Graduate Guide

The information on this webpage outlines the policies and procedures followed by the Department of Biology with respect to Graduate Studies. This is a guide of current practices only, not a set of binding regulations.

Graduate studies at McMaster are administered by the Graduate Studies Committee under the regulations of the School of Graduate Studies as described in the current Graduate Studies Calendar.

Sessional Dates 2016/17

http://academiccalendars.romcmaster.ca/content.php?catoid=20&navoid=3579

Biology Graduate Studies Committee

COMPOSITION

Graduate Studies in the Department of Biology are administered by the Chair of Graduate Studies, assisted by the Graduate Studies Committee, under the authority of the Chair of the Department. Graduate Studies Committee members are appointed by the Chair of the Department, usually for a three-year term. The Graduate Studies Committee consists of the Chair, Chair of the Department, a minimum of three other departmental faculty members and one graduate student representative (elected by the graduate students). The Graduate Studies Committee should be representative of the major research areas in the Department. All decisions of the Graduate Studies Committee are subject to approval by the Chair of the Department who bears ultimate responsibility for Graduate Studies in the Department.

CURRENT BIOLOGY GRADUATE STUDIES COMMITTEE (BGSC) MEMBERS

(add ‘@mcmaster.ca’ to an email id)

  • Dr. Michael J. O’Donnell, Acting Associate Chair until December 31, 2016 – Email ID: odonnell
  • Dr. Ana Campos, Acting Chair (Ex-officio) – (September – December 2016) Email ID:  biolchr
  • Dr. Roger Jacobs (Ex-officio) – Returns as Chair of Biology – January 1, 2017. Email ID: biolchr
  • Dr. Juliet Daniel – Email ID: danielj
  • Dr. Marie Elliot – Email ID: melliot
  • Dr. Grant McClelland – Email ID: grantm
  • Dr. Mike O’Donnell – Email ID: odonnell
  • Dr. Rama Singh – Email ID: singh
  • Dr. Xu-Dong Zhu – Email ID: zhuxu
  • Barb Reuter (Academic Program Assistant – Graduate) – Email ID: biolgrad
  • Graduate Student Representative

All correspondence, inquiries, academic change forms, off-campus requests and registration forms should be directed to the Graduate Studies Assistant. The Graduate office contact information is below.

Life Sciences Building, Room 223
Phone: 905-525-9140, ext. 23546
Email: biolgrad@mcmaster.ca

Please Note: Normal processing time of forms and letter requests is 2-3 business days, not including the date that the request was submitted. However, during particularly busy times the normal turn-around time may be extended.

MANDATE

The Graduate Studies Committee assists the Chair of the Department by:

(a) setting standards for admission to graduate studies and recommending students for admission to Graduate School;

(b) maintaining the integrity and academic standards of the graduate program;

(c) maintaining and developing the graduate curriculum;

(d) regularly reviewing the graduate program, including methods of graduate student assessment and training;

(e) regularly reviewing the financial support of graduate students, including the award of teaching assistantships and departmental scholarship funds

(f) evaluating and ranking scholarship candidates;

(g) recommending prospective new graduate students for awards from “The Scholarship Fund” (see III-3);

(h) receiving and evaluating briefs from staff or graduate students concerning matters of graduate training in the Department;

(i) formulating departmental policy for graduate studies;

(j) advising individual students or staff members concerning specific matters related to graduate research and training.

CHAIR OF GRADUATE STUDIES RESPONSIBILITIES

The Chair is responsible for the ongoing operation of the Graduate Studies Committee and the Graduate Office and for all issues relating to enrolled students. The Chair signs all academic change forms, etc., for continuing students and is responsible, in consultation with the committee, for the review and acceptance of prospective graduate students.

Applications and Admissions

1. Information: The Departmental program in graduate studies is advertised by referring students to the Department of Biology website: http://www.biology.mcmaster.ca

Prospective applicants are encouraged to correspond with potential supervisors because acceptance to the program, not only requires that the applicant be eligible, but that he or she is accepted by a supervisor.

Our areas of research and faculty information can be reviewed at: http://www.biology.mcmaster.ca/research/ and http://www.biology.mcmaster.ca/faculty/

2. Application Package. The Chair and Academic Program Assistant (Graduate) deal with all inquiries about the graduate program.  A completed on-line application consists of the application form for Graduate Studies at McMaster, a statement of interest, two academic recommendation letter forms,  a CV, a $100.00 CDN application fee, (payable on-line) and a set of official academic transcripts.  The final transcripts should be sent directly to the Department.  Foreign applicants must supply a TOEFL or an equivalent English proficiency test score if their language of instruction is not English. English Language Proficiency Certification Guidelines from the School of Graduate Studies include: a TOEFL score of 92 (iBT – Internet-based) or IELTS score of 6.5 min score overall, “academic” with 5.5 minimum score in each section. The test date must be within two years of verification.

*Please note that the statement of interest, CV, transcripts (and TOEFL or IELTS test results for foreign applicants) can be uploaded through Mosaic.   Final transcripts will be required in the event of a supervisor requesting a letter of offer for the applicant which is then submitted to the School of Graduate Studies for final review and approval.

3. Application Deadlines. To ensure support from the Teaching Assistantship funding, students need to submit their full application before our early application deadline(s) for the upcoming terms as follows:

September:  Early Deadline for Early Acceptance:  January 20th, 2017  – Extended Deadline:  March 31st, 2017
January:       September 29th, 2017
May:              January 31st, 2017

4. Application Procedure.

Documents are submitted directly to the Biology Department and are kept on file until the application is complete.   Students should apply on-line through Mosaic and upload the statement of interest, CV, transcripts (and TOEFL or IETLS test results for foreign applicants).

Incoming application content is posted on our departmental application database (Red Folders) for faculty to review. Completed applications are reviewed by the Biology Graduate Studies Admissions Committee. If the student is academically acceptable, the student’s information (status, program, application review results from the Biology Graduate Studies Admissions Committee and location of file on Red Folders) is sent by electronic mail to all Biology Faculty and Associate Members with graduate student privileges.  (The completed file with original documentation is kept in the Biology Graduate Studies Office).

Interested potential supervisors may contact you directly.   If you are visiting campus, please also inform Barb Reuter at biolgrad@mcmaster.ca  The Graduate Chair may authorize funds to support the travel of a prospective student for an interview.

The source of financial support is described in the letter of offer to the student from the Office of the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies.

To apply, please visit:   https://graduate.mcmaster.ca/academic-services/how-apply

5.  Acceptance and Rejection. Recommendation for admission of each student is handled by the Chair and the Graduate Studies Committee. The Committee reviews all applications and determines eligibility. Acceptance is recommended on the basis of: (i) academic ability (normally an upper second class degree or better, equivalent to a McMaster 8.5 GPA in the last year of an Honours undergraduate program in Biology-related courses), (ii) availability of an appropriate supervisor who is willing to take the student, and (iii) availability of both financing and space.

If all three criteria are met, then the applicant is declared “eligible”. This does NOT guarantee admission into the program. Eligible applicant files are available on Red Folders to all interested supervisor(s) for reviewing and making an offer.  If a supervisor is interested in recruiting a suitable candidate, and has sufficient funding and lab space, then the candidate is promptly notified by the Academic Program Assistant (Graduate).  Official acceptance is made by the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies on the basis of the recommendation made by the Associate Chair/Graduate Studies.

In some cases, applicant status is considered “Eligible-pending” which means that additional materials, such as up-to-date transcript, are pending.  In these cases, a “conditional” offer can be requested.

All eligible applications remain active for one year. Applications that are older than one year will require a fresh review by BGSC.  At this time, applicants may provide updated information such as revised transcript, new references, and other relevant materials. If an application is rejected by the Biology Graduate Studies Committee’s review, the applicant is notified by the Department.

6.  Registration of New and Returning Visa Students. When new visa students first register, they must provide the both the Biology Graduate Studies Office and the School of Graduate Studies in Gilmour Hall – Room 212A with photocopies of the Student and/or Employment Authorization.

Returning visa students who have recently renewed their visa documents must submit copies to the both the Biology Graduate Studies Office and School of Graduate Studies when they arrive.

Visa students are not eligible for OHIP coverage.  Ontario universities have instituted a Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) which is mandatory for all visa students. UHIP premiums for visa students in the Department of Biology for 2016/17 are included as part of their salary.  However, visa students must promptly visit the “International Students Office” ISS in McMaster University Student Centre in Gilmour Hall – Room 110.

 

Financial Support of Students

1. Minimum Support:  The Biology Department funds M.Sc. students for two years and Ph.D. students for four years. A minimum level of support is guaranteed for this period, providing that progress and performance are acceptable (for exceptional cases, see point 2 below).

The normal maximum term of a M.Sc. is three years and for a Ph.D. is six years but there is no guarantee of financial support after two years and four years of the M.Sc. and Ph.D. programs, respectively.

The financial support from the Biology Department normally comes from three sources – a Teaching Assistantship (2016-17 rate for a full-TA position is $10,868 plus required funding for health and safety), Supervisor (Research Scholarship) contribution, and Graduate Scholarship Fund.  If a teaching assistantship is not available, the student may be supported by other sources depending on the availability of funds.

The total minimum support for a domestic M.Sc. student in 2016-17 is at least $20,374  and for a Ph.D. student $22,374.

Additional funding is provided for international students due to higher tuition fees, which may include a tuition bursary.  Our domestic and international salaries are equalized.  When necessary, supervisors can supplement the minimum level of financial support from their research funds to make offers competitive with other institutions.

For 2016-17, the following information from the School of Graduate Studies applies regarding payroll:

  • Tuition is due term-by-term on September 1, January 1, and May 1st
  • Interest on tuition will not begin to be collected prior to the second to last day of those months.
  • Lump sum (whole-term) graduate scholarship payment by mid-September, mid-January and mid-May.
  • Lump sum (whole-term) research scholarship payment by mid-September, mid-January and mid-May.
  • Bi-weekly employment payments in the case of a teaching assistantship.
  • All funding is provided to the student – as such students are solely responsible for paying their tuition.

Each year the Department receives an allocation of teaching assistantships from the Faculty of Science. The Biology Graduate Studies Committee then awards the assistantships to individual students. TA awards and conditions are subject to the regulations of both the School of Graduate Studies and the McMaster University Graduate Students (CUPE 3906) union.  A full TA position is 260 hours/year, or approximately 10 hours/week.  Major external graduate scholarship awards [e.g. the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada postgraduate scholarship and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS)] have their own limitations on hours worked and total remuneration and award holders should consult their terms of award for this information.

2. Waiving Support:   The Biology Department normally accepts students who can be assured of the minimum level of financial support by the Department.  In exceptional cases, however, academically qualified candidates having adequate personal financial resources may be admitted to graduate studies without the Department being committed to the minimum level of support. In these cases, the potential supervisor and student must assure the Graduate Studies Committee, in writing, of the availability of adequate financing for the duration of the student’s degree program. Acceptance of students under such circumstances will not be automatic; each case will be reviewed by the Graduate Studies Committee on the basis of its own merits.

3. The Graduate Scholarship Fund:  Each year, the Department receives an allocation of funds called the “The Graduate Scholarship Fund”, a portion of which may be used for recruiting new graduate students and other competitive awards (e.g., Biology Travel Scholarship Awards assisting in travelling expenses to meetings/conferences, Annual Biology Graduate Achievement awards and others) to eligible in-time students. Decisions as to the awards from this discretionary fund are made by the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee in consultation with both the Chair of the Department of Biology and the other members of the Graduate Studies Committee.

The Graduate Scholarship Fund may be used to provide entrance awards to incoming students based on academic excellence or to provide a departmental assistantship if a teaching assistantship is not available. Awards may also be made to the student’s supervisor to help the supervisor meet the requirements of a departmental scholarship from their research funds. Thus the awards may be used to increase the student’s total stipend. While academic excellence shall be one criterion in the award decisions, other factors such as the status of the prospective supervisor’s research funds, the need for balance in the Department, and the interest of the Department in recruiting particular students at a particular time may also be influencing factors.

Entrance awards to incoming students are made only for the first year of graduate studies at McMaster, and are not renewable.

4. Financial and Supervisory Statement:  Students are recommended to check their student accounts through Mosaic frequently (at least on a monthly-basis).

5. Absences and Vacations:  Permission for absences longer than two weeks is required from the supervisor, the graduate chair and the School of Graduate Studies. Please see the Academic Program Assistant (Graduate) in Life Sciences Building – Room 223 for the appropriate permission form. If possible, forms should be submitted at least one month ahead of a planned absence. Students are allowed a total of two (2) week’s vacation annually, which may be taken during the mid-term recess or subsequent to the completion of TA duties within an academic term during which they are employed. Scheduling of vacations shall be subject to the academic and residency requirements of the student’s program of studies and must be approved by the supervisor.

6. Students with “post program” status:   Students who are beyond 24 months in the M.Sc. program and 48 months in the Ph.D. program who absolutely require financial assistance to complete their thesis work may apply to the Graduate Studies Committee for support. Appeals for support must be filed by the student with a letter outlining the circumstances and an anticipated timetable for completion of the thesis. The application must be accompanied by a letter from the student’s supervisor indicating why the student has reached post program, what financial resources are available for continued support, and the supervisor’s assessment of the student’s timetable for completion. Applications will be assessed individually and support may be granted at the discretion of the Graduate Studies Committee. Support may not exceed immediate tuition expenses.

Supervisory Committees

[UPDATED – EFFECTIVE JANUARY 2014]

1. Committee Formation:   It is the responsibility of the supervisor and the student to ensure that a Supervisory Committee be formed for each M.Sc. and Ph.D. student within 8 months of initial registration. This information must be provided to Academic Program Assistant (Graduate) for BGSC Chair’s review and approval.  The Supervisory Committee reports on the student’s progress each academic year (September to August).

M.Sc. Students. The supervisory committee must consist of a minimum of two “research-stream” faculty members. While one member must be a full-time Biology faculty (normally the Supervisor), the other could either be a Biology associate or adjunct, or a tenured full-time faculty from another department at McMaster University.

Ph.D. Students. The supervisory committee must consist of at least three members. Two must be full-time “research-stream” Biology faculty, including the supervisor. The third member could be a Biology associate or adjunct, or a tenured full-time faculty from another department at McMaster University.

Please note:   Additional committee members (for both M.Sc. and Ph.D.) may be included assuming they meet the above criteria.   Such members could vote on the student’s performance as well.  A member who does not meet the above criteria, including teaching/CLA faculty, could still serve on the committee, but will not be recorded on the supervisory committee form, unless approved in writing by the Dean of Science and Dean of School of Graduate Studies.

When there are membership changes in the supervisory committee (e.g., replacements, additions, etc.), the new committee composition must be approved by the BGSC Chair prior to holding the next meeting.

The BGSC Chair may recommend changes in membership if necessary. Depending upon the case, the BGSC Chair may consult with the Biology Graduate Studies Committee for additional input. The decision of the BGS Committee will be considered final.
2. Supervisory Committee Meeting and Progress Reports:   The supervisory committee must meet at least one and preferably twice a year with the student. It is both the responsibility of the supervisor and the student to ensure that these meetings take place.

As of January 2013, the new departmental policy states: for MSc and PhD students in “over-time” or “out-of-time” status. Over-time and out-of-time students must have a formal supervisory committee meeting EVERY six months.

Supervisory Committee Report Guidelines:

The student provides a progress report to members of the Supervisory Committee Members ideally a week prior to the “confirmed” Supervisory Committee Meeting. It is important to ensure that the members of the Committee have sufficient time to read the report. Failure to provide the progress report in a timely manner may result in re-scheduling of the Supervisory Committee Meeting.

The report begins with an abstract. The report describes the rationale of the project and includes a brief review of the relevant literature. This will be followed by the description of key results (including relevant figures and tables) and progress accomplished since the last Supervisory Committee Meeting.

Finally, the report should propose an experimental plan or list or research priorities for the next 12 months and include a list of references. Students should also call a supervisory committee meeting any time they have academic problems or difficulties with their research program.

Students are responsible for arranging the date, booking the room and audio-visual equipment if necessary (on-line at: http://www.biology.mcmaster.ca/resource-booking/ and obtaining the form in advance at: http://www.biology.mcmaster.ca/graduate/graduate-forms/ for their meeting.

Supervisory Committee Reports:  If necessary, hard-copy “Supervisory Committee Report” forms available from graduate office or in the Main Office in LSB-218.

Reports must be totally completed, signed and filed with the graduate office after each committee meeting, summarizing the student’s academic and research progress and plans for the future. STUDENTS MUST ALSO KEEP A COPY OF THEIR COMMITTEE REPORTS FOR THEIR OWN RECORDS AND ALSO PROVIDE A COPY FOR THEIR SUPERVISOR.

On each report the student’s progress to date must be rated as “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” for M.Sc. students. “Satisfactory” indicates that the student has received a passing grade on graduate courses and that the thesis research is progressing well and on schedule. If an “Unsatisfactory” rating is indicated, another committee meeting must be held between two to four months to further evaluate the student’s progress and again only a “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” rating can be given.  All “Unsatisfactory” ratings from committee meetings will be brought to the attention of the Graduate Studies Committee which may recommend further courses of action to the student and/or supervisory committee.

For Ph.D. students the progress is rated “Excellent”, “Good”, “Marginal” or “Unsatisfactory”. If a “Marginal” or “Unsatisfactory” rating is given, the student must have another committee meeting within four months to further evaluate the student’s progress.

M.Sc. or Ph.D. students receiving two consecutive “marginal” or “unsatisfactory” ratings may be asked to withdraw from the graduate programme.

3.   Supervisor’s Absence:   If a graduate supervisor leaves the University, or is absent on research leave, or is required by the University to perform other duties that would impair effective supervision, the supervisor must make formal written arrangements for an interim supervisor. Copies of this written arrangement must be given to both the student and the graduate office to be put in the student’s file.

4.   Student Grievance:   A student who is dissatisfied with his/her progress, or feels that the commitments of the supervisor are not being fulfilled, should call a meeting of the supervisory committee to discuss the problem. Students are urged to discuss any problems with their supervisor and/or supervisory committee immediately as they arise. The student or a member of his/her supervisory committee can request the involvement of the Graduate Studies Committee Chair or a member of the Graduate Studies Committee in such discussions, through the graduate studies office. If this procedure is unsatisfactory or inappropriate, the student should request an interview, through the graduate office, with the Chair of Graduate Studies and/or a member of the Graduate Studies Committee, who will recommend an appropriate course of action.

5.   Change of Supervisor:   The initial selection of a supervisor is usually considered a permanent arrangement by the student and professor. If, however, the student and the professor do not work well together, or find that their research interests are not compatible, a request to change supervisors may be made in writing to the Graduate Studies Committee. In all cases, it is recommended that the student discuss proposed changes with all members of his/her supervisory committee and with the Graduate Chair before a formal request for change is made.

6.   Conflict Resolution. Although rare, conflicts between supervisors and students do arise. The primary instrument to resolve a conflict should be the Graduate Supervisory Committee. With a proper composition, it is expected that most conflicts will be resolved in a fair and timely manner. However, if a resolution cannot be found, the Chair of the Biology Graduate Studies Committee has the obligation to intervene and, if necessary, participate in the meetings of the Graduate Supervisory Committee, acting as “mediator”. If the conflict persists, then it is proposed that –

The Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee become a de facto member of the graduate supervisory committee with active role and voting right until, in consultation with supervisory committee and BGSC, the conflict is resolved.

7.   Withdrawal from the Program. For students who withdraw for reasons other than unsatisfactory reports or failure of an examination, a letter and academic change form from the student and a letter from the supervisor detailing the reasons for withdrawal must be sent to the Graduate Chair. Students are also required to complete a “Change of Status” form including signatures, and submission to the Biology Graduate office for final review, Associate Chair’s signature and final submission to the School of Graduate Studies.

8.   Non-disclosure (confidentiality) Agreements. Commercial or patent arrangements with industrial partners may require a legal agreement that defines ownership and confidentiality. University guidelines regarding appropriate use and appropriate text for such arrangements are provided by the Office of Research Contracts and Intellectual Property (ORCIP) and the School of Graduate Studies. University policy on Intellectual Property is posted on the web http://ip.mcmaster.ca/. Students should also refer to section 6.6 of the Regulations of Graduate Study, in your Graduate Studies calendar. Signatories of non-disclosure agreements who are graduate faculty or graduate students in the Department of Biology are requested to provide the Biology Graduate Studies Committee AND the ORCIP with a copy of the agreement. Prospective graduate students should be aware that signing such non-disclosure agreements may impair their ability to publish their research, and therefore impede development of their career. Further to the Research Data section 6.4.4 (under the Ownership of Student Work section 6.4) states that, the Faculty and Department “recommend that students and supervisors make clear agreements in advance concerning the ownership and use of data”.

Guidelines for Graduate Courses in Biology

The graduate course offerings in the Department of Biology are continually being revised to better reflect emerging issues in modern biology and the research interests of faculty members in the department.

For a complete listing, please visit:  SGS Calendar Biology Courses

For Biology Graduate Courses Offerings for 2016-17, please visit:   2016-17 Biology Graduate Courses

1. Overview: Graduate courses are an essential part of the program of graduate studies in the Department of Biology. Apart from providing a formal means for students to increase their biological knowledge, courses should test and improve students’ skills at scientific reporting, both written and spoken, and should act to stimulate the research climate and interests of both students and instructors.

The experience of the instructor(s) in presenting course material and leading well-focused discussions is generally crucial. It is suggested, therefore, that some formal seminars or lectures be given by the instructor(s) in each course. General guidelines are listed below. Instructors wishing to teach a course involving major deviations from these guidelines should discuss these with the Graduate Chair.

2. Course outline: A written outline of the course should be given to the students at the first or second course meeting. This course outline should contain a marking scheme and a list of weekly topics to be covered. A copy of the course outline should be forwarded to the graduate office.

3. Weekly meetings: Except for reading courses, a graduate course is expected to involve regular weekly meetings totaling approximately three hours/week.

4. Level of instruction:  Graduate courses (700 level) should be presented primarily at the level of the current original literature in the field. Students lacking the necessary background to cope with such a course should be given preparatory reading or course work.

5. Structure and Evaluation:  The structural organization and the method of evaluation of students must be discussed and determined at the beginning of the course. It must then be given to the student in a written fashion.

6. Formal Critiques by Instructor:   If student seminars or “participation” are graded, a critique should be made by the instructor. This critique may be written or oral and should cover content, style, approach, delivery, etc. In order to improve the effectiveness of future presentations, this critique should be made before the student’s next presentation.

7. Number of instructors:  Whenever possible, two (or more) instructors should be involved in each graduate course. This provides students with a diversity of opinions and expertise and helps ensure objectivity of evaluation.

8. Statement of Academic Integrity:  Each course outline should provide explicit expectations regarding academic integrity and procedures for dealing with allegations of academic dishonesty.

9. Official registration:   For a graduate course(s), enrollment/registration is completed through Mosaic.  For more information, please visit:  https://graduate.mcmaster.ca/academic-services/how-enroll

Course Requirements

VI. Course Requirements

1. All M.Sc. students must complete at least two three-unit courses in Biology or related fields, of which at least one course must be at the 700 level. If a three-unit course at the 600 level is taken, it must be in Biology. A minimum passing grade is B- in each course. There is no minimum course requirement for the Ph.D. degree.

However, students are required to complete a minimum of two 700-level graduate courses beyond the B.Sc. degree, to have passed SGS 101 (Scientific Integrity Course) and SGS 201 (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Training see below) and to complete a thesis.

Please note that a student transferring to the Ph.D. program directly, without writing a MSc thesis, will be required to complete two 700-level courses beyond the B.Sc. degree even if he or she has previously enrolled and passed a 600 level course. It is therefore important to select graduate courses carefully.

The Department may require students enrolled in the Ph.D. program to take graduate or undergraduate courses to remove program deficiencies. The student may meet with his/her Supervisory Committee within six months of enrolling in their doctoral program to outline expectations with respect to courses.

All graduate students are required to enroll through Mosaic for SGS 101 (“Academic Integrity and Research Ethics Course”) administered by the School of Graduate Studies within the first term after their admission into graduate studies at McMaster University and pass this course. The purpose of this course is to ensure that the standards and expectations of academic integrity and research ethics are communicated early and are understood by incoming students. A graduate student may not obtain a graduate degree at McMaster without having passed this course. In the event that a student fails this course, they must retake it at the earliest opportunity. Failure to pass SGS 101 will result in delays in degree completion.

In addition, graduate students are also required to enroll through Mosaic and pass SGS 201 (“AODA Training – Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act”)” in their first term. The Ontario government has enacted a Customer Service regulation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, which came into effect with the start of 2010. Senate passed the requirement for all graduate students to complete this training. The AODA Office maintains the course content and a record of all McMaster students who have taken the course. Completed results will appear on student records. The course content is offered through: http://www.mcmaster.ca/accessibility/.

Please ensure that the Academic Program Assistant (Graduate Studies) has email confirmation of the completed SGS mandatory courses. These courses are included on your transcript. In-time new students with a failure to complete and pass these mandatory courses will result in an “F” grade on their transcripts and prevent enrollment for the upcoming academic year.

For details regarding the enrollment process, please visit:  https://graduate.mcmaster.ca/academic-services/how-enroll

SGS deadlines are emailed to students and posted on the Biology Graduate Studies Bulletin Board (LSB – 2nd Floor).

For completion of the “Violence and Harassment Prevention Training”, please visit:
http://www.workingatmcmaster.ca/eohss/prevention/workplace-violence/

Graduate Students also must discuss safety training with their supervisor and ensure that all the safety training requirements are met as soon as possible.

2. Course Failure:  A student who fails to obtain B- in a prescribed graduate or undergraduate course is normally asked to withdraw from Graduate Studies. In some cases, the student’s supervisory committee may recommend to the Graduate Chair that the student should:

(a) repeat the course or
(b) take a substitute course

Such a recommendation should be made in writing to the Chair within one month of the grade being announced, outlining possible reasons for the student’s failure in the course. The Graduate Chair will then send this request to the Chair of the Department and the Dean of Graduate Studies for approval.

3. Illness During Course Work:  If a graduate student is ill or is under a doctor’s care prior to an examination or course deadline, this must be brought to the attention of the course instructor at that time so that examinations or deadlines may then be deferred at the instructor’s discretion. Medical excuses made “after the fact” will not be accepted.

Graduate Course Offerings for 2016-17

For a listing of Biology graduate courses offered in 2016-17, please visit the website at:

2016-17 Biology Graduate Course Offerings

For a complete listing of all of our Biology Graduate Courses, please visit the School of Graduate Studies Calendar at:

SGS – Calendar – Biology Courses

PLEASE NOTE:

Students should consult the Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics, Radiation Sciences, and the Medical Sciences graduate program sections of the School of Graduate Studies Calendar for additional course selections.

SGS – Calendar

Guidelines for Graduate Student Teaching

1)  TA Duties:   Most graduate students have a Teaching Assistantship (TA) during their in-time graduate student career (i.e. 24 months for M.Sc. students and 48 months for Ph.D. students).  Assigning individual graduate students to the TA slots of various biology undergraduate courses is carried out in July/August and finalized in early September, each academic year, by the Biology Department Manager, Instructional Programs. Your specific TA duties for a particular undergraduate course are assigned by the faculty member/instructor responsible for that course. You must have a clear understanding as to your specific TA duties at the beginning of each course and this understanding is a joint responsibility of both the TA and the instructor of the course.

2) Teaching Evaluation:  Graduate student teaching in undergraduate courses is evaluated by the undergraduate students taking the course and the instructor responsible for the course. This information may be used by the Department in preparing recommendations for scholarships and/or job placements.

Guidelines for Graduate Student Seminars

M.Sc. students are expected to give at least one satisfactory seminar to the department during their graduate studies.

Ph.D. students are required to give at least one departmental seminar on their research work at the time of their supervisory committee meeting to request to write their thesis. This is in addition to that required for the comprehensive examination during their graduate studies.

The seminar is generally given in one of the specialized weekly Departmental seminar series (i.e. the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Seminar Series, the Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology Seminar Series, and the Integrative Physiology Seminar Series).

Starting 2013-14, specialized seminar series have been merged with the Biology Departmental seminar series.

The seminar will be evaluated with feedbacks provided by the student’s supervisory committee and recorded in the student’s file.

Transfer from M.Sc. to Ph.D. Program (Old Policy)

Transfer from M.Sc. to Ph.D. Program (Combined Transfer and Comprehensive Examinations): Old Procedure

[FOR CURRENT STUDENTS WHO STARTED PRIOR TO JANUARY 2014]

The department encourages M.Sc. students who have shown significant progress and potential for research to directly transfer to our Ph.D. program without first finishing their M.Sc. thesis. The transfer is initiated based on mutual agreement between the student and supervisor and be recommended by the student’s M.Sc. supervisory committee. A brief summary (maximum 2 pages) of progress and proposed future research needs to be submitted to the Chair of BGSC for approval and to Graduate Assistant for file keeping.  Transfer from M.Sc. to Ph.D. Program will normally take place between 12 and 18 months of registration in the M.Sc. (to be completed by 22 months).

*PLEASE NOTE:     A Masters student cannot transfer after 22 months from the start of their M.Sc. program.

SGS Calendar Reference:  2.1.2 Admission Requirements for Ph.D. Degree (Page 9)

“Students still enrolled in a Master’s with thesis program beyond 22 months must complete the degree requirements including the thesis prior to admission to the Ph.D. program.”

Enrollment in the Ph.D. program is dependent upon the successful completion of the transfer examination.  Only students who have completed at least one graduate course and obtained an average grade of B+ or better in all graduate course(s) taken are eligible to take the transfer examination.

The format of the transfer examination shall follow exactly the procedure for the comprehensive examination (see below).  A successful result of this examination will be valid as the required Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination.

Specifically, the student must satisfy the Department that she/he has:

(a)    Adequate background knowledge in the area of research

(b)    The ability to plan and perform experimental work competently

(c)    An appreciation of the significance of his/her own experiments both in themselves and in the context of the area in which he/she is working.

If the supervisor is uncertain as to the student’s ability, she/he should advise the student to write a M.Sc. thesis instead of undertaking a transfer examination.

In the event of an unsuccessful examination, the supervisory committee in consultation with the supervisor and student will propose a course of action.  The committee may at this stage recommend that the student finish the M.Sc. and then apply for acceptance into the Ph.D. program.

Objective

Within two or three years of taking the CE examination, the student is expected to have completed his/her Ph.D. and thereby become a qualified expert in his/her chosen specialty, often as an independent research worker and/or a university/college teacher in some branch of Biology.  The Department has a responsibility for ensuring that the student has a critical understanding of the long term and short-term goals of the research project and comprehensive knowledge of the background required to undertake the doctoral work.

Therefore the CE has to be objective to determine whether the student has established a sound plan for his/her doctoral research and whether the background knowledge of the student supports this plan.  It is also aimed at giving the student a major role in shaping the overall direction of his/her thesis project.  It will provide the student with an early sense of ownership and self-determination that will hopefully make his/her experience as a graduate student a more productive and rewarding one.

This is a process that involves the student’s supervisor and the supervisory committee considerably in refining the approaches and ideas.  Indeed the process starts with a supervisory committee meeting.  The comprehensive examination consists of three parts:

    (i)    preparation of a formal research proposal outlining the long term and short-term goals of the thesis project, the hypothesis to be tested and the experimental approach to be used to address the proposed objectives.

    (ii)    oral seminar presentation of the proposed research, including a comprehensive background synthesis necessary to support the research proposal goals.

    (iii)    defense of the research proposal and oral examination of background preparation by the comprehensive examination committee.

The success of the comprehensive examination thus depends on skills essential in the academic environment namely writing, seminar presentation and critical thinking.  Moreover, it fulfills the need for a critical evaluation of the student’s understanding of the research project and required background information.

A student who fails the CE may be asked to withdraw from graduate studies.

Regulations

The School of Graduate Studies regulations state that the comprehensive examination for full-time students will normally take place between 12 and 20 months after enrollment in a Ph.D. program.

Timetable

The T/C-E examination process will normally begin in the student’s second term following admission to the program and must be completed by the end of the third term (within 12-20 months, with an upper limit of 24 months).

Please note that the 24 months limit applies to only those students who were admitted in the Biology graduate program at the Ph.D. level. Students who started at the M.Sc. level must complete the process within 22 months as part of the Ph.D. Transfer Examination (which fulfills the Comprehensive Examination criteria) (see page 17).

The Supervisory Committee (SC) and student meet to discuss the goals of the thesis project and background with preliminary data if available.  It is, in essence, a SC meeting aimed at establishing whether the student is ready to begin writing the proposal.  At this meeting, the SC will clarify the expectations regarding the Research Proposal and Seminar, and stress the importance of the central hypothesis(es) of the Research Proposal.  This hypothesis(es) may be discussed at this SC meeting.  If satisfied, the SC will indicate their approval of initiating the Comprehensive Examination process. This information should be included in the committee report.

The SC will also discuss the graduate course requirements with the student and ensure that these requirements, if not already completed, will be met in a timely matter (see Section V. Point 1. of the guide on Course Requirements).

The SC, in consultation with the student will propose the composition of the Comprehensive Examination Committee (CEC), which will be forwarded to the Chair of the BGSC for approval.

Effective May 1, 2015, the following seminar information should be provided to the Chair of BGSC six (6) weeks in advance to obtain formal approval of the transfer examination process.

  • name of student
  • supervisor
  • seminar title
  • date of presentation
  • location and time
  • a brief (no more than 1 page) outline of the proposed research
  • lay abstract 100 words maximum (a new requirement for the seminar notice)

The BGSC Chair will confirm approval in writing to the student, supervisor and examination committee members, and Academic Program Assistant (Graduate).   Once this information is confirmed, the notice will be posted.

Within five weeks of the date of approval the student will submit a copy of the written research proposal to each member of the CEC and an electronic copy to the Biology Graduate Office.  Within 8 to 12 days after the submission of the research proposal, the examination will take place and consist of a public seminar followed by a private session with the candidate and the CEC.

Committee Composition

The CEC should have 3-5 faculty members, at least 3 of whom must hold full-time faculty appointments in the Department of Biology.  Furthermore, at least 2 members of the SC must serve on the CEC, and at least one member of the CEC should not serve on the SC.  Note that the goal here is to introduce a wider range of expertise into the CEC while maintaining a liaison with the SC.  The CEC normally includes the thesis supervisor. At this stage the BGSC Chair approves the composition of the CEC, ensuring that it contains sufficient breadth and expertise, and appoints one member as CEC Chair.

Role of the CEC Chair

The responsibility of the Chair of the CEC is to ensure that the process is fair, and in accord with the guidelines.  Additionally he/she will write the exam report detailing the committee recommendation as stipulated below.

Research Proposal

The scope of the comprehensive examination is broadly defined by the content of the research proposal. The thrust of the research proposal defines the goals of the doctoral thesis project.  It should outline experiments that can be reasonably carried out within the timetable of a Ph.D. degree.  The structure and length is as defined below.  The committee, at its discretion, will advise the candidate on structural details of the proposal. In this proposal, the candidate is expected to propose a program of research that will represent his/her thesis work.

Research Proposal Format

The research proposal shall not exceed a total of 10 single-spaced pages with 12–point font and 1 inch margins all around.  The reference list and Figures are not included in the 10–page limit.

The following is a brief description of a common format for research proposals.  The student should seek specific input from the CEC on the required sections and expectations regarding content and level of detail.

In general terms a research proposal should include review of the relevant literature, preliminary results or progress to date, the proposition of one or more testable hypothesis(es), and adequate description of the methodology and technology necessary to address the questions posed.

A research proposal normally begins with an Abstract, which is followed by an Introduction that states in general terms, the question that will be addressed and covers the relevant background (review of the literature and relevant results).  This is followed by a section in which the Hypothesis to be tested is stated.  The Long and Short Term Goals of the proposed research should be explicit and should be clearly linked to the hypothesis being tested.  The Proposed Research section should clearly address the short-term goals of the proposal.  For each section of the proposed research, state succinctly the question being addressed, the methodology that will be employed as well as potential pitfalls and caveats.  Possible outcomes and interpretation of results should be discussed at the end of each section.  A brief description of alternative approaches should also be included.

Seminar

The first part of the comprehensive exam is the presentation of the public seminar, with the examination committee present. The duration of the seminar should be 40-50 minutes.  The content of the seminar must include a review of the literature relevant to the specific project.  The candidate should articulate the hypotheses to be tested, experimental approach to test these hypotheses, potential problems, and finally possible outcomes and how these results may advance knowledge.  The candidate should indicate the significance of the proposed studies to the field of research.  The candidate may be questioned by any member of the audience on the content of the seminar.  The candidate should be prepared to answer questions examining the theory, background or techniques used in the research proposal and other relevant issues.

Defense

The defense will take place immediately following the seminar.  No additional presentation is necessary.  The candidate will be examined by the CEC on the conceptual and technical background that supports the research proposal as shown in the written document and as presented in the public seminar.  The candidate should be able to adequately discuss and support the rationale and technical background of the proposal, outline additional experiments and evaluate possible outcomes of experiments proposed and discussed during the defense.  It is expected that the student will demonstrate a reasonable command and critical view of the pertinent literature.

Evaluation

The CE comprising the Seminar, the Written Proposal and the Defense shall be marked as Pass, Fail or Pass with Distinction.  The criteria assessed will be:

(i)    Effective seminar presentation and research proposal writing.

(a)    The major thrust and content of the seminar and research proposal must be understandable by anyone with a B.Sc. in Biology, but should extend beyond what is generally available in textbooks.

(b)    The technical language (for example, the use of acronyms) must be understandable by a generalist.

(c)    The writing style should be concise, precise and demonstrate the candidate’s ability to use the language of the specialty.

(ii)    Effective demonstration of specific knowledge and critical thinking.

(a)    Understanding the hypotheses being tested and knowledge of pertinent literature.

(b)    Ability to answer questions related to the theories and techniques to be used in the proposed research.

(c)    Ability to design experiments that will address the proposed hypotheses and extend current knowledge in the specialty.

(d)    Proposed experiments should be feasible within the context of the host laboratory.

Candidates will receive their overall grade on the same day.  This will normally follow the private session on the day of the examination.

Assessment

Within a week of their comprehensive examination, successful candidates will receive written comments on all aspects of the CE namely the proposal, the seminar and the defense from the CEC Chair, providing constructive feedback for future reference.  A copy of the CEC report to the candidate containing comments and the result of the examination signed by the student and the members of the CEC must be submitted to the Biology Graduate Office.

It is required that upon successful completion of TE/CE, the student completes the SGS online “Change in Status” form (at https://sgs-webserver.mcmaster.ca/tbindstudent/). The student must submit a hard copy of the completed form to the Biology Graduate Office. The Ph.D. status will become effective in the following term.

A fail normally requires that the candidate repeat the CE in its entirety – i.e. seminar, research proposal and defense.  The candidate will normally be allowed six weeks to repeat the CE.  This option may be exercised only once.

At its discretion, the CEC, rather than providing a grade of “Fail”, may ask the candidate to revise any aspect of the CE within a period, not exceeding six weeks, before the final mark is assigned.  This option may be exercised only once.

For candidates who fail the CE, or who are asked to revise the research proposal, seminar or to undertake another examination, a form will be provided containing specific written directions from the CEC, including a timetable for the candidate to complete the examination process. The candidate must sign the form, acknowledging that he/she understands the directions received and agrees to complete the exam process by the specified date. A copy of the CEC report containing comments and the results of the examination to the candidate must be submitted to the Biology Graduate Office.

Two failures of the CE will lead to the dismissal of the student from the Ph.D. program.  A memo detailing the CEC decision regarding the CE outcome and supporting reasons, written by the CEC Chair in consultation with the CEC members, must be submitted to the candidate and Chair of the BGSC a week following completion of the CE.  The candidate and the SC should meet within a month to discuss options available to the student. Normally, the student will be able to submit and defend a M.Sc. thesis resulting in a Master’s degree (see Section XIV).

Transfer from M.Sc. to Ph.D. Program (New, Effective from January 2014)

Transfer from M.Sc. to Ph.D. Program: New Procedure (Effective from January 2014)

[FOR NEW M.Sc. STUDENTS WISHING TO TRANSFER TO Ph.D. PROGRAM, WITH JANUARY 2014 START DATE AS WELL AS FUTURE M.Sc. STUDENTS]

The first Supervisory Committee (SC) meeting of a new M.Sc. student must be held within the first 9 months of registration. In this meeting, among other things, the SC will discuss the possibility of transfer to the Ph.D. program and an approximate date (in the next 3-11 months) for holding another meeting.

Whether the second meeting is termed as a regular committee meeting or a Transfer Examination (TE) meeting will depend on the progress of the student and his/her wishes to continue in the graduate program. In any case, the TE must be completed within 12-20 months from the initial date of registration. A successful completion of TE will allow the student to register as a Ph.D. candidate in the following term.

In the event that the SC does not approve transfer, the second meeting will be an opportunity to discuss an anticipated date for the M.Sc. defense examination and degree completion (see Section XIV for Thesis Examination guideline). This information will be indicated on the meeting report.

Format of Transfer Examination:

The format of TE will be mostly similar to the annual supervisory committee meeting (i.e., a written progress report, a short presentation and a “Question/Answer” period). However, a new component has been added.

The student is required to submit a brief outline (2 pages maximum) of the proposed Ph.D. research plan.  The research outline should contain an overall goal or hypothesis, short and long-term aims, a general plan of action, expected outcomes and the significance of the work.

Process

Prior to holding a TE the Supervisor, in consultation with the SC, will propose the names of TE Committee members. This information, along with the following requirements of TE, will be forwarded to the Chair of Biology Graduate Studies Committee (BGSC).

Effective May 1, 2015, the following seminar information should be provided to the Chair of BGSC 7-10 business days in advance to obtain formal approval of the transfer examination process.

  • name of student
  • supervisor
  • seminar title
  • date of presentation
  • location and time
  • proposed Ph.D. research outline (2 page maximum)
  • lay abstract 100 words maximum  (a new requirement for the seminar notice)

It is the responsibility of the student and the Supervisor that the above process takes place in a timely manner.

The BGSC Chair will confirm approval in writing to the student, supervisor and examination committee members, and Academic Program Assistant (Graduate).   Once this information is confirmed, the notice will be posted.

The TE will be open and can be attended by all Biology and McMaster community members. The seminar will be 30 min long (45 min maximum), followed by 30-60 min “Q/A” period. The Q/A session will normally be restricted to the TE Committee members and the candidate but the audience may be invited to ask questions if time permits

Committee structure and roles:

The Examination Committee will consist of three “research stream” full-time faculty members, namely the Supervisor, one Supervisory Committee member and a Biology faculty member external to the committee. At least two of the examiners must be full members or associates of the Department of Biology.

Please note:  Additional committee members may be included assuming they meet the above criteria.  Such members could vote on the student’s performance as well.  A member who does not meet the above criteria, including teaching/CLA faculty, could still serve on the committee, but will not be recorded on the transfer examination form, unless approved in writing by the Dean of Science and the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies.

The External member will chair the examination. Care will be taken to ensure that this person has no conflict of interest with the supervisor and the student. The TE Chair will ensure that the process occurs in accordance with established procedures (outlined above) and will be responsible for completing a new “Transfer Examination Form” in consultation with other committee members.

Assessment:

The TE Chair will complete the “Transfer Examination Form”. The following items will be addressed in the Form,

•    Evidence of research progress so far
•    Accomplishments in the program (Publication/scholarship/award etc.)
•    Quality of the proposed research plan
•    Maturity of the candidate, i.e., preparedness and commitment to pursue graduate study
•    Communication skills (written/oral)
•    Willingness to transfer to Ph.D.
•    Overall rating of the student (Excellent/Good/Not acceptable)

Based on the above assessments, arrived at by consensus or majority agreement, the TE Chair will make a final recommendation (Proceed to Ph.D./Proceed to complete M.Sc.) that will be considered final and implemented by the Department.

If the decision is to complete M.Sc., then the procedure described in Section XIV will follow.

The completed TE form with all signatures must be submitted to the Biology Graduate Office.

It is required that upon successful completion of TE, the student completes the SGS online “Change in Status” form at:

http://gs.mcmaster.ca/sites/default/files/resources/change_of_status_form_october_2016.pdf

The student must submit a hard copy of the completed form to the Biology Graduate Office. The Ph.D. status will become effective in the following term.

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination (New, Effective from January 2014)

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination (New Procedure)

[FOR NEW STUDENTS WHO STARTED IN JANUARY 2014 AND FUTURE STUDENTS]

In the new procedure that is applicable to Biology students starting in January 2014, all Ph.D. candidates, either transferred from M.Sc. or accepted directly into the program, are required to pass a Comprehensive Examination (CE).

The CE of a student will normally be held between 12 and 16 months (with an upper limit of 24 months in exceptional cases) after the date of registration in the Ph.D. program. The purpose is to test the breadth of knowledge, skills and competency of a Ph.D. student necessary to undertake the Ph.D. research work.

Process, Format, Examination Committee and Timetable

The first SC meeting of a Ph.D. student will occur within 9 months of registration as a doctoral candidate. Apart from reviewing the progress of the student, the CE procedure, potential examiners, and a time frame will also be discussed. This information will be included in the meeting report.

In this meeting the SC will also identify up to 3 study topics for the student that are chosen to broaden their breadth of scientific knowledge, extending beyond the topic of their Ph.D. research. The study topics will be identified in the newly revised SC Meeting Form. The student will be required to read this information and sign the form to confirm their agreement and understanding of the approved topics.

Subsequent to this meeting, the Supervisor, in consultation with the Supervisory Committee and the student, will propose the composition of the Comprehensive Examination Committee (CEC).  The CEC will consist of a minimum of 4 “research-stream” full-time faculty including the Supervisor, two Supervisory Committee members, and another McMaster faculty member who is not a member of the SC. At least two members of the CEC must be Biology faculty or Biology associates.

Please note:    Additional committee members may be included assuming they meet the above criteria.  Such members could vote on the student’s performance as well.  A member who does not meet the above criteria, including teaching/CLA faculty, could still serve on the committee, but will not be recorded on the Ph.D. comprehensive form, unless approved in writing by the Dean of Science and Dean of School of Graduate Studies.

The BGSC Chair will approve the CEC composition and appoint one member of the Committee as the Chair of the CEC. This information will be communicated in writing with all individuals involved.

Subsequent to the committee formation, the student will contact all CEC members and confirm a date of the examination 6-8 weeks in advance of the actual CE date. In addition, the student will also prepare a one-page outline of the research work to be undertaken.

Effective May 1, 2015, the following seminar information must be provided to the Chair of BGSC to obtain formal approval of the Comprehensive Examination process.

  • name of student
  • supervisor
  • seminar title
  • date of presentation
  • location and time
  • a brief (no more than 1 page) outline of the proposed research
  • lay abstract 100 words maximum (a new requirement for the seminar notice)

The BGSC Chair will confirm approval in writing to the student, supervisor, CE committee members and the Academic Program Assistant (Graduate).  This approval initiates the start of the CE process. The seminar notice will be posted following the approval.  A minimum of 6 weeks is required after this approval date to hold the examination.

At least 8 to 12 days prior to the examination date the student will submit a copy of the written research proposal to each member of the CEC and an electronic copy to the Biology Graduate Office.  The examination will consist of a public seminar followed by an in camera session with the candidate and the CEC.

The comprehensive examination will consist of the following three parts:

(i)     Preparation of a formal research proposal outlining the long term and short-term goals of the thesis project, the hypothesis being tested, the experimental approach to address the proposed objectives, and the progress till date.

(ii)    Presentation on the background of the proposed project, an overview of the aims and progress thus far in a seminar. At the discretion of the CEC, the presentation may also cover the literature in assigned study topics intended to fill knowledge gaps in areas outside of the current Ph.D. work.

(iii)    Defense of the research proposal, progress, and oral examination of the background preparation including the integration of knowledge gained through reading study topics by the CEC.

Written Component of CE

The scope of the written component of Comprehensive Examination is broadly defined by the content of the research proposal.  The format of the research proposal is described below.  The proposal should outline experiments to be carried out within a reasonable timeframe of a Ph.D. degree and the progress that has been achieved since the Ph.D. transfer. The committee will advise the candidate on structural details of the proposal taking into account the specific goals, needs, and background of the student.

Research Proposal Format

The research proposal shall not exceed a total of 10 single-spaced pages with 12–point font and 1 inch margins all around.  The reference list and Figures are not included in the 10–page limit.

The following is a brief description of a common format for research proposals.  The student should seek specific input from the CEC on the required sections and expectations regarding content and level of detail.

In general terms a research proposal should include review of the relevant literature, preliminary results or progress to date, the proposition of one or more testable hypothesis(es), and adequate description of the methodology and technology necessary to address the questions posed.

A research proposal normally begins with an Abstract, which is followed by an Introduction that states in general terms, the question that will be addressed and covers the relevant background (review of the literature and relevant results).  This is followed by a section in which the Hypothesis to be tested is stated.  The Long and Short Term Goals of the proposed research should be explicit and should be clearly linked to the hypothesis being tested.  The Proposed Research section should clearly address the short-term goals of the proposal.  For each section of the proposed research, state succinctly the question being addressed, the methodology that will be employed as well as potential pitfalls and caveats.  Possible outcomes and interpretation of results should be discussed at the end of each section.  A brief description of alternative approaches should also be included.

Oral Component of CE

The oral component of the Comprehensive Examination is the presentation of the public seminar, in the presence of the CEC and general audience. The entire duration of the seminar should be 45-50 minutes.

The content must include the background in the broad area relevant to the proposed work. The candidate should briefly articulate the hypotheses to be tested, experimental approach to test these hypotheses, potential problems, possible outcomes, and how these results may advance knowledge. The progress since the start of the Ph.D. research should also be presented.

The candidate must also demonstrate integration of the knowledge gained through reading the literature in assigned study topics. The onus is on the candidate to demonstrate that the presentation is thorough, reveals depth in scientific knowledge, and not merely based on textbook or single article information.

The candidate may be questioned by any member of the audience on the content of the seminar.  The candidate should be prepared to answer questions examining all aspects of the proposal and seminar presentation.

Defense

The defense will take place immediately following the seminar.  No additional presentation is necessary.  The candidate will be examined by the CEC on the conceptual and technical background that supports the research proposal as shown in the written document and as presented in the public seminar.  The candidate should be able to adequately discuss and support the rationale and technical background of the written proposal, progress made since starting the Ph.D. work, outline additional experiments and evaluate possible outcomes of experiments proposed and discussed during the defense.

The CEC will also ask questions on study topics assigned previously by the Supervisory Committee. It is expected that the student will have sufficient and critical understanding of the pertinent literature and will be able to identify key questions that need to be addressed in the field.

Evaluation

The criteria of CE assessment will be:

(i) Effective research proposal writing and seminar presentation:

(a)     The major thrust and content of the seminar and research proposal must be understandable by anyone with a B.Sc. in Biology, but should extend beyond what is generally available in textbooks.
(b)     The technical language (for example, the use of acronyms) must be understandable by a generalist.
(c)     The writing style should be concise, precise and demonstrate the candidate’s ability to use the language of the specialty.

(ii) Effective demonstration of critical thinking and theoretical knowledge:

(a)     Understanding the hypotheses being tested and knowledge of pertinent literature.
(b)     Ability to answer questions related to the theories and techniques used or planned to use in the proposed research.
(c)     Ability to design experiments that will address the proposed hypotheses and extend current knowledge in the specialty.
(d)     Ability to identify important findings and critically evaluate progress in the field related to assigned study topics.

Assessment

In the end, the CEC Chair will be responsible for filling out the CE form and providing the necessary details. The following points must be included,

•    Background knowledge of the Ph.D. project
•    Evidence of progress so far
•    Quality of the research proposal (including aims, design, and experimental details)
•    Seminar presentation (organization, style, contents etc.)
•    List of assigned study topics and broad knowledge in these areas
•    Accomplishments in the program (Publication, scholarship, award, etc.)
•    Maturity of the candidate

Based on the above assessment, arrived at by consensus or majority agreement, the CE comprising the Seminar, the Written Proposal and the Defense shall be marked as Pass, Fail or Pass with Distinction.

Within a week of their comprehensive examination, successful candidates will receive written comments on all aspects of the CE namely the proposal, the seminar and the defense from the CEC Chair, providing constructive feedback for future reference.  A copy of the CEC report to the candidate containing comments and the result of the examination signed by the student and the members of the CEC must be submitted to the Biology Graduate Office.

A fail normally requires that the candidate repeat the CE in its entirety – i.e. seminar, research proposal and defense.  The candidate will normally be allowed six weeks to repeat the CE.  This option may be exercised only once.

At its discretion, the CEC, rather than providing a grade of “Fail”, may ask the candidate to revise any aspect of the CE within a period, not exceeding six weeks, before the final mark is assigned.  This option may be exercised only once.

For candidates who fail the CE, or who are asked to revise the research proposal, seminar or to undertake another examination, a form will be provided containing specific written directions from the CEC, including a timetable for the candidate to complete the examination process. The candidate must sign the form, acknowledging that he/she understands the directions received and agrees to complete the exam process by the specified date. A copy of the CEC report containing comments and the results of the examination to the candidate must be submitted to the Biology Graduate Office.

Two failures of the CE will lead to the dismissal of the student from the Ph.D. program.  A memo detailing the CEC decision regarding the CE outcome and supporting reasons, written by the CEC Chair in consultation with the CEC members, must be submitted to the candidate and Chair of the BGSC a week following completion of the CE.  The candidate and the SC should meet within a month to discuss options available to the student. Normally, the student will be able to submit and defend a M.Sc. thesis resulting in a Master’s degree (see Section XIV).

Thesis Examinations (M.Sc. and Ph.D.)

Please visit thesis examination date information at: Master’s Degree – Thesis

M.Sc. Thesis Examination.

Students are required to submit to the graduate assistant a completed “M.Sc. Approval to Submit Thesis For Oral Defense” form indicating approval by a majority of the examination committee that the thesis is ready for formal defense.  This form may be obtained at:

http://www.biology.mcmaster.ca/images/documents/graduate/msc_approval_to_submit_thesis_for_oral_defence.pdf

The examination committee normally consists of three (or more) members of the Department of Biology including the supervisor.  These committee members must be “research-stream” faculty.   One of these (other than the supervisor) is designated to be Chair of the examination.

Please note:   Additional committee members may be included assuming they meet the above criteria.   Such members could vote on the student’s performance as well.  A member who does not meet the above criteria, including teaching/CLA faculty, could still serve on the committee, but will not be recorded on the M.Sc. examination forms, unless approved in writing by the Dean of Science and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies.

The “Chair” selection is discussed between the student and supervisor.  Effective May 1, 2015, this information must be communicated to the Chair of BGSC and approved in advance.

Effective May 1, 2015, the following seminar information should be provided to the Chair of BGSC two (2) weeks in advance to obtain formal approval of the M.Sc. thesis examination process.  Please ensure to carbon-copy the Academic Program Assistant (Graduate) at biolgrad@mcmaster.ca.

  • name of student
  • supervisor
  • examination committee members, including Chair of M.Sc. Defence
  • seminar title
  • date of presentation
  • location and time
  • lay abstract 100 words maximum (a new requirement)

The School of Graduate Studies is now tracking Masters defences in Mosaic.  It is mandatory for students to initiate the process listed below after their defence date is confirmed.

NEW – THESIS INITIATION IN MOSAIC:

  • Login to MOSAIC
    • Student Center
  • Academics Section
  • Drop-down menu – Select THESIS INTENT – DEFEND THESIS
  • REVIEW:  Your Committee Members – inform Academic Program Assistant (Graduate) if revisions are required.
  • ADD:  Defense details (Date, Time, Location and Abstract)
  • SUBMIT:  Review information
  • CLICK:  SUBMIT AGAIN
  • Student will receive a confirmation email.   Academic Graduate Assistant should be informed of this completion promptly by email at biolgrad@mcmaster.ca

The student submits his/her thesis to the examination committee giving them a minimum of a weekend plus a week to read the thesis before the defense.  In consultation with the supervisory and examining committee, the student is responsible for identifying a date, time and location for the M.Sc. defense.

The oral presentation for the M.Sc. thesis should be 20-25 minutes long including a brief introduction. Focus should be on where the key findings contribute new knowledge to the field of study.

The role of the examination chair is to ensure that the process is fair, and in accord to guidelines.

At the conclusion of the defense the forms that were previously prepared and distributed to the Chair of the M.Sc. examination by the Academic Program Assistant (Biology) are signed by all committee examiners.  Copies of all completed forms must be made for the Biology graduate students’ records – originals are to be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies by the student.

Any major or minor corrections must be approved by the Chair of the exam, or by the student’s supervisor before the student submits the thesis electronically – please visit the SGS website (E Thesis Process) information at:

https://graduate.mcmaster.ca/masters-degree-thesis

The School of Graduate Studies then clears the student to graduate, providing the originals documents have also been submitted.

Ph.D. Thesis Examination

A Ph.D. student must receive formal “permission to write” from his/her supervisory committee prior to the preparation of the thesis.  The permission can be obtained at a Ph.D. supervisory committee meeting and should be indicated on the Ph.D. supervisory committee report.  When a Ph.D. student has written the thesis and made changes and corrections as suggested by all his/her supervisory committee members, the student initiates the defense process electronically at the following link:

https://sgs-webserver.mcmaster.ca/TBindStudent/Login.aspx

The process should be initiated online approximately 2-3 weeks before an electronic copy of the thesis will be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies.

Please note that an electronic copy is all that is required unless otherwise requested – sometimes the external or internal examiner requires a hard copy.  In that situation the Thesis Coordinator will request one from the student.  In this case, the text of the hard-copy version must be the same as that of the electronic thesis, and must be printed on regular quality 8 1/2″ x 11″ printed paper and back-printed to save paper.

After online initiation, the student’s supervisor will be prompted by email to submit to the School of Graduate Studies a list of potential external examiners who are qualified to evaluate the thesis. All other supervisory committee members will be prompted to indicate their approval or rejection of one or more of the proposed external examiners.

It will be up to the student to propose a date and time for the defense that is acceptable to both the supervisory committee members who will attend and acceptable in terms of the School of Graduate Studies’ scheduling guidelines.

The pre-defense copies of the thesis should be formatted according to the requirements in the Guide for the Preparation of Theses, which is available on the SGS website: at:

http://gs.mcmaster.ca/sites/default/files/resources/guide_for_the_preparation_of_masters_and_doctoral_theses-_november2014.pdf

As indicated above, the student must arrange a defense date and time that allow for the supervisor and two other supervisory committee members to attend.

It is imperative that the student consult the SGS website for guidance on arranging a defense date.  Please visit:

https://graduate.mcmaster.ca/doctoral-degree

Once the supervisor committee members have approved the thesis and the proposed defense date/time, an email is sent to the student indicating that the School of Graduate Studies has received notice of the proposed date/time. If an external examiner has agreed to evaluate the thesis, the thesis has been submitted in a timely manner and the proposed defense date is acceptable according to SGS guidelines, the Thesis Defense Coordinator will recruit the remaining examination committee members.

If there is a problem with the proposed date/time, the student will be contacted directly. The Thesis Defense Coordinator can be reached at x23680 or gthesis@mcmaster.ca.

If possible, the oral examination will be held in the Thesis Defense Room in the School of Graduate Studies (Gilmour Hall, Room 212/B). If an alternate location is required, it will be arranged by SGS and you will be notified. A data projector is available in the Thesis Defense Room. If a PowerPoint presentation is planned, it is advisable that the student arrange a time to visit SGS before the defense date to be sure that your laptop is compatible with the School’s projector.

A chair and one internal examiner are usually recruited by SGS to participate in a Ph.D. defense. The internal examiner is usually a faculty member from outside of the candidate’s department/program who is unfamiliar with the student’s work. Please note that if the external examiner agrees to attend the defense, an ‘internal-external’ examiner is normally not recruited. If the external examiner does not attend the defense, their identity will not be revealed to the candidate until the date of the examination. Please note that in rare cases, external examiners prefer to remain anonymous.

When a positive report from the external examiner is submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, a defense notice listing the participants will be sent to the candidate’s department in addition to being posted on the SGS website.

The Examination Committee consists of the Supervisor, and at least two Supervisory Committee members, an external examiner (if he/she wishes to attend), and a Chair of the Examination.  The Chair of the Examination runs the defense and has no voting privileges.   Inclusion of a member to the committee who does not meet the above criteria will require approval from the Dean of Graduate Studies.  Information is provided in the School of Graduate Studies Calendar.  Please visit:  4.4 Thesis -Selection of Examination Committee

After the defense, when the student has made corrections and/or revisions, dissertations are submitted electronically (as mentioned – effective September 1st, 2011).  The student is then cleared to graduate.

Thesis Copy Submission Requirement and deadlines

As of July 1992, the requirements for the thesis format have been relaxed.  The format of the M.Sc. or Ph.D. thesis may now be either the traditional integrated document or the newer, more liberal “sandwich” (or open-faced sandwich) format building around a series of papers either already published or to be submitted for publications.  The “sandwich” format is designed to speed the process of thesis writing and to encourage the student to prepare his/her work for peer-reviewed publications in professional journals.

The precise regulation is:

“The dissertation or thesis will be a coherent document that provides a complete and systematic account of the research accomplished by the writer.  If some of the research undertaken expressly for the degree has previously been published or prepared for publication as one or more journal articles, or parts of books, those items may be included within the thesis under the following conditions:  there must be material preceding the article or articles which sets the context for the work, and material that draws out the overall implications of the work; if there is multiple authorship of the separate articles, there must be a preface to the thesis that documents clearly the student’s contribution to each of the papers, and the student’s contribution to the originality of the work, thereby clarifying in what way this work becomes the student’s thesis.”

NEW AS OF SEPTEMBER 1, 2011

Thesis Submission Information:

https://graduate.mcmaster.ca/masters-degree-thesis

https://graduate.mcmaster.ca/doctoral-degree

If you require further assistance, please contact:

Jessica Dorsch

Thesis Defence Coordinator

905-525-9140 x23680

E-Mail: gthesis@mcmaster.ca

All students will be required to upload their dissertations electronically.  Further information regarding department regulations regarding copies will be forth-coming.

Final thesis submission deadline – Please ensure that the electronic thesis copy is submitted online (MacSphere) in a timely manner to avoid future tuition deductions. See Page 1 for sessional dates.

Review of Academic Decisions

Review of Course Grade.

(a)     In agreement with the policies of McMaster University, students are strongly encouraged to contact their Instructor, Chair or relevant Associate Dean of Faculty or Graduate Studies before seeking a review under a formal procedure.  It is our experience that a majority of questions can be resolved satisfactorily through informal discussion.

(b)     A student who is not satisfied by (a) should apply to a “Re-Read/Re-Assessment” as described in Section III – C) of the “Student Appeal Procedures” document.  In brief, the request is presented on “Form A” to the relevant Associate Dean (Science) of the School of Graduate Studies, who submits a copy of the application to the Chair of the Department.  The Chair selects an appropriate reader who may be external to the Department.  The Chair provides the reader with a copy of the student work and protects “the anonymity of the student and impartiality of the reader by ensuring that all identifying material, along with the original instructor’s comments and markings, has been removed”5.  Results of the re-assessment are provided within three weeks of submission and are communicated to the Associate Dean of the School of Graduate Studies.  The Associate Dean notifies the student and Instructor of the decision in writing.  The results of a formal re-read/re-assessment are final and cannot be appealed.

(c)     Under exceptional circumstances, an Instructor may approve an extension for the student for completion of the work and assign a grade of “Incomplete” (INC).  This extension is generally in the range of a few weeks or less.  The student must then complete the assignment in a timely manner and have the INC grade cleared by the deadline indicated by the Instructor.

Withdraw on Academic Grounds.

(a)     All decisions to withdraw a student from the graduate program are reviewed by the Chair of Biology and Chair of the BGSC. This decision must be approved by the School of Graduate Studies.

(b)     The recommendation of the graduate supervisory committee regarding a student failing a course must be approved by the Chair of BGSC.   In addition, the decision to allow students with a failed course grade to remain in the program is submitted to and must be approved by the School of Graduate Studies.

Statement of Academic Dishonesty

The Department of Biology considers academic dishonesty to be a very serious matter.

All graduate students are required to complete SGS #101- Academic Research Integrity and Ethics within twelve months of enrolling in the program.

Instructors will seek to identify instances of academic dishonesty and bring cases to the attention of the Academic Integrity Officer. The penalty for academic dishonesty is high. We have prepared the following guidelines to ensure that you are aware of what the Department of Biology considers breaches of academic integrity. (See section 6.1 in the Graduate Studies calendar).  As a teaching assistant, you will also be expected to enforce these regulations and report any instances of academic dishonesty which you detect to the course supervisor.

A.      Deliberate Cheating – Examples include:

•    Use of unauthorized aids during an exam.
•    Alteration of an exam after it has been returned and claiming that the altered sections were present in the original exam script.
•    Alteration of the marks given on an exam and then claiming that the original addition was incorrect.
•    Verbal communication of answers from one student to another during a test.
•    Allowing someone else to write an exam in your place.
•    Fabrication or falsification of data.

B.  Presentation of Material That Is Not Your Own Work – Examples include:

•    Copying an answer from another student during an exam.
•    Copying (either directly, or after memorization) from texts, journal articles, lab reports, essays, old exam scripts etc. However, it is permitted to quote a limited amount of text (one sentence, for instance) describing a key principle or seminal idea with appropriate reference citation.

•    Submitting essays, drawings, micrographs, cultures or other laboratory results that were prepared or obtained by others as though they were your own.

When in doubt, students should seek advice from their supervisor or members of the Graduate Studies Committee.  We also strongly encourage students to visit the web site on academic integrity of McMaster University:

http://www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following section taken from the University web site and replicated with the permission of the Office of Academic Integrity provides a definition of what is plagiarism:

Plagiarism

McMaster University defines plagiarism as “the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which previous credit has been obtained”.

What does this mean?

•    When writing an assignment you must use your own words and thoughts.
•    When you use another person’s words you must distinguish the text or material taken from the other source by, e.g., indentation or quotation marks.
•    When you use another person’s thoughts or ideas (even when not directly quoting them) you must acknowledge they are not your own and cite the source through a footnote or other appropriate form of reference.
•    If you are paraphrasing what another person has said, you must use completely different language, essentially re-writing it. Altering a sentence or paragraph slightly is not appropriate. When paraphrasing a reference notation is still required.
•    Thoughts or ideas can be gathered from many sources, e.g. articles, the internet or interviews. You must acknowledge any thought or idea that is not your own regardless of where it came from. If you are unsure how to reference one of these sources, speak to your professor.
•    Each professor will have expectations for how you are to acknowledge sources in their course. Often these expectations will be explained in the course outline or in class. You must ask questions if you do not understand what is expected of you.
•    The work you do for each course must be unique to that course. Submitting an assignment that has already been graded in another course is considered plagiarism. The only way you can use previous work is to gain the permission of the professor in the second course.
•    If you are unsure whether or not to reference something, do so anyway. The consequences for plagiarism are serious so it is best to be cautious.

Why is this important?

The main purpose of a university is the pursuit of knowledge and scholarship. This requires the integrity of all members of the University community. As a student at McMaster University you are expected to practice intellectual honesty and to fully acknowledge the work of others by providing appropriate references. Scholars do not take credit that is not earned. Academic dishonesty is destructive to the values of the University; furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to those students who pursue their studies honestly.

C.      Aiding Other Students to Commit an Act of Academic Dishonesty

This includes not only giving unacceptable aid to students taking a course at the same time you are taking the course, but also providing the means whereby students in future may cheat.  Examples include:

•    Writing an exam or completing an assignment for someone else.
•    Assisting another student to cheat by making it possible for that student to see your exam.
•    Discussing an exam that you have just completed with students from other sections that have yet to write the exam.

Students should be aware that by providing their laboratory reports, essays or exam scripts to another student they may be helping that student commit an act of academic dishonesty.

As a teaching assistant, you must be very careful not to give unacceptable aid to your student or to show favoritism in any way in the assignment of marks.  Furthermore, the marks assigned to the student must be the same as the marks submitted to the instructor. Otherwise, these acts also constitute academic dishonesty.

Further regulations affecting graduate students such as “Code of Conduct” (6.2); “Appeal Procedures” (6.3); and “Ownership of Student’s Work” (6.4), can be found in the School of Graduate Studies calendar.

Request to be full-time off Campus

Section 1.3 of the School of Graduate Studies Calendar stipulates that:

1. Full-time students are obliged to be on-campus, except for vacation periods or authorized off-campus status, for all three terms of the university year.  In cases of unauthorized absence, the student will have to petition for readmission.  The appropriate Faculty Committee on Graduate Admissions and Study will rule on each request.  There is no guarantee of readmission or of renewal of financial arrangements.

2. Students who plan to be absent from campus for more than TWO WEEKS during the Fall or Winter terms OR FOUR WEEKS in the Summer term require permission from the Department and the appropriate Associate Dean of Graduate Studies on behalf of the Faculty Committee on Graduate Admissions and Study.

3. Permission to be full-time off-campus will not be given for a period longer than ONE YEAR.

Procedure to be followed

1. Each request to be full-time off-campus should be forwarded by the Department to the School of Graduate Studies not later than one month prior to the date on which it is hoped the recommendation will be effective.  If necessary, instructions regarding the mailing of graduate student pay cheques should also be provided to the School of Graduate Studies.

2. Sufficient information should be provided so that the Associate Dean or committee members have a sound basis for arriving at a decision.  Otherwise, approval of the request may be delayed or denied.

*Off-campus forms can be downloaded at: https://graduate.mcmaster.ca/sites/default/files/resources/full_time_off_campus_july_2016.pdf

Upon completion by student and supervisor, including signatures, the form must be submitted to the Biology Graduate Studies office for the Associate Chair’s review, approval and signature.  Upon final completion of the form, it is submitted to the School of Graduate Studies by the Academic Program Assistant (Graduate).  As always, please ensure that you have a copy of the form before submission to the Biology Graduate Studies office.

Work Alone Policy

All graduate students who work alone must review the following:  http://www.workingatmcmaster.ca/med/document/RMM-304-Working-Alone-Program-1-36.pdf

Please download, review, complete and sign laboratory template working alone form at: http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/safetyoffice/forms_and_records.html

This information must be submitted to Karen Haines in the Main Office Reception Area LSB-21

Off-Campus requirements

Students are encouraged to communicate with their supervisor in advance regarding upcoming off-campus requirements (e.g., possible extended vacation).

Full- Time students are obliged to be on campus, except for vacation periods or authorized off Campus status, for all three terms of the university year. Vacation entitlement is discussed in Section 2.5.6.

http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1018&context=sgs_cal

Any absence of one week or longer from campus, which is not part of the student’s  vacation entitlement requires the supervisor’s approval. If the absence exceeds two weeks, the approval of the department chair is also required. In accordance with government regulations (see Section 2.5.2) students who will be absent from campus for more than four weeks in any one term require not only permission from the Department but also that of the appropriate Associate Dean of Graduate Studies.

Note that this permission is needed even for field work or study elsewhere in the world, in order to allow the University to comply with the regulation requiring that a written explanation for such absences be lodged in the Graduate School office. Students may arrange, through the Department and the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, to be “full-time off-campus” for periods of up to a year. In cases of unauthorized absence the student will be deemed to have withdrawn voluntarily from graduate study and will have to petition for readmission. No guarantee of readmission or of renewal of financial arrangements can be made

Announcements

  • Graduate Student Research Day Event (Upcoming – February 2017!)

•    Graduate Achievement Award (Upcoming)

•    Exit Interview and Feedback  (Upcoming)

•    Flowchart of Thesis Completion Details  (Upcoming)