Milestones and Program Requirements

As a graduate student in the Cumming School of Medicine you are responsible for your progress through the program. There are a number of milestones/tasks that you need to complete over the course of your graduate program that will lead to completion of your degree. Course-based program timelines and requirements are specific to each course-based program and are listed in those program pages.

All forms, unless specified, need to be sent to your Graduate Program Administrator.  Electronic submission of forms is preferred.

It is your responsibility as a student to ensure that you are meeting all program requirements and milestones by the set deadlines. If you have any questions about your program deadlines please contact your Graduate Program Administrator.  Please note that program level funding may be impacted by missing your program deadlines.

For an overview of program timelines please visit the Timelines page.

Note: The Community Health Sciences (MDCH) program has some different policies and timelines than the other thesis based programs.  Please view the following checklists for the MDCH program:

MDCH MSc Checklist
MDCH PhD Checklist

The forms below should be completed within the first month of your program. They will help you set the expectation for your program. Forms should be submitted to your program’s Graduate Program Administrator once complete. This can be done electronically.

Students in Cumming School of Medicine graduate programs, both MSc and PhD, are required to have supervisory committees. Your supervisory committee should consist of your supervisor, co-supervisor (as necessary) and two additional members who can support your research. Members of your supervisory committee are determined in consultation with your supervisor.

To formalize your committee, complete the Supervisory Committee Request Form within the first three months of your program.

Committee meetings are essential to move your research forward. These meetings provide an opportunity to keep all members up-to-date on progress made in research, determine if additional courses are required to support your research, and serve as a venue for feedback and discussion about the direction of your research. Your first meeting should be held within six months of the start of your program.

Meeting Frequency

MSc

  • At least twice within the first year from when they are formed
  • A minimum of once per year in subsequent years
  • It is recommended that more frequent meetings occur as you proceed into writing your thesis

PhD

  • At least twice within the first year from when they are formed
  • A minimum of once per year in subsequent years
  • It is recommended that more frequent meetings occur as you proceed Candidacy and then again as you start writing your thesis

Meeting Minutes and Progress Report

At your first committee meeting you will need to complete a Course Approval/Plan Form (see Academic Plan & Course Approval section for this form). This form will help direct and document the courses you need to take for your degree and needs to be submitted to your Graduate Program Administrator.

Your Supervisory Committee meetings need to be documented through minutes.  These need to be approved by all of your committee members and submitted to your Graduate Program Administrator. Committee members can either sign the minutes or provide an email stating they approve of the minutes. Emails should be compiled into a single document and submitted with the minutes.

In addition, you are required to complete a Committee Meeting Progress Report at each committee meeting. This needs to be submitted immediately after each committee meeting.

Students in GI, Microbiology, and Immunology must also complete a Pre-Supervisory Committee Meeting report form. This must be submitted to the program administrator and their Supervisory Committee at least 3 full working days before the supervisory committee meeting. 

During your first supervisory committee meeting you will need to discuss the courses you are required to take and complete an Academic Plan & Course Approval form. This form is to be submitted to your GPA within six months of the start of your program. 


Please see the Course Requirements page for information on what courses you should take in your program. Select your program to download your Academic Plan & Course Approval form:

MDBC - Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

MDCH - Community Health Sciences

MDCV - Cardiovascular and Respiratory Sciences

MDGI - Gastrointestinal Sciences

MDIM - Immunology

MDMI - Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

MDNS - Neuroscience

MDSC - Medical Science

A workshop on Responsible Conduct in Research, also known as Research Integrity Day, is a requirement which must be met in order for you to successfully complete your degree.  This workshop/day needs to be completed within your first year of study.

Topics discussed during this workshop are:

  • Issues to consider for graduate students and their supervisors - authorship, plagiarism, conflict of interest, role of the supervisor and committee, etc.
  • What is ethical and what is not?
  • Who regulates research and who oversees it?
  • Understanding your responsibilities and rights - where to go for help

Sessions are held between September and April of each academic term.  Priority is given based on need and not first registered.

Register for Sessions

MSc Students

Your Supervisory Committee must approve your formal thesis proposal no later than 12 months from the date you started your program. Your committee will need to sign the Thesis Proposal Approval Form. Both the form and final proposal must be submitted to your program administrator. 

Note that your approved proposal may be required to receive Ethics approval which must be obtained prior to commencing research.

PhD Students 

A draft of your proposal should be submitted to your committee by 12 months into the program. Your official proposal approval occurs at the Proposal Evaluation Meeting (see the guidelines for Admission to Candidacy below). The draft should be approved using the Thesis Proposal Approval Form.

Thesis proposals go through multiple drafts with your supervisory committee.  It is important for students to seek feedback from their supervisor and committee before submitting a final draft for approval. Review your specific program requirements for more information.

Format: 

The research proposal must be between 13 and 17 single-spaced pages (excluding figures, tables and references, .75 inch margins and 12 point font). A suggested (but not mandatory) format for the research proposal is:

  • • Introduction (approximately 4-6 pages – should contain an appropriate literature review of the field and the project)
  • • Relevant Preliminary Data (approximately 3-4 pages)
  • • Hypothesis and Specific Aims (approximately 1/2 page)
  • • Experimental Plan (approximately 5-6 pages)
  • • Significance (1/2 pages)

MDCH Proposal Requirements

Thesis proposals are detailed documents that outline the research approach and methods that will be undertaken in the thesis research. MDCH students are expected to incorporate feedback from their supervisory committee on the preliminary proposal and prepare a more detailed thesis proposal, which should be between 10 and 15 single-spaced pages (excluding figures, tables, and references, 0.75 inch margins and 12-point font). A suggested (but not mandatory)format for the written thesis proposal is:

  • Introduction and Literature Review (approximately 4 to 6 pages – should contain a review of relevant theoretical frameworks, definitions or key terms, critical review of the existing published research related to the project, and end with a problem statement or research question(s) and the significance of the proposed study)
  • Research Methods/Experimental Plan (approximately 5 to 6 pages – should describe the setting and context, participants, sampling, participant recruitment, data collection, and data analysis plan)
  • Ethical Considerations (approximately 1 page – should include a description of data handling procedures)
  • Significance (1/2 page)
  • Budget and Justification (1-2 pages)
  • Dissemination and/or Knowledge Translation plan (approximately 1 page);
  • Research Timeline (approximately 1 page)

For all programs, except MDCH and MDNS, at least one Research-In-Progress or Work-In-Progress must be completed every year, including your first year. You are responsible for contacting your Graduate Program Administrator to let them know the date of your presentation.

Journal Club presentations may also be required by your program. Contact your Graduate Program Administrator for this requirement and to report your presentation dates.

MDNS (Neuroscience) Students: Please visit the MDNS Journal Clubs page for more information.

Annual Progress Reports are required by the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS).  These are done in May of each year. Notifications of this report are sent by FGS starting May 1 with a due date of May 31 for all aspects to be complete.

The University of Calgary considers health and safety to be a priority and is committed to providing a safe and healthy work and study environment for the entire university community including its laboratory environments.

Laboratory personnel including workers, students and visitors are exposed to potential hazards unique to laboratory settings and hazardous materials each and every day. In order to address the health, safety and environmental challenges specific to the laboratories, Environment, Health and Safety has developed programs, safety and procedure manuals, and laboratory-specific training courses free of charge for the university community.

Required Courses

WHMIS and Safety for Laboratories Training 
Mandatory for university employees, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows working in a laboratory setting.

WHMIS (Non-Laboratory) Training 
Mandatory for university employees and students working in a non-laboratory setting, with or near controlled products as defined by WHMIS legislation.

Radioactive Material Safety Training
Mandatory for university employees and students working with radioisotopes for research and/or teaching purposes.

Biosafety (Introduction) Training 
Mandatory for university employees, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows working with biohazards (Risk Group 2 or greater) for research or teaching purposes. Biohazards are pathogenic microorganisms, potentially infectious materials, as well as microbial toxins.

Spill Response Training 
Mandatory for university employees, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows working with hazardous materials.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Certification 
Mandatory training for university employees and students who handle, offer for transport, or transport dangerous goods as defined in the Transportation of Dangerous Goods regulations.

Laser Safety Training 
Mandatory for university employees and students working with Class 3b and 4 Lasers in University of Calgary facilities or laboratories.

X-Ray Safety Training 
Mandatory for university employees and students working with x-ray emitting devices in University of Calgary facilities or laboratories.

Graduate student research for a thesis, dissertation or an independent research study that involves the use of human subjects, animals or bio-hazards must be reviewed and certified as acceptable by the appropriate University Research Ethics Board.

For research involving human subjects the proposed research/study must be reviewed by either the Conjoined Faculties Research Ethics Board (CFREB) or the Conjoined Health Research Ethics Board (CHREB).  Applicants to ethics need to complete the Tri-Council CORE Tutorial.

For research/studies that involve animals approval is obtained from the Animal Care Committee.

For research/studies that required bio-hazardous materials, a Biosafety Permit is required and is conditional on registration and approval from the University of Calgary Biosafety Committee

*Copies of Ethics, Animal Care, or Biosafety Permits must be submitted to FGS as separate supporting documents to your thesis.  They are not included as appendices.

Process to Transfer from MSc to PhD

Please note that it is not required for MSc students to transfer to a PhD program. This information is for MSc students who have decided, in consultation with their supervisor and supervisory committee, that they would like to pursue a PhD.

An exceptional student in the MSc program may demonstrate the potential to complete a PhD program through the following:        

  • completion of courses with A or A+;       
  • first author publications and contributions to other manuscripts;        
  • participation in, and contributions to, research projects; and·        
  • a research proposal that demonstrates ability to think critically and a sophisticated approach to the subject expected for a PhD project.

With the support of his/her supervisory committee, the student may request a change in their registration status to a student in the PhD program.

Timing of the Request for Transfer

  • The transfer request must be initiated within the first 8-12 months of the MSc program to facilitate the completion of the manuscript defense by a maximum of 16 months      
  • The request cannot be made after the student is well advanced through the MSc program.  

Process for Requesting a Transfer from MSc to PhD

  1. Student provides a copy of thesis proposal and CV to Graduate Program Administrator (GPA) when starting to consider transferring to PhD.
  2. Supervisory Committee Members write recommendation letters supporting the student's transfer. The letters should identify specific elements of the student's performance that demonstrate his/her potential for pursuing a research program leading to a PhD degree. Send completed letters to GPA.
  3. Graduate Program Director reviews student’s transcript, CV, thesis proposal, and letters from committee to assess whether the transfer request should proceed to the manuscript defense stage.
  4. Student prepares a first authored manuscript that is ready, or recently accepted for publication in a specific journal; include journal "Author Guidelines" with manuscript submission. Students are encouraged to consider a manuscript that could contribute to their thesis project.
  5. Supervisor selects two examiners (see criteria below)
  6. Supervisor schedules the manuscript defense
  7. Student sends the manuscript and journal guidelines to examiners at least 2 weeks prior to the defense.

Transfer Defense Format

The student defends his/her manuscript before a Committee consisting of 3 CHS Faculty Members:

  • Graduate Program Director      
  • Two examiners chosen by the Supervisor, who must have expertise in the content area and have no conflict of interest with the student or supervisor
  • The supervisor may attend as an observer  

The student presents a 10-minute oral presentation of the manuscript, followed by an oral defense not exceeding 75 minutes. At least 2/3 Committee members must agree that the manuscript is sound, demonstrates critical thinking and writing consistent with a PhD level.

Following a Successful Transfer Defense

  1. Graduate Program Director notifies the Supervisor, Student and Graduate Program Administrator
  2. Graduate Program Administrator sends the Change of Program or Status Form to the student
  3. Student and Supervisor sign the form and return it to the Graduate Program Administrator

Note: If you are a Community Health Sciences Student (MDCH) please see the transfer policy for your program in the tab above.

________________________

Transfer Policy for all Medicine Graduate Programs (except MDCH)

Students may be permitted to transfer from the MSc to the PhD program if their academic record in graduate studies is outstanding and they have made excellent progress in their research. The transfer process must be completed no later than 24 months after the student's start date in the program

In order to complete the transfer: 

1. A research proposal at the level of a doctoral degree must be prepared and circulated to all Supervisory Committee Members. This draft may be an expanded version of the MSc proposal (which is due to the program office within the first 12 months of the student's program). 

2. The Program Director must chair a supervisory committee meeting where the potential transfer is discussed

3. At that meeting, criteria outlined in the PhD Transfer Checklist must be discussed and approved by all committee members. 

4. Assuming the transfer is approved, a Change of Program and/or Status form must also be completed. Discuss this form with your Program Administrator when you submit your meeting paperwork. 

5. Meeting minutes, the Supervisory Committee Meeting Progress Report form, committee approvals, and the Transfer Checklist must be submitted to the GPA before the Change of Program form can be processed. 

***All paperwork must be submitted to the GPA no later than the fee payment deadline for the term that you plan to officially transfer. Fee deadlines are available in the Grad Studies Calendar.  Note that PhD students pay full fees until the term after they have successfully completed their Candidacy process. 

Notes on Awards

Transferring from one degree program to another may impact any scholarships/awards that you may hold. It is advised that you contact the Awards Office if you are unsure whether a transfer could impact any award(s) that you hold. 

Questions? 

Contact your program GPA. 

Admission to Candidacy (PhD only)

Please note that the deadlines differ slightly depending on if you have transferred from a MSc program to a PhD program, or if you are in the MDCH program. Please contact your Graduate Program Administrator if you have any questions about the Admission to Candidacy process.

Note that the process outlined below does not apply to MDCH students. Please see the tab for Community Health Sciences Candidacy procedures below.

All PhD students are required to complete their Candidacy process within 24 months of admission. For students transferring from MSc to PhD, the Candidacy process must be completed within 28 months. 

The following components are required as part of this process: 

  • Completion of Course Work
  • Attendance at Research Integrity Day
  • Thesis Proposal Evaluation Meeting (please see the tab below)
  • Field of Study Oral Exam (please see the tab below)

For information on the timelines for completing these requirements and associated forms, please see the Candidacy Timeline. 

Below are the policy documents and forms related to the Candidacy process for Graduate Science Education Programs: 

GSE Candidacy Policy (all programs except MDCH) 
Field of Study Prep Form (Topics - due 3 months before estimated Field of Study Exam date) 
Thesis Proposal Evaluation Meeting Set Up Form due 3 weeks before Evaluation Meeting date) 
Field of Study Set Up Form ( due 4 weeks before Field of Study Exam date)

* All forms should be submitted to your Graduate Program Administrator. 

GSE Student Candidacy Workshop Powerpoint Presentation (Oct 21, 2016)

Thesis Proposal Evaluation Meeting Set Up Form due 3 weeks before Evaluation Meeting date) 

Proposal Evaluation 

The Proposal Evaluation should proceed in a similar manner to a regular committee meeting with the following additions:

  • The student will do a short presentation (max 15 min) on their proposal at the beginning of the meeting.
  • Evaluation Meeting members should have the opportunity to discuss the proposal and question the student, focusing on the hypothesis and experimental plan. The student should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the background for the project, concepts, and methods employed as well as experimental interpretation and potential pitfalls. The Supervisor(s) should refrain from answering questions directed to the student. (Max 90 mins)
  • Once the discussion is finished, the student must leave the room. The committee will then evaluate both the written document and the student’s ability to defend their proposal and answer questions. The Supervisor(s) may participate in the discussion.
  • The committee will decide whether the proposal can be accepted as submitted. This will be indicated on the Final Report on Thesis Proposal Evaluation. The Supervisor(s) does not vote.

 The Evaluation Committee must come to a unanimous decision on both the written and oral portions.

 An acceptable written proposal should include the following. More information on format and length may be found in the policy document:

1)      Relevant background knowledge to support the rationale of the proposed research project

2)      Preliminary data that demonstrates experimental competency

3)      Clear Hypothesis and Specific Aims of a body of work appropriate for a PhD project

4)      Detailed experimental plan with expectations, pitfalls and alternative approaches

5)      Significance of the proposed work within the research field.

An acceptable oral evaluation will indicate that the student:

1)      Understands the relevant background information

2)      Can interpret and understand preliminary data

3)      Can defend the hypothesis, specific aims and experimental plan 

Field of Study Prep Form (Topics - due 3 months before estimated Field of Study Exam date) 

Field of Study Set Up Form (due 4 weeks before Field of Study Exam date)

The Field of Study examination is a formal oral exam. The exam will be comprehensive, covering a broad range of topics in the student’s core field of research. The student is expected to have an in-depth understanding of the topics related to their core field of research, as well as a strong foundational knowledge in their field. These areas, as well as a detailed reading list will be provided to the student prior to the examination.

As per the Candidacy section in the Graduate Calendar and subject to any extension allowances, doctoral students must complete all candidacy requirements  within 28 months  of first registration in the doctoral program. Those students who have transferred from a master’s program must complete all candidacy requirements within 36 months of the first registration in that master’s program.

Review the policy for Candidacy effective September 2018 and take a look at the CHS Candidacy Timeline for an overview of the process. 

All doctoral students in MDCH must successfully complete the following components prior to being admitted to candidacy:

  1. All course requirements;
  2. Research Ethics requirements; 
  3. Research Integrity Day; 
  4. Written Thesis Proposal; 
  5. Concept Map and Reading List;
  6. Written Field of Study (FoS) Examination; and
  7. Oral Field of Study (FoS) Examination.

Forms 

1. Proposal Approval Meeting Set up form - due to GPA no later than 4 weeks before your meeting

2. Field of Study Set Up Package (includes concept map and reading list) - due to GPA no later than 25 months in program (33 months for MSc-PhD transfer students)

3. Field of Study Questions form - due to GPA directly from Supervisor no later than 25 months in program (33 months for MSc-PhD transfer students)

The process for students in Community Health Sciences differs from the other programs under Graduate Science Education. 

All MDCH PhD students are required to complete a Candidacy Exam within 28 months of admission. For students transferring from MSc to PhD within 36 months of admission.

Please review the CHS Candidacy Document

Before proceeding to Candidacy, students must have attended the Research Integrity Day, completed all course work, and submitted the following documents to your Graduate Program Administrator:

  • Thesis Proposal Approval Form 
  • Copy of your ethics submission or confirmation from CHREB that ethics aren't required
  • Candidacy Preparation Form (included in the CHS Candidacy Document) - due no less than 3 months before your Candidacy Exam 
  • Concept Map & Reading List - template and instructions included in the CHS Candidacy Document - due no less than 3 months before your Candidacy Exam
  • Meeting minutes approving you going forward to the Candidacy Exam
  • Candidacy Exam Scheduling Request form (due no less than 8 weeks before your Candidacy Exam)

The Candidacy Exam Policy is available in the Graduate Calendar. 

Questions can be directed to the GPA at chsgrad@ucalgary.ca

Candidacy Tips & Tricks Workshop - Watch here for the date of our next live workshop or view slides from the March 7 event.

Writing and Defense of Thesis

Supervisors are responsible for setting up their students' examinations. Please see information on the requirements below.

It is recommended that you take a look at the Faculty of Graduate Studies website for additional information about your thesis and your thesis defence.

Once you have completed your research you need to request and complete the Permission to Write Form from your Supervisory Committee.  This form needs to be submitted to your Graduate Program Administrator for your records.

For instructions on preparing your thesis and submitting it, refer to the Thesis Section on the Faculty of Graduate Studies website. Thesis templates can also be found there. 

CHS Guidelines for Manuscript Based Thesis

GI/IM/MID Guidelines for Manuscript Based Thesis

The oral defense of your thesis is an FGS requirement.  Please review the Examinations section on the FGS website for full details on the policy and rules for examinations

To set up your thesis defense the following need to be completed:

MSc:

  • Research Integrity Day
  • Courses required for degree completed meeting the minimum 3.0 gpa requirement
  • Supervisor/Committee indication that thesis is ready to defend
  • Submission of Request to Set Up Thesis Defense Form (minimum of six weeks prior to proposed defense date)

If any of the above are not complete you will not be approved to move forward to defense. Note: The six-week deadline to submit the Request to Set Up Thesis Defense Form is a firm deadline.

PhD:

  • Research Integrity Day
  • Courses required for degree completed meeting the minimum 3.0 gpa requirement
  • Candidacy Examination Successfully Completed
  • Supervisor/Committee indication that thesis is ready to defend
  • Submission of Request to Set Up Thesis Defense Form (minimum of eight weeks prior to proposed defense date)

If any of the above are not complete you will not be approved to move forward to defense. Note: The eight-week deadline to submit the Request to Set Up Thesis Defense Form is a firm deadline.

Students must apply for convocation prior to their Oral Defense.  Typically the application is due at the beginning of the term in which the Convocation Ceremony will occur and can be submitted through your MyUofC Student Centre.  Review the criteria to be cleared for convocation to make sure you don’t miss the deadlines.