Our main objective is to prepare students for research careers. The graduate program is organized into three different scientific streams: Cellular and Molecular Biology (with an emphasis on cancer biology), Medical Physics, and Molecular and Structural Biology. Each stream primarily recruits students ultimately interested in obtaining a Ph.D. degree, although an M.Sc. degree is also offered.
All programs emphasize multidisciplinary laboratory research aimed at understanding basic mechanisms and stress quantitative approaches. Because most faculty are housed in research institutes associated with large hospitals, many projects are related to cancer, genetic defects, and diagnosis and therapy. Within this context, however, the research interests of the faculty are very diverse. Research topics in the Cellular and Molecular Biology programmes range from studies of the control of gene expression in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, to problems of cellular differentiation in complex organ systems, to studies of new therapeutic approaches in animal model systems. In the Medical Physics programme, topics encompass the physics of imaging systems to evaluation of new therapeutic methods in the clinic. In the Molecular and Structural Biology programme they range from high resolution structure determination of macromolecules by NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography and electron microscopy to design of special peptide structures that enhance drug delivery across membranes. Much of the research involves collaboration between two or more faculty members and depends upon the application of complementary expertise to address a specific problem or question. The collaborative aspects and diverse nature of the research undertaken in the Department is a major strength of our graduate programme, as it provides the opportunity for our students to be exposed to a wide range of research ideas and methodologies. Students in this program can also join the University-wide program in Biomolecular Structure. The Department also has participation in the CIHR Training Program in Protein Folding, CIHR Training program in the Structural Biology of membrane proteins linked to disease, and in the CIHR Research training program in Radiation Medicine.
The average Ph.D. programme requires five years, although some individuals complete the degree in under three. Most students first enrol in an M.Sc. programme. During the first year and a half, students begin serious work on their research project and complete most of their formal course work. Within 18 months of registration, students follow one of two paths. They may attempt to reclassify as Ph.D. students (this requires an A average on courses taken in Graduate School and successful oral defence of a written research proposal for the Ph.D. thesis), or they may choose to complete their M.Sc. degree. Students who complete an M.Sc. degree are evaluated as potential Ph.D. candidates during the oral defence of their M.Sc. thesis. Students who already have an M.Sc. degree may, at the discretion of the department, enrol directly into a Ph.D. programme but must pass a qualifying exam (similar to a reclassification exam) within 15 months of their start date.
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