The Graduate Programs are overseen by the Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC) chaired by Professor josee.dostie [at] mcgill.ca (Josée Dostie); the Graduate Program Director (GPD), Professor bhushan.nagar [at] mcgill.ca (Bhushan Nagar); and ultimately the Chair of Biochemistry, Professor thomas.duchaine [at] mcgill.ca (Thomas Duchaine). The administration is handled by the Student Affairs Officer (SAO), christine.laberge [at] mcgill.ca (Christine Laberge). Each student has a Research Advisory Committee (RAC) that is responsible for regular evaluation of research progress.
Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC)
The GAC consists of at least seven faculty members of the Department and the SAO. A list of current GAC members can be obtained from the SAO. The GAC has three main roles:
- evaluate applications for admission to the graduate programs
- monitor the progress of graduate students at program milestones – Junior and Senior Seminars, and in particular, the Thesis Proposal
- set policy on evaluation of graduate students and make recommendations on the graduate programs
To ensure the flexibility required to address the needs of individual students, the GAC reserves the right to permit deviations from the Graduate Program Regulations & Guidelines in cases where sufficient reasons are given. Details on milestones are under Doctoral Program.
Graduate Program Director (GPD)
The GPD oversees the structure of the Graduate Programs, and is the liaison between the Department and Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (GPS). The GPD has no role in evaluating student progress, unlike the GAC or RAC. Responsibilities of the GPD include:
- ensure compliance with regulations and guidelines
- resolve conflicts between graduate students and supervisors
- implement changes to the graduate programs in consultation with the GAC and Chair
Research Advisory Committee (RAC)
Regular reviews of graduate student performance are mandatory under University policy and conducted by a student’s Research Advisor Committee (RAC). A student’s RAC consists of the supervisor and two other faculty members, one from the Biochemistry Department and one from another department. The RAC should have appropriate expertise to evaluate progress and advise on the direction of research. Students must establish the RAC membership within the first semester of study, and inform the SAO of the committee members.
The first RAC meeting must be held within the first year, and at least once each following year. Students may schedule more than one meeting a year if appropriate. Failure to hold annual RAC meetings will be grounds for withdrawal.
Students must submit a written progress report to the RAC before each meeting. A RAC meeting typically consists of a short presentation, questions from the committee, and often a discussion within the committee with the student absent. At the end of the meeting, the supervisor will prepare a brief summary of the RAC's evaluation on the evaluation form. This report must be signed by the student, the RAC members and given to the SAO. Signature is not a statement of agreement with the evaluation, only acknowledgment that it has been read and understood.
- If an evaluation is “unsatisfactory”, the RAC will indicate conditions required for a "satisfactory" evaluation, and another RAC meeting must be held after 4 to 6 months.
- A second “unsatisfactory” will be grounds for withdrawal.
- A failure in one required course and one RAC evaluation will be grounds for withdrawal.
Each student is responsible to arrange RAC meetings, and submit the signed Graduate Student Research Progress Tracking Report to the GPD to be signed.
RAC approval is required before proceeding to program milestones:
- For MSc students to submit the thesis, or present the Junior Seminar to promote to the PhD program.
- For PhD students to present their Thesis Proposal, and Senior Seminar prior to thesis submission.
Please also consult: Graduate Student Research Progress Tracking
Procedures are in place to resolve conflicts between graduate students and their supervisors (or RAC). Students should always attempt to resolve such conflicts within the Department before seeking outside assistance. The confidentiality of the issues raised at each step will be ensured to the greatest extent possible. If you find yourself in a situation of conflict you should follow these steps, in the order indicated:
- Informal discussions with your supervisor and/or a member of your RAC. Discuss the matter tactfully – he/she is often unaware of the problem and will usually be happy to help find a satisfactory solution.
- Discussion with the GPD (sidong.huang [at] mcgill.ca (Dr. Sidong Huang)) who can mediate between the student, supervisor, faculty members, and informally with GPS.
- Discussion with the Department Chair. The Chair should attempt to resolve the conflict, either by providing mediation or making alternate arrangements for the continued supervision of the student if the student is otherwise performing satisfactorily in the program.
- If your supervisor happens to be the GPD or Chair and you cannot resolve the problem with him/her, then you should skip the corresponding step.
Informal meeting with the Associate Dean responsible for Medicine (GPS) or the McGill Ombudsperson. Under most circumstances, an informal meeting outside the Department is all that is required for both sides to reach an agreement. If further steps are warranted, the Associate Dean or Ombudsperson will advise you to that effect.
All students receive a stipend paid from the supervisor’s grant and/or student scholarships. It is the responsibility of the student to seek alternate sources of funding through scholarships from the University and external granting agencies. See Funding & Suppport.
The supervisor is responsible for providing sufficient resources for the student’s research project. Policies on funding of research‐related activities such as attending conferences subject to availability of funds should be discussed between the supervisor and student.
Course requirements are described under Master’s Program and Doctoral Program. Course selections must be approved by the supervisor and the GAC. It is recommended that courses be completed within the first two semesters, if possible. A passing grade is B- or 65%. A failure in two required courses will be grounds for withdrawal.
Any courses that are not required, but that a student wishes to take, will be flagged as “EXTRA”. Additional fees will be charged to the student taking these courses, which may be low for Québec students but high for international students. Before registering for any courses that are not required, students should talk to the SAO.
The Biochemistry Department guarantees a quality education in research. All students are required to attend all seminars by visiting speakers in the Unified Series hosted by the Department and the Goodman Cancer Research Centre. Attendance at all Junior and Senior Seminars is also required. A minimum attendance at 70% of seminars yearly is required to pass course BIOC 696, receive fellowships and any letters of recommendation from the Department. All new students are required to attend Research Integrity workshops.
The attendance formula for seminars is (based on 22 in the Unified Series):
- 9 Biochemistry Seminars plus 6 from any in the Unified Series (visiting speakers)
- 70% of Junior and Senior Seminars
- Junior and Senior Seminars do not count as Biochemistry or Unified Series Seminars
- Off-campus students may substitute local seminars by visiting speakers for the 6 from the United Series, by submitting the Off-Campus Seminar Form. The 9 required Biochemistry seminars, Junior and Seminars cannot be substituted.
Attendance is recorded by signed attendance sheets. If you are unable to attend a seminar for urgent personal reasons, academic commitments (courses or exams), Teaching Assistantships (TAs), research-related travel, or leave of absence, notify the SAO in advance and the seminar(s) will be removed from the number required. Regular laboratory work or vacation will not be allowed as exemptions.
Seminar notices are posted on the Biochemistry home page, and circulated by email. The GCRC also posts and circulates notices. Mandatory seminars should be clearly marked. Special seminars, which are not mandatory but which may be highly interesting to researchers, will also be announced. If you do not receive seminar notices, notify the SAO at once.
Research Expectations and Environment - Letter of Understanding
The student and supervisor should agree on the objectives and expectations of the research project, and other aspects of the research environment. These include, but are not limited to:
- Operational expectations: Working hours, and necessity of work outside regular hours; group meetings; general lab duties; record keeping; assistance from and to other personnel/students; policies on authorship of publications, within the norms of the discipline and University policies on research ethics and intellectual property.
- Supervisory Responsibilities*: Frequency of student-supervisor meetings; training role of the supervisor, including time-frame for review of the student’s written work, extent of involvement with preparations for committee meetings and comprehensive examinations, and of grant/scholarship applications, manuscripts and theses; role of the co-supervisor (if any).
- *A supervisor may not terminate supervision or payment of any stipend without just cause, documented due process, reasonable notice, and approval of the GPD, GAC or Chair.
- Student Responsibilities: Limits to work* and activities off-hours; policies on TA positions; academic, technical or language training required; expected attendance at journal clubs, workshops and seminars, aside from official requirements of the Biochemistry Graduate Program.
- * In order to maintain full-time status, a graduate student should not work more than 180 hours per term over 15 weeks with 12 hours per week.
- Other Comments: Any other points important to the supervisor or student.
If the supervisor is not a Biochemistry Department member, the head of the supervisor’s department or unit shall oversee the supervisor’s responsibilities regarding the student.
The student is fully responsible for progress towards the research objectives, both experimentally and in understanding of the relevant literature and concepts. The student and supervisor shall retain copies of the signed Letter of Understanding, and submit the original to the christine.laberge [at] mcgill.ca (Student Affairs Officer) of Biochemistry for review by GPD and signature. It will be returned and a copy will be uploaded to the student’s MyProgress site