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Program Requirements

The doctoral program is designed to emphasize the multidisciplinary nature of research and scholarship in biological and chemical sciences. The research component of the program is based on an apprenticeship training model, in which students work closely with faculty supervisors who mentor students in the development, execution and interpretation of their research, and focus on the development of students into independent researchers.

In their research project, students in the program will be exposed to a variety of diverse but interrelated theoretical and experimental techniques to address problems at the forefront of both biological and chemical sciences. Students are required to present and defend a research proposal in conjunction with a qualifying exam (BH810), and write and defend their dissertation (BH899).

Students are also required to take two 0.5-credit electives (1.0 credit total), at least one of which must be at the 800-level from within the program (BH800 and BH890). The other 0.5-credit elective may be any other graduate-level course, such as those offered by the Departments of Biology and Chemistry; the available courses are listed in the MSc in Integrative Biology and MSc in Chemistry sections of the Graduate Calendar.

Students are also required to participate in the annual Chemistry-Biology Interface (CBI) Symposium (non-credit) at least twice during the program, normally in the second and third year. Overall, employing a research-based curriculum together with interdisciplinary courses ensures that the graduates of this program will acquire current specialized and broad knowledge, and practical skills in different aspects of biological and chemical sciences.

Yearly Progression

The program is designed to be completed in four years or less, as follows:

Year 1

Year 2

  • Fall: BH810: Research Proposal and Qualifying Examination;3 BH820: CBI Symposium; BH899: PhD Dissertation; elective(s).1
  • Winter: BH820: CBI Symposium presentation; BH899: PhD Dissertation; elective(s);1 annual report due April 15.2
  • Spring: BH899: PhD Dissertation.

Year 3

  • Fall: BH820: CBI Symposium; BH899: PhD Dissertation.
  • Winter: BH820: CBI Symposium presentation; BH899: PhD Dissertation; annual report due April 15.2
  • Spring: BH899: PhD Dissertation.

Year 4

  • Fall: BH820: CBI Symposium; BH899: PhD Dissertation.
  • Winter: BH820: CBI Symposium; BH821: Research Symposium; BH899: PhD Dissertation; meeting of DAC to approve scheduling of dissertation defence.
  • Spring: BH899: PhD Dissertation.

1 Elective courses should be taken until the requirement of two 0.5 elective credits (1.0 credits total) has been fulfilled. At least one 0.5 credit elective must be either BH800 or BH890. The other elective may be any other graduate-level course, such as those already offered in the Departments of Biology and Chemistry. Normally, elective courses are taken in Years 1 and 2.

2 The annual progress report for doctoral students is a requirement of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, and should normally be completed in conjunction with a meeting of the Dissertation Advisory Committee.

3 The research proposal and qualifying exam (BH810) is normally taken in the fourth term, and not later than the fifth term in the program.

Chemistry-Biology Interface Symposium

In order to emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of research in biological and chemical sciences, and to promote interaction among students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty in the program, all doctoral students are encouraged to present their work at the Chemistry-Biology Interface (CBI) Symposium at least twice during their program. As part of the seminar series, faculty and/or postdoctoral fellows from laboratories participating in the PhD program may be asked to give short presentations on their work. Depending on the availability of funds, a guest speaker with expertise in interdisciplinary research in biological and chemical sciences could be invited as a keynote speaker of this seminar series.

The CBI Symposium is graded on a pass/fail basis.

Qualifying Exam

The research proposal and qualifying exam is required of PhD candidates to demonstrate broad knowledge in their research area in addition to their specific research topic; it is normally completed in the fourth and not later than the fifth term after entering the program.

Students must pass the research proposal and qualifying exam in order to continue in the program. If the student’s performance is deemed to be unsatisfactory (failed or decision is deferred), the examination may be repeated no later than six months from the date of the first examination. If the student does not receive a pass following the second examination, the program coordinator will recommend to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (FGPS) that the student withdraws from the PhD program.

Doctoral Dissertation

Successful completion of the research proposal and qualifying exam allows students to progress to the research and writing of the dissertation. Candidates who fail to satisfy this requirement within the established time frame may be asked to leave the program.

The regulations and procedures at the university in which the student is registered will govern both the dissertation and the examination formats. See the graduate academic calendar.

Contact Us:

Jane Davidson, Administrative Assistant

E: jadavidson@wlu.ca
T: 519.884.0710 x2148
Office Location: Science Building, N3013A, Waterloo campus

Melanie Whitwell, Administrative Assistant (Biology)

E: bcs@wlu.ca
T: 519.884.1970 x 2905
Office Location: Bricker Academic Building, BA401, Waterloo Campus

Graduate Officers

Associate Professor Lillian DeBruin (Chemistry and Biochemistry)

Associate Professor Tristan Long (Biology)