Biology Graduate Program Info

Complete information on our graduate program is spread across a number of websites. We are working to fix this, but in the meantime this list of links and information should help prospective and current students.

  • Grad Studies at StFX
    University-wide information and regulations. Explore all the links on the left, particularly the Graduate Studies Handbook.
  • StFX Biology MSc Program
    Information on the specific requirements for an MSc in Biology.
  • StFX Academic Calendar and Calendar of Events
    The academic calendar includes the core information on the MSc program in science (Section 8, Graduate Studies), as well as basic information on StFX academic regulations, important dates, etc.
  • Funding and fees: estimated tuition, scholarships, and TAships
    Total fees: Canadian residents, ~ $7,500;  International: ~$13,000
    This system of tuition, internal fellowships and teaching assistantships is new, as of 2018-2019 academic year.   Overall, funding is provided as a combination of internal scholarships, TAships, external fellowships, and stipends from research grants held by faculty.  Funding for any given student will be organized on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with the supervisor.
    Annual tuition: approximately $6500/year; international students pay double this amount.  The tuition charges will apply to the first 24 months (normal time to completion) of MA and MSc programs.
    Other fees: approximately $1,000/year in other mandatory fees are charged to all students (for things like technology, recreation, and facilites)
    Internal graduate scholarships:
     up to $8000/year over the initial 24 month period.  Scholarships will be paid to student accounts (i.e. not taxable).
    Teaching assistance awards: up to $3000/year over the initial 24 month period.  TA awards are paid through payroll (i.e., taxable).
    External fellowships: a variety of external fellowships are available.
    Stipends/resarch assistantships: faculty can pay students from research grants. [see Stipends and Payroll below for more details]
  • Health Care: A health care plan is available; grad students enroll via the web form to opt in (and will have to pay the corresponding fee, approximately $1,000 per year).
  • Health Care: International graduate students should opt in to the health plan for the first year of their program.   After one year, they qualify for Nova Scotia MSI, and can then choose whether to opt in.   If they work as a TA or RA in their first year, they qualify for MSI immediately, and can choose whether or not to opt into the health care plan.
  • Application Process (in brief)
    Step 1: Contact a faculty member and discuss opportunities. This may require submission of unofficial or official transcripts and reference letters (either informal, or using the official StFX forms from the formal application package).
    Step 2: Once you an informal agreement to join a faculty member’s lab, submit a formal application.
  • Getting Started (in brief)
    After you are accepted and are in Antigonish, you will start on your MSc program. You will first meet with your supervisor and (with their help) establish an Advisory Committee. In collaboration with your Committee you will choose which courses you are to take, along with your thesis work. When you are registered for those courses, then you officially become enrolled as a student.
  • Registration
    Grad students do not register themselves for courses at StFX. Instead, the Plan of Study form (completed at the student’s first committee meeting) is submitted by the supervisor and used by the Dean’s office to give the registration info to the registrar’s office.  Registration usually happens within 4 weeks of starting the program (but there is no fixed deadline).
  • Required Paperwork
    There are a number of forms must be completed throughout the MSc program. These are provided on the grad studies website.  These forms can change, so make sure you check the sites once a year for new forms and modifications.
  • Timeline & Checklist
    In addition to the required paperwork, I personally recommend students construct a customized timeline that incorporates the various aspects of the program (laid out by the required paperwork) as well as the details of their particular thesis research project. This helps students know what the program requirements and deadlines are (by forcing them to become familiar with it), keeps their expectations realistic, and helps to avoid surprises later in the program.   This unofficial MSc Timeline & Checklist can be used as starting point.
  • Continuation and Extensions
    Sometimes circumstances lead to a degree program taking longer than 24 months. In this case, a student must apply for a 12 month continuation, and pay a continuation fee (equivalent of a 6-credit course – $1700 in 2017). The first continuation is usually a formality provided the student is showing adequate progress in the program.  Further continuations (to the 5 year maximum) or program extension (beyond the 5 year maximum) are possible in special circumstances but require special approval.
  • Stipends and Payroll
    Scholarships and stipends from research grants are tax free for students.  Paid work from a grant account is taxed.  Your supervisor must be involved in deciding which option(s) are available to you (its complicated tax law stuff).  Generally, if it is pay for employment it will be taxable, but if if it is awarded on academic merit (e.g. the student was selected from among other applicants) and provided as support while working on thesis research, then it is not taxable.  Stipends and scholarships are dealt with by the finance office (Chantal MacIsaac in 2017), while paid work is dealt with by payroll. Note that payroll pays students 2 weeks in arrears, which means that your first pay deposit may not happen until up to 4 weeks after you start (it may happen earlier though).
  • Affiliate email accounts
    Every graduate student automatically receives a student email account.  However, affiliate email accounts provide several benefits for grad students.  For example, affiliate accounts have access to important technology (printers, scanners, etc.) not available through regular student accounts.  Affiliate accounts also have an email address based on the grad student’s name, rather than a random letter generator. Students that choose to use an affiliate account, should set up automatic forwarding from their student account.
  • Email lists
    Ensure your email is added to the various email lists:
    Grad studies for the university-wide graduate students email list
    Bonnie McIsaac for both biograds (includs all Dept of Biology grad students) and Everyone-in-Biology lists (self explanatory).
  • Undergraduate Lab Demonstration
    Graduate students are eligible to apply for demonstrator positions in undergraduate laboratories. The positions (~4 hrs/week) usually qualify graduate students for a tuition waiver (although that is not guaranteed), or provide a small stipend. A call for applications is distributed internally before the start of every academic year.
  • Courses
    Graduate courses in Biology at StFX are highly flexible to accommodate apppropriate research preparation for each graduate student. Each graduate student usually takes one or two modified versions of undergraduate courses with extra components and/or higher expectations. The extent of the modifications vary substantially to match the background of the student. In addition, one or more Biol 581 Selected Topics courses can be used for areas not part of the undergraduate curriculum.
  • Grad Student Society
    An important part of graduate school is making connections with other graduate students. Contact the grad society (via grad studies) to ensure you are added to their email listserv, and introduce yourself to your peers.
  • Safety
    Appropriate workplace safety knowledge and training is required, including basic occupational health and safety on campus, awareness of Dept of Biology laboratory safety recommendations, and attendance at a safety seminar (scheduled as needed). In addition, for certain students, field safety, dive safety, or biosafety rules may apply, and training may be required.
  • Animal Care
    If your research requires use of animals, you will need animal care training. What level of training needed will depend on the research protocol involved. Start with a consultation with Senior Animal Care and Plant Technician.
  • Departmental Truck
    Our departmental vehicle is available for research use. Consult with your supervisor or Dr. Barry Taylor for regulations.
  • Rental Vehicles (for research travel only)
    Graduate students are allowed to rent vehicles for grant-supported research travel under the university contract with Enterprise Rentals. The student must have a valid full driver’s license and must be 21 or older. Students do not need the insurance package offered by Enterprise, but must notify Procurement Services in advance so they can be added to the university’s fleet insurance policy (notification should include name, date of birth, and driver’s license number and jurisdiction). Rentals can be booked online (using the StFX group code available through Procurement Services) or by calling Enterprise Rentals at (902) 867-1013.
  • Common Equipment
    With appropriate training, access is availabe to any of the following departmental equipment: field equipment (consult with Randy Lauff), advanced microscopy (confocal, SEM and TEM; George Robertson), autoclave (Lori Graham), cold rooms and incubation chambers (various faculty) and the common molecular biology facility (Cory Bishop).
  • Thesis Formatting
    No formal format requirements are specified for MSc theses at StFX. Convention in the biology program is to use this thesis template, which uses NRC research press guidelines.
  • Thesis Defense Preparation and Timeline
    This is my attempt at a comprehensive preparation list to keep both student and supervisor on track.

    3+ months before defense

    – identify external committee member options (supervisor and student)
    – contact external (policy says Chair of department, but usually done by supervisor)
    – lay out tentative schedule (student)
    – send plan to Grad Studies, Dept Chair & grad student coordinator (supervisor)
    – submit extension form if necessary (student and supervisor)

    4-6 weeks before defense

    – complete first draft thesis (student)
    – complete final draft thesis (student, following comments from supervisor)
    – submit final draft to all committee members, external, and Dept Chair (student)
    – finalize schedule and book room (full committee and student)
    – send schedule to Grad Studies, Dept Chair & grad student coordinator (supervisor)2 weeks before defense– notice to university faculty (supervisor or grad coordinator)

    1 week before defense

    – plan in case of travel complications for external (student, supervisor, external)
    – post notice in dept (supervisor)
    – print paperwork (MSc examination form, thesis signature pages)0 days before defense
    – setup in room early
    – bring paperwork
    – provide treats for the committee (crucial!)
    – celebration plans

    after the defense (no you aren’t done yet)
    – revise thesis based on comments from supervisory commitee and external examiner
    – submit thesis and associated forms
    – print thesis for binding