Welcome to the Biology Department! We are very glad you chose Dalhousie for your graduate studies.
6. Class selection - Register for classes you are taking this year on the web after seeing the Graduate Coordinator.
Attached is additional information about how the graduate administration functions in the Department. It is more current than the information in the "Graduate Program Procedures Booklet".
Graduate Coordinator (Hal Whitehead)
[I will attempt to be in the Graduate Coordinator's Office, Room 2123, Monday and Wednesday 09:00-10:00. For non-urgent stuff, please try and contact me, either in person or by phone (3723), during these times as I will have all the information in front of me. If you cannot make these times or have an urgent problem, my office is Room 3076 and phone 3723 (same line as Graduate Coordinator's Office). I am much more likely to be reached in the morning.]
Graduate Secretary (Carolyn Young)
Admissions and Scholarships Committee (Vett Lloyd)
Stream Chairs (A: Mark Johnston and Marty Leonard; C: Jonathan Wright.; D: Nancy McAllister-Irwin; A/C: Paul Bentzen)
Chair and Chair's Secretary (Bill Freedman and Carolyn Young)
To be provided to Ph.D. students and their supervisors after successful completion of the ATC examination.
The oral examination is a defense by the student of both the essay and the research in progress.
The essay should provide the student with an opportunity to select the appropriate body of literature and to evaluate it in writing. It should help to develop the skills needed later in writing the thesis, and where the task proves difficult, to indicate the need for assistance or practice in written presentation of information.
Supervisors are expected to help students improve their writing ability by carefully criticizing drafts of the essay. Other members of the Supervisory Committee may also be willing to help, but on a voluntary basis.
Students who, with their supervisory committee's approval, plan to extend their programmes at least one year beyond residency requirements, may apply to the graduate coordinator for a 6 months' extension of the deadline for the examination. No more than two such extensions will be permitted.
Students who fail to complete the essay and oral defense requirements by the scheduled (or rescheduled) date, will be deemed to have failed the examination. The graduate coordinator will notify the student and supervisor in writing.
The Preliminary examining committee will consist of the student's supervisory committee augmented by at least one additional person suggested by the ATC examiners and/or the GPC. The graduate coordinator is responsible for determining the composition of the preliminary examining committee, obtaining the agreement of all examiners to serve and notifying the student of final arrangements, including the projected date of the examination.
At least two weels before the scheduled date of the examination, the student must submit to each examiner a copy of the essay. Prior to submission, the student should consult his/her supervisor for suggestions for improvement. After formal submission, the student must be prepared to defend the essay.
At least one week before the scheduled oral defense, the student will submit to each examiner, an up-to-date report of research progress and a plan for completing the thesis project. This report should be concise, but sufficient for the examiners to make critical judgement of progress. Papers published, or in preparation for submission to journals, are useful appendices.
The oral examination will include a twenty minute oral presentation of the essay as an introduction, but focusing on the research results, followed by questions from the examiners. The student will be examined for mastery of all aspects of the thesis research including its background. The examiners should be satisfied that the student has a thorough understanding of concepts and methods needed to complete the project, as well as the intellectual ability and independence expected of a Ph.D. candidate.
The examination can have only two outcomes - pass or fail. The chair will accept the view of the majority of examiners but may cast a deciding vote if necessary. Students who fail the defense may apply within 2 weeks to the graduate coordinator for reexamination. Students will be fully informed as to the reasons for failure. Scheduling of a second defense and the composition of the examining committee will be at the discretion of the graduate coordinator after consultation with the original examining committee and the supervisor.
If the student fails upon reexamination, or if no request for reexamination is received, the graduate coordinator will so inform the Department Chair and the Dean of Graduate Studies and recommend that the student be dismissed from graduate studies.
Purpose of the examination
The student is asked to prepare a 5-7 page (single spaced, including reference list, excluding figures, tables and appendices) research proposal. This should provide a suitably documented account of the project that the student wishes to undertake for an M.Sc. or Ph.D. degree. It will be presented to the examiners in sufficient time for them to read it before the examination and to assess its quality. The proposal should be understandable to biologists without direct expertise in the field. Detailed descriptions of research methods and protocols may be given in appendices.
During preparation for the ATC the student should initially consult extensively with the supervisor on the rationale behind the proposed project, important background literature, resources available, practical limitations, and the nature of the ATC examination. The student will independently produce a proposal, and the supervisor is expected to review 1-2 drafts. Before the ATC, consultation by the student with the rest of the supervisory committee will generally be limited to specific factual questions, and the committee members will generally not be expected to review drafts of the proposal. In cases where a committee member possesses expertise in a field which is outside that of the supervisor's, but relevant to the project, more extensive consultation may be appropriate.
The examination committee consists of a chairperson, the supervisory committee, and an "external" examiner, selected by the chairperson of the student's stream. To promote consistency and uniform standards, the stream chair may chair the examination. The student's supervisor does not examine the student, but may participate in the final assessment and is expected to channel helpful information back to the student.
The examination begins with a 15-minute verbal presentation of the proposal by the student, highlighting the goals of the work, the research strategy and the expected contribution to new knowledge. It is unnecessary and indeed undesirable, to give detailed descriptions of research methods and protocols in the verbal presentation. The chairperson and the three examiners then question the student on the proposal and on relevant concepts bearing on the proposal.
PLEASE TURN OVER
The examiners will be aware that the ATC proposal is not a detailed outline of research procedures but may, nevertheless, question the student's general knowledge of methodology required for the project and theory relating to it. At the same time the examiners will keep in mind that the ATC defense is not a comprehensive examination. Questions will arise from the scientific content of the work presented and will not range disconnectly over the entire field. The student is being examined for competence by evaluating his/her ability to put together a viable research project and to defend both the rationale and the methodology. In the process, the student must demonstrate mastery of the science on which the work is based.
Each examiner will independently complete an evaluation form (ATC Part 2, see later). After the defense, these are collected by the chairperson who enters the results on a consensus form (ATC Part 3, see later). The examiners discuss the evaluation amongst themselves and with the supervisor; the chairperson enters the decision, all useful comments, and an overall evaluation on the consensus form which is then signed by all present, to indicate their concurrence.
Where the candidate is required to repeat the ATC examination, the date for resubmission must be indicated.
Where the candidate is passed conditionally, the conditions must be entered on the consensus form.
If the candidate fails the examination, he/she may appeal the decision within 3 working days of being notified in writing. The graduate coordinator must then arrange a reexamination by a different committee within three weeks.
All such requests must be considered by the examining committee and a recommendation arrived at. If it is positive, the recommendation will be forwarded to the GPC chairman.
Where transfers to a Ph.D. program are recommended, the examiners must specify the additional classes to be taken and recommend a Preliminary Examination external examiner (external to supervisory committee).
It is the responsibility of the graduate coordinator to ensure that all decisions of the ATC examiners are adhered to.
A Guide for New Graduate Students
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