Department of Biology Graduate Studies, McGill University, Canada
The Department offers graduate training in many areas of biology with particular strengths in Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation, Evolution, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cell and Developmental Biology, Neurobiology, Plant Biology and Bioinformatics.
Graduate programs leading to the M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees are offered. The emphasis in both programs is on development of the intellectual and technical skills necessary for independent research. The main component of both degrees is a thesis embodying the results of original research.
Formal course requirements are few and are largely intended to fill gaps in the student’s background.
Option programs for both M.Sc. and Ph.D. students are available in the following areas:
1) NEO (Neotropical Environment)
4) Developmental Biology (PhD only)
The Stewart Biology Building and the Bellini Life Sciences Complex are well equipped for graduate training and research in a wide variety of areas of biology.
These resources are greatly extended by affiliation with other organizations such as the Redpath Museum, the Biotechnology Research Institute of the National Research Council of Canada, Macdonald Campus, the Montreal Neurological Institute, and hospitals in the MUHC.
Field research facilities include the Gault Nature Reserve at Mont St. Hilaire (Québec), the Morgan Arboretum (Ste Anne de Bellevue, Québec), the Huntsman Marine Science Centre (New Brunswick), the Subarctic Research Laboratory (Schefferville, Québec), the Bellairs Research Institute (Barbados), the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panama), and the limnology research station at the Wilder and Helen Penfield Nature Reserve on Lake Memphremagog (Québec). Some research may also take place in East Africa and and Makerere University Biological Field Station (Uganda).
- Applicants must have a B.Sc. in a discipline relevant to the proposed field of study with an overall Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 3.0/4.0 or a CGPA of 3.2/4.0 for the last 2 fulltime academic years of study
- Applicants should also have adequate background knowledge in cell and molecular biology (or biochemistry), organismal biology, ecology, developmental biology and statistics
- Students are admitted into the program on a full-time basis only
Admission is based on an evaluation by the Graduate Training Committee and acceptance by a research director, who will provide supervisions as well as adequate funding for personal and research expenses. Prospective graduate students are encouraged to contact potential supervisors with whom they wish to study before applying for admission.
Application to the graduate program in Biology should be submitted using the online web application form. Under special circumstances a paper application form may be obtained directly from the Graduate Admissions Secretary.
Deadlines for admittance to the graduate program:
- January 15th for September registration
- August 15th for January registration
Canadian residents and citizens:
- March 15th for September registration
- October 15th for January registration
Types of Financial Support
All graduate students are fully supported through one or more of the following mechanisms:
- teaching assistantships (or equivalent income from other scholarly activities)
- support from the supervisor’s research grants.
To ensure the financial security of our students, applicants are only accepted into the program once arrangements for financial support are fully committed. The Department specifies a minimum level of support of $15,500 per annum, plus an additional amount to cover student fees. The required minimum duration of support is 2 years for the M.Sc. program, 5 years for a student entering as Ph.D.1, and 4 years for a student entering with a previous M.Sc. as Ph.D.2.
Scholarships are limited, and are awarded on the basis of academic merit. Such awards benefit both students and supervisors (who can thereby allocate more money for research expenses), therefore prospective and current McGill graduate students are expected to apply for all scholarships for which they are eligible. Prospective students should note that separate applications must be made for graduate school admission and scholarship support. Possession of a scholarship increases the probability of acceptance. Many scholarships require Canadian citizenship or Landed Immigrant status.
Applications received by February 1st will be automatically considered for a number of McGill-administered fellowships.
Financial Assistance for NEO (Neotropical Environment Option): Students accepted to the NEO option program are eligible for several entrance fellowships. To be considered for financial assistance, an application must be submitted before February 1st.
Richard H. Tomlinson Fellowships: Open to incoming graduate students at the Master’s, Doctoral and Postdoctoral levels. Application is by invitation only. Please note that an application for admission must be received no later than January 5th. Fellowship application forms are online.
The major awards are:
- Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Postgraduate Scholarships
- CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research) Doctoral Awards
- CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research) CGS Master’s Awards
- Quebec Provincial Scholarships (Fonds Nature et Technologies for Natural Sciences and Engineering or FRSQ for Health Sciences)
- PBEEE (Quebec merit Fellowship for Foreign Graduates and Postdocs)
McGill Recruitment Awards:
- Richard H. Tomlinson Fellowships
- Other Recruitment Awards: No forms are required. All incoming graduate students will be automatically eligible for any other recruitment awards.
Travel Awards: G.R.E.A.T. (Graduate Research Enhancement and Travel Awards) are given to students to help subsidize their travel to present their research at scientific conferences.
Biology Department Scholarships:
- Biology Department Top-Up Award for Award Holders: ($5,000 – non-renewable)
- Arthur Willey Memorial Fellowship: ($2,500 – non-renewable)
- Philip Carpenter Fellowship in Biology: ($2,000 – non-renewable)
- Vineberg Fellowship in Freshwater Biology Limnology (value: $8,000 – once per recipient)
To be eligible for any of the departmental awards, applications must be received prior to Feb. 1st. In addition a Biology professor must indicate his/her financial and academic commitment to the student. The awardees will be selected from a pool of applicants admitted for the winter, summer and fall terms of the calendar year.
Applicants are encouraged to apply for a scholarship before coming to McGill. Possession of a scholarship increases the probability of acceptance.
McGill Differential Fee Waivers and McGill Graduate Studies Fellowships (MGSF): The Department receives several MGSF and differential fee waivers from the University each year. Fee waivers permit international students to pay the same tuition fees as Canadian students. The MGSF awards are valued at $5,000 each and international students are given first priority in nomination for this award by the department. All eligible international students are automatically considered by the Department. No forms are required.
Other types of Financial Support:
Teaching Assistantships: Graduate students can be partially supported by being appointed as teaching assistants for one or more undergraduate courses. Available positions for the following year (summer, fall and winter terms) are posted by March 15th. There is another posting in October for winter term positions still available.
Graduate student stipends: Graduate students are often supported, in full or in part, by monies from research grants awarded to and controlled by the Thesis Supervisor. These funds can supplement income from scholarships and teaching assistantships. The stipends are classified as “awards” and are not subject to tax and other employment deductions. In some instances the student stipend will come from research contract funding and these students may be required to sign a confidentiality agreement.
M.Sc. Program Requirements
Length of Program
Three full-time terms of resident study at McGill is the minimum time requirement to complete the Master’s degree. The Biology Department offers a summer term so the residence requirement can be completed in one year, if required. The normal and expected duration is 2 years.
Forty-five credits are required for the M.Sc. degree. Students must complete the courses BIOL 697, -698 and -699 (Master’s Thesis Research 1, 2, 3). These research courses each carry a credit weight of 13 credits. In addition, six credits of courses are required. These courses may be taken in Biology or in other departments, but they must be relevant to the student’s program (language and writing courses are excluded) and they must be graduate level courses at the -500 or higher level. All course selections must be approved by the student’s supervisor. A graduate pass (65% or better) is mandatory for all courses required for the M.Sc. degree.
In Biology, the M.Sc. degree is considered to be a research degree and the candidate must present a thesis, containing original contributions to knowledge. The nature of the M.Sc. degree varies considerably throughout the University and it should be clear that requirements in Biology are more stringent than the minimal requirements laid down by the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office.
Ph.D. Program Requirements
Length of Program
Candidates entering Ph.D.1 must complete at least three years of full-time study (6 terms) and at least 4 of these terms must be spent at McGill University. A student who has obtained a Master’s degree at McGill, or at an approved institution elsewhere, and is proceeding in the same subject towards a Ph.D. degree may, upon the recommendation of the Graduate Training Committee, enter at the Ph.D.2 level. The normal and expected duration is 4 years. In exceptional cases, 5 or even 6 years are required, but most students are strongly advised to complete the program in 4 years.
Ph.D. students are required to take 6 credits of courses. These courses may be taken in Biology or in other departments, but they must be relevant to the student’s program (language and writing courses are excluded) and they must be graduate level courses at the -500 or higher level. All course selections must be approved by the student’s supervisor. A graduate pass (65% or better) is mandatory for all courses required for the Ph.D. degree.
Ph.D. Qualifying Examination in Biology (BIOL 700)
The Qualifying Examination (QE) is a formal evaluation of the student’s ability to proceed to the attainment of the Ph.D. It is not a “comprehensive” examination, in so far as this term implies that all areas of biology will be covered. Rather, it is intended that the examination will focus on the subject of the student’s proposed research. The relevant background knowledge in this area, as well as in allied areas, will be ascertained.
Ph.D. Thesis Seminar (BIOL 702)
All Ph.D. students must deliver a research seminar at some time during the academic session (September - April) towards the end of their studies. This is preferably done at least 3 months prior to the anticipated date of the thesis submission. Most students will be registered for this seminar in their third or fourth year of Ph.D. studies. The seminar has two main purposes: (a) to help students sort out their aims, data and interpretations before a friendly, informed audience prior to writing the thesis, and certainly before they have to defend it at the Oral Defense, and (b) to keep the community, especially other graduate students, aware of the work under investigation in the Department. This seminar is not to be regarded as an exam. Nevertheless, it is a requirement for the degree and a grade of “incomplete” will be recorded on the student’s transcript until it is delivered. It is the Thesis Supervisor’s responsibility to notify the Graduate Studies Coordinator that the student has passed the course (i.e. presented the seminar).
The Ph.D. is a research degree. It represents high scholastic attainment in a specialized field, demonstrated by independent and original research.
Ph.D. Oral Examination
Ph.D. students are required to defend their thesis in an open forum. Rules for the oral examination are set by the University Graduate and the Postdoctoral Studies Office. A copy of these rules can be obtained from the Graduate Studies Coordinator. The examination consists of a public session with a 15-20 minute summary by the candidate, followed by a period of questioning and a private session in which the Examining Committee makes its judgment.
Both Master’s and Doctoral students are expected to participate regularly in one or more of the Department’s journal clubs and seminar series, e.g. Molecular Genetics Seminars; Graduate Students Symposium in Ecology, Evolution, Behaviour, and Conservation; Works in Progress Series (WIPS); Honours Seminars; Aquatic Seminars; Neurobiology Journal Club; Organismal Seminars. All students are required to present a half-hour seminar on their work annually, in an established university seminar series or in a similar public forum. Students may also need to present brief seminar at a conference or departmental symposium.
For more information, please visit official website: biology.mcgill.ca.
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Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the above information is current and correct. However, applicants should contact the appropriate administering body before making an application, as details do change frequently.