at the end of each academic year based on creditable courses completed after their first registration in the program. To be permitted to continue, students must have obtained a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.00.

  2. C Rule. Normally a student receiving a grade of C in two courses will be withdrawn from the program. Students withdrawn for this reason may petition the Diploma Committee for special consideration. In cases of extenuating circumstances probationary continuation in the program will be considered.

  3. F Rule. Students who receive a failing grade in the course of their studies will be withdrawn from the program. Students may apply for re-admission. Students who receive another failing grade after re-admission will be withdrawn from the program and will not be considered for re-admission.

  4. Time Limit. All work for a diploma program for full-time students must be completed within 6 terms (2 years) from the time of initial registration in the program; for part-time students the time limit is 12 terms (4 years).

  5. Graduation Requirement. To graduate, students must have completed all course requirements with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.00.

Courses

BIOL 510 Bioinformatics
Prerequisites: BIOL 367 or equivalent; COMP 228 (System Hardware) or permission of the Diploma Program Director.
This course provides the tools for life scientists to interpret and analyze biological sequence data. It provides a general overview of the growth in availability of genetic information. The course covers the genetic databases; the rapidly-increasing number of genome databases, including the human genome database; the sequence homology search engines and search algorithms; software for the identification of structural sequence components; and the determination of evolutionary relationships between sequences.

BIOL 511 Structural Genomics
Prerequisite: BIOL 367 or permission of the Diploma Program Director.
This course provides an overview of genome analysis including: cloning systems; sequencing strategies; methods of detecting genes and approaches to mapping genomes. It covers the theory and design of the different approaches, and the analysis of genomic data generated from them.

BIOL 512 Functional Genomics
Prerequisite: BIOL 367 or permission of the Diploma Program Director.
This course focuses on the functional analysis of expressed genes and their products. Course content includes the construction and screening of normalized cDNA libraries, analysis of expressed sequence tags (ESTs), functional analysis by gene knock-outs, localization of gene products by gene knowk-ins, transcription profiling, systematic identification of proteins, and functional analysis of proteins by detection of protein-protein interactions.

BIOL 515 Biotechnology and Genomics Laboratory
Prerequisite: BIOL 368 or permission of the Diploma Program Director.
This is a hands-on course on techniques used in biotechnology and genomics. Experiments conducted in this course include separation and mapping of high molecular weight DNA fragments, shotgun sequencing, ESTs sequencing, protein production in bacteria and fungi, functional analysis of protein products, protein arrays, and in vivo detection of protein interactions.

BIOL 516 Project in Biotechnology and Genomics (6 credits)
Prerequisites: BIOL 466; BIOL 368; or permission of the Diploma Program Director.
Each student conducts a project under the supervision of a faculty member at Concordia or other research institutions affiliated with the program. The project topic requires approval by the course coordinator. The project can be taken over an 8-month (10 hours per week) of a 4-month period (20 hours per week) at Concordia or other approved institutions or companies. The project will be chosen from one or more of the following fields: biotechnology, genomics, bioinformatics, and high-throughput experimentation. The nature of the project can be research, development, or application. A student who is working full-time or part-time can pursue the project in his/her place of employment subject to approval. (Approval will only be given to projects which are clearly demonstrated to be independent of the regular work requirement). At the end of the project, the student is required to submit a report on the results of the project and present the results publicly in the form of a scientific poster or a short talk at a scheduled Genomics/Biotechnology Research Day.

BIOL 520 Bioinformatics Programming
Prerequisites: BIOL 510; COMP 248 or equivalent.
This course is an introduction to working with public domain tools for bioinformatics, and the management of computers, software, and databases for bioinformatics. It covers setting up and use of a workstation running Linux, basic Unix commands, and scripting the Unix shell. It also provides an introduction to Perl, python, Java, and C++ programming languages, the Apache web server, and the mySQL database.

BIOL 521 Industrial and Environmental Biotechnology
Prerequisites: BIOL 511; BIOL 512.
This course provides an in-depth evaluation of current biotechnology tools used in pharmaceutical and forestry industries, and in environmental remediation. New technologies and genomic approaches that can be applied to these processes are also discussed.

BIOL 523 Agriculture and Agri-Food Biotechnology
Prerequisites: BIOL 511; BIOL 512.
This course provides an overview on the use of biotechnology in agriculture and in the agri-food industry. Plant genomics and genetic manipulation of plants are emphasized. Also discussed are biotechnology methods used in reducing agricultural pollutants and converting agricultural surplus to energy.

BIOL 524 High-throughput Instrumentation
Prerequisites: BIOL 511; BIOL 512.
This is a hands-on introduction to high-throughput instruments used in biotechnology and genomics. Students are exposed to capillary electrophoresis-based DNA sequencing, microplate-based PCR reactions and purification of PCR products, construction of DNA chips, microarray scanning, and liquid handling robotics. Enrolment in this course is restricted to ten students.

PHIL 530 Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of Biotechnology
Prerequisite: BIOL 367 or permission of the Diploma Program Director.
This interdisciplinary course examines some of the ethical, legal, and social implications of recent developments in biotechnology, genomics, and bioinformatics. Students explore current debates about biotechnologies in the fields of agricultural biotechnology, global development, and environmental risk. Issues such as commercialization and intellectual property, the role of media and public perceptions of biotechnologies, and social responsibility and policy formation are also addressed.

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