DEPARTMENT OF NEUROSCIENCE UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY POLICIES AND ...
DEPARTMENT OF NEUROSCIENCE
UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY
POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
Revised June 2010
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. THE DEPARTMENT OF NEUROSCIENCE AND THE HOTCHKISS BRAIN INSTITUTE 2
2. CONTENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF NEUROSCIENCE GRADUATE PROGRAM
2.1 General 4
2.2 Graduate Courses 5
2.3 Candidacy examinations 6
2.4 Dissertation Defense 7
3. POLICIES, PROCEDURES AND REGULATIONS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF
NEUROSCIENCE GRADUATE PROGRAM
3.1 Admission Requirements and Procedures 8
3.2 Methods for Handling Inquiries Concerning Graduate Studies 9
3.3 Supervisors 10
3.4 Supervisory Committee 11
3.5 Registration 12
3.6 Research Proposal 13
3.7 Course Requirements 13
3.8 Other Requirements 14
3.9 Satisfactory Progress 14
3.10 Faculty Examinations 14
3.11 Change from MSc to PhD 14
3.12 Change from PhD to MSc 15
3.13 Grievance Procedures 15
4. ADMINISTRATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF NEUROSCIENCE
4.1 General 16
4.2 Graduate Coordinator 16
4.3 Graduate Education Committee 17
4.4 Quality Control 18
Appendix I. Guidelines for Thesis Studies
THE DEPARTMENT OF NEUROSCIENCE AND THE HOTCHKISS BRAIN
The goal of the graduate program of the Department of Neuroscience and its affiliated
research institute, the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, is to educate independent, critically minded
and competent research neuroscientists. Since neuroscience is primarily an experimental
discipline, successful completion of the program is based largely upon the thesis research,
dissertation, and publications, rather than upon course work, at both M.Sc. and Ph.D. levels.
Research Training. The training for a graduate degree in neuroscience involves
apprenticeship to an established investigator, i.e., the Supervisor. It is the Supervisor’s
responsibility to educate students: first, to ask important questions, and second, to devise and
carry out experiments to answer such questions. Regular meetings of the Supervisory
Committee ensure exposure of students to diverse points of view, but the Department of
Neuroscience operates in an “open-door” fashion such that manyfacultycan contribute to the
education and training of students. The objectives of all these faculty-student interactions is
to produce graduates who can:
critically evaluate original literature, formulate testable hypotheses, demonstrate skill in
designing experimental procedures, carry out experiments, and effectively communicate
the results both verbally and in writing.
Although these expectations apply to both M.Sc. and Ph.D. students, Ph.D. candidates are
expected to demonstrate a greater degree of independence and originality. For example, an
M.Sc. thesis should demonstrate that the individual successfully completed a series of
experiments and understands both their theoretical and practical bases, but the experiments
themselves may or may not be original. Ph.D. dissertations must demonstrate a mature and at
least partially original and independent approach to an important question.
A key component of the program is a comprehensive series of mandatory and optional
Mandatory courses. Students enrolled in the M.Sc. program must take at least one of the
four core courses in the Program: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, Systems
Neuroscience, Developmental Neuroscience or Neuroanatomy. Students enrolled in the Ph.D.
program must take at least one of the other courses. This requirement may be waived at the
discretion of the student’s supervisorycommittee if another course best fits with the student’s
research program. The objective of these courses is
to educate students in all areas of contemporary neuroscience research in sufficient depth
that any general neuroscience seminar should be comprehensible.
To provide the necessary breadth of expertise, these courses are team-taught byspecialists in
the relevant areas. Nevertheless, little background knowledge is assumed other than a normal
undergraduate science education. Despite this “ground up” approach, evaluation of original
research papers and in some cases writing of research grant proposals are important aspects
of these courses, which also highlight both general experimental techniques and research
areas of contemporary importance.
Optional courses. A number of optional, specialized courses are available that are designed
to provide in-depth knowledge in various areas of neuroscience. These courses vary in their
format and expectations, but generally focus on specific research topics with an emphasis on
recent advances and controversies, as well as details of techniques. The objective of these
to provide students with a knowledge base of sufficient depth in their own speciality
that any publication in this area should be comprehensible.
Although considerable general and specialized knowledge is provided by these courses,
overall education of students is provided by integration of course work with all other aspects
of the program, e.g., research training in the Supervisor’s lab, research seminars of the
Hotchkiss Brain Institute and other groups, journal clubs, lab meetings, candidacyexams and
Supervisory Committee meetings. Because of the translational aspect of many of the
Hotchkiss Brain Institute programs as well as the hosting of the graduate program in a
medical school environment, it is also possible for students to obtain exposure to clinical
aspects of their research through attendance at clinical hospital rounds, shadowing of
clinician investigators and participation in program retreats.
The fundamental responsibility for graduate student progress throughout the program rests
with the Supervisor. The choice of Supervisor by a graduate student (and vice versa) is
the most critical element of a successful graduate program. Because the process of
graduate training contains a major element of apprenticeship, the Supervisor is not only a
teacher but also a major figure in determining the relationship of the candidate to the
scientific community, and is also important for the student’s career opportunities. In some
cases, it is possible for a student to have joint supervision by two facultymembers where this
can be shown to be advantageous for the student (i.e., for cross-disciplinary research
programs). To assist both the Supervisor and the student, a Supervisory Committee is
appointed. The Supervisory Committee must meet with the student at least twice per year to
approve and monitor all aspects of the student’s program. It is expected that formal minutes
will be kept of each meeting of the Supervisory Committee, signed by the student as well as
the Supervisor and all Committee members, and a copy submitted to the Graduate Program
Administrator. These minutes constitute a formal record of the student’s progress, and
become in effect an updated contract of what the student, Supervisor, and Supervisory
Committee expect will be acceptable as minimal requirements for that student’s graduate
The Hotchkiss Brain Institute
Each member of the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine belongs to a traditional
medical school department (e.g., Cell Biology and Anatomy, Clinical Neurosciences,
Physiology and Biophysics, etc.). In parallel with the traditional departmental subdivisions,
the Faculty of Medicine is organized into multidisciplinary Institutes that share common
interests in a system or disease. The members of the Department of Neuroscience are
typically full or associate members of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), the goals, interests
and activities of which are nicely aligned with those of members of the Department of
Neuroscience. A subset of Supervisors in the Department of Neuroscience are associate
members of HBI and full members of another Institute or Faculty in the University.
Members of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute come from a variety of departments, primarily
located in the Health Sciences Centre, Heritage Medical Research Building and the Health
Research and Innovation Centre. This multidisciplinary scheme greatly facilitates the
development of individual research programs, especially with respect to collaborations
involving different techniques and model systems. Students are encouraged to take advantage
of such collaborations, in order to enhance the scope and quality of their dissertation
CONTENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF NEUROSCIENCE GRADUATE
The purpose of the Department of Neuroscience Graduate Program is to educate independent
and competent research neuroscientists. This applies to both M.Sc. and Ph.D. graduates.
Although many holders of M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees find employment that does not directly
involve research, having such degrees implies that an individual is able to pursue a research
problem to a meaningful conclusion. The main role of the Department of Neuroscience is to
provide a favourable environment for both creative research and the acquisition of a basic
body of knowledge of neuroscience. Even at the M.Sc. level, graduation from the Department
of Neuroscience is based primarily upon the research dissertation rather than upon course
work. The M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees are distinguished from one another both bythe degree of
originality expected in the candidate’s research and by the normal course load undertaken.
The Department of Neuroscience Graduate Program provides a range of courses to ensure
both a sound foundation in basic neuroscience and appropriate detailed specialized
knowledge. Though the graduate education process is based largely upon the supervisor-
student relationship, other members of the neuroscience community at the University of
Calgary have important roles to play.
The HBI holds regular weekly research seminars throughout the year. It is a requirement of
the Department of Neuroscience Graduate Program that graduate students attend these
weekly seminars, which provide exposure to a wide range of neuroscience research fields. In
addition to the primary HBI Seminar Program, several journal clubs operate under the
auspices of the HBI(Developmental Neuroscience and Regeneration, Synaptic Transmission,
Ion Channels, Motor Control, etc.), and students are expected to attend one or more of these
regularly. Clinical rounds in neuroscience and related fields are also open to graduate
students who desire exposure to clinical problems and topics related to their research.
Students are also encouraged, where practical, to attend and participate in provincial, national
and international scientific meetings.
The academic expectations of the Department of Neuroscience Graduate Program are that:
Students should demonstrate a general knowledge of neuroscience and a detailed
knowledge of the topics related to their area of research.
Such knowledge can be acquired through various mechanisms, including the four core
courses (Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience – MDSC 619.01; Systems Neuroscience –
MDSC 619.02; Developmental Neuroscience – MDSC 619.03; Neuroanatomy -
MDSC619.04), other graduate-level courses, journal clubs, HBI Seminars, etc., the
preparation for the candidacy examinations for Ph.D. students, and through individual
The student should be familiar with the neuroscience literature, and should be able to
assess it critically.
Regular, critical assessment of the literature is an ongoing feature of the program, primarily
through journal clubs and individual laboratory meetings.
The student should have a good range of technical expertise.
Although neuroscience is primarily an experimental discipline, a graduate student should not
be trained as a technician. Furthermore, a graduate student cannot, and should not, be
expected to learn all technical aspects of neuroscience – the number of available techniques
is simply far too great. Rather, students should master enough technique to function fully in
their chosen fields, should have a good theoretical understanding of the methods, and enough
general competence in laboratory practice so as not to be inhibited from adopting new
technologies in the future. A great advantage of the multidisciplinary/interdepartmental
approach to neuroscience is that it facilitates technology transfer between laboratories. As a
result, students in the Department of Neuroscience Graduate Program are exposed to a much
wider range of technologies than is the case in more method-specific disciplines. In addition,
specific “methods” courses are available. Finally, students are also encouraged to attend
courses offered outside the Neuroscience Graduate Program, as appropriate (e.g., MDSC 717
“Functional Genomics Technologies” or MDSC 743 “Advanced Biostatistics”). This being
said, students should not be over-trained in laboratory techniques – especially those not
directly involved in their own work – at the expense of neglecting other, more intellectual
aspects of their education.
The student should demonstrate good verbal and written communication skills.
Verbal skills are fostered through: journal clubs; annual research presentations in the seminar
program; formal courses, some of which have student presentations as a regular component;
individual laboratory meetings; and presentations at regional, national, and international
scientific meetings or conferences. Writing skills are developed through: the preparation of
material for examinations – for example, “take home” exams can be used for the core courses
– and the students are thoroughly advised as to their performance; the candidacyexamination
process; the drafting of manuscripts for publication; and the writing of the M.Sc./Ph.D.
theses. It is the joint responsibility of the Supervisor and the Supervisory Committee to
ensure that these skills develop properly.
All students must present at least one seminar each year, describing their recent and/or
proposed research activities.
The student should demonstrate skill in designing experimental protocols and in
conducting productive, independent research.
By the end of a Ph.D. education, the student should be able to initiate and complete a piece of
research that leads to publication in an international refereed journal. This involves asking
appropriate questions, carrying out the experiments, analysis of the data, and drafting the
manuscript. It is desirable, but not required, to publish before completing requirements for
2.2 Graduate Courses
Courses are used to expand the general information base of the students, but they are useful
only if they allow the student to become competent in acquiring information independently.
Inasmuch as the independent scientist needs to keep up with developments in the field, the
required graduate courses are directed towards this future need. They are not used as a
dominant measure of the student’s development. This philosophy is reflected in the course
requirements within the program.
2.3 Candidacy examination
Candidacy Examinations for Ph.D. students in the Department of Neuroscience Graduate
Program are used:
a) as a vehicle to test the student’s general knowledge of molecular, cellular, and
systems aspects of neuroscience.
b) as another opportunity to expose the student to additional background information
not covered by courses, but relevant to the thesis topic. The content and breadth
of this material shall be determined at the discretion of the examining committee.
In general, the Candidacy Examination process is used not only to test the student, but also to
make the student explore material not necessarily closely related to the thesis topic that is
nonetheless felt to be a valuable background component of the education. Furthermore, it
provides an opportunity for the student, Supervisor and Supervisory Committee to become
aware of areas in which the student needs further preparation before defending a thesis.
The candidacy examination is comprised of both written and oral components:
Doctoral Candidacy Examinations have a written and an oral component. Both the written
and oral components must be acceptable to the Candidacy Examination Committee in order
to receive a passing grade. The written component consists of a single grant question (i.e., a
mock research grant proposal) to be answered over three weeks. The oral examination,
prescribed by the Faculty of Graduate Studies as not exceeding 2 hours in length, occurs one
week after the submission of the written material. The oral examination will use the material
written by the candidate, as well as other relevant areas of neuroscience, as a basis for
exploring the candidate’s knowledge of neuroscience. The Supervisor is a non-voting
observer at the doctoral oral candidacy examination and does not participate in (is absent
during) the Examining Committee’s discussion and voting on outcome of the Examination.
Three months prior to the exam, the Candidacy Examining Committee meets with the
candidate to discuss general areas of knowledge for which the candidate will be responsible
during questioning at the oral exam. The expectations of the committee should be confirmed
in writing, and a form confirming that all of the required procedures have been followed is
filed with the Graduate Program Administrator. Five weeks prior to the exam, the Committee
and student meet again, to discuss the subject area of the grant proposal. One month prior to
the oral exam the student presents a one-page summary, which outlines the major hypothesis
to be tested and the approaches proposed. The intent of this meeting is to ensure that the
student understands clearly the expectations of the Committee. These last two meetings can
take place by telephone or email, at the discretion of the Committee. Electronic copies of the
grant proposal, which constitutes the written part of the Candidacy Examination, must be
submitted to each member of the Examination Committee at least one week before the oral
The grant proposal is expected to be written in the same manner as the operating module of a
three-year CIHR grant proposal (11 pages single-spaced, not including references and
figures), which includes a summary page and a lay summary (no budget section required).
Full stipulations on page length, borders, material required, etc., are available on-line at the
CIHR website. An electronic version of the proposal will be provided to the examiners,
which can then be printed out in a double-spaced format to assist in reading and annotating.
The grant proposal is expected to contain a clear general introduction that explains the
importance of the research to be carried out and should lead to the central hypotheses to be
addressed. The research goals should be realistic and achievable within the time-line of a
three-year grant. The student is encouraged to outline briefly the potential for practical
applications or for translational research. The student is also encouraged to examine
examples of funded CIHR applications provided by either the Supervisor or a member of the
Supervisory Committee. More specific instructions (e.g. the range of experimental
techniques to be used, availability of experimental animals and preliminary results,
collaborators, etc.) may be provided at the discretion of the Committee, but should be clearly
outlined at the first Committee meeting.
A student entering a Ph.D. program after having already completed a M.Sc. degree must
attempt the Candidacy Examination no later than 28 months after initial registration in the
Ph.D. program. A student entering a Ph.D. program with a B.Sc. degree, or transferring into
a Ph.D. program from a M.Sc. program before completing the M.Sc. program, must attempt
the candidacy examination no later than 36 months after initial registration in the Faculty of
Graduate Studies. Details on the regulations governing the Examination are provided in the
Handbook of Supervision and Examination of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and should
be consulted. Faculty of Graduate studies regulations can also be accessed on the web at:
2.4 Dissertation Defense
Although the Faculty of Graduate Studies requires only an external reader for Ph.D.
dissertation defenses, the Department of Neuroscience requires an external examiner who
normally will be present at the defense.
Both M.Sc. and Ph.D. dissertation examinations follow the Closed Examination procedure
specified by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, whereby attendance at the examination is
restricted to the examinee and the Examining Committee members. It is the policy of the
Department of Neuroscience that all Ph.D. students be required to give a one-hour public
presentation of their thesis to the Neuroscience research community, usually immediately
prior to the thesis defense. The students Thesis Oral Examination examining committee is in
attendance at the students’ public presentation but they do not ask any questions or
participate in any discussion during this presentation. M.Sc. candidates are not required to
present such a thesis seminar, but are encouraged to do so.
Details concerning the process and expectations in dissertation exams can be found in the
Handbook of Supervision and Examination of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and should
be consulted by the student, Supervisor, and Supervisory Committee. This material
should also be consulted regarding the expected deadlines for submitting the Notice of Thesis
Oral Examination, providing thesis copies to Examining Committee members, and providing
completed theses to the Faculty of Graduate Studies (etc.) in order to convocate on a given
2.5 Research Integrity Day Requirement
All graduate students in the Faculty of Medicine are required to attend the Research Integrity
Day workshop once during their program as part of their course requirements.
For students who began their program on or after September 1, 2004:
PhD students must meet this requirement prior to their Candidacy Exam. Ph.D. students not
meeting this requirement will not be able to proceed with their program until they have
attended the session.
MSc students must meet this requirement prior to defending their thesis. M.Sc. students not
meeting this requirement will not be able to proceed with their defense until they have
attended the session.
For students who began their program prior to September 1, 2004:
PhD and MSc students are expected to meet this requirement prior to their thesis defense.
Any students not meeting this requirement may not be able to proceed with their defense until
they have attended the session.
It is the shared responsibility of the student and Supervisor to ensure that this requirement
The Research Integrity Day is offered twice a year, in January and April. Students will be
advised by their Graduate Program Administrators when the next upcoming session will be
POLICIES, PROCEDURES AND REGULATIONS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF
NEUROSCIENCE GRADUATE PROGRAM
3.1 Admission Requirements and Procedures
Admission to the Neuroscience Graduate Program is granted by the Faculty of Graduate
Studies, on the recommendation of the Department of Neuroscience Graduate Coordinator.
The minimum qualifications required for admission are ordinarily:
A baccalaureate degree or its equivalent from a recognized institution, with a minimum grade
point average of 3.2 (on a 4-point system; approximately equivalent to a B+) for the work of
the last two undergraduate years.
Proficiency in the English language. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is
required from applicants whose native language or previous language of instruction was not
English. The minimum acceptable score is 237 (computer-based), 580 (paper-based) or 88
(internet-based). Alternatively, students may fulfill this requirement by presenting a score of
7.5 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
Applications that meet these conditions will be circulated to prospective supervisors. If no
member of the Department of Neuroscience expresses an interest in supervision of the
applicant, the file is closed and the student is sent a letter of rejection.
Final recommendations regarding admission, supervision and financial support will be made
by the Graduate Coordinator and/or GEC after the application has been circulated. Where a
Supervisor has been identified, the application is forwarded to the Faculty of Graduate
Studies with an endorsement by the Graduate Coordinator to the effect that the applicant is
acceptable and that adequate supervision and funding of the proposed program are available.
If the applicant meets the minimum requirements of the Faculty of Graduate Studies but not
those of the Department of Neuroscience, a prospective supervisor may ask the GEC to
review the file and grant a waiver.
A graduate student in the Department of Neuroscience will normallyreceive a stipend/award
of at least the minimum level set by CIHR ($17,850 per annum in 2008). Many students
receive higher stipends at the discretion of the supervisor or when in receipt of scholarships
from internal or external sources (see Section 3.3c). Indeed, the GEC now recommends a
minimum stipend of $20,000 per annum (2008). Admission of a student into the
Neuroscience Program is conditional upon receiving at least this minimum level of financial
support. Satisfactory academic and research progress is required for continued financial
3.2 Methods for Handling Inquiries Concerning Graduate Studies
When an inquiry is received, each potential applicant is sent:
- an on-line application form
- information describing admission requirements to the Graduate Program.
If the applicant submits a completed application form and the required supporting
documents, the information will be distributed to all members of the Department of
Neuroscience to provide the greatest opportunity for applicants to meet prospective
Supervisors. If the applicant expresses interest in a particular field of research or specific
Supervisors, appropriate members of the Department will receive additional notice of the
applicant’s request for information. Interested faculty then contact the applicant, interviews
are arranged if possible, and the possibility of entry into the supervisor’s laboratory is fully
explored by the prospective Supervisor and applicant. If no faculty members indicate an
interest in supervising the applicant, the application will be closed and the applicant notified
of the decision by regular mail.
Applicants who have no specific research preference within Neuroscience may contact the
Graduate Coordinator and arrange a meeting in person (or communicate at a distance, if a
meeting is impractical) to discuss their interests and receive advice on potential Supervisors
in the Department.
Files concerning prospective students are maintained bythe Neuroscience Graduate Program
Office, and all Department members are encouraged to inspect them regularly.
The Faculty of Graduate Studies does not admit students with “probationary” status. Students
who otherwise meet the requirements for admission but whose GPA is too low mayenroll in
the university as “unclassified students”. Such a student could take additional courses to
improve his/her GPA to an admissible level. If this route is followed, it must be clear to all
- all such courses represent “make up” work and cannot be used for advanced credit
towards a graduate degree program. Successful completion of “make up” work
does not guarantee admission to the graduate program. Students are advised to
discuss this option with the Graduate Coordinator before embarking on such a
- only the Graduate Coordinator is able to recommend admission to the Faculty of
Graduate Studies. Individual faculty members are in no position to make promises in this
- any arrangements a prospective Supervisor may wish to make with a student (e.g., “if
you are admitted by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, I shall pay you…”, or “if you pass
courses x, y and z, I shall sponsor you for admission”, or “I shall sponsor your admission
provided that your laboratory work is satisfactory during…”) are a personal matter
between the student and the faculty member. Such arrangements are in no way binding
upon the Department of Neuroscience, the Graduate Education Committee or the Graduate
Coordinator. To avoid misunderstandings, such arrangements should always be explicit
and in writing.
Selection of a Supervisor
The selection of a Supervisor by a graduate student (or vice versa) is a major decision. The decision
should be by mutual agreement between the student and the faculty member concerned, and must be
recommended by the Graduate Coordinator and approved by the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate
The Graduate Coordinator will make a recommendation on the basis of the following criteria:
The Supervisor will ordinarily be a full or associate member of the Hotchkiss Brain
The Supervisor must have a history of productive and active research and hold suitable
levels of funding.
The Supervisor must have sufficient time to ensure the training of the graduate student.
Supervisors must ensure that adequate provision has been made for the continuous
supervision of their graduate students during absences such as sabbatical and maternity
Responsibility for the day to day monitoring of the student’s progress is shared by the
student and Supervisor. In addition, the student will meet with the SupervisoryCommittee at
least two times a year, and the minutes of the meetings will be forwarded to the Department
of Neuroscience for review by the Graduate Coordinator.
Faculty members holding a Continuing Board Appointment in the Professional ranks in the Faculty of
Medicine may request supervisory privileges in the department based on the criteria specified below.
New Faculty Appointments with an MD degree: Initial supervision of MSc students, with the
number of students specified by the Graduate Coordinator. Supervision will be condition upon having a
senior basic science faculty member as the co-supervisor. Following successful completion of
mentorship of a Masters student, the Faculty member may reapply to extend supervisory privileges to
both MSc and PhD students. New faculty members will be encouraged to sit on the supervisory and
examination committees of other graduate students to gain experience.
New Faculty Appointments with a PhD: Unrestricted supervision for both MSc and PhD students. It
is recommended that for doctoral students, the students committee must be made up of one or more
senior/experienced members until the first PhD student successfully completes the program.
Administrative responsibilities of the supervisor
The administrative responsibilities of the Supervisor include:
forming the supervisory committee within three months of initial registration.
arranging for at least two meetings per year of the supervisory committee, which
are minuted and signed by the Committee members and student, with copies to the student
and the Graduate Coordinator. This responsibility is shared by the student.
prior to each annual registration, the supervisor is required to submit the student’s
Annual Progress Report to the Graduate Coordinator. This Report will be maintained on
file with the Department of Neuroscience.
Financial responsibilities of the Supervisor
All students will normally receive financial support during their tenure in the Department of
Neuroscience. This support can come from scholarships or studentships for which the student
applies, or from the operating funds of the student’s Supervisor. The value of the financial
support varies depending upon the award that the student receives and upon the availability
of funds in the supervisor’s operating grant, but must be at least the minimum level for
graduate student support as set by the CIHR ($17,850.00 per annum). The Graduate
Education Committee recommends a minimum stipend of $20,000 per annum.
In the event that it is impossible for a Supervisor to continue to support a student, then the
Graduate Coordinator should be notified.
3.4 Supervisory Committee
The Supervisory Committee is established to monitor the graduate student’s program. It
represents the first level of administration that ensures that individual programs are
consistent and of high quality (the second level is the GEC). Every graduate student must
have a Supervisory Committee; this Committee must be struck within 3 months of initial
The Supervisory Committee shall consist of the Supervisor and at least two other faculty
members, at least one of whom must be a full member of the Department of Neuroscience.
M.Sc. Committees require at least one member to have completed the supervision of a M.Sc.
or Ph.D. student; Ph.D. Committees require at least one member to have completed the
supervision of a Ph.D. student. The Supervisory Committee is usually chaired by the
Supervisor. The final composition of the Supervisory Committee must be approved by the
Graduate Coordinator. For Ph.D. students the final decision rests with the Dean, Faculty of
Graduate Studies, upon recommendation by the Graduate Coordinator.
The functions of the Supervisory Committee are:
Recommendation and approval of course requirements.
Approval of the student’s research proposal.
Assessing the student’s progress in course work and research through meetings at least
two times each year. Minutes shall be kept of these meetings, signed by the Supervisor,
Committee members and student, and copies are added to the student’s record held bythe
Graduate Program Office.
Critical evaluation and encouragement of the scholarly activities and career development
of the student. If a student’s performance or progress falls below an acceptable standard
this should be made known to both the student and the Graduate Coordinator, in writing,
as early as possible. If progress continues to be unsatisfactory, the student maybe asked to
withdraw from the program.
The normal dates for first registration in the Department of Neuroscience Graduate Program
are the same as those for the Faculty of Graduate Studies; they are listed in the Academic
Schedule and summarized below. A continuous standing in the program requires an annual
registration and satisfactoryprogress during each registration year (see section 3.9). Failure to
re-register will result in the student’s being required to withdraw. It is the responsibility of
the graduate student to ensure that all deadlines are met. The Graduate Coordinator will not
sign registration forms until all program requirements from the previous year have been met.
Admission Deadlines for Applications
Deadlines for Applications
Canadian/US Students International Students
January 1 September 15 August 15
May 1 February 15 December 15
July 1 April 15 February 15
September 1 May 15 April 15
Prospective graduate students are encouraged to apply as early as possible, since this will
facilitate the allocation of Graduate Research Scholarships by the Graduate Education
Committee. Early application will also facilitate decisions on applications for scholarship
support from external granting agencies, many of which have application deadlines in early
Application forms and information can be obtained from:
Department of Neuroscience Graduate Program
c/o Associate Dean – Graduate Sciences Education
The University or Calgary
Health Science G321
3330 Hospital Drive NW
Calgary, Alberta T2N 4N1 Canada
Faculty of Graduate Studies Calendars can be obtained from the University of Calgary
bookstore or Medical Science bookstore for a nominal fee, or accessed on the web at:
To order a calendar by mail, address inquiries to –
University of Calgary Bookstore
MacEwan Student Centre
Rm. 155, 2500 University Drive N.W.
Calgary, AB, T2N lN4 (403) 220-5937; FAX (403-284-4454)
All full applications to the Faculty of Graduate Studies require a non-refundable application
fee. The application fee is $100.00 for Canadian students, and $130.00 for international
students. Applications will not be processed without an application fee.
3.6 Research Proposal
A research proposal must be prepared by every graduate student within 12 months after
initial registration and should consist of the following:
An introduction detailing information obtained from the scientific literature including a
critical evaluation of previous work that forms the background of the proposal. The
introduction should be in the order of 10-12 pages double-spaced.
At the end of the introduction a statement should be included that outlines the hypotheses,
objectives, and significance of the proposed research program.
A description of the methods to be used in the research program.
An experimental section that outlines the proposed experiments, basic methodology, method
of analysis and expected outcomes. Preliminary data should be included where possible to
indicate the feasibility of the project.
Generally, the proposal should be approximately twenty double-spaced pages in length,
excluding references and figures. The proposal should be presented to the Supervisory
Committee and then submitted, together with the “Research Proposal Approval” form, for
approval by the Graduate Coordinator.
3.7 Course Requirements
In recognition of the fact that all students graduating with a neuroscience degree should be
able to exhibit a basic understanding of the brain at a molecular, cellular, and systems levels,
four core courses have been developed – Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience (MDSC
619.01), Systems Neuroscience (MDSC 619.02), Developmental Neuroscience and
Regeneration (MDSC 619.03), and Neuroanatomy (MDSC 619.04). Students enrolled in the
M.Sc. program must take at least one of these four core courses, and students enrolled in the
Ph.D. program must take at least two of them. For Ph.D. students, the requirement for the
second neuroscience course may be waived at the discretion of the supervisory committee if
an appropriate course can be taken that is more relevant to the student’s area of study. Note
that these are the minimum standards set by the Department; additional course work can be
and often is required by the student’s supervisory committee. In any case, the Faculty of
Graduate Studies requires students to take at least one half-course while registered as a Ph.D.
student. Credit for Neuroscience core courses, taken when the student is not registered in the
Neuroscience Program, may be granted at the discretion of the GEC.
In addition to the core curriculum, several more specialized graduate courses maybe offered
under the aegis of the Department of Neuroscience Graduate Program and the HBI. These are
designed to provide in-depth knowledge in a variety of neuroscience areas. Theyvaryin their
format and expectations, but generally focus on specific research topics with an emphasis on
recent advances and controversies, as well as details of technique. Graduate students within
the Department of Neuroscience are also encouraged to broaden their education by taking
courses offered by other departments of the University.
The Faculty of Medicine requires that students working with animals in their program
complete the necessary training requirements to be certified in animal care through the
Animal Resources Center. Students are also required to attend a seminar on Research Ethics
provided by the Graduate Science Education office.
3.8 Other Requirements
Each graduate student is required to participate regularly in the seminar program run by the
HBI. Members of the Department of Neuroscience and the HBI also run a number of journal
clubs. All students are encouraged to participate in one or more journal clubs in addition to
the one that is required, and they may be required to do so by their Supervisory Committee.
3.9 Satisfactory Progress
To maintain satisfactory progress within the Department, a student must:
- meet all requirements of the Faculty of Graduate Studies (for example maintain a
minimum 3.0 GPA (B) in course work every year).
- demonstrate satisfactory research progress as judged bythe Supervisor and the Supervisory
Committee, including the provision of a satisfactory research proposal within 12 months
of registration. Unsatisfactory progress must be reported in writing by the Supervisors to
the student and the Graduate Coordinator without delay. Unsatisfactoryprogress can result
in the non-renewal of financial support and a request to withdraw from the program.
It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all requirements are fulfilled and all
deadlines are met.
3.10 Faculty Examinations
Faculty examinations will be conducted according to the regulations of the Faculty of
Graduate Studies. According to the Faculty of Graduate Studies Council policy, a Neutral
Chair is required for all thesis-based Masters and Doctoral examinations, including Thesis
and Ph.D. Candidacy Examinations. The Neutral Chair ensures that policyand procedure are
correctly followed during and after the examination and guards against perceived conflict of
interest or undue influence. The Neutral Chair is not a member of the examining committee
and does not read the thesis or vote, but may participate in discussion. The Graduate
Coordinator is responsible for recommending the Neutral Chair.
3.11 Change from M.Sc. to Ph.D.
Students registered for the M.Sc. degree may change their registration status to that of a
Ph.D. candidate. Transfers will be approved by the Graduate Coordinator depending on:
a) receipt of a revised or new research proposal that has been reviewed and accepted
by the Supervisory committee as suitable for a Ph.D.
b) academic performance in course work commensurate with the expectations for a
c) receipt of the minutes of the Supervisory meeting indicating:
- acceptance of the student’s revised or new research proposal,
- the student’s potential for pursuing a program that will lead to a Ph.D. degree,
If the application is approved, a letter of recommendation for the change in status will then
be forwarded by the Graduate Coordinator to the Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies.
Transfers from M.Sc to Ph.D must occur within 24 months of initial registration, and
students making such transfers must attempt the Candidacy Exam no later than 36 months
after initial registration.
3.12 Change from Ph.D. to M.Sc.
Students registered for the Ph.D. degree may change their registration status to that of an
M.Sc. candidate. Such a change is normally only made prior to taking the Ph.D. candidacy
exam. It is the policy of the Faculty of Graduate Studies that students who fail the candidacy
exam will not be allowed to change to an M.Sc. Transfers from a Ph.D. to an M.Sc. will
depend upon a written recommendation from the Supervisory Committee to the Graduate
Coordinator that such a change is in the student’s best interest and agreed to by all parties.
If the application is approved, a letter of recommendation for the change in status will then
be forwarded by the Graduate Coordinator to the Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies. This
change in status should also prompt revised expectations about the proposed research.
3.13 Grievance Procedures
Suggested procedures in the event of problems between graduate students and their
supervisors are, in sequence:
Speak informally to the Supervisor and/or members of the Supervisory Committee.
If this does not resolve the situation, discuss the situation with the Graduate Coordinator.
If additional advice is desired, consult with the Supervisor’s Head of Department and the
Associate Dean, Graduate Sciences Education in the Faculty of Medicine. If the problem
remains unresolved the student should contact the Dean (Faculty of Graduate Studies).
For complaints about unfavourable judgements in thesis and candidacy exams, the
sequence bypasses the first step. In these cases, if a mutually satisfactory agreement
cannot be made at these levels, the Faculty of Graduate Studies will strike an Appeal
Committee from the Graduate Faculties Council to adjudicate. Appeals past this level
follow the appeals process open to all registered students at the University. As per the
Faculty of Graduate Studies Calendar, “A student must request in writing that an Appeals
Committee be established, stating the grounds for the appeal. Students must initiate the
appeals process in writing within 15 days of the decision that is being appealed.” The
Graduate Students Association, under the aegis of the Canadian Federation of Graduate
Students, may be able to offer guidance
3.14 Leave of Absence Policy
The Faculty of Graduate Studies has a leave of absence policy that assists graduate students
who unable to continue a program as a full-time student for one of the following reasons:
bereavement, care-giving responsibilities, medical requirements, militaryservice and parental
responsibilities. Leaves of absence may be granted for up to one year. During a leave of
absence, students are not expected to continue with their graduate programs. It is the
student’s responsibility to ensure that the proposed leave is compatible with the regulations
of any granting agency from which funding would normally be received during the leave
period, and that such agencies are informed of the proposed leave. Students on student loan
programs should clarify the consequences that such a leave might have for their repayment
status. International students should consult the Centre for International Students & Study
Abroad and immigration authorities regarding their immigration status during the proposed
To obtain a Leave of Absence, the student:
1) negotiates the terms of the Leave with the Supervisor and members of the
2) seeks approval from the graduate Coordinator, and
3) completes and signs the Leave of Absence form
(http://www.grad.ucalgary.ca/Forms.aspx) and forwards to the Faculty of Graduate
Studies for approval.
ADMINISTRATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF NEUROSCIENCE
The Department of Neuroscience Graduate Program is administered by the Graduate
Coordinator who is advised bya Graduate Education Committee (GEC). Depending upon
the circumstances involved, the Graduate Coordinator reports to Department Heads, the
Associate Dean (Graduate Sciences Education) of the Facultyof Medicine, or the Dean of the
Faculty of Graduate Studies.
The Graduate Coordinator is appointed by the Associate Dean (Graduate Sciences
Education), Faculty of Medicine, on the recommendation of the members of the Department
of Neuroscience and with the permission of the appointee’s academic Department Head. The
operating principle for the Department of Neuroscience is that the Department administers
students whose Supervisors are full or associate members of the HBI. The Graduate
Coordinator is elected from the membership of the Department Neuroscience. The position is
for a three-year term, followed by one year on the GEC as a regular member. The
Coordinator’s appointment is renewable.
4.2 Graduate Coordinator
The Graduate Coordinator will be responsible, in consultation with the GEC, for all day-to-
day administrative duties pertaining to the Graduate Program. These include:
Revision of all policies and procedures of the Graduate Program. Changes will normally be
ratified by the Department of Neuroscience.
Dealing promptly with applications and inquiries from prospective students.
Recommending possible Supervisors to incoming students.
Responsibilityfor all communications between Supervisors and SupervisoryCommittees and
the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
Monitoring the progress of individual students.
Maintaining the records of all students registered in the Department, through the Graduate
Program Coordinator in the Office of the Associate Dean (GSE).
Acting as a source of advice to all graduate students within the program. This would include
arbitration in case of disagreement between student and Supervisor and informing students of
the various grievance procedures.
Being responsible for developing and maintaining information about neuroscience-oriented
courses for transmission to prospective graduate students.
Informing the members of the Department about prospective Neuroscience graduate students,
and ensuring that applications are available.
Ensuring that all graduate student supervisors within the Department are made aware of and
meet the regulations of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
Ensuring that students present seminars at least once every 12 months and attend HBI
Acting as interim advisor, for up to 12 months, to students undecided about their choice of
Supervisor, a role that may be delegated.
Providing an annual report to members of the Department.
Facilitating the appointment of faculty members to Supervisory Committees.
Encouraging members of the Department of Neuroscience to be Supervisors for entering
Maintaining records of employment of all graduating students.
4.3 Graduate Education Committee
The GEC consists of:
- the Graduate Coordinator
- the Education Director of the HBI (or his/her appointee)
- two or more additional faculty members appointed by the Graduate Coordinator in
consultation with the membership. Membership on the committee is for two years and is
renewable. The number of committee members in excess of the two mandated members
is at the discretion of the Coordinator. All faculty members of the Department of
Neuroscience are eligible for membership on the GEC. All neuroscience researchers who
are approved by the Faculty of Graduate Studies to supervise graduate students are
members of the Department of Neuroscience. Candidates must be nominated and
seconded by at least one other person. In cases where there is more than one candidate, an
election will be held. The candidate(s) receiving the most votes will assume the vacant
seat(s) on the committee.
- several graduate student members (2-5) elected annually by the graduate students from
within the Department of Neuroscience Graduate Program. Membership is renewable.
All members of the GEC have equal voting rights. The committee is chaired bythe Graduate
The terms of reference of the GEC are as follows:
The committee will:
- provide advice and recommendations to the Graduate Coordinator on all policy
- monitor the program with respect to specific entry requirements, mandatory
- review the current course offerings in neuroscience and related areas with a view
to improving the variety, content, quality and sequence of courses, as well as
recommending the establishment of new courses.
- monitor enrolments in Neuroscience courses and advise the Department of
Neuroscience if the expectations of a general education in neuroscience are not
- review the University Calendar entries for the Department of Neuroscience.
- be responsible for all matters relating to quality control, and to arrange occasional
external reviews of the program in conjunction with the Faculty of Graduate
- review and approve the allocation of Graduate Research Scholarships (GRS) and
other forms of financial assistance to students.
- recommend to the Faculty of Graduate Studies (via the Graduate Coordinator)
whether a student whose performance has been deemed unsatisfactory (on the
basis of information provided by the student, Supervisor, and Supervisory
should be allowed to remain the program.
- find ways to attract high-quality students to the program.
- review any applications for admission that require special consideration, and make
recommendations regarding admission to the Faculty of Graduate Studies (via the
- make recommendations to the Graduate Coordinator when students seek to change
their registration status from M.Sc. to Ph.D. and vice versa.
4.4 Quality Control
The following mechanisms will be used to monitor the quality of the Department of
Neuroscience Graduate Program:
Supervisory Committees shall meet at least two times every year and will submit a written
and signed report of each meeting to the Department of Neuroscience. Committee meeting
minutes and Annual Progress Report forms will be reviewed by the Graduate Coordinator
and/or the GEC and kept on file within the Department of Neuroscience.
The GEC shall meet regularly to survey the progress of graduate students. In addition, the
GEC will be responsible for the ongoing development of the Graduate Program.
The Graduate Coordinator will report regularly to the HBI. In addition, the Graduate
Coordinator and GEC will produce an annual report for the membership, which will be
submitted for approval to the Department of Neuroscience faculty members.
The Graduate Program will be reviewed regularly by the Committee on Research (Facultyof
A comprehensive review of the Graduate Program will be carried out each five years by an
external committee of faculty members from outside the Department of Neuroscience, under
the aegis of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
The following are guidelines, not policy, and are intended to provide some general
information to both supervisors and students about what is expected of a student undertaking
thesis studies. These are not to be interpreted as requirements, but rather what may be
expected of a “typical” student.
Appendix I. Guidelines for Thesis Studies
It is generally expected that M.Sc. and Ph.D. students will defend their thesis within 2 and 5
years, respectively, of initial registration. These times are consistent with the duration of
support typically provided by external agencies and are also reasonable for students
supported from other sources (e.g., operating grants).
Extent of experiments. The length, complexity and originality of the experiments that qualify
students for the M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees are different. The M.Sc. thesis should demonstrate
that the individual understands and appropriately applies the principles of scientific
investigation to complete a series of experiments, but these may or may not be original. An
M.Sc. thesis should produce sufficient data for a manuscript published in a peer reviewed
journal. Ph.D. candidates are expected to demonstrate a greater degree of independence and
originality. A Ph.D. thesis should contain data sufficient for several publications. Note that in
neither case is publication of the data a prerequisite for acceptance of the thesis or
completion of the degree.
Duration. It should take about 1½ years to complete the experiments for an M.Sc.; 4-4½
years for a Ph.D. This amount of time includes bench research, preparation of the thesis
proposal and course work. In the case of the Ph.D. degree, this also includes the time for
preparation and completion of the candidacy examination. The amount of time actuallytaken
naturally depends upon the nature and complexity of the experiments.
Time to write up. It should normally take an M.Sc. student no more than 3 months and a
Ph.D. student no more than 6 months to write up, defend and correct a thesis. Students who
take longer than this may be subject to termination of financial support.
Thesis length. The acceptability of a thesis depends upon the quality of the research, the
writing, and the oral defense. It does not depend upon the quantity of writing. Concise
expression of ideas is valued. An acceptable thesis can consist of the student’s published
writing, placed in a logical sequence together with an over-all introduction and discussion, as
long as copyright issues have been addressed satisfactorily.