Graduate Program Overview

The graduate student training program is a vital component of the Department of Medical Biophysics, dating back more than 50 years to its origins in cancer research at the Ontario Cancer Institute. Most of the core scientists hold their primary academic appointment in the Department of Medical Biophysics, which is in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. As many as 30% of our faculty are clinician-scientists, meaning that they are physicians who devote most of their time to research; this is key to our mission to ‘translate’ basic science research to change the practice of medicine. These faculty hold primary appointments in the Departments of Medicine, Surgery, Pediatrics, Medical Imaging and Radiation Oncology, also within the Faculty of Medicine. All hold Medical Biophysics appointments too. Medical Biophysics does not have an undergraduate program; thus, faculty teaching is restricted to graduate level courses and graduate research mentorship.

Graduate students are selected primarily for their interest and potential to become research scientists. The M.Sc. program is a common entry point but the emphasis is on early reclassification into the Ph.D. program. Course work is intended to broaden the backgrounds of all students, most of whom enter with undergraduate grounding in the life or physical sciences. All graduate students are guaranteed a stipend while in their program; approximately 40% receive scholarships from granting agencies, many of which exceed the basic stipend provided by the Department. Stipends are reviewed each year to account for the cost of living in downtown Toronto and are linked to inflation of university tuition fees.

Uniquely, research principally takes place not on the University campus but in the biomedical and cancer research institutes of the major teaching hospitals at the University of Toronto. These include the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Sunnybrook Research Institute, the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, Rotman/Baycrest Research Institute, the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. The resources and facilities they provide are unmatched in Canada, as is research productivity: a recent five year review listed 3,933 peer-reviewed papers published by our faculty and students which had already accrued 64,300 citations in the scientific literature. Faculty at Ontario Cancer Institute and Sunnybrook alone were awarded $393m in externally reviewed funding during the same period. An international panel of external reviewers described the Department of Medical Biophysics as a “crown jewel” of the university, biomedical and cancer research community. Of its graduate program they wrote, “Few programs anywhere offer a better opportunity for students to achieve their full potential.” The record of our graduate students speaks for itself: they are to be found in professorial positions in major universities in North America and around the world, in leadership positions in biomedical industry and research organizations.