MSc Thesis-Based Program

Students in the Thesis-Based MSc are expected to think critically about scientific issues and develop a knowledge base in pharmacology while formulating hypotheses in a specific area of pharmacological research. You will test your hypotheses through active research and present your investigations in a thesis.

Program Requirements

Students in the Thesis-Based MSc must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete PCL1002Y: Graduate Pharmacology. The academic program may require additional coursework.
  • Present a departmental seminar after one year in the program.
  • Participate in a research program and present the results of the investigation as a written thesis. The thesis will be evaluated and defended to the satisfaction of a thesis examination committee.
  • Spend a minimum of one full year of residence, during which time the student is required to be on campus full-time and in such geographic proximity as to be able to participate fully in the department's activities associated with the program.

The MSc program can be completed in 6 sessions (2 years) full-time.

Monitoring and Progress

In addition to the immediate supervisor, MSc students in the thesis-based program select an advisor -- an additional Graduate Faculty member that monitors your progress and provides guidance.

The Advisor is selected by you in consultation with your Supervisor and is subject to the approval of the Graduate Coordinator. Selection of the advisor should be made within the first 3 months of program registration by submitting an Advisor Selection Form to the Graduate Office.   

Both the Supervisor and the Advisor are required to submit formal annual reports on your progress at the beginning of each academic session, prior to re-registration. See MSc Advisor Report and MSc Supervisor Report

The Supervisor, the Advisor, or the student, may report problems directly to the Graduate Coordinator or the Department Chair.

First-Year Seminar

All M.Sc. students are required to give a seminar after one year in the program. The seminars are normally held in the fall and are an opportunity for you to become familiar with the expectations for the defense.

You should aim to present the results/progress made thus far and include any problems you are encountering. If you are still awaiting results from your thesis research, you can still give a seminar focusing on scientific thought and rationale. The length of your presentation should be 15 minutes. A 10-minute question period will follow your presentation.

Since supervisors are required to attend all of their students’ seminars, it is not possible for the Graduate Office to give students a choice of dates. We will do our best to distribute a tentative schedule early enough so that if there are any conflicts you and your supervisor(s) can inform the Graduate Office before the final schedule is complete.

Program Completion

Begin by familiarizing yourself with the Program Completion procedures.

Thesis write-up and defence should be completed within 3 months after active research has been completed. Once your thesis is complete and approved by your Supervisor, finalize the date and time of the defence with your committee members and submit the MSc Oral Examination Committee form along with a copy of your thesis to the Graduate Office at least FOUR WEEKS PRIOR to the date you are scheduled to defend.  

IMPORTANT: In preparing for the oral examination, you should be aware that the Examination Committee is not required to restrict their questions to the specific subject area of the defence since it is expected that students would have gained a broad knowledge base in pharmacology during the course of their studies. It is your responsibility to ensure that the thesis is delivered to the Examination Committee in a reasonable period of time (i.e., minimum four weeks) so the committee members can read the thesis and the appraiser can write the appraisal. All members of the examination committee (including the Chair) must receive a copy of the thesis. 

The MSc Examination Committee is composed of:

  1. Supervisor(s) 
  2. Appraiser
  3. Voting Member 
  4. Voting Member 
  5. Chair (obtained by the Graduate Office) 

The Appraiser: For the purposes of the M.Sc. defence, the Appraiser of the thesis should be an expert on the subject of the thesis and, normally, will be an Assistant, Associate or Full Professor at the University of Toronto. In nominating someone as Appraiser for a thesis, the Supervisor must certify to the Graduate Coordinator that the nominee has an arm’s-length relationship both with the candidate and with the Supervisor. The Appraiser provides a 1-2 page report with brief, constructively critical and analytical comments, in addition to an explicit recommendation that the thesis be or not be accepted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree. 

Voting Members: One of the 2 voting members should have a graduate appointment in Pharmacology. The student's Advisor can be a voting member. 

Potential Examination Outcomes

  • Successful Defence: After successful examination, the corrected thesis must be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies. Please visit their website for information on program completion procedures.
  • Postponement: An examination may be postponed if more than one negative vote concerning the suitability of the written thesis for defence is received in advance. Only one postponement of an oral examination is permitted.
  • Adjournment: During the examination, more than one negative vote (or abstention) in either the thesis or oral examination category causes the oral examination to be adjourned. In situations where an examination was adjourned, a reconvened examination is to be held within one year of the adjournment. If the candidate is not successful at the reconvened exam, they will be ineligible for further M.Sc./Ph.D. candidacy at the University.

A Thesis Approval Form is given to your Supervisor after the Defense. If your supervisor did not receive it, you may obtain another copy from the Graduate Office. This form must be submitted to the Graduate Office in enough time for the Graduate Office to prepare and submit your Degree Recommendation to the School of Graduate Studies.

Transfer to the Ph.D. Program

Outstanding MSc students may apply for transfer to the Ph.D. program in Pharmacology after one year. Transfer after the end of April of the second year is not permitted. Students enrolled in the course-based Applied Clinical Pharmacology program are not eligible to transfer to the Ph.D. program; however, they are eligible to apply for the Ph.D. program upon completion of the MSc program.

Eligibility Criteria

  • B+ or higher in all graduate courses taken
  • The current MSc research project must be expandable in scope to meet Ph.D. thesis research requirements and must have resulted in sufficient progress to support the likelihood of a successful outcome at the Ph.D. level
  • The full support of the current MSc Supervisor (and Co-Supervisor where applicable)
  • The proposed Ph.D. supervisor MUST be the same as the current MSc supervisor

How to Apply

  1. Notify the Graduate Office you wish to be considered for Ph.D. transfer
  2. Submit to the Graduate Office:
    • Ph.D. Proposal. The proposal should be 5-10 pages of single-spaced text (excluding references and figures) and should include:
      • a review of background literature;
      • a statement of hypotheses and/or goals;
      • a progress report on work accomplished to date;
      • a research plan for experiments to be completed in the Ph.D. program;
      • a statement of the overall significance of the research project.
    • A one-page summary of the Research Proposal
    • Curriculum Vitae (be sure to include any publications and presentations)
  3. Have a minimum of THREE letters of reference sent on your behalf to the Graduate Office:
    • One letter from the proposed Ph.D. supervisor (current MSc supervisor)
    • Two letters from Graduate Faculty members (Assessors) who are well acquainted with your work, are subject matter experts on the research field of the proposed project, and might possibly serve on your Ph.D. supervisory committee
    • If you have a co-supervisor, an additional letter from the co-supervisor is also required.

Assessors should indicate:

  • The proposed project is suitable for a Ph.D. project (comment on the scientific quality of the proposal and potential impact of anticipated results)
  • The student has the qualities and potential for the Ph.D. program

The letter from the proposed Ph.D. supervisor should comment on the above and also confirm that adequate financial and infrastructure resources are in place to support both the student and the project.

Upon receipt of the above, the Graduate Education Committee will recommend whether the student should be allowed to proceed with the transfer.

Ph.D. Transfer Checklist

The following are some statements to guide your thinking about the feasibility of your proposed Ph.D. research:

  • The scope of my current M.Sc. project is expandable to a Ph.D. project.
  • My project has generated sufficient preliminary data to support the feasibility of the research goals.
  • The progress of my project is being monitored at reasonable time intervals.
  • Clinical Projects: I have made sufficient progress in patient recruitment to demonstrate the feasibility of my proposed study
  • There are no experimental/methodological issues that could hamper the progress of the project being addressed.
  • My study scope and timeline for achieving my research objectives align with the program completion time guidelines.

Continuing from the MSc to the Ph.D. Program

As per SGS regulations, all students applying for admission are required to submit and pay the posted application fee; this includes those currently registered who wish to continue on to a second program of study. Full application must be made by all applicants by the posted application dates.

Eligibility for the Ph.D. Program

To be eligible, the student must have achieved an average grade of at least B+ or higher in their Master's degree courses.

Continuing from the M.Sc. to Ph.D. program in Pharmacology may be carried out in one of two ways:

  1. For those Pharmacology M.Sc. students in the thesis-based program who have already obtained a Ph.D. supervisor and proposed Ph.D. project, there is the opportunity to screen at their Master's defense. This option is usually for students who are continuing on in the same laboratory with the same supervisor. An online application must still be completed but the process is expedited.
  2. M.Sc. Pharmacology graduates who do not screen at their outgoing M.Sc. defense must apply via the online application system. As with all other applicants to the Ph.D. program, students will be admitted based on their academic qualifications, references and a detailed examination of the full application package. An admission interview may or may not be required.

Ph.D. Screening (Option #1)

Application to screen at the M.Sc. defense must be made to the Graduate Education Committee at least SIX WEEKS ahead of the proposed date of the defense (i.e., in time for the committee to evaluate the application and Ph.D. proposal prior to the proposed Defense+Screening).

Continuing students may enter the Ph.D. program either in September or January.

Application is made via the online application system and applicants must pay the processing fee and comply with the posted deadlines and required documentation rules.

The application must include:

  1. Three references. One from the current M.Sc. supervisor, which states that the current project is suitable for a Ph.D. project and that the student has the qualities and potential for the Ph.D. program; the second should be from a faculty member (e.g., the M.Sc. Advisor) who is well acquainted with the student's work. [For students proposing to change supervisors for the Ph.D. program, an additional letter from the proposed Ph.D. supervisor discussing the suitability of the proposed project should be included.]
  2. Brief Ph.D. Proposal - (upload this document instead of the List of Proposed Supervisors and Proposed Research Areas of Study)
    The proposal should be 5-10 pages of single-spaced text, excluding references and figures and should include the following components:
    • A one-page summary of the research proposal
    • A statement of hypotheses and/or goals;
    • A progress report on work accomplished to date (if applicable);
    • A research plan for experiments to be completed in the Ph.D. program;
    • A statement of the overall significance of the research project.
  3. Curriculum Vitae (be sure to include publications if any). 

Once the application to screen has been approved, a standard M.Sc. examination committee must be assembled. Two additional Graduate Education Committee members will be added to the examination committee to evaluate the Ph.D. screening. These two additional Screening Committee Members are not required to have a copy of the thesis unless specifically requested.

The student undergoing simultaneous M.Sc. Defense/Ph.D. Screening should be prepared to give an oral presentation (20 mins) that outlines the M.Sc. thesis research and a very brief description of the proposed Ph.D. project. Questions at the M.Sc. Defense/Ph.D. Screening can involve the M.Sc. thesis research, the proposed Ph.D. work, and general principles of pharmacology.