Permission to Transfer

Students who wish to transfer from the M.Sc. program to the Ph.D. program without completion of an M.Sc. degree must have the approval by their supervisor and supervisory committee members. The decision to schedule a Transfer Exam is made in consultation with the committee at the second committee meeting. This meeting occurs 14-16 months after the start of the program.

The student can obtain a Request for a Transfer Exam Form from the Graduate Program Administrator in the graduate office. This form must be filled out and signed by the student and his/her supervisor and then returned to the graduate office before the Graduate Program Administrator can begin scheduling the Transfer Exam.

Note that the student must allow four weeks to schedule a Transfer Exam.

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Exam Expectations

Written document:

Document must be written in a clear and scholarly fashion to describe the research question, define the hypothesis, provide preliminary data to support the hypothesis, and describe proposed experiments that will advance their understanding.

The document should reflect the student’s ability to anticipate, interpret, and interrogate a number of possible experimental outcomes.


The student is expected to present their proposal in 20-25 minutes, clearly describing their work with well-constructed slides.

Question Period:

The student is expected to demonstrate a good grasp of fundamental aspects of Biochemistry.

The student is expected to demonstrate expertise in the background knowledge of their work and proposed studies.

The student should be able to answer questions that are both directly relevant to their proposed study and also questions that require “thinking-on-their-feet.”

The student should be able to provide scientific models, alternative explanations and approaches to test their ideas without the aid of their mentor.  To that end, the participation of mentors during the question period will be limited to speaking only during their turn through the rotation.

Date of the Exam

The Transfer Exam is to be held approximately 21 months after the date of first registration in the M.Sc. program.  For students who stared their program in September the exam will be scheduled between April 1st – May 31st.  Students that started their program in January will schedule their exam between September 1st – October 31st.

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The Transfer Document

The student must distribute a written report not to exceed 15 pages of text (12-point, double-spaced; not including references, figures, and figure legends) to all members of the examining committee at least 10 days in advance of the exam.  A hard copy of the report should be given to the Graduate Administrator for the exam file at least 1 day prior to the exam.

Page limits will be strictly enforced. Proposals that contain more than 15 pages of text will be returned to the student and as a result may lead to a postponement of the exam.

Editorial input from the supervisor is considered to be part of the process and the student may seek the input of others, including supervisory committee members.

Students may find it helpful to peruse other transfer proposals before writing their own (they may contact the Graduate Program Administrator for copies).

Required Format

Summary (1 page only): This page must include a summary of the objective, background results, research plan and the significance of the proposed research.

Introduction (~3 pages): The introduction should familiarize the reader with the field and provide a context for both the student’s work-to-date and his/her proposed work.

Results-to-Date (~4-5 pages): A description of the research that the student has done, to date, including the rationale and conclusion for each experiment. Note that in some cases the student may have too much data to summarize in which case he/she will only be able to present those experiments that are most relevant to the proposed work.

Proposed Work (~5-6 pages): This section should begin with a statement of the rationale and goals of the proposed research. A description of the experimental approach to be followed should then be given. Specifically, the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, the possible outcomes, as well as alternative approaches should be discussed

NB. References, figures and figure legends are not part of the page count.

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The Examining Committee

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

• the supervisor (non-voting);
• the co-supervisor (non-voting), if relevant;
• all members of the supervisory committee;
• one additional Biochemistry or extra-departmental faculty member;
• and a Chair drawn from the members of the Graduate Committee.

A quorum is four examiners.

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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 and describing the experiments that the student proposes to do.

This will be followed by questions from the committee members. The questions will usually cover material drawn from all three aspects of the written document (Introduction, Research Completed and Research Proposed); given the purpose of the examination, the committee tends to focus on the Research Proposed.  Supervisor’s may address the Exam Committee members at the beginning of the exam, if needed, however, once the exam begins they will only be able to ask questions during the question period.

Additionally, candidates will be expected to demonstrate knowledge of the general principles of biochemistry. In judging the performance of the candidate, the exam committee is, in general, looking for evidence of: i) a solid knowledge base, ii) insight into the aims and significance of the proposed work, iii) creativity in her/his approach to research, and iv) data interpretation skills, that would collectively indicate an aptitude for independent research.

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The Vote

At the end of the examination, the student and supervisor will be asked to leave the room and all voting members of the examination committee, including the Chair, will vote.  Both the student and supervisor will return to for the Exam Committee’s final decision.  A student who is successful in his/her Transfer Exam (no more than one negative vote) will be transferred into the Ph.D. program.

Courses already taken (or in progress) during the period of M.Sc. registration will be credited towards the Ph.D. course requirements.

Once the transfer procedure is successfully completed, the student obtains only the Ph.D. degree from the department at the conclusion of his/her graduate program. All positive reclassification decisions are subject to the approval by the School of Graduate Studies.

A student whose performance on the Transfer Exam is deemed to be unsatisfactory (more than one negative vote) will either be asked to repeat the exam / re-write the report (depending of the Exam Committee’s recommendation) or write a Master’s thesis . In the case of the latter, the supervisor, in consultation with the supervisory committee, will advise the student as to what should be the “end point” of experimental work for the M.Sc. degree (obviously less than that proposed for the Ph.D. degree and in keeping with the traditional expectation levels for M.Sc. degrees in the department)

Students who are asked to repeat the exam / re-write the report will have 6 weeks from the original date of examination.

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Qualifying Exam

The composition of the Qualifying Exam committee and the exam itself is essentially identical to that of the Transfer Exam (see above).

At the end of the Qualifying Exam, the examining committee will recommend that the student either continue in the Ph.D. program or withdraw from the program. In the latter case, the department may support a request for transfer into the M.Sc. program. Such a recommendation must be approved by the Associate Dean, Division IV, School of Graduate Studies.

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