Graduate Regulations

Revised: May 26, 2015

DEPARTMENT OF BOTANY GRADUATE REGULATIONS

The main goal of the graduate program in Botany is to promote excellence in research. In the context of the range of plant studies available, we acknowledge that specialization is almost inevitable. Therefore, we encourage the student to develop strengths in fields related to his/her main research area. The student must also be able to communicate his/her research findings effectively to other students and fellow scientists.

M.Sc. degree

The M.Sc. degree is usually a student’s first serious exercise in research and prepares the student for a career in research, teaching or other related professions. The student is expected to carry out a research project, generally chosen and designed by the research supervisor. The project should not be open-ended, should have sharply defined goals, and should be of limited duration (2-3 years) and designed to give research experience towards solving a problem.

Ph.D. degree

The Ph.D. program prepares the student for a career as an independent researcher or teacher. In this program the student is expected to design and execute, in consultation with the supervisory committee, a major piece of original work that will significantly advance understanding in the field. The supervisor defines the general research area and also acts as an advisor.

 

1. THE GRADUATE ADVISOR:

Each graduate student will be assigned a Graduate Advisor who will outline the general program regulations and deal with any problems a graduate student may have during their graduate career in the department. The Grad Advisor will also chair the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination (section #7), and the M.Sc. Defence of Thesis (section #10a).

 

2. THE SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE:

The major Supervisor(s) has the primary responsibility to guide the graduate student in the areas of research, course work and thesis preparation. The Supervisory Committee must have a minimum of 3 faculty members (including the Supervisor). The research supervisor must inform the Graduate Secretary of the composition of the committee as soon as possible after enrollment to allow the Grad Secretary to assign individual Grad Advisors. Students being supervised by an Adjunct Faculty member also must have a co-supervisor from the Botany Faculty.

 

3. INITIAL MEETING:

The Initial Meeting is held as early as possible (usually within 3 months for MSc and 6 months for PhD students after enrollment), and is chaired by the Supervisor. The student meets with the Supervisory Committee in this meeting and discusses the proposed research and course work (Section #5). Course requirements should be documented on the form provided.

 

4. STUDENT FUNDING:

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies periodically estimates the annual costs for a student to live in Vancouver. In the Department of Botany we will guarantee this level of support for the first year. In the event that funds are not available from the Department but the student is self-supporting, the Department may still approve acceptance in exceptional circumstances. Students may be funded to this minimum through a combination of NSERC (or other) Scholarships, Teaching Assistantships and Research Assistantships. Funding for students who are entirely dependent on Teaching Assistantships or Research Assistantships will be renewed (subject to satisfactory performance and availability of supervisor funds) for an additional year for an M.Sc. student and three additional years for a Ph.D. student. An additional year of TA support may be negotiated under special circumstances.

 

5a. COURSE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MASTERS DEGREE:

The requirements are:

Thesis1 18 credits
Courses numbered 300 or above 2 12 credits
Total 30 credits

 

At least 60% must be obtained in any course taken in a Master's program for a student to be granted Pass standing. However, only six credits of Pass standing in course work may be counted towards a Master's program; for all other courses credited to the program, at least 68% must be obtained.

 

5b. COURSE REQUIREMENTS FOR M.Sc. AND Ph.D. STUDENTS:

(a) BOTA 501: (3 credits) A seminar course designed to develop communication and analytical skills.

(b) BOTA 502: A non-credit course based upon the presentation of a seminar to the Department of Botany on the subject of the research project. This must be scheduled in the last year of graduate study prior to the Defence of Thesis, preferably between September and April. M.Sc. students should register for this course in the second year of their program, and Ph.D. students in September of the academic year prior to the anticipated completion of the thesis.

 

5c. COURSE REQUIREMENTS FOR Ph.D. STUDENTS:

All incoming Ph.D. students must have taken at least one core, or upper level course, in each of two general areas outside their research area. If this criterion has not already been met, the student must then take and pass the necessary course(s). The general areas are identified as: (i) Genetics/Molecular Biology, (ii) Physiology/Cell biology, (iii) Evolution/Systematics/Ecology.

Ph.D. students who already have an MSc degree have no further course requirements beyond those specified in section 5b and 5c (paragraph above) and those agreed upon by their supervisory committee.

Students entering a Ph.D. directly from a B.Sc. must complete at least 12 credits of course work with a first-class average (80% or better), of which at least 9 credits must be at the 500-level or above. Of the 12 credits of course work, a maximum of 6 credits of Directed Studies (i.e., BOTA 546, BIOL 548) are permitted.

 

6. M.Sc. DEFENCE OF THESIS PROPOSAL:

M.Sc. candidates should schedule their M.Sc. Defence of Thesis Proposal within 9 months and no later than 12 months after enrollment. The committee is chaired by the Supervisor; it will provide clear guidance and direction, so that the proposal presented is of appropriate dimensions for an M.Sc. project.

The M.Sc. Defence of Thesis Proposal serves two purposes: (i) It is a rigorous review and assessment of the student’s understanding of the research proposal; (ii) It provides guidance to the student on addressing any deficiencies that the supervisory committee feels will impede the student’s ability to undertake or complete the thesis. The meeting will be chaired by the research supervisor and include a 20-minute oral presentation of the proposal by the candidate, followed by thorough questioning by members of the supervisory committee on all aspects of the proposal. The committee will then meet in the absence of the student to discuss any deficiencies, either in the proposal or in the student’s understanding of the research, and offer advice to the student on how to remedy these deficiencies. If necessary, the candidate will be asked to revise the proposal and be re-questioned at a future date.It is the student’s responsibility to submit a copy of the written proposal (5-10 pages) to each member of the Committee at least one week prior to the meeting. During the meeting, the student and the supervisor must convince the committee that the proposal is sound and that it can reasonably be completed in 2 (±0.5 years). If the project is open ended, the committee will veto the proposal as inappropriate and the proposal will be revised so that it can be completed within the above time. The primary onus is on the supervisor to ensure a “do-able” thesis and to provide good supervision.

 

7. Ph.D. CANDIDACY EXAM:

i. Time of exam
Students enrolling in September, January or May should schedule their Candidacy Exam to take place within 18 months and no later than 24 months following enrollment. This allows time for any revisions to the thesis proposal to be made, or for a re-examination to occur (if recommended by the examining committee), prior to the University deadline [University regulations state that “A student who is not Admitted to Candidacy within a period of three years from the initial date of registration will be required to withdraw.”]. Within six months of enrollment, the student’s Supervisor will propose a slate of examiners in consultation with the supervisory committee to the Chair of the Botany Graduate Studies Committee. The student is advised of the composition of this committee as early as possible. The student will provide a 1-2 page outline of his or her proposal for each examiner, consulting each to obtain recommended readings plus other advice.

ii. Nature of the exam
This is an oral examination that assesses the student's ability to carry out the research stage of the Ph.D. program. The exam (scheduled by the student in consultation with the supervisor) is based on the Thesis Proposal, a 10-20 (maximum) page document that must be circulated to the supervisory committee for approval at least four weeks before the exam.

Feedback on the proposal using the approval form provided will be given within two weeks. If the proposal is deemed to be acceptable by a majority of the supervisory committee, the Ph.D. Candidacy Exam will proceed as scheduled. The final version of the proposal must be submitted to the full examining committee at least two weeks prior to the Candidacy Exam.

If the proposal is deemed to be unacceptable, a committee meeting will be scheduled allowing the supervisory committee to provide detailed feedback on the deficiencies; this meeting will be chaired by the research supervisor. The student must then submit a revised version of the thesis proposal, and the Candidacy Exam will be rescheduled.

Questioning will focus on the research program but can include any peripheral areas that are considered relevant. Hence the student should show:

  • familiarity with the research literature in the thesis area
  • familiarity with fields related to the research area(the depth of knowledge required will be proportional to closeness to the research area).
  • ability to justify the need for the proposed research
  • ability to defend the experimental design
  • ability to defend the methods of analysis
  • ability to interpret preliminary data
  • ability to reason and integrate during the questioning.

iii. Exam committee
The examining committee typically will be composed of four members: two from the supervisory committee and two non-committee members. The student’s Supervisor will be present but does not take part as an examiner on a four-member examining committee. Five examiners may be recommended depending on the project. In this case, the fifth examiner will be another member from the supervisory committee, and may be (in extenuating circumstances with permission of the Department Head) the Supervisor or Co-Supervisor. The exam will be chaired by a Graduate Advisor who will ensure a proper balance of questions to allow the examining committee to judge performance under the areas listed in (ii) above.

iv. Assessment
As the exam is integrative in nature, it is taken and passed or failed in its entirety. It is not possible to take or pass part of the exam. There cannot be a conditional pass. At the end of the exam, the student will be asked to leave the room and the examining committee will then discuss the student's performance prior to handing a written statement of pass or fail to the Chair. At least 3 of the 4 (or 5) examiners must recommend a “pass” for the exam to be a pass. If a student fails, the committee reserves the option to offer the student a re-examination which should occur within 3 months and no later than 6 months after the original exam. A second failure results in the student’s withdrawal from the graduate program.

 

8. TRANSFER FROM M.Sc. TO Ph.D.:

Transfer is an option for exceptional M.Sc. students. Students contemplating a transfer must complete all course work in the first year of study. To be considered for transfer to the Ph.D., a Masters student must:

  • have completed at least 12 credits3 of course work with a first-class average (80% or better), of which at least 9 credits must be at the 500-level or above
  • have completed at least 9 credits of coursework with first class standing
  • show clear evidence of research ability or potential
  • have completed their Master’s Research Proposal Defence

The request to transfer is made by the student in consultation with the supervisor. The decision to attempt transfer is made by the supervisory committee. Transfer is accomplished by passing the Ph.D. Candidacy examination. The exam is taken between 12 and 18 months after admission (this is a Botany requirement: Grad Studies ruling states that transfer must be within 24 months of enrollment). Shortly after the M.Sc. Defence of Thesis Proposal, the student’s supervisor will propose a slate of examiners to the Chair of the Botany Graduate Studies Committee, in consultation with the supervisory committee, and using the Proposed Examiners Form provided. The student is advised of the composition of this committee as early as possible. The student will provide a 1-2 page outline of his or her proposal for each examiner, consulting each to obtain recommended readings plus other advice.

The exam (scheduled by the student in consultation with the supervisor) is based on the Thesis Proposal, a 10-20 (maximum) page document that must be circulated to the supervisory committee for approval at least four weeks before the exam.

Feedback on the proposal using the approval form provided will be given within two weeks. If the proposal is deemed to be acceptable by a majority of the supervisory committee, the Ph.D. Candidacy Exam will proceed as scheduled. The final version of the proposal must be submitted to the full examining committee at least two weeks prior to the Candidacy Exam.

If the proposal is deemed to be unacceptable, a committee meeting will be scheduled allowing the supervisory committee to provide detailed feedback on the deficiencies; this meeting will be chaired by the research supervisor. The student must then submit a revised version of the thesis proposal, and the Candidacy Exam will be rescheduled.

The exam will be chaired by a Graduate Advisor who will ensure a proper balance of questions to allow the examining committee to judge performance under item number 7ii above. Students failing the Ph.D. Transfer Candidacy exam (on their first attempt) will remain in the M.Sc. program.

 

9. PROGRESS MEETINGS:

After the first year of graduate studies, a progress meeting should be held annually to allow the Supervisory Committee to assess the student's progress and provide advice regarding the development of their research program. This meeting is chaired by the Supervisor. The student must submit a brief (2-4 pages) written report to all members of the committee one week in advance of the meeting. At the end of the 3rd (M.Sc.) and 5th (Ph.D.) years respectively, students will normally be expected to have completed their degree requirements. An extension may be granted under mitigating circumstances and if there is evidence of good progress.

 

10. DEFENCE OF THESIS:

When all Departmental requirements have been satisfied (including BOTA 501, and 5024) and the thesis has been written to the satisfaction of the Supervisory Committee, the student should notify the Graduate Secretary that they are going to schedule their exam.

(a) M.Sc. Candidates:
The examination is chaired by a Graduate Advisor or other faculty member designated by the Head. The Examining Committee is made up of two members of the Supervisory Committee, supplemented by one member who was not involved in the advising of the student (preferably but not necessarily from outside the department). The student’s Supervisor will be present but does not take part in the examination, unless a second examiner from the supervisory committee is unavailable. The candidate presents a brief (20 minute) synopsis of the thesis and then should be prepared to answer questions from the Examining Committee. Following the exam, the committee Chair will request that the student and audience leave the room. The committee will then decide on an outcome: Pass, Pass with Distinction, or Fail.

(b) Ph.D. Candidates:
Three to six months before completion is anticipated, students should consult the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website: www.grad.ubc.ca (select “Current Students” then select “Doctoral Exams”) which details the procedures to be followed. The examination is scheduled and the examination Chair and location are set by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. The basic form of the examination (synopsis followed by questions) is similar to that of the M.Sc. Defence of Thesis. After an in camera discussion, the examining committee then makes a recommendation to the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

 

11. SUMMARY OF REQUIREMENTS:

  1. When a graduate student first arrives in Botany, the Supervisor and student will review and sign the Policy 85 letter.
  2. Initial Meeting occurs within three months (MSc students) or six months (PhD students) of enrollment (Section #3)
  3. BOTA 501 (course begins in September of First Year)
  4. M.Sc. Defence of Thesis Proposal (Section #6), and Ph.D. Candidacy Examination (Section #7)
  5. Annual Progress Meeting
  6. BOTA 502 Seminar (prior to Defence of Thesis)
  7. Defence of Thesis

 

 

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1 A program without thesis is also available (see calendar)
2 Six credits, not including the thesis, must be at the 500 level. Exception: Transfer students (MSc to PhD) see section 8. A maximum of 6 credits of Directed Studies (BOTA 546, BIOL 548) are permitted for the M.Sc.
3 Of the 12 credits of course work, a maximum of 6 credits of Directed Studies are permitted.
4 Students must consult with the Chair of the Seminar Program and schedule their seminar (BOTA 502) during the last year of graduate study see point 5b.