Transferring from MSc to PhD

The transfer from MSc to PhD without completing the MSc is designed to allow a student who has developed a great project during their MSc work to transfer that project into the PhD program. While this can sound pretty attractive there are some distinct disadvantages of doing this. Both the pros and cons of taking such a transfer are summarized below.


  • write only one thesis rather than two graduate theses, and thus have only one thesis defence
  • move into PhD program without need to have completed a research project
  • spread the course load over more years as you do not need to complete the required 4 MSc courses before transferring to the PhD program


  • garner some valuable experience in writing a thesis. Most students have no idea how long it will take them to put together their thesis. Writing up your MSc will give you some valuable insights into both the process and your ability. Such writing also helps tremendously in formulating new research for your PhD as it gets you reading the relevant background, and will provide you with excellent feedback on your organizational, writing and analytical skills.
  • gain confidence in both your work and your writing. Until you have actually written and defended a thesis you have no idea how much confidence you will gain in going through this process successfully. The extra time taken to write up an MSc can certainly be countered by the increased efficiency you will get from this confidence boost.
  • submit a paper or two for publication. If you are planning to stay on to extend your MSc work into a PhD, then focus the MSc thesis on work that can now be written up for publication. This too s invaluable experience but even better, it's a great way to enhance scholarship, and eventually job, applications. Published papers will also introduce you to and raise your profile in your field of research, also invaluable.
  • put some of your research behind you. By writing up some of your research for publication, you will not be tempted to collect more data on the subject of that work. This will allow you to focus your PhD research on more important topics.
  • have a thesis completed and a degree in hand. In the unlikely event that your PhD research flounders, or you change your mind for whatever reason, you will already have a degree completed. If you take this route there is no going back.

I've spent more time than many will believe [making microscopic observations], but I've done them with joy, and I've taken no notice those who have said why take so much trouble and what good is it?

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

It's a parts list... If I gave you the parts list for the Boeing 777 and it had 100,000 parts, I don't think you could screw it together and you certainly wouldn't understand why it flew

Eric Lander

What is true for E. coli is also true for the elephant

Jacques Monod

The world becomes full of organisms that have what it takes to become ancestors. That, in a sentence, is Darwinism

Richard Dawkins

Shall we conjecture that one and the same kind of living filaments is and has been the cause of all organic life?

Erasmus Darwin

Nature proceeds little by little from things lifeless to animal life in such a way that it's impossible to determine the line of demarcation


Cells let us walk, talk, think, make love, and realize the bath water is cold

Lorraine Lee Cudmore

In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history

Charles Darwin

It is my belief that the basic knowledge that we're providing to the world will have a profound impact on the human condition and the treatments for disease and our view of our place on the biological continuum

J. Craig Venter

Imagine a house coming together spontaneously from all the information contained in the bricks: that is how animal bodies are made

Neil Shubin

A grain in the balance will determine which individual shall live and which shall die - which variety or species shall increase in number, and which shall decrease, or finally become extinct

Charles Darwin

The stuff of life turned out to be not a quivering, glowing, wondrous gel but a contraption of tiny jigs, springs, hinges, rods, sheets, magnets, zippers, and trapdoors, assembled by a data tape whose information is copied, downloaded and scanned

Steven Pinker

We wish to discuss a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid. (D.N.A.). This structure has novel features which are of considerable biologic interest

Rosalind Franklin

We are biology. We are reminded of this at the beginning and the end, at birth and at death. In between we do what we can to forget

Mary Roach

The systems approach to biology will be the dominant theme in medicine

Leroy Hood

I've always been interested in animal behavior, and I keep reading about it because it's so surprising all the time - so many things are happening around us that we neglect to look at. Part of the passion I have for biology is based on this wonderment"

Isabella Rossellini

Because all of biology is connected, one can often make a breakthrough with an organism that exaggerates a particular phenomenon, and later explore the generality

Thomas Cech

Nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of evolution

Theodosius Dobzhansky

Biology is now bigger than physics, as measured by the size of budgets, by the size of the workforce, or by the output of major discoveries; and biology is likely to remain the biggest part of science through the twenty-first century

- Freeman Dyson

Nothing can be more incorrect than the assumption one sometimes meets with, that physics has one method, chemistry another, and biology a third

- Thomas Huxley