Supervisory Committees


5.1. Formation. Supervisory committees should be formed as soon as possible after the start of the student's first academic term of graduate study and should be chosen by the supervisor in consultation with the student. The members of the supervisory committee should normally be members of the School of Graduate Studies and must be listed on the student's Graduate Student-Supervisor Agreement each year. The Graduate Studies Committee may recommend changes if the committee structure is deemed to be unsatisfactory (see below).

5.2. Composition. For an MSc student, the Supervisory Committee consists of the Supervisor and at least two other faculty members, one of whom must be a regular (i.e. not Cross-appointed or adjunct) faculty member in Biology, and one of whom is recommended to be from a different research area either inside or outside the department.

For a PhD student, the Supervisory Committee consists of the Supervisor and at least two other faculty members, one of whom must be a regular (i.e. not Cross-appointed or adjunct) faculty member in Biology, and one of whom must be from a different research area either inside or outside the Department. In some circumstances a student may have a committee member who is not a member of the School of Graduate Studies, or from outside Queen's. In such cases, a request must be made in writing to the Graduate Studies Committee, stating reasons for the request and qualifications of the proposed committee member.

5.3. Supervisors and Co-supervisors. Any regular faculty member in Biology can supervise a student pursuing an MSc or PhD in Biology. Sometimes it might be useful for a student to have two Co-supervisors, for example when the thesis topic spans two disparate fields the particular expertise of each co-supervisor would be helpful. In such cases, a student and his/her co-supervisors must agree to one of the following arrangements, which is to be indicated on the Graduate Student-Supervisor Agreement: (1) one of the co-supervisors is designated the major supervisor and will take primary responsibility for the student, especially in dealings with the Graduate Office, or (2) co-supervisors may share full responsibility for the student. In either case there should be a clear statement of financial responsibility for the student and the research. Cross-appointed and adjunct faculty may also co-supervise a student in conjunction with any other regular member of the Biology faculty. In such cases the regular faculty member will have ultimate financial and administrative responsibility for the student. Students with co-supervisors should discuss the details of collaborative research (see Section 6) with each of their supervisors, and include these details on their Graduate Student-Supervisor Agreement each year.

5.4. Program Approval. The supervisory committee should meet with each new student as early as possible during their first term of study and plan the program of studies and research. This program may later be changed by consultation between the student and the supervisory committee.

5.5. Committee Meetings. The supervisory committee MUST meet at least once each year with the student. For this meeting the student should prepare a brief written summary of research progress (usually 3-5 pages) to be distributed to the supervisory committee members at least five working days prior to the committee meeting. The supervisor will keep copies of these research summaries. It is the responsibility of the supervisor and student to ensure that these meetings take place. Students (or supervisors) should call a supervisory committee meeting any time there are academic problems or difficulties with the research program, or when a thesis defense or comprehensive exam is to be scheduled in the near future.

5.6. Committee Reports. A committee report form must be filed with the Graduate Office after each committee meeting. This report should summarize the student's academic and research progress to date, as well as plans for the future including expected date of thesis submission. Progress reports must be signed by all members of the supervisory committee. On each report the student's progress to date must be indicated as "Satisfactory", "Conditional" or "Unsatisfactory". "Satisfactory" indicates that the student has received a passing grade on graduate courses and that the thesis research is progressing well and on schedule. "Conditional" indicates that due to poor marks or lack of research progress the student is not performing at a level that would allow the planned program to be completed successfully within the expected period. In such cases, another committee meeting must be held within four months to further evaluate the student's progress and to assess any conditions imposed at the previous meeting. In some cases this follow-up meeting might have to be delayed for up to eight months if a course has to be taken. At this second meeting the student's progress must be indicated as either "Satisfactory" or "Unsatisfactory". If an "Unsatisfactory" rating is indicated, another Committee Meeting must be held within two months to further evaluate the student's progress and again only a "Satisfactory" or "Unsatisfactory" rating can be given. Students receiving a second consecutive "Unsatisfactory" rating will be asked to withdraw from the program. All "Conditional" and "Unsatisfactory" ratings from committee meetings will be brought to the attention of the Graduate Studies Committee which may recommend further courses of action to the student and/or supervisory committee.

5.7. Supervisor's Absence. If a graduate supervisor leaves the University, or is absent on sabbatical leave, or is required by the University to perform other (administrative) duties, the supervisor should make formal written arrangements for an interim supervisor if this absence is likely to impair effective supervision.  Copies of this written arrangement must be given to both the student and the Graduate Office to be put in the student's file. Applicants for graduate study in this Department will be informed by the Graduate Office if their prospective supervisor will be absent from the Department for any prolonged periods during their first year of graduate work.

5.8. Student Grievance. A student who is dissatisfied with his/her progress, or feels that the commitments of the supervisor are not being fulfilled, should call a meeting of the supervisory committee to discuss the problem.

Alternatively, the student may request an interview with the Coordinator of Graduate Studies. In some circumstances, students may be advised to request an interview with the University grievance officers so that an official documentation of complaints can be recorded by an impartial party.

5.9. Change of Supervisor. The initial selection of a supervisor is usually considered a permanent arrangement by the student and professor. If, however, the student and the professor do not work well together, or find that their research interests are not compatible, a request to change supervisors may be made in writing to the Graduate Studies Committee. In all cases, it is recommended that the student discuss proposed changes with all members of his/her supervisory committee and with the Graduate Coordinator before a formal request for change is made.

5.10. Withdrawal from the Program. For students who withdraw for reasons other than unsatisfactory reports or failure of an examination, a letter and academic change form from the student and a letter from the supervisor detailing the reasons for withdrawal must be sent to the Graduate Coordinator.

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