Please read the latest message from the Chair with regards to the Department’s response to the Covid19 Pandemic.

All graduate oral exams will go ahead online using Zoom. It is our hope that in most cases we can stick with the original times and dates however we can reschedule them by a week or two for those students who feel that they need more time. Please contact Carrie Harber if you have any questions.


Each M.Sc. candidate completing the degree must present a thesis and pass an oral examination on his/her research and related aspects of biochemistry. The University and the department accept the statements that the Master’s degree should be considered as certification to two attributes: familiarity with a body of knowledge and acquaintance with the methods of research which will permit at least a beginning of systematic and independent inquiry. The M.Sc. thesis should not be required to contain a finished piece of research, but should be a competent report of the student’s mastery of certain relevant techniques and their application to a specific problem.


Time Frame

When nearing completion of experimental work (typically at ~20-24 months), the student must schedule a final committee meeting to obtain approval to write the M.Sc. thesis.

Permission to write must be stated explicitly on the final Committee Meeting Report. This signifies that the student, supervisor and committee members agree that the experimental work required for the thesis has been completed (see section on committee meetings).

The department expects that four months is the normal time period between receiving permission to write the thesis and the M.Sc. Oral Examination. This includes three months for writing the thesis, obtaining approval from the supervisor and committee members via the Thesis Approval and Exam Request Forms, and one month for scheduling of the exam.

It is expected that the student will consult with his/her supervisor and, where appropriate, with committee members throughout the planning and writing of the thesis. The student should include in his/her discussions with the supervisor the time frame expected for completion of various stages of the thesis as well as the total time required.

It is reasonable for the student to expect to receive comments from his/her supervisor and committee members within two weeks after providing them with the thesis.

Time frames will vary depending on the number of revisions required, the availability of committee members, and the student’s writing skills. However, if the M.Sc. Oral Examination and any required corrections/modifications to the thesis (including final submission to the SGS) have not been completed within four months of receiving permission to write, the graduate stipend may be withdrawn.

If the student feels that he/she will require additional time to complete the thesis, the student should discuss this with his/her supervisor well before the deadline and apply to the Chair and/or Graduate Coordinator for an extension. The supervisor may agree to continue funding if there is clear evidence of continued progress towards completion of the thesis.

In the event of unusual delays (e.g. health problems, family crisis etc.), the student should consult with the Graduate Coordinator.

The student must allow FOUR WEEKS for the exam to be set up from the day the signed Thesis Approval and Exam Request Forms are handed in.

Students must keep in mind that the Graduate Program Administrator must confirm the time and date of the examination with everyone on the examination committee. If someone is unavailable, the Graduate Program Administrator will check with the student’s alternative choices for members of the examination committee.

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Permission to Write

The student must obtain permission to write once his/her supervisory committee has agreed that he/she has completed all necessary experiments needed for writing the thesis.

Permission to write must be explicitly stated on the final Committee Meeting Report Form (see section on committee meetings above). This indicates that the supervisor, committee members and student all agree that the experimental work required for the thesis has been completed.

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Format of Thesis

A Master’s thesis is generally organized into the following sections: Introduction (in which the pertinent literature is reviewed and the thesis problem, hypothesis, or rationale is stated), Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusions or Summary, Future Directions, and Bibliography.

Students may find it useful to consult previous theses from their labs or to check past theses collected in the departmental seminar room.

The thesis should include sufficient methodological detail to ensure that the work could be readily reproduced. Projects-in-progress and/or negative results may be presented. All figures should be presented as high-quality reproductions and should be accompanied by figure legends.

Students should visit the SGS website for guidelines on appropriate formatting of the thesis.

The thesis should also include a title page, Abstract, Table of Contents, List of Figures, List of Tables, and List of Abbreviations used. If any one other than the student has contributed data to the thesis he/she should clearly state this on the title page of the relevant Results Chapter(s). The student should indicate the nature of the contribution (e.g. technical assistance under the student’s guidance; independent design and interpretation of specific experiments in the Chapter, etc.).

The editorial input of the supervisor during the writing of the M.Sc. thesis is considered to be an essential part the student’s training. Therefore, except under “exceptional” circumstances and provided that the SGS time limit has not been exceeded, the student is expected to maintain his/her full-time (on campus) status until the thesis is complete.

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Thesis Approval Form and Exam Request Form

When the student has completed about three-quarters of the thesis, he/she should pick up the M.Sc. Defense Package, containing the Thesis Approval Form and Exam Request Form, from the Graduate Program Administrator. The supervisor will read the complete draft of the thesis and discuss the necessary changes/corrections with the student.

Once the supervisor has approved the thesis by signing a Thesis Approval Form, the student gives a copy to each member of the supervisory committee. The supervisory committee members must read and approve the thesis by signing the Thesis Approval Form before an exam can be scheduled.

The student will have a maximum of four months from the permission-to-write date to defend the thesis; this includes three months to write the thesis and submit the Thesis Approval and Exam Request Forms, and one month to schedule the exam.

Although the student and his/her supervisor give suggestions for the composition of the examination committee, the composition is not final until approved by the Graduate Coordinator.

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Scheduling the Exam

The examination will be scheduled when:

• all course and seminar requirements have been completed;

• the thesis has been approved to go forward to an oral defense;

• the Graduate Program Administrator has received the permission-to-write date, Thesis Approval Form and an Exam Request Form signed by both the student and his/her supervisor;

• and the Graduate Program Administrator has received an electronic version of the thesis abstract.

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Membership of the Examining Committee

The examining committee will normally consist of at least six faculty members and have the following composition:

• the supervisor;
• the co-supervisor (if relevant);
• all members of the supervisory committee;
• one other Biochemistry faculty member or extra-departmental faculty member from a cognate department who has not been involved with the supervision of the thesis or collaborated on the work therein;
• and a Chair drawn from the Biochemistry Department faculty.

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Distribution of the Thesis

The student must distribute copies of his/her thesis to members of the examination committee not less than 10 days before the oral examination.

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The Oral Exam

At the beginning of the exam the student will give an oral presentation of 20-minutes length summarizing the work that has been done. This will be followed by questions from the committee members.

In addition to a high level of proficiency on his/her thesis topic, the student will be expected to show reasonable knowledge of the principles of general biochemistry. Generally, most questions deal with the background for the project, the design and interpretation of the experiments, and future directions.

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The Vote

At the end of the examination, the student will be asked to leave and all members of the examining committee, including the Chair, will vote. A quorum is four, which must include one member of the examination committee who is not on the student’s supervisory committee.

The vote takes into consideration the thesis research, the written document, and the defense. A passing vote can include the requirement for minor corrections. The Chair of the examining committee will decide, in consultation with the examining committee, who is responsible for approving these corrections.

In recommending that the student be awarded the M.Sc. degree, the committee will also decide on the student’s eligibility for entry into the department’s Ph.D. program.

The Chair of the examining committee will provide the student with a verbal summary of the post-exam discussion and will provide the Graduate Coordinator with a written summary of the examination proceedings.

If, at the conclusion of the M.Sc. examination, there is more than one negative vote, the M.Sc. degree will not be granted. The student may request one opportunity to present a revised version of the thesis. Such a reevaluation requires that the student defend the revised thesis at a reconvened examination. The membership of a reconvened examining committee will normally be the same as the original one.

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Post-Exam Requirements

Upon satisfactory completion of the student’s examination, the Graduate Coordinator will forward an M.Sc. Degree Recommendation Form to the School of Graduate Studies. Before doing this, the Graduate Coordinator must have received the Chair’s Summary Form stating that the committee agreed that the student had passed the defense.

Also, if any corrections are required, the Chair of the examining committee or her/his designate must confirm in writing that the corrections have been made satisfactorily.

Before the student submits the final copy of the thesis, he/she must obtain any required copyright permissions. This may require inclusion of a line of text at the beginning of the Results Chapters, if they’ve been published.

The student must also ensure the thesis is formatted according to SGS guidelines. The student must submit the corrected, formatted thesis in an electronic format to the School of Graduate Studies through T-space, the University’s digital library repository, along with payment of the required thesis processing fee.

The student must submit a Library and Archives Canada Non-exclusive License form (LAC) to the Master’s Office at the School of Graduate Studies. Students should also consult the Electronic Theses and Dissertations Checklist on the SGS website.

Students should visit the SGS website for detailed information on all topics discussed above pertaining to producing a thesis.

The department requests that the student also produce a bound copy of his/her thesis for addition to the departmental library of theses housed in the departmental seminar room.

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Master’s Tuition Fee Bursary

A limited number of bursaries are available from SGS for Master’s students whose minimum period of registration (i.e. program length) will have ended by or before either August or December and who have a small amount of work outstanding for the degree.

The value of the bursary is equal to the difference between one session full-time fee and one session part-time fee. This tuition assistance is provided for only one session during the academic year. For further information contact the Graduate Program Administrator or the SGS.

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