The Department of Biology was formed July 01, 2003 through the merger of the former Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology, and the Biology Graduate Program was officially launched in the fall of 2003. Prior to the merger, the Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology collectively had a total of 86 graduate students. The formation of the Department of Biology and subsequent merger of two graduate programs has resulted in the re-invigoration of graduate studies in Biology at Western as well as unprecedented growth. Indeed, since 2003 our graduate student population has grown to its present level of about 150, making the Biology Graduate Program the largest in the Faculty of Science. And, with continued growth in the department as a whole, there is likely to be even greater growth in graduate student numbers in the years to come.
Given that the Graduate Program in Biology was derived from a merger of two existing programs, it contains elements of both, as well as unique components. Due to its size, the program is divided into three general areas or streams that reflect the basic areas of research emphasis within the Department of Biology: Cell & Molecular Biology; Ecology & Evolution; and Physiology & Biochemistry. Students are required to identify with one of these streams, primarily as an administrative convenience for the program, but also as a way to provide smaller, more intimate groupings between graduate students. Each stream, for example, conducts its own student seminar series, and some streams have required courses for students enrolled in them.
Both M.Sc. and Ph.D. programs are thesis-based and successful completion of either program requires the writing and defending of an acceptable thesis. Additional program requirements include the writing and defense of a research proposal; presentation of and attendance at stream-specific graduate research seminars, the completion of either two (M.Sc.) or four (Ph.D.) half courses at the graduate level and successful completion of a comprehensive exam (Ph.D. Program only).
|Program||Assessment||Comprehensive||Thesis Defense||Relevant Handbook Sections|
|M.Sc.||Within 2 terms of admission to M.Sc. program||N/A||Within 6 terms of admission to M.Sc. program||4, 6|
|Ph.D.||Within 4 terms of admission to Ph.D. program||Within 6 terms plus 1 month of admission to Ph.D. program||Within 12 terms of admission to Ph.D. program||4, 5, 6|
|Domestic M.Sc. transferring to Ph.D.||Within 5 terms less 1 month of admission to M.Sc. program||Within 4 terms plus 1 month of transfer to Ph.D. program||Within 15 terms of admission to M.Sc. program||2.D, 4, 5, 6|
The thesis must contain a scholarly approach to the subject concerned and the student must display a thorough knowledge of the subject during an oral examination (thesis defense). While portions of a thesis may be submitted for publication, the contents of the thesis must represent a unified research project rather than a collection of unrelated projects. Acceptance of portions of the thesis for publication prior to the thesis defense does not mean examiners are obliged to accept the content of the thesis
An M.Sc. student must complete research of good scientific quality under the guidance of the supervisor. In the thesis, the student shall provide the scientific background for the study, frame specific questions or hypotheses, present the results of appropriately designed experimental or observational studies, and interpret the findings in relation to the current literature in the field. Ideally, the results will lead to a publication(s) in a scientific journal. In general, an M.Sc. student shall demonstrate scientific thinking, problem solving ability, scientific communication, and industry.
A Ph.D. student shall meet all the expectations of a M.Sc. student with the following extensions of expectation. A Ph.D. student must demonstrate that a capability of original and independent work. The literature shall be reviewed in greater depth and with careful, critical analysis. The student shall have designed a sophisticated set of experiments or series of observations that will produce a substantial set of results. The interpretation of this set of results shall be critical and thorough, and the thesis should provide a vision for future work that would address unresolved questions raised in the thesis. The thesis research shall be of publishable quality. Ideally, in cases where it is possible, some or all of the thesis research will be published or submitted for publication prior to the defense of the thesis. The general expectations of a Ph.D. student include independence, creativity, originality, critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, scientific communication and industry.
Students are assessed formally and informally throughout their progress through the Biology graduate program, with the major goal of providing feedback and guidance. The most important and obvious formal assessment is the oral defense of the thesis, which occurs at the end of the program (see Section 6). Other formal avenues of assessment include the proposal assessment (see Section 4), and for Doctoral candidates, the Comprehensive Examination (see Section 5). Advisory committee meetings (see Section 2.A.3) are an important source of less formal assessment and feedback. Additional opportunity for assessment comes from participation in graduate student seminars, organized separately for each research stream (Biology 9100/9150, Part 2; see Section 3). Collectively, these formal and informal assessments help to ensure that a student is prepared for the thesis defense.
1) The supervisor should make and maintain a strong commitment to devote the required time and energy needed to successfully engage in graduate student supervision. As part of this commitment, the supervisor should display the highest ethical standards of behavior at all times.
2) Potential supervisors should have sufficient familiarity with the field of research to provide appropriate guidance and supervision, or indicate a willingness to gain that familiarity before agreeing to act as supervisor.
3) The supervisor should discuss with the student, very early on, any expectations and the relevant policies concerning authorship on publications, and issues surrounding ownership of intellectual property (this may include patents/licenses). This may result in written agreements or contracts between the supervisor and student covering these issues.
4) The supervisor should make the student aware, very early on, of program requirements and deadlines, various sources of funding, policies covering the conduct of research, and any relevant safety and/or work place regulations. The nature of any financial support provided by the supervisor should be communicated clearly to the student, in writing, including such details as the amount of financial support, the length of time of such support, and any specific conditions pertaining to this financial support.
5) The supervisor should, very early on, discuss and formulate with the student a plan of study for completion of degree requirements and thesis work, with clear milestones denoting progress. This would include, for example, assisting the student in selecting and planning a suitable and manageable research project, as well as setting a viable time schedule and adhering to it for thesis progress and completion.
6) The supervisor should be available for regular consultation with the student. The supervisor and student should discuss and agree on an appropriate schedule for supervision meetings, and the supervisor should provide constructive and timely feedback to the student. More generally, the supervisor should maintain open communication and feedback with the student on all issues, including supervisory practices.
7) The supervisor should provide regular evaluations and assessments of the student’s progress and academic performance. This would include a review with the student and advisory committee, at least on an annual basis, of progress on thesis research and any other relevant degree requirements. The supervisor should then provide input to the program regarding the student’s progress.
8) The supervisor should make reasonable arrangements to ensure that adequate and appropriate research resources are available for the student’s thesis project.
9) The supervisor should help ensure that the research environment is safe, healthy, free from harassment, discrimination, and conflict. To this end, the supervisor should be aware of all pertinent regulations and policies covering these issues.
10) The supervisor should provide guidance, instruction, and encouragement regarding the research activities of student. The supervisor should help ensure that the student has access to intellectual resources and research opportunities, and should also encourage the dissemination of research results by publications and conferences.
11) The supervisor should monitor any major discrepancies in advice given to the student by members of the advisory committee and/or supervisor, and attempt to achieve resolution and consensus on the issue(s) involved.
12) The supervisor should be familiar with all program, School of Graduate & Post-Doctoral Studies, and University policies and procedures pertaining to graduate students and supervision, along with information on graduate student financial support.
13) The supervisor should make satisfactory alternative supervisory arrangements if away for a prolonged period of time.
14) The supervisor should inform the program (i.e., graduate chair or chair), in a timely fashion, of any serious difficulties which may arise in supervision. These might include major professional academic disagreements, interpersonal conflicts, or potential conflict of interest situations.
There are three types of co-supervision: (1) co-supervision in which the co-supervisor is also a collaborator on the student’s project (i.e. joint supervision); (2) co-supervision between a new faculty member who holds limited membership in the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS) and a more senior member of the department who holds full SGPS membership (i.e. mentoring co-supervision); and (3) co-supervision between an adjunct faculty member and a faculty member of the department who holds full membership. All adjunct faculty wishing to supervise graduate students in Biology must do so with a co-supervisor who is a regular faculty member in the Department.
A co-supervisor has the same responsibilities as a regular supervisor with respect to all aspects of graduate student mentoring and progression, with two main differences (compared to “normal” supervision). First, the co-supervisor is not generally involved in day-to-day decision making with respect to data collection, experimental design/trouble shooting or laboratory/research group management in the lab group in which the student is primarily working. (Obviously there are degrees to which this applies, depending on whether a student's project involves work in more than one research group, including that of the co-supervisor.) Second, the co-supervisor generally does not have financial responsibility for the student's stipend.
The co-supervisor is meant, in part, to act as an overseer of student progression, making sure that committee meetings are being held regularly, proposal assessments and comprehensive exams (where applicable) are completed on time and, when necessary, provide guidance/wisdom regarding the appropriateness of student projects and theses (e.g., with respect to their level of difficulty, completeness or suitability for the target degree). Co-supervisors must be aware of and uphold the rules and regulations of the Biology Graduate Program, especially where they act in this capacity alongside adjunct colleagues who do not hold regular membership in the Department and are not involved in decision making with respect to the Graduate Program.
Finally, co-supervisors and named supervisors are not substitute supervisors. They do not represent one of two options for attendees at committee meetings, proposal assessments, comprehensive exams or thesis exams. The co-supervisor, alongside the named supervisor, shall be present for all these important milestones.
a) The major roles of the Advisory Committee are to advise the student on matters pertaining to their program of study, and to evaluate student progression.
b) The Advisory Committee, in consultation with the student and Supervisor(s), will assign and approve graduate courses for the student.
c) The Advisory Committee, in consultation with the student and Supervisor(s), will assign the stream to which the student will belong: Cell and Molecular Biology, Ecology and Evolution, or Biochemistry and Physiology.
Note: The choice of stream should primarily reflect the nature of a student’s thesis project. However, M.Sc. students are advised to take into account the stream affiliations of their advisors when choosing a stream, since the composition of their thesis examining board will be affected by their choice (see Section 6).
d) The Advisory Committee provides critical feedback and evaluation of the Thesis Proposal prior to its submission for assessment.
e) The Advisory Committee provides critical evaluation of the package of material planned for inclusion in a student’s thesis (see Section 2.A.3.e), and provides a critical checkpoint prior to thesis write-up and submission for examination.
f) Should the Advisory Committee consider the progress of a student unacceptable (see Section 2.B), the student will be informed immediately and a recommendation may be made to the Graduate Chair that the student be withdrawn from the program. If the Graduate Chair concurs with the Advisory Committee’s assessment, the student may appeal to the Chair of the Department.
a) Each student’s Advisory Committee will consist of the Supervisor(s) plus two or more additional faculty members, hereafter “Advisors”. At least one Advisor must be a regular or cross-appointed faculty member (not an adjunct) from the Department of Biology.
b )Advisors will be chosen by the Supervisor(s) and the graduate student. Once the Advisors have agreed to serve, the composition of the Advisory Committee should be communicated to the Graduate Program Coordinator.
c) A student or a Supervisor may request that the composition of the Advisory Committee be changed at any time. This change is not necessarily trivial, however, and may result in the need to embark on a new or modified research project especially if the change involves the Supervisor. Time limits to complete the degree are not extended by such a change.
d) A change in composition of the Advisory Committee should be made known in writing to the Graduate Chair, the Graduate Program Coordinator and the Advisor(s) affected.
e) A student may request a change of Supervisor through the Graduate Education Committee. The decision by a student to request this change should be taken after exploring all alternatives, ideally through discussion with the supervisor or, if necessary, through intervention by the university ombudsperson (see http://www.uwo.ca/ombuds/).
a) An initial meeting of the Advisory Committee should take place within six weeks of beginning the program. A “First Meeting” report sheet, detailing basic information about the student, their program of study, the committee and the project, must be filled out at this meeting, and returned to the Graduate Program Coordinator.
b) The purpose of an advisory committee meeting is to ensure that the student is making satisfactory progress towards timely completion of their graduate program, including course-work and thesis research, and to use the expertise and experience of the committee members to assist the student to overcome hurdles in this path. In most cases, it is helpful if the student prepares a brief written document reviewing the thesis objectives, hypotheses and experimental design, outlining progress towards completion, and noting any problems encountered that require assistance from the advisory committee or may require substantial changes to the thesis outline. This document should be submitted to the supervisor and advisory committee members with sufficient time (usually one week) for them to read it prior to the meeting.
c) For M.Sc. students, after the initial advisory committee meeting, it is recommended that the Advisory Committee meet prior to the student submitting their Thesis Proposal for assessment (i.e., before the end of the second term of registration), and provide feedback on the content of the Thesis Proposal. Thereafter, the Advisory Committee is required to meet formally with the student formally at least once each academic year. A “Progression Meeting” report sheet must be filled out at each meeting, and returned to the Graduate Program Coordinator. The outcome of this meeting may be used to determine a student’s eligibility to continue in the program (see Section 2.B below).
d) For Ph.D. Students, after the initial advisory committee meeting, and a follow-up meeting within the first academic year, it is recommended that the Advisory Committee meet prior to the student submitting their Thesis Proposal for assessment (i.e., before the end of the fourth term of registration), and provide feedback on the content of the Thesis Proposal document. Thereafter, the Advisory Committee is required to meet with the student formally at least once each academic year. A “Progression Meeting” report sheet must be filled out at each meeting, and returned to the Graduate Program Coordinator. The outcome of this meeting may be used to determine a student’s eligibility to continue in the program (see Section 2.B below).
e) The Advisory Committee must meet formally at the beginning of the last term in which the student is eligible for funding, and evaluate the completeness of the dataset proposed for the thesis. A useful strategy is for the student to prepare a mock Table of Contents, outlining the major topics to be covered in the thesis. The goal of this meeting is to determine whether there is sufficient data to compile a thesis and whether the student has progressed satisfactorily towards completing his/her thesis in the next term. A “Final Term Meeting” report sheet must be filled out at this meeting, and returned to the Graduate Program Coordinator. Potential outcomes of this meeting are:
f) Additional meetings of the Advisory Committee may be convened at the request of either the student, the supervisor(s) or advisors.
g) The student is responsible for arranging all Advisory Committee meetings and appraisals.
h) If an Advisory Committee meeting has not occurred within the time defined as a year (see Section 2.A.3.i below), an automatic rating of Unsatisfactory Progress will be submitted to the School of Graduate & Post-Doctoral Studies by the Graduate Chair.
i) A year is defined as being between March 1 and February 28/29 of the following year. All students, no matter which term they started in the program, must have an Advisory Committee each year between March 1 and February 28/29 of the following year.
j) In early October of each year, the Graduate Program Coordinator will send a message reminding students that an advisory committee must occur between March 1 and February 28/29 of the following year. Assessment of whether advisory committees have occurred will begin in the first two weeks of December each year. The Graduate Program Coordinator will examine all files and check which student files have a signed form that indicates an advisory committee has occurred in that ‘year’. The Graduate Program Coordinator will send out a spreadsheet indicating who has completed this requirement. By February 1 of each year, the Graduate Program Coordinator will contact those who have still not had an advisory committee meeting.
k) Progress of all graduate students will be reviewed by the Biology Graduate Education committee annually, at a meeting held in March.
l) If on February 28/29 of any year there are Graduate Students who have still not had an advisory committee meeting for that ‘year’, or who cannot demonstrate that one has been scheduled for the earliest reasonable date, the School of Graduate & Post-Doctoral Studies will be informed, and a rating of ‘Unsatisfactory progress’ in the Biology Graduate Program will be noted. Unsatisfactory progress can result in the withholding of funding including the Western Graduate Research Scholarship and future teaching assistantships, and withdrawal from the graduate program.
Progression through the requirements of the Graduate Program in Biology is evaluated annually via advisory committee meetings, as well as through a proposal assessment, comprehensive exam (Ph.D. only) and thesis. Each of these milestones provides an opportunity for the evaluation of the suitability of candidates for the program as well as the likelihood of their successful completion of all program requirements.
Successful completion of the Graduate Program in Biology requires that students complete all requirements satisfactorily. The consequences of poor performance in proposal assessments and comprehensive exams are outlined below (Section 4 and 5 respectively). However, continuance in the program also requires satisfactory progress in research as well as a demonstrated familiarity with the subject of the research. These two criteria are evaluated by the Advisory Committee via annual committee meetings (see Section 2.A.3 above).
When, as outcome of an Advisory Committee meeting, student progress is evaluated to be “Unsatisfactory”, the student is expected to make improvements (with appropriate guidance from their supervisor(s) and advisors), as demonstrated in a follow up meeting held no later than the end of the term following the term in which the “Unsatisfactory” evaluation is made. A second evaluation of “Unsatisfactory” may result in the student being withdrawn from the program.
Two half courses in Biology (or related field) at the graduate level, which can be chosen from Biology or related graduate offerings. For students enrolled after May 2017, only one of these two graduate courses may be a graduate course cross-listed with an undergraduate course.
Biology 9100y Graduate Research in Biology (see Section 3) is no longer listed as a course for new students as of September 2010. Instead it appears as a milestone (M.Sc. Research in Biology). Students enrolled in the graduate program prior to September 2010 will continue to be enrolled in Biology 9100y.
Four half courses in Biology (or related field) at the graduate level, which can be chosen from Biology or related graduate offerings. For students enrolled after May 2017, only two of these four graduate courses may be a graduate course cross-listed with an undergraduate course.
Biology 9150y Graduate Research in Biology (see Section 3) is no longer listed as a course for new students as of September 2010. Instead it appears as a milestone (Ph.D. Research in Biology). Students enrolled in the graduate program prior to September 2010 will continue to be enrolled in Biology 9150y.
The Advisory Committee may recommend or require that additional courses be taken if they feel that the student lacks the required background for the student's research area. Some streams within the program have core (required) courses. Students may choose graduate courses offered by departments other than Biology, provided they are related to their field of study and provided that their supervisor(s) and advisors formally approve this request. A list of graduate courses, including course outlines, is posted on the Biology Graduate Program website.
Students must maintain a cumulative average of at least 70% calculated each term over all courses taken for credit, with no grade less than 60% to remain enrolled in the graduate program.
International students who first enrolled in the M.Sc. program in (or after) May 2015 cannot transfer to the Ph.D. program. However, they may apply separately for entrance to the Ph.D. program after they complete their M.Sc. thesis requirements. International students already enrolled on or before January 2015 are eligible to attempt the change of status, as described below, as are all domestic M.Sc. students.
To transfer from the MSc to the PhD program, the student must fulfill the following criteria:
If a student, in consultation with their supervisor, wishes to transfer from the MSc to the PhD program, they must:
At least three members of BGEC will assess the completed application within two weeks of receipt and determine if the student meets the criteria to undertake the MSc-PhD transfer assessment. If approved, this assessment will place emphasis on ensuring that the student’s research productivity, aptitude, and engagement with the program are consistent with the expectations of students entering the Ph.D. program.
The proposal assessment must be completed within five terms less one month of the date of admission to the MSc program, and the proposal must be submitted two weeks prior to the defense date. Thus, the applications for the MSc to PhD transfer must be submitted no less than Five terms less two months after admission to the MSc program (i.e. if you began in Fall 2000, you would need to submit your complete application by February 28, 2002). We recommend that students commence this process before the start of their fifth term. If the application is not received within time, or the assessment is not completed within time, the student must complete the M.Sc. program before applying for admission to the Ph.D. program.
If permission to transfer from the M.Sc. to the Ph.D. program is not granted, the BGEC chair (or designate) will meet with the student and supervisor(s) within one week to review the application and discuss the reasons for denial of the transfer. If the BGEC chair (or designate) is convinced that there may be grounds to admit the student to the PhD program that were not fully considered in the application review, he or she will convene an ad hoc committee consisting of one BGEC member who reviewed the application, one who did not, and the BGEC chair (or designate). They will meet to review the file, and their decision will be final.
Graduate students must maintain continuous registration in the School of Graduate & Post-Doctoral Studies, either full-time or part-time, in each successive term from initial registration until the end of the term in which all requirements for the degree are completed.
Interruptions in continuous registration (e.g. Leave of Absence) or changes in status (e.g., full-time to part-time) must be requested through the Biology Graduate Education Committee. Final approval must come from the School of Graduate & Post-Doctoral Studies.
Normally, degree programs are completed within a period not exceeding two calendar years (six terms) from initial registration in the case of the Master’s degree (if registered full-time), and four calendar years (12 terms) from initial registration in the case of a Doctoral degree (if registered full-time). For students who transfer from a Master's program to a Doctoral program without completing the Master's program, a maximum of five calendar years (15 terms) from the initial registration in the Master's program will be given to complete the Doctoral degree (if registered full-time).
For graduate students who do not receive sufficient external funding (e.g. NSERC, OGS or other major external scholarships) the Department and the Supervisor undertake to provide financial support throughout the period of funding eligibility. This corresponds to 2 years (six terms) for M.Sc. candidates, 4 years (12 terms) for Ph.D. candidates, and 5 years (15 terms) for students that transfer from the M.Sc. to the Ph.D. program. Part of this support is provided in the form of a Graduate Teaching Assistantship. Such Teaching Assistantships are typically held during the fall and winter terms, although a few summer Assistantships are available each year. Students who maintain a minimum mark average of 70% (or as dictated by the SGPS), are eligible for a Western Graduate Research Scholarship. Finally, students are provided with financial support during the 4 month summer term. Normally, the supervisor provides this from research funds, unless the student is receiving an external award for the term. Eligibility for funding beyond the outlined timelines for each degree is not guaranteed.
Students who require longer than the maximum registration time to complete their degree program (see Section 2.E above) do so without a guarantee of financial support from the department or their supervisor. Students requiring longer than the maximum time must have a committee meeting within four months of the maximum registration date. The committee meeting must indicate that the student is making satisfactory progress, provide a detailed timeline for completion, and include a separate letter of support from their supervisor that includes details of the expected financial support, if any, for the student during the period of extension.
An appeal is a request for exemption from a Departmental or Senate regulation on compassionate or medical grounds or because of extenuating circumstances; or a request that a grade on a particular piece of work or a final standing in a course or program be changed.
Conflicts should be resolved at the lowest level possible. For graduate students, the successive levels for an appeal are:
Appeals relating to a specific course (e.g., against a mark, grade, appropriateness of assignments or examinations, or grading practices) must be initiated with the appropriate course instructor.
Appeals on other matters should be initiated in the office having immediate jurisdiction on the particular requirement or regulation in question. Students in doubt as to the appropriate level at which appeals should be initiated should consult the Departmental Graduate Chair.
The initial step of the appeals procedure should be completed as soon as possible but no later than six weeks from the date of action of the decision giving rise to the appeal. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the student to initiate an appeal at the earliest possible opportunity and for the university officer concerned to act upon the request as expeditiously as possible.
Legal counsel is not permitted below the level of the SRBA. However, the appellant does have the right to be accompanied by a colleague.
In the case of an appeal relating to a specific course:
1) A resolution of the problem should first be attempted through informal consultation with the instructor. If the instructor will not meet, or will not be physically available within a reasonable time period, the appeal may be forwarded directly to the Graduate Chair.
2) If the student is dissatisfied with the decision made by the instructor, a written statement of appeal may be made to the Graduate Chair within three weeks of the date of the previous decision. The written request need not be lengthy but should indicate clearly the details of the appeal and the relief requested. The Graduate Chair, within three weeks of the receipt of the formal appeal, will call a meeting of an Ad-Hoc Committee of Appeal (AHCA). This committee will consist of at least the following:
The AHCA may ask other persons concerned to appear at the meeting.
Note: If the complaint is against the Graduate Chair, the Department Chair or designate will act in the Graduate Chair’s place.
The Graduate Chair, on behalf of the AHCA, will notify the appellant and professor, in writing, of the committee’s decisions and recommendations (including reasons for the decision) within one week of the meeting.
3) Following an appeal to the Graduate Chair, the student, if not satisfied with the decision of the committee, may then appeal to the Provost of the School of Graduate & Post-Doctoral Studies. (See School of Graduate & Post-Doctoral Studies, General Information, Section I, Petitions and Appeals.)
In the case of an appeal that is a request for exemption from a Departmental regulation, the procedures are the same except that the process begins with informal consultation with the Graduate Chair.
For appeals of decisions made by M.Sc. assessment/thesis examining committees and Ph.D. assessment/comprehensive exam committees, a written statement of appeal may be made to the Graduate Chair with three weeks of the date of the previous decision. The Graduate Chair, within three weeks of the receipt of the formal appeal, will call a meeting of an Ad-Hoc Committee which will consist of at least the following:
Biology 9100y/9150y is required, as either a course or a milestone, for all graduate students in the M.Sc. (9100y) or the Ph.D. (9150y) program. Students who enrolled in a graduate program September 2010 or later have this appear as a milestone on their academic record. Students who enrolled before September 2010 have Biology 9100y/9150y appear on their record as a course; the Graduate Program Coordinator will ensure their continued enrollment in this each term. The components of the course differ for M.Sc. and Ph.D. candidates. This mandatory course/milestone charts your progress through the program. This is a PASS/FAIL course/milestone and numerical grades are not assigned.
M.Sc. Research in Biology milestone for students enrolled September 2010 or later/Biology 9100y for students enrolled prior to September 2010Part 1: Introduction to Graduate Research in Biology (Covered during Orientation)
Ph.D. Research in Biology milestone for students enrolled September 2010 or later/Biology 9150y for students enrolled prior to September 2010Part 1: Introduction to Graduate Research in Biology (Covered during Orientation)
Students enrolled in Biology 9100/9150y as a course will receive an IPR (in progress) for the course until their final term. In the last term, a PASS mark is given if all conditions have been fulfilled. If a FAIL/WITHDRAW has been assigned for any one of the parts of 9100/9150y, the student will be required to withdraw. Students enrolled in Biology 9100/9150y as a milestone will have their completion recorded in their final term if all components have been completed.
This is covered in the Orientation sessions for new Biology graduate students. Those enrolled in Biology 9100y/9150y prior to September 2010 will have attended a different series of lectures and workshops.
Each research stream within the Department (Ecology & Evolution; Cell & Molecular Biology; Physiology & Biochemistry) organizes its own graduate student seminar series, and each stream has distinct expectations of students for fulfillment of this requirement. As a minimum, all M.Sc. candidates (Biology 9100y) must present at least one research seminar and all Ph.D. candidates (Biology 9150y) must present at least two research seminars. However, some streams require additional presentations, which must be completed to fulfil this component. See the coordinators for details.
Details for 2017-2018:
|Cell & Molecular Biology||Physiology & Biochemistry||Ecology & Evolution|
TBA (main campus)
Dr. Danielle Way (BGS 2030)
Dr. Greg Thorn (BGS 3047)
Winter term only
Fall and Winter terms
Winter term only
For Ph.D. students only. See Section 5.
You are strongly encouraged to convene an advisory committee meeting before submitting your thesis proposal, to discuss the substance of the proposed research. In preparing your written proposal, follow the format indicated below. Review the draft proposal(s) with your supervisor(s), allowing sufficient time for repeated rounds of revision. In general you should allow one week per draft for a faculty member to read and comment and for you to incorporate their feedback. You are strongly encouraged to review your near-final proposal with any advisors not acting as Assessors, and to seek out opportunities for practice exams with your Supervisor and/or fellow students.
You should be familiar with the process, expectations, potential outcomes and consequences of the Proposal Assessment such that you can explain these clearly to the Graduate Student. Help the student to identify potential Assessors. Provide guidance to the student in developing the proposal, through discussions as well as comments on written drafts. Assist the student in preparing for the assessment exam through discussions and practice questions as necessary. During the rounds of questioning in the Proposal Assessment, keep quiet and do not answer questions on the student’s behalf: remember that this milestone assesses the student's proposal and preparation, not your research program. You will have the opportunity to comment when the rounds of questions are completed. If a revised proposal or a second Assessment is necessary, provide guidance to the Graduate Student in their preparations.
Please respond promptly to the Graduate Student’s request to set a date and time for their Assessment. After receiving the written proposal from the Graduate Program Coordinator, read it in advance of the assessment and develop questions for the Graduate Student. Remember that this is a proposal assessment and not a thesis defense. Although in many cases the Graduate Student will present preliminary data, in other cases (e.g. Master’s candidates who have not yet begun their first field season) you should not expect such data to be included in the proposal. Your role is to evaluate the significance, scope and feasibility of the proposed research, and whether the Graduate Student is capable of completing it in a timely manner.
The M.Sc. proposal has a maximum length of 8 pages, double-spaced, excluding figures and references. Up to two pages of Figures/Tables and additional pages – no limit – for references may be appended. The proposal should be prepared using 12 point font and a minimum of one-inch (2.54 cm) margins.
The written proposal should contain:
The order of presentation of these elements and the emphasis placed on these elements is dictated by the topic to be studied.
The PhD proposal has the following components:1. Cover page with the name of the student, the degree, the title of the project, and the supervisor and any co/joint supervisors identified.
4. Budget and Budget Justification
Deadlines for completing the proposal assessment are listed in Important Information and Dates. Extensions beyond these deadlines must be approved by the Graduate Chair and normally require medical, compassionate or other severe extenuating grounds. Failure to complete the proposal assessment by the deadline will result in an automatic Failure of the assessment. In this case, if you fail the written proposal or the assessment, you will be deemed to have failed the proposal and be required to withdraw from the program.
Early in the student’s second term (M.Sc.) or fourth term (Ph.D.), the Supervisor and/or Graduate Student suggest to the Graduate Program Coordinator the names of three faculty members who have agreed to serve as assessment examiners (Assessors). This suggested committee must be provided to the Graduate Program Coordinator no later than three weeks before the scheduled assessment for approval.
For both M.Sc. and Ph.D. assessments, Assessors include three faculty members, two from within the student’s stream and one from outside the student’s stream (i.e. belonging to a different stream or from outside of Biology). Up to one Assessor may be a non-regular faculty member of the Department of Biology (e.g. Adjunct or cross-appointed). Up to two Assessors may be chosen from the student’s advisory committee, provided the stream composition and regular faculty requirements are satisfied. A list of faculty affiliated with each of the graduate streams can be found at http://www.uwo.ca/biology/graduate/current/faculty_affiliations.html.
Once the proposed Assessment Committee has been approved, the student coordinates a date and time for the Assessment Exam, through consulting with all three Assessors as well as the Supervisor(s). The student reserves a suitable room and any required audio-visual equipment, then informs the Graduate Program Coordinator of the date, time and location of the Assessment. The Graduate Program Coordinator appoints an Assessment Chair based on availability at the specified time, with the goal of equal participation of all eligible faculty within the department.
Note: All Assessors and Supervisor(s) must be physically present at the assessment. In extreme circumstances, however, an Assessor may participate remotely via conference call, Skype, or similar. This arrangement must be agreed to in advance by all participants, and approved by the Graduate Chair, at the time of scheduling.
Students must submit their proposal to the Graduate Program Coordinator at least two weeks prior to the scheduled Proposal Assessment, for distribution to the Assessment Committee. Proposals must be submitted in electronic format (a single PDF). Concurrently, submit a copy of the “Approval of Proposal for Distribution” form signed by the supervisor(s) (or have them email the Graduate Program Coordinator asserting their approval). Late submissions (i.e. less than two weeks prior to the scheduled Assessment) will result in a rescheduling of the Assessment, and possibly failure of the assessment (Section 4.F).
The Graduate Chair or Graduate Coordinator will submit the proposal to turnitin.com to check for plagiarism. The proposal will not be added to the turnitin.com depository. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between The University of Western Ontario and Turnitin.com ( http://www.turnitin.com). The BGEC chair or designate will be responsible for checking the results of the turnitin.com plagiarism test. If plagiarism is detected, the proposal assessment will be postponed and the alleged plagiarism handled as a scholastic offense according to SGPS regulations http://grad.uwo.ca/current_students/regulations/13.html.
In tandem with writing the proposal, the student prepares a 15-20 minute presentation describing the background of their project, a clear description of the hypothesis being tested, the experiments or methods to be used to address the hypothesis, and any preliminary data.
Each Assessor will independently read and evaluate the written proposal, and return the ‘Proposal Assessment – Written Proposal’ form to the Graduate Program Coordinator at least three days prior to the scheduled assessment date. The assessors will each determine whether the proposal content and form meet the standards of the degree, according to Table 4.1. The overall pathway of the assessment procedure is in Figure 4.1 in Section 4.F.
|Table 4.1: Criteria by which written proposals will be assessed|
|Content (inadequate requires re-assessment)|
|The proposed work will not be feasible within the scope of the normal time period for the degree||The proposed work is easible within the time frame of the degree, or partial achievement of the goals will be adequate if the proposal is ambitious|
|The proposed work will not be sufficient for the expectations of the degree||The proposed work will be sufficient for the expectations of the degree|
|The proposal inadequately describes the methods or background, or the overall framework for eperimental design is insufficient for the level of the degree||The methods, background, framework, and experimental design are adequately descibed and sufficient for the level of the degree|
|Form (Major criteria - inadequate requires re-assessment)|
|The level of writing, clarity, and coherence is inadequate for a student pursuing this degree||The level of writing, clarity, and coherence is adequate for a student pursuing this degree|
|Form (Minor criteria - inadequate requires revisions to written document after the proposal assessment)|
|The thesis contains an unacceptable level of minor typographical, formatting, and/or grammatical errors that require revision of the document||Typographical, formatting, and/or grammatical errors are kept within acceptable bounds, and no revision is required|
Any identification of plagiarism will be immediately reported to the Graduate Chair who will begin an investigation. The scheduled assessment will be postponed until that investigation is completed; if the conclusion of the investigation is that the student has not committed plagiarism, the rescheduled assessment will count as the student’s first. If plagiarism is found to have occurred, then the student will be deemed to have failed the proposal assessment.
If any two examiners identify any aspect of the Content or Form (Major) to be inadequate, the written proposal will be deemed failed. These can be different aspects. The Graduate Program Coordinator will inform the Student, the Assessment committee, the Chair, the Supervisor(s) and the Graduate Chair by email, and the scheduled proposal assessment will be cancelled. The Student (and Supervisor(s), if they so wish) will arrange meetings with the Assessors (perhaps during the time already set aside for the assessment) to receive feedback on the aspects of the proposal that were inadequate. The student will then, with the assistance of the Supervisor(s), revise the written proposal to meet the required standards, and arrange another proposal assessment (see above) to take place no later than the end of the following term. In advance of this second proposal assessment, the Assessors will fill out the ‘Proposal Assessment – Written Proposal’ form, and a failed proposal will be treated as a failed second proposal attempt, the proposal assessment will not go ahead, and the student will be required to withdraw from the program, pending any appeal (see below).
If the inadequate proposal was submitted for an MSc-PhD transfer, then the assessment is cancelled, and although the student may choose to meet with the assessors (particularly if they plan to appeal the decision), at this point the student remains in the MSc program.
If any two assessors find the Form (Minor) of the proposal inadequate, the assessment will still take place, and the process for revision of the proposal will be discussed at the proposal assessment.
Note that failure of the written proposal component for an MSc-PhD transfer will result in cancellation of the assessment, and the Graduate Student will remain in the MSc program.
1) The Graduate Student arrives at the room shortly before the appointed time to set up for his/her oral presentation.
2) The Chair will collect the Graduate Student’s file (including the ‘Proposal Assessment – Written Proposal’ forms) and the appropriate Chair Report form from the Graduate Program Coordinator in advance. Chair: The Graduate Student's file is open to you only. You may reveal the Graduate Student's performance in course work if requested.
The Chair, Supervisor(s) and all Assessors shall arrive promptly at or before the appointed time. The Chair will make any necessary introductions.
3) The Chair shall request that the student leave the examination room. The Chair shall inform the Assessment Committee if the examination constitutes the second assessment because of a previously failed assessment of written proposal, and note that in such cases a failed assessment will require the student to withdraw from the program.
4) The Chair shall discuss the assessment process with the Assessors if necessary, and distribute the ‘Proposal Assessment – Oral Presentation and Assessment’ forms. The Chair will then ask the Assessors how many rounds of questions they wish to ask (usually two), the time for each examiner per round of questions (usually 15 minutes in the first round and 10 in the second), and the order of questioning.
5) The Chair will invite the Graduate Student back into the room and ask the Graduate Student to give his/her presentation. The presentation should be about 15 minutes long, but no longer than 20 minutes. The Chair shall keep the Graduate Student within his/her time for the presentation.
Figure 4.1. Overview of the proposal assessment process:
6) Following the presentation, the Chair will invite the Graduate Student to sit down and will inform the Graduate Student of the number of rounds of questions, the time for each round, and the order in which the Assessors will be asking questions.
7) The Chair will ask the first Assessor to begin asking questions. The Chair shall time the question sessions and shall keep the Assessors to their allotted time. At no time during the questioning should the Supervisor(s) intervene. Similarly, no questions should be directed to the Supervisor(s).
8) Between the first and second rounds of questions, the Chair will offer the Graduate Student and Assessors a brief recess, and allow a suitable time if a recess is required (generally 5-10 minutes).
9) At the end of the final round of questions, the Chair will ask the Graduate Student to leave the examination room.
10) The Chair will invite the Supervisor(s) to comment on the Graduate Student, their proposal and performance in the assessment exam. Chair: This is the only point at which the supervisor may engage in the discussion unless asked to address a specific question that arises during the subsequent discussion by the Assessors.
11) The Chair invites the Assessors to comment on the student’s proposal and performance. This shall include discussion of the written proposal, both form and content, the oral presentation, and the oral defense. Chair: If this assessment follows a failed written proposal, this is the appropriate time to inform the assessors of the outcome of the ‘Proposal Assessment – Written Proposal’ forms submitted by the assessors for the second submission.
12) The Assessors shall each privately record their evaluation of the proposal presentation and the student’s performance in the assessment on the ‘Proposal Assessment – Oral Presentation and Assessment’ form (see Table 4.2), and return this to the Chair. The Chair will tally and transfer the results of these forms and the ‘Proposal Assessment – Written Proposal’ form to the Chair Report form. As for the written proposal, if any two Assessors deem the same aspect of the presentation and assessment ‘inadequate’, the proposal will be deemed to have failed. The student must have at least a majority of Assessors deem the Content, Form (Major) and Oral Presentation and Assessment ‘Adequate’ to pass the proposal assessment, and this will be used to identify the Assessment Outcome (see below).
13) The Chair shall enter this outcome on the Chair Report Form, and inform the Assessors and Supervisor of the result. The Chair will record any comments or remarks of the committee in the appropriate place on the form, especially if the committee members have deemed Form (Minor) to be inadequate. In the latter case, the Assessors will also identify who among them will oversee the revised version of the proposal, and this name will be recorded on the Chair Report form. In the case of a failed proposal, the remarks section should clearly indicate the reasons for the outcome, and what the Graduate Student must do to suitably revise his/her proposal and/or improve his/her understanding of the proposed research.
14) The Chair shall invite the Graduate Student back into the room, and inform him/her of the committee's decision and any subsequent procedures (e.g. necessary revisions and deadlines) associated with this outcome.
15) The Chair shall ensure that all concerned sign the Chair Report form.
16) The Chair shall return the Chair report form and the Graduate Student's file to the Graduate Program Coordinator. The Graduate Program coordinator shall arrange for a copy of the form to be circulated to the Supervisor(s) and Graduate Student.
|Table 4.2: Criteria for the proposal assessment examination|
|The presentation inadequately described the work, and/or failed to meet quality standards appropriate to the degree level||The presentation adequately described the work, and met quality standards appropriate to the degree level|
|There are fatal intellectual or practical flaws in the proposed work||There are no fatal intellectual or practical flaws in the proposed work|
|The student failed to answer the majority of the questions to an adequate level, or could not answer key questions highly pertinent to the thesis topic||The student was able to answer the majority of the questions at an adequate level, and could address key questions highly pertinent to the thesis topic|
|The student failed to display adequate knowledge and understanding of the background and context of their work||The student displayed adequate knowledge and understanding of the background and context of their work|
|The student did not display adequate knowledge of the methods and design of their proposed work||The student displayed adequate knowledge of the methods and design of their proposed work|
There are four potential outcomes of the Proposal Assessment: (i) Assessment passed; (ii) Assessment passed, Revised proposal required within two weeks of assessment date; (iii) Assessment failed; New proposal must be submitted and assessed by end of following term; (iv) Assessment failed (Second attempt); Graduate Student required to withdraw from the program.
Successful completion of the Proposal Assessment is a requirement for remaining in the Biology graduate program.
There are three potential outcomes of this Proposal Assessment: (i) Assessment passed, (ii) Assessment passed, Revised proposal required within two weeks of assessment date; and (iii) Assessment failed.
If a written proposal is deemed to have failed, and the Graduate Student and/or Supervisor(s) feel (after meeting with the assessors) that the decision is unfair, they may appeal the decision in writing (see Figure. 4.2 for an overview of the process). This process will be conducted by the Graduate Chair, or a designate from BGEC (or the Department Chair, or another Associate Chair in the Department) in the case of a conflict of interest.
The Comprehensive Examination evaluates a doctoral candidate’s breadth of scientific knowledge, extending beyond the specifics of their dissertation research. It is not an exercise in memorization, nor an extension of the proposal assessment, but instead an opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate (and examiners to assess) their autonomy and scientific maturity.
Deadlines for completing the comprehensive examination are listed in Important Information and Dates. Extensions beyond these deadlines must be approved by the Graduate Chair and normally require medical, compassionate or other severe extenuating grounds. Failure to complete the Comprehensive Examination by the deadline will result in an automatic outcome of “Fail-Redo”. In this case the outcome of an assessment at a later date can only be “Pass” or “Fail-Withdraw”.
Comprehensive Examination Committee: In the term before the examination is to be held, and no less than three weeks before the scheduled preparatory meeting, the Supervisor and Candidate suggest to the Graduate Program Coordinator the names of three potential Examiners (see below). The Examiners comprise three faculty members who represent different fields of expertise relevant to the Candidate’s discipline. There is no stream requirement (i.e. it is permissible for all three Examiners to belong to the same stream). At least two of the Examiners must be regular faculty members in the Department of Biology. A maximum of one Examiner may be from outside the Department, provided he/she holds membership in the School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS), or an Adjunct Faculty Member with SGPS membership. Finally, a maximum of one Examiner may be chosen from among the Candidate’s advisors. The Graduate Chair will review and approve the proposed Examination Committee to ensure that there is both breadth and relevance to the general topic area of the thesis.
Preparatory Meeting: Once the Comprehensive Examiners have been approved by the Graduate Chair, and 8-10 weeks before the anticipated Comprehensive Exam, the Candidate arranges and convenes a meeting with the Examiners and Supervisor(s). This purpose of this preparatory meeting is to identify the areas in which each Examiner will question the Candidate. One week before the preparatory meeting, the Candidate will provide the Examiners a one-page summary of their project and its objectives, to assist in identifying topic areas. The preparatory meeting should not take place before the student receives official approval of the suggested examiners from the Graduate Program Coordinator.
The Preparatory Meeting is chaired by the Candidate’s Supervisor, and involves establishing the areas of concentration (topics) that each Examiner will focus on during the Examination itself. The Examiners, Candidate and Supervisor(s) shall discuss the appropriateness and breadth of the topics proposed by the Examiners. These areas of concentration must be agreed to by all concerned and recorded on Form 1. Expectations and potential outcomes as outlined in Section 5.B.10 must also be discussed with the Candidate at the Preparatory Meeting. Note that the Candidate is responsible for having Form 1 in his/her possession at the Preparatory Meeting, and must submit the completed Form to the Graduate Program Coordinator within one week of this meeting.
Suggested Readings: Examiners may suggest appropriate reading material (papers, textbooks etc.) but need not assign specific readings. Any suggested or assigned readings are meant to represent a starting point and do not necessarily define the limits of the assigned topic. Since the purpose of the Comprehensive Examination is to assess the Candidate’s general knowledge, autonomy, and scientific maturity, part of the evaluation may focus on the Candidate’s ability to identify the important literature for a given topic.
Following the Preparatory Meeting: Examiners are expected to make themselves available to Candidates preparing for the Comprehensive Examination (within reasonable limits) and assist them in their preparation. However, Examiners are not expected to meet with students until within 8-10 weeks of the anticipated examination date (i.e. the Preparatory Meeting). Candidates are expected to make appointments with their Examiners, arrive promptly for their appointments and be prepared to discuss the assigned material.
Scheduling the Comprehensive Examination: The Comprehensive Examination must occur within 8-10 weeks of the Preparatory Meeting, and before the deadline noted in Important Information and Dates of this handbook. The Candidate shall arrange the date and time for the Examination in consultation with the three Examiners and the Supervisor(s), and reserve a suitable room. The Candidate shall inform the Graduate Program Coordinator of the date, time and location of the comprehensive examination. The Graduate Program Coordinator will then appoint a Chair of the Comprehensive Examination, based on availability at the specified time, with the goal of equal participation of all eligible faculty within the department.
Note: All Examiners and Supervisor(s) are expected to be physically present at the Comprehensive Examination. In extreme circumstances, however, an Examiner may participate remotely via conference call, video chat or similar. This arrangement must be agreed to in advance by all participants, and approved by the Graduate Chair, at the time of scheduling.
The Comprehensive Examination normally lasts from 2.5 to 3 hours, and proceeds as follows:
1) The Chair of the Comprehensive Examination obtains the Candidate’s file from the Graduate Program Coordinator. The file is open only to the Chair. The Chair may reveal course marks if requested.
2) The Candidate, Examiners, Supervisor(s) and Chair meet promptly at the appointed time and place.
3) The Chair invites the Candidate to leave the examination room. The Chair informs the Comprehensive Examination Committee of the potential outcomes of the examination. If it is the first Examination, the potential outcomes are Pass with Distinction; Pass; Fail-Redo; or Fail-Withdraw. If it is the second Examination, or if the Examination is being held late, the potential outcomes are Pass; or Fail-Withdraw. The Chair discusses the Comprehensive Examination process with the Examiners if necessary, and asks the Examiners the order in which they wish to question the Candidate as well as the duration of the questioning (typically a single round of 30 – 45 minutes per examiner).
4) The Chair invites the Candidate back into the examination room and invites him/her to sit down. The Chair informs the Candidate the order in which the Examiners will be asking the questions and the duration of each question period.
5) The Chair invites the first Examiner to begin. Each Examiner uses his/her allotted time to ask questions of the Candidate, and develop a dialogue within their designated topic. At any time, other Examiners may ask a question about the topic under discussion. The Chair times the question sessions and ensures that the main Examiner for a topic is allowed sufficient time to question the Candidate within the allotted time for his/her topic. The Chair makes notes regarding the scope of questions.
At any appropriate time, the Chair may ask the Candidate and Examiners if they would like to take a brief recess.
6) At the end of the questions, the Chair asks the Examiners if there are any additional questions and allow a brief time (5-10 minutes) for this.
7) The Chair invites the Candidate to leave the examination room.
8) The Chair invites the Supervisor(s) to comment on the Candidate's performance.
9) The Chair invites the Examiners to comment on the Candidate's performance.
10) The choice of potential outcomes of the Comprehensive Examination depends on whether it is a first, second or late examination (see Section 5.A above). The Examiners should come to a consensus (or by majority vote if necessary) on the outcome of the Comprehensive Examination. The potential outcomes and summaries of their meanings are outlined below:
11) The Chair indicates the outcome on Form 2 for the Comprehensive Examination.
12) The Chair invites the Candidate back into the room and informs him/her of the outcome. If the outcome is Fail-Redo, the Chair communicates to the Candidate the time frame for when the next examination needs to be scheduled.
13) The Chair ensures that she/he, and the Candidate, have signed Form 2 for the Comprehensive Examination, then returns this Form and the Candidate’s file to the Graduate Program Coordinator.
Requirements for the preparation and defense of M.Sc. and Ph.D. theses, including information on the electronic submission process and formatting, as well as the timelines required by the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS), are outlined on the SGPS website at:
SGPS thesis regulations are outlined on the following website:
Theses must be free of typographical, grammatical and spelling errors prior to submission for examination. In addition, all required sections of the thesis (including dedications, acknowledgments, approvals for animal use, and curriculum vitae) must be included in the submitted copy. Incomplete theses and/or theses that are difficult to read because of poor writing are unacceptable and may be rejected and returned to the student for correction and resubmission. Students should consult SGPS guidelines prior to preparation of the thesis.
Note that the thesis defense must occur at least one week before the end of term in order for a student to graduate that term, according to SGPS guidelines. adding this to the weeks required for the reader, revisions from the reader, and the examination committee, this means that a final thesis must be ready for the reader many weeks prior to the end of the term. Revisions with the supervisor would occur in advance of this, and often take 1-2 months. You are advised to plan your timeline and communicate with your supervisor and reader accordingly.
For both M.Sc. and Ph.D. theses, the supervisor and one other designated reader not involved as an Examiner (usually, but not necessarily, an advisor) must sign a Certificate of Approval Form to indicate whether the thesis is ready for examination. This form can be obtained from the Graduate Program Coordinator. For students with two supervisors (either two joint or a primary supervisor plus co-supervisor), both supervisors must sign the form but the requirement for an additional designated reader may be waived.
Importantly, the thesis examiners are not copy editors, and the supervisor(s) and designated reader should not sign the Certificate of Approval unless the thesis is acceptable in both form and content. In rare cases where the thesis is submitted without the approval of the supervisor(s) and/or designated reader, this must be indicated on the Certificate of Approval and reasons for withholding approval provided, in writing, to the Graduate Program Coordinator. Designated readers with serious concerns about the readiness of a thesis for examination should meet with the student and supervisor(s) to discuss the concerns, as well as providing written feedback, but may elect not to re-review the thesis a second time.
Students should allow a reader at least two weeks for review of a MSc thesis or at least three weeks for review of a PhD thesis (depending on the reader’s schedule, more time may be required). Readers are expected to review a thesis draft only once. At that point they should identify any necessary revisions and the approximate time frame required to make the changes, and convey this feedback to both the student and the supervisor. At this point it becomes the responsibility of the student, overseen by the supervisor, to ensure that the recommended changes are made.
1) A signed Certificate of Approval form as well as Master’s Supervisor Approval (which are prepared by the Graduate Program Coordinator) must be submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator at least three weeks before the thesis defense. Once these forms are received by the Graduate Program Coordinator, authorization can then be given to the student to submit the electronic thesis via the Scholarship@Western (http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/) site. Please note that paper submission of the thesis is no longer accepted. The defense normally will not take place in fewer than three weeks after the thesis has been submitted.
2) The M.Sc. candidate or supervisor must submit the names of three proposed Examiners (see requirements below) to the Graduate Program Coordinator no less than five weeks before the intended date of thesis submission. Failure to complete this task on time will result in the examination date being delayed.
Composition of Master’s Thesis Examination Committee:
An MSc thesis exam committee in Biology will be composed of three members.
MSc, student in Ecology and Evolution (E&E) stream.
4) The M.Sc. thesis form and content must be judged acceptable by a majority of the examiners before the defense may proceed. An electronic evaluation form shall be submitted by each examiner to the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at least three days before the defense for electronic thesis submissions or paper evaluations for the hardcopy thesis submission If the thesis is judged unacceptable for defense, then the time period allotted for the defense will be used by the examining board, the candidate's supervisor and the Graduate Chair to recommend a course of action, which they will then discuss with the candidate. Please see the Graduate Thesis Regulations Section 8.4 for the appropriate timelines for resubmission. A new defense, normally with the same examining board, will be scheduled when the resubmitted thesis is in hand. The candidate will be given the opportunity to defend the resubmitted thesis at an oral examination. The decision, by majority vote of the examiners, on the acceptability of the thesis content and the decision on the oral defense are then final. A resubmitted thesis found to be unacceptable cannot be revised and submitted a third time.
5) The oral examination shall consist of:
6) The acceptability of the oral defense of the thesis shall be determined by a majority vote of the examiners present at the examination. If the thesis is acceptable, but the oral examination is unsatisfactory, a second oral examination (preferably with the same examining board) shall be scheduled no earlier than 30 days from the original defense.
7) The acceptability of the form of the thesis shall be determined by a majority vote of the examiners. If the content is acceptable, but the form is unacceptable, the candidate shall be advised in what respects the thesis is deficient. The examiners must be satisfied with any amendments or changes being recommended. Normally the supervisor withholds his/her signature from the Certificate of Examination Form until all recommended changes have been completed.
8) The candidate's Supervisor(s) must attend the examination but may not answer questions during the rounds of questioning, except under rare circumstances and at the invitation of the chair of the board of examiners. Visitors may attend at the discretion of the chair.
9) The decision to recommend the awarding or withholding of the degree shall be rendered at the conclusion of the examination, by the board of examiners, following discussion by the board and the candidate's supervisor, but in the absence of the candidate.
|Master's Thesis Defense Timeline|
|Seven weeks prior to examination date||Student provides Grad Program Coordinator with suggested examiners (after verifying their availability) for the Biology Graduate Education Committee approval.|
|Six weeks prior to examination date||Grad Program Coordinator provides the student with either the approval of initial suggested committee or the revised approved committee.|
|Five weeks prior to examination date||The student finalizes the exam date with the entire committee and provides the Grad Program Coordinator with the date, time and location of the examination, as well as thesis title and format. The Grad Program Coordinator will secure the chair.|
|Four weeks prior to examination date||Grad Program Coordinator prepares the Board Examination form for submission to SGPS by the four week deadline.|
|Three weeks prior to examination date||Student submits the Certificate of Approval and Supervisor Approval forms to the Grad Program Coordinator who can then authorize the student to electronically submit their thesis via the Scholarship@Western (http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/).|
|Three days prior to examination date||The assessors report back to the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (for electronic thesis submissions) or to the Graduate Program Coordinator (for paper submissions) on whether thesis is approved to go forward to examination.|
|For SGPS term deadlines for submission of a Master’s thesis, please see the following link:
Please review the SGPS website below for details on the electronic thesis preparation process, formatting, etc.
For information on the thesis regulations, please see the following:
The rule of thumb for revisions to be completed is two weeks, however, the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies allows up to six weeks. You are only considered to have completed your degree after you have uploaded your final approved thesis to Scholarship@Western (http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/) and submitted your signed Certificate of Examination form.
Please refer to the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website, section 22.214.171.124 for information on the Doctoral thesis regulations as they pertain to the examination committee composition, etc. on the following website:
For information on the thesis formatting, electronic submission, etc. please see the following site:
Briefly, the Ph.D. thesis defense consists of a 45 to 50 minute public lecture, followed by a closed door oral exam.
|Doctoral Thesis Defense Timeline|
|Nine weeks prior to examination date||Supervisor provides the Grad Program Coordinator with suggested examiners (after verifying their availability) for the Biology Graduate Education Committee approval. Note: The Supervisor is responsible for the arrangement of and contact with the examiners. The Supervisor will then fill in and submit this form to the Biology Graduate Education Committee for approval.|
|Eight weeks prior to examination date||Grad Program Coordinator provides the student with either the approval of initial suggested committee or the revised approved committee.|
|Seven weeks prior to examination date||Student/Supervisor finalizes the exam date with the entire committee and provides the Grad Program Coordinator with the date, time and location of the examination, as well as thesis title and format. (Grad Program Coordinator will assist in locating public lecture room and SGPS appoints the exam room).|
|Six weeks prior to examination date||Grad Program Coordinator prepares the Board Examination form for submission to SGPS by the four week deadline.|
|Five weeks prior to examination date||Student submits to the Grad Program Coordinator the completed Supervisor Approval and Certificate of Approval forms (both prepared by the Grad Program Coordinator). Once the Grad Program Coordinator has the signed forms with all required approvals, the student can then upload the thesis via the Scholarship@Western (http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/) site. Paper thesis submission is no longer accepted.|
|One week prior to examination date||The assessors report back to SGPS on whether the thesis is approved to go forward to examination.|
|For SGPS term deadlines for submission of a Doctoral thesis, please see the following link:
Please review the SGPS website below for details on the thesis preparation guidelines.
The rule of thumb for revisions to be completed is two weeks, however, the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies allows up to six weeks. You are only considered to have completed your degree after you have submitted your final revised thesis via Scholarship@Western (http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/) and provided the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies with the signed Certificate of Examination.
Composition of Doctoral Thesis Examination Committee:
Examiners for a Doctoral Thesis Defense are selected based on their research expertise rather than by stream. For details on Doctoral Thesis examiner roles and requirements, refer to section 126.96.36.199 in http://grad.uwo.ca/current_students/regulations/8.html
A PhD thesis exam committee in Biology will be composed of four members.
All examination committees are subject to the University-wide and SGPS-specific rules regarding conflicts of interest.
Program and University examiners must have membership through the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies discourages students from being in contact with Doctoral thesis defense examiners, in particular the external examiner. The supervisor is to communicate with the examiners.
PhD, student in E&E Stream.
A description of the program can be found here:
More in depth information may be found here:
Biology requirements for M.Sc.
Biology requirements for Ph.D.
Although Biology students who register in the Collaborative Program in E&S are formally excused from Part 2 of Biology 9100 (M.Sc.) or 9150 (Ph.D.), they are encouraged to participate in the seminar series offered by their chosen Stream in Biology.
A description of the program can be found here:
More in depth information may be found here:
Biology requirements for M.Sc.
Biology requirements for Ph.D.