The Graduate Program in Neuroscience has primary academic responsibility
at the University of Western Ontario for graduate level training
in the Neurosciences.
The major features of the graduate programs in Neurosciences are:
• Emphasis on research
• Interdisciplinary approach
• Collective responsibilityof faculty in establishing and
maintaining high standards
based on regular meetings of Advisory Committees
and research seminars.
• Participation by graduate students in the academic life
of the program, including service on the Program committee,
and the Perspectives in Neuroscience seminar series.
• Interactions among graduate students, and graduate students
The Neuroscience Program Committee will decide on the academic
eligibility of all applicants. However, the final decision for admission
to the University of Western Ontario is always made by the Faculty
of Graduate Studies
Programs leading to the degrees of Master of Science (M.Sc.)
and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) are offered. In addition, combined
M.D-M.Sc. and M.D.-Ph.D programs are available for candidates who
have been accepted into the M.D. program at the University of Western
The goal of the graduate programs is to train professional
scientists who will make significant contributions to the discipline
of neuroscience. Graduates of the master's program will be capable
of collaborating in research. Graduates of the doctoral program
will be able to pursue independent careers in research and academic
positions. Generally, however, it will be necessary to complete
a period of post-doctoral training to ensure success as an independent
investigator. Individuals receiving combined M.D.-Ph.D. degrees
will, after special training, be prepared to enter careers in academic
To achieve these goals, the student, with the help of a supervisor
and an Advisory Committee, develops and completes a research project,
leading to the preparation of a thesis, and actively participates
in the scientific/academic activities within the Program.
The Program offers research training in a variety of areas
including neural substrates of behaviour, neurophysiology, neural
development, neuropharmacology, neuroanatomy, and cellular and molecular
neurobiology. Students are able to select supervisors from 50 core members of the Program, consisting of over 40 neuroscientists
drawn from the Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry, Science, Social
Science and Health Sciences. These include the departments of Anatomy
& Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Biology, Clinical Neurological
Sciences, Communicative Disorders, Medical Biophysics, Ophthalmology,
Oral Biology, Pathology, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Physical Rehabilitation,
Physiology and Pharmacology, Psychology and Zoology.
Faculty Members of the Program
The Neuroscience Program offers two types of faculty membership
- core member and associate (non-core) member. Core members with
thesis supervision status have the privilege of supervising graduate
students. Core members with non-thesis supervision status may only
co-supervise graduate students. Associate members may participate
in all aspects of academic activities but not graduate student supervision.
Core members must have their membership approved by the Faculty
of Graduate Studies. Associate membership may also apply to have
non-core membership with the Faculty of Graduate Studies. At the
time of application for membership in the Neuroscience Program,
the individual must be active in neuroscience research and hold
a primary faculty appointment, at the rank of assistant professor
or higher, in a department of the University of Western Ontario
or an affiliated hospital or research institute. Further information
is contained in a document “Criteria for Membership in the
Neuroscience Program”, approved by the Program at its 2002
The Program Committee
This committee is comprised of 6 Core Members of faculty
plus the Director of the Program, and is responsible for the administration
of the graduate programs in Neuroscience. Its duties include: i)
the evaluation of applicants for admission and for funding by internal
and external sources; ii) the evaluation of requests for transfer
from the masters to the doctoral program; iii) the establishment
of Advisory Committees; iv) approval of the scope of and examiners
for the Ph.D. comprehensive examinations, and for thesis examinations;
v) the conduct of yearly reviews of the progress of each graduate
student; vi) the coordination of program requests for funds from
the Faculty of Graduate Studies and from other sources; vii) the
preparation of reports for reviews of the graduate programs; viii)
the formulation and presentation to the Program of changes in policies
and guidelines for the programs.
The members of the Program Committee are elected by mail ballot
by all core members of the program. Excluding the Director, no more
than 2 members of the Program Committee are drawn from one academic
department at any one time. Program Committee members serve terms
of three years; members terms are staggered, normally two members
elected each year, so that there is continuity of membership with
some new members added each academic year. A student member, elected
by the students, also serves as a member of the program Committee
for a one-year term.
The director of program is selected by a search committee called
by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and is appointed for a term
of 3 years. The Director reports to the Associate Dean (Biosciences
Division) and the Dean of Graduate Studies.
The minimal admission standards are listed in the Calendar
of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Additional requirements of the
Program are described in the Admissions document on the web site.
To apply for entry to the graduate program, a student must first
complete an "Application for Admission" form, available
from the graduate secretary, or from the Faculty of
Graduate Studies, and arrange for two letters of reference to be
sent to the Program Office, Rm. 5260, Robarts Research
Institute. The application is reviewed by the Program Committee.
If the applicant is considered to be academically acceptable, the
student must find a research supervisor before receiving final acceptance
into the graduate program (see Responsibilities of the Supervisor
below). There are no established rules for the linking up of student
and supervisor. Students are advised to talk with and visit the
laboratories of potential supervisors; these interviews can be arranged
directly with the faculty member. A list of faculty and their current research interests
are available on this website.
Only the Faculty of Graduate Studies can grant admission to the
graduate program and does so by issuing an official "Offer
of Admission and Permit to Register" form.
Students entering the program after completing an undergraduate
degree, and those with graduate degrees from foreign countries (with
the exception of degrees from accredited universities in the United
States or United Kingdom and some European universities) are admitted
to the M.Sc. program. They may subsequently change their registration
to the doctoral program upon satisfying their Advisory Committee
and the Program Committee that their progress has been excellent.
This must occur before the end of the fifth academic term of study.
When considering a request for transfer from the M.Sc. to the Ph.D.
program the student's Advisory Committee will consider whether the
student's research project is of sufficient scope to expand into
a Ph.D. project. The committee will also consider the student's
publication record especially the student's role as primary author
on one or more submitted, accepted, or published manuscripts in
peer-reviewed journals in the student's research field. While there
is no absolute time point at which transfer from the M.Sc. to the
Ph.D. program must occur, it is generally considered that this should
occur after the first M.Sc. year to allow sufficient time for assessment
but before the end of the second M.Sc. year. A maximum of three
terms spent in M.Sc. registration is credited towards the residency
period for the Ph.D. degree.
Students contemplating a combined graduate-medical degree should
consult with the Director of the Program as early as possible before
enrolling in medicine to discuss the nature and timing of the program.
An Advisory Committee is established for each student by
the Program Committee in consultation with the student and supervisor.
The supervisor is the chair of the committee. At least one member
of the Program Committee is included on each Advisory Committee.
At least two other members are chosen for their expertise in an
area related to the proposed research topic. Appropriate experts
from outside the Neuroscience Program and the University of Western
Ontario may be included.
The Advisory Committee: i) guides the scientific progress of the
student and ensures that the objectives of the graduate program
are met; ii) is responsible for making recommendations to the program
committee for the transfer of master's students to the Ph.D program;
iii) is responsible for establishing the scope of the comprehensive
exam for Ph.D students, in consultation with the program committee;
iv) for the M.Sc. and Ph.D students, respectively, normally approves
the thesis before it is submitted to the Program and to the Faculty
of Graduate Studies for examination.
Within one month of entering the graduate program, students and
their supervisors select two other faculty members to serve as an
Advisory Committee; a member of the Program Committee also serves
on each Advisory Committee. Each student meets with their Advisory
Committee within the first two months of entering their program.
The purpose of the first meeting is to introduce everyone, and to
allow the Advisory Committee to become aware of the general project
area, and to discuss future course work. It is not necessary to
have the overall scope of the research project worked out at this
stage. A one or two-page written report may help but is not required
for the first meeting. Subsequently, each student meets with their
Advisory Committee at approximately six-month intervals; this schedule
is particularly important for M.Sc. students because of the short
duration of their training program. These meetings, which generally
last for about 1 hour, focus on the proposed research, progress
to date and future plans. Students should be prepared to make a
short (about 10 min) oral presentation of their project outline
and recent research findings using an overhead projector and acetates
or slides where necessary. A written report (generally not greater
than 10 double-spaced pages, plus figures representing data) must
be distributed by the student to members of the Advisory Committee
at least one week before the meeting. The member of the Program
Committee serving on the Advisory Committee prepares a written report
of each meeting which goes into the student's file; a copy is given
to the student and the supervisor.
Meetings can be convened by the student, the supervisor, or any
member of the Advisory Committee. In addition to these formal meetings,
members of the Advisory Committee can monitor the progress of the
student by attending laboratory meetings at which students present
reports on research. Advisory committee members should also attend
presentations made by students in seminars.
The requirements for an M.Sc. degree in Neuroscience include:
1) A research thesis, which in the opinion of the Advisory Committee,
would form at
least one paper acceptable to a refereed journal. The thesis must
be successfully defended in an oral examination. The examining committee
will consist of two faculty members from the Neuroscience Program,
at least one of whom must not have served on the student's Advisory
Committee, and an additional faculty member from outside
2) The equivalent of 2.5 full courses to be determined by the Advisory
Committee including a) Principles of Neuroscience (Neuroscience
9500; 1 course) and b) the Perspectives in Neuroscience Seminar (Neuroscience
9510y for the first year, and Neuroscience 9511y for the second year;
0.5 course each year). All students are required to pass Neuroscience
9500 with an overall 70%. Mandatory Attendance for the Neuroscience Seminars
(9510y and 9511y) is required for passing the course. At least a half
course is selected from Neuroscience and related areas. Courses
in Neuroscience which are available in the University are listed
under "Courses". Students without a strong background
in Neuroscience will be required to broaden their background in
specific areas related to their research interests.
For a student who has made excellent progress, and the research
project has developed beyond that of an M.Sc., the student may be
permitted to transfer directly to the Ph.D without completing an
The requirements for a Ph.D. degree in Neuroscience include:
1) A research thesis describing original scientific research. The
thesis must be successfully defended in an oral examination which
is preceded immediately by a public lecture. The public lecture
should be of about 40-45 minutes duration and should describe the
scope of research and a discussion of experimental findings. The
oral presentation should be accompanied by slides; a question period
by the audience will follow. The examination committee will consist
of two faculty members from the Neuroscience Program, one member
of the university who is not a member of the program and one member
who is an expert in the field from outside the university.
2) Course requirements:
a) Principles of Neuroscience (Neuroscience 9500) if not taken at
the M.Sc. level. Exception from this course will not be granted
for students having taken a survey course in neuroscience in other
programs. All students are required to pass Neuroscience 500 with
an overall 70%
b) Perspectives in Neuroscience (Neuroscience 9510y); students will
normally be required to enroll in this course in each academic year
of their full-time enrollment. Mandatory 100% Attendance for the seminars
is required for passing the course.
c) Research Proposals (Neuroscience 9602y, 9603y): a research proposal
in the format of a CIHR or NSERC grant proposal in the student's
area of research; the second grant is normally an expanded and more
indepth version of the first grant.
d) Additional courses required by the student's Advisory Committee
to prepare the student for the comprehensive and/or to provide background
for the student's particular area of research. Students who enter
the PhD program from another discipline might have to take Principles
of Neuroscience (Neuroscience 9500).
e) Comprehensive Examination (Neuroscience 9600, see descritpion
below): The program of study proposed for each student by his or
her Advisory Committee will require the apporval of the Program
Committee to ensure common standards. The Program Committee will
also monitor the progress of the student throughout the course fo
study indicators such as the student's research presentations in
the Perspectives in Neuroscience Seminars Series, the Research Proposals,
the comprehensive examination, and reports of the student's
Advisory Committee as to research progress. The median duration
of the PhD program is 5 years. The minimum residency requirement
is 9 terms (3 years).
Comprehensive Examination for Ph.D. Students
The comprehensive examination must be undertaken within
the eighteen months of registration in the Ph.D. program. The scope
and subject area of the comprehensive examination are suggested
by the student and supervisor. In general, four areas of neuroscience,
relating broadly to the student's thesis research, are covered.
The suggested topics are submitted, in writing, by the student and
supervisor to the Advisory Committee which further defines the examination
content. The topics should be specified in sufficient detail appropriate
for the Ph.D. level. For example, "cellular biology" would
not provide sufficient detail; "cell-cell interactions"
would provide sufficient detail. These topics are submitted, in
writing, to the Course Manager for the Ph.D. comprehensive course
who then presents them for discussion and approval to the Program
Committee. Examiners, who may be suggested by the student, supervisor
or Advisory Committee, are approved by the Program Committee. The
student is informed of the areas and examiners which have been identified
at least four weeks prior to the examination. Students should arrange
to meet frequently with each examiner to discuss readings and areas
which should be concentrated on for the examination.
The examination is administered by an examination committee consisting
of a Chair appointed by the Program Committee and four examiners.
Members of the Advisory Committee, excluding the supervisor, and
extra-departmental faculty may serve on the examination committee.
Details of the conduct of the exam are contained in a document called
"Oral comprehensive examination for the Ph.D. Procedures for
the conduct of the examination".
The examination consists of a written component and an oral component.
The student is expected to be able to recall facts, recognize general
concepts, use new information to solve novel problems, be aware
of the historical development of the subdiscipline, and be familiar
with the current research methods in his/her own related fields.
The oral component of the examination is normally taken approximately
one week before the written component. The candidate is normally
informed of the composition of the examining committee at least
four weeks prior to the oral examination. The duration of the oral
examination is usually about two hours. Only members of the examination
committee can ask questions; other faculty can attend but do not
participate. At the conclusion of the oral examination, the examinee
leaves the room and then the chair invites discussion of the candidate's
performance prior to calling for a vote. Pass or fail votes are
collected by written ballot from members of the examination committee,
with the majority opinion determining the result. The chair votes
only in the event of a tie. At the conclusion of the examination,
the chair verbally informs the student of the outcome and transmits
any comments the examiners might suggest. The student is also provided
with a letter from the chair of the examining committee stating
the results of the examination and, where appropriate, comments
on his/her performance.
The written examination consists of at least four principal questions
prepared by the examination committee and approved by the Program
Committee. The student will generally be given a choice within the
principal questions. The examination will last four hours. Each
question is graded by at least two faculty members. To pass the
written component of the examination, an overall grade of "B"
(70%) is required.
A student is permitted two attempts at the oral examination but
only one attempt at the written component. If unsuccessful the
student will meet with the Advisory Committee to determine a course
of action, which normally would involve withdrawal from the graduate
Program Thesis Examination for the Degree of Doctor of
This examination is required by the Neuroscience Program
before the thesis is sent to the Faculty of Graduate Studies for
the Senate Examination. The examination is conducted by the candidate's
Advisory Committee, with the supervisor or Program representative
as the chairperson. The Advisory Committee can request that additional
program faculty members serve on the examination committee. The
examiners will make suggestions for improvement and corrections
of the thesis.
Students may not submit their theses for defense prior to the completion
of all of the above academic requirements. Assuming minimal revisions
of the PhD thesis draft, the student should allow 3 weeks for the
Program thesis examination, and 7 weeks for scheduling the Senate
PhD examination from the time of submission.
Preparation of Thesis
Students should consult the Guide for the Preparation of
Thesis, published by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, for criteria
and specifications. Basically, there are three procedural steps
for thesis submission:
1. Submission of the thesis for examination. Doctoral candidates
are required to submit to the Faculty of Graduate Studies the original
and four copies of their thesis for examination, with a completed
Thesis Submission Form. Master's candidates submit to the Program
Office the original and three copies of their thesis for examination.
2. Oral examination. For the M.Sc. degree oral examinations are
arranged by the Program; the Faculty of Graduate Studies makes the
arrangements for the Ph.D. orals.
3. Submission of the thesis for acceptance as partial fulfillment
of graduation requirements. Candidates for master's and doctoral
degrees who have successfully completed their oral examinations
and who have made all required revisions to their theses must submit
the original and two copies to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
Students will be required to pay a cost-recovery fee for the binding
and microfilming of theses, as follows:
Microfiche for deposit in the National Library (Ph.D. Thesis only),
registration with international abstracting service, and binding
of 1 official copy for Weldon Library - approximately $107.00
Binding of personal copies for the student - $28.00/copy
(An additional copy of each thesis will continue to be required
of each student for the Program but the $20.00 cost of binding will,
as is now the case, be charged to the Program.)
A new guide for the preparation of theses may be obtained from the
web site of the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the following location:
notable change is that theses copies submitted for examination purposes
may now be double-sided. The final copies must still be single-sided.
Students will be required to
pay the cost-recovery fee for the binding and microfilming of theses.
The current fees are available from the Program office.
The Neuroscience Program has a number of Teaching Assistantships
(TAs) that are offered for teaching within the Program (Neuroscience
9500) AND in different Departments that participate in the Neuroscience
Program. All new students are considered for a TA as part of the
financial support. New and continuing students may request to be
a TA in subjects they are qualified for; such requests should be
made to the Director of the Program. TAs from other departments
(the student must apply to these departments directly) may be available
to some neuroscience students depending on their background training
and the department of their supervisor. To be eligible for a TA,
the student must have a B+ average. TAs are compensated for their
services at rates negotiated by the Society
for Graduate Students (SOGS).
The current minimal stipends are $18,000 per annum for
a PhD student and $19,000 per annum for an MSc student. The stipends
include all support provided by the Faculty of Graduate Studies,
Neuroscience Program and supervisor.
There are several types of support for students:
1) Graduate students are supported by awards from external granting
agencies at the federal level (e.g., Canadian Institutes of Health
Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) or
at a provincial level (e.g., Ontario Graduate Scholarship, and Ontario
Graduate Scholarship Science and Technology). A graduate student
with a competitive national award may also receive Western Graduate Research
Scholarship (WGRS), to be decided by the Graduate Program.
The WGRS covers the full value of the graduate tuition and activity
fees. It may be held for a maximum of two years for MSc students
and up to four years for PhD students who maintain an A average.
2) All eligible students of the Neuroscience Program are considered
for the Western Graduate Research Scholarships (WGRS). WGRSs are paid from
a budget provided by the Faculty of Graduate Studies to the Neuroscience
Program. Currently, the typical amount of WGRS provided to an eligible
student is equivalent to the tuition and activities fees charged
to the student.
3) In addition, many graduate students are paid a stipend from the
supervisor's research grant.
4) A graduate student may qualify as Teaching Assistants (TAs).
The Neuroscience Program offers a limited number of TAs. However,
the home department of your supervisor may consider you for a TA
and various departments, notably those with large undergraduate
enrolment, may consider Neuroscience graduate students for TAs.
5) Entering graduate
students with a high A average will be considered for the Presidential
Graduate Scholarship, awarded by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
6) The Program currently provides partial financial support to graduate
students who presented at national and international meetings, and
for learning new skills that are not available on campus.
Students are urged to apply for external support from granting agencies.
Application deadlines for major scholarships are usually in the
Fall preceding entrance into the Program. Students should consult
with potential supervisors for advice in completing these applications
well in advance of the deadlines.
The normal vacation allowance for graduate students is
two weeks per year with the approval of the supervisor. Students
should advise their supervisor of requested dates as early as possible.
Responsibilities of the Student
Completing a graduate program in an experimental science
is a challenging task. Dedication, concentration and continuity
of purpose are fundamental ingredients required for success. Students
should be aware that the opportunity to perform experimental work
is a privilege; this should be remembered at all times in studies
with experimental animals as well as with human volunteers, when
the highest ethical and technical standards must be observed. It
follows that a lot of hard work is required for which there is no
Every effort should be made to ensure that the research will provide
publishable results that will mark the scientific merit of the student.
Long-term success as a research scientist requires a breadth of
knowledge beyond the thesis topic and the ability to adopt new approaches
as the discipline develops. Consequently, flexibility is required.
Other encouraged activities include the development of novel approaches
or techniques, or the introduction into the supervisor's laboratory
of new techniques. Participation in collaborative research projects,
at the University of Western Ontario or at other institutions, is
also encouraged. Students should attend and present their work at
broadly based meetings such as the Society for Neuroscience in order
to interact with individuals outside their own research specialty.
Responsibilities of the Supervisor
Before accepting a graduate student, it is the responsibility
of the supervisor to ensure the availability of adequate space and
facilities for the planned work. In addition, there should be a
reasonable expectation of continuing grant support. A copy of a
letter specifying the financial support of the supervisor addressed
to the student must be provided to the Neuroscience Program when
admitting a student to a degree program, or when transferring to
the PhD. If a teaching assistantship is offered by the supervisor's
home department, it should also be specified in the letter. The
supervisor should also provide a) advice on the selection of projects
which should ensure that the program is not of undue length and
which should lead to results publishable in a high quality journal;
b) guidance in making logical critical interpretation of scientific
data; c) guidance in writing scientific English with skill; d) assistance
in acquiring, in addition to technical skills, an historical perspective
of neuroscience; e) assistance in planning
future steps in a student's career; f) help in the preparation of
material for presentation at meetings; g) introductions to members
of the research community in which the student is likely to work;
h) approval of the thesis before it is submitted to the Advisory
Committee. The supervisor is expected to attend the research seminar
given by the student at the Neursoscience seminar (Neuroscience
Appeals may be made on academic issues such as: accuracy
or appropriateness of grades on examinations, assignments, or courses;
fairness or appropriateness of general grading practices; a waiver
of a progression requirement; or the appropriateness of sanctions
imposed for a scholastic offence. For issues arising from coursework,
appeals normally must be made in the first instance to the faculty
member who teaches the course. If this does not satisfactorily resolve
the issue, or if the issue concerns a topic not directly related
to matters arising from a specific course, appeals must be made
to the Director of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience. Having
exhausted all stages of appeal within the Graduate Program in Neuroscience,
a student may appeal to the Dean of Graduate Studies. A booklet
containing information relevant to appeals to the Dean of Graduate
Studies entitled, "Information for a graduate student wishing
to make an appeal to the Faculty of Graduate Studies" is available
from the Faculty of Graduate Studies. General principles of fairness,
confidentiality, subject of an appeal, grounds of the appeal, relief
requested, onus, standard of proof, and documentation that are applied
to appeals by graduate students in the Program in Neuroscience are
those described in the "Information for a graduate student
wishing to make an appeal to the Faculty of Graduate Studies"