Program transfers between MSc and PhD 

If you have clearly demonstrated the ability to do research at the doctoral level, you may, with the recommendation of your thesis advisory committee, request to transfer to the PhD program. 

Transfer to the PhD program is based on your performance at an assessment examination, which is normally held 18 - 22 months after the start of the MSc program.  

Procedure for MSc to PhD transfer  

1. Set up and prepare the committee 

Upon the recommendation of the thesis advisory committee, you and your supervisor will schedule the transfer examination and set up an Examination Committee.

You will submit a transfer request at least four weeks before the examination using the Transfer Request Form (online form).  

The Examination Committee consists of:  

  • Examination Chair, a member of the LMP graduate faculty, who chairs the examining committee, and at her/his discretion may participate in questioning you;  
  • your advisory committee; and  
  • two other graduate faculty members, one of whom is a member of another graduate unit.

2. Prepare a research proposal 

You will prepare a Research Proposal and distribute it to the members of the examination committee (including the Chair) at least two weeks before the examination.  

You should also send the committee: 

Your research proposal should describe the experiments that you intend to perform as a PhD student. 

It is your task to convince the committee members that your proposed work will likely lead to novel and significant findings – passing the Transfer Exam depends on this.  

In general, good experiments have clearly described hypotheses, strong rationales (based on published data or your preliminary data that support your hypotheses), and feasible experimental approaches (well-established assays or assays that are within the expertise of your laboratory or your collaborator’s laboratory). 

Your research proposal should not exceed 11 pages (12-point font; double-spaced; page limit does not include references and figures/figure legends).  

The research proposal should include the following sections:  

  • Abstract: Summary of the proposal (~1 page)  
  • Introduction: The purpose of the introduction is to provide background information that allows the examiners to understand your proposed work. Try to avoid writing a generic overview of the field. Your introduction should be tailored to your proposal. (~3 pages)  
  • Preliminary data: This section should contain data you have generated that is relevant to your proposed work. The style should be similar to that of a Results Section of a manuscript. (~3 pages)  
  • Research plan: The research plan should contain two to three specific aims. Ideally for each aim, you should provide a rationale (the reason why you believe the aim is strong), describe the experiments you will perform to achieve the aim, discuss potential pitfalls, and indicate alternative approaches if your primary approach fails. (~4 pages)  

3. Deliver a presentation at the examination 

At the examination, you will give a presentation describing your research carried out to date as well as the research proposed for the PhD thesis. 

Your presentation should be 20 minutes. 

The committee will examine you on: 

  • your research 
  • the proposed research, and 
  • general knowledge related to the proposal. 

You should be prepared to discuss background knowledge and techniques as well as to defend the significance and feasibility of the proposed research.  

4. Committee discussion 

After the formal examination, you and your supervisor will leave the room. 

The Committee will then discuss your: 

  • examination 
  • written proposal 
  • academic record 
  • progress in research 
  • the proposal for PhD thesis. 

They will pay special attention to whether you have developed, or you have the potential to develop, the intellectual processes required for original thinking and independent research. 

All committee members must unanimously agree for the recommendation to transfer to the PhD program for it to be passed.   

If the Examination Committee does not recommend transfer to the PhD program 

Three options are available. The Committee can recommend you: 

  • revise the proposal and re-take the oral examination within 6 weeks; 
  • re-take the oral examination within 6 weeks, with no proposal revision; 
  • complete an MSc degree.  

Final decisions 

If the Examination Committee recommends transfer to the PhD program, the final decision will be made by the School of Graduate Studies.  

Use The Transfer Examination Checklist (Word doc) to ensure you meet all the requirements. 

PhD to MSc transfer  

Your advisory committee may recommend you transfer to the MSc program, or you may request the back-transfer. 

This request requires approval of the Vice Dean, School of Graduate Studies.  

PhD to MSc Back-Transfer Request form (PDF).