DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY (PhD) PROGRAM
The minimum course program for this degree will be seven (7) half (one semester) courses at least five of which should be at the 700-level, beyond the baccalaureate degree or three (3) half courses at least two of which should be at the 700-level beyond the master's degree.
Rate of Progress in Ph.D.
A four year period with funding has been set for our Ph. D. program. Students must meet with their supervisory committee at least once a year to discuss progress and objectives. The maximum time for completion of the Ph.D. degree is limited to six years (18 terms) from initial registration in the regular doctoral program.
Entry to PhD. Program Without Completion of Master’s Requirements
Students enrolled in an M.A.Sc. (Thesis or internship) program may be transferred to the Ph.D. program prior to the completion of the M.A.Sc. Degree. Transfer to the Ph.D., without completion of the M.A.Sc. is intended to expedite the student's progress towards the Ph.D. by not requiring the preparation of the formal M.A.Sc. thesis and allowing the research to be used in the Ph.D. thesis. The expectation for transfer to Ph.D. is that the research progress at the M.A.Sc. level should be exemplary. The candidate will be expected to have completed at least three (3) graduate level half ‑ courses (one semester) with a grade average of B+ or better. The possibility of transfer to Ph.D. should be discussed by the student and the research supervisor early in the M.A.Sc. Program and then the following procedure should be followed:
- Not sooner than upon the completion of two terms after initial registration in the M.A.Sc. program at McMaster, and no later than November 1st of the fourth term of residency (or March 1st for students admitted in January), students may request in writing to the Chair to be reclassified as Ph.D. students.
- The Chair will then appoint an Examining Committee comprised of two (2) faculty members, in addition to the student's research supervisor(s). An examination date will be set for no later than January 15th (or May 15th for students admitted in January).
- The student will provide four (4) copies of a formal written transfer report, which summarizes the work to date, to the Department office no later than ten (10) days before the scheduled examination date.
The transfer report is not a thesis and need not follow the M.A.Sc. Thesis preparation requirements since the report will not be kept for archival research purposes. However, it is a formal document and due care should be given to its preparation to make sure that it is technically sound and well written. Figures should be drawn using drafting or drawing equipment or with a suitable computer‑aided drawing/graphics package. References should follow the citation style of the Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering. SI units should be used throughout the report with values in other unit systems provided in brackets, if necessary. Appendices with raw experimental data, computer programs, and detailed equipment lists should not be necessary for the purposes of the examination. The maximum report is 25 single-spaced pages. The transfer report must address the following points:
- Definition of the research problem.
- Brief critical review of the relevant literature.
- Summary of the completed work including, as appropriate: experimental equipment built, experimental techniques developed, experimental data gathered and analyzed, algorithms, or software. The summary must clearly show the Examining Committee some contribution to chemical engineering science/practice or substantial progress towards completion of a major requirement of the research (e.g. experimental equipment built, software written, and algorithm prototyped).
- Scope of the completed work as a basis for future Ph.D. studies. The emphasis is on research progress and completed work and not on the research plan for the Ph.D. studies which is the subject of the Ph.D. proposal.
- The examination will consist of an oral presentation, 20‑30 minutes in duration, summarizing the research progress to date with a subsequent question period open to the all members of the Department. The candidate will then have a closed session of questioning, by the Examining Committee members only, on the transfer report and oral presentation.
- The Examining Committee will evaluate the student's course standings, transfer report, oral presentation of the research progress and the answers provided during the examination.
- At the first departmental faculty meeting to be held after the student's examination, the recommendation of the Examining Committee will be considered by the faculty.
- If the student is given Ph.D. candidate status, the student will be required to take the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination.
The outcome of the examining committee review will be that the Department recommends to the Committee on Graduate Admissions and Study one of the following:
- admission to Ph.D. studies following completion of the requirements of the M.A.Sc. degree;
- admission to Ph.D. studies without completion of an M.A.Sc. program;
- admission to Ph.D. studies but with concurrent completion of all requirements for an M.A.Sc. degree within one calendar year from the date of reclassification;
- refusal of admission to Ph.D. studies
Recommendation 2 would permit a student to re‑register as a candidate for an M.A.Sc. degree provided that work to date has met the standards for the M.A.Sc. program. Students, who do not fulfill the conditions of recommendation 3, i.e. complete the requirements for the M.A.Sc. degree, within the year will lose their status as a Ph.D. candidate.
Doctoral students at McMaster University are each assigned a supervisory committee as soon as possible (in any case not later than 6 months following their initial registration). This consists usually of the research supervisor(s), one other professor in the department and a professor from outside the department. The Committee will be appointed by the Chair of the department upon the recommendation of the committee. Supervisory Committee meetings will be scheduled by Melissa..
THE COMMITTEE WILL MEET WITH THE CANDIDATE AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR. The School of Graduate Studies requires students to complete a progress report form, which becomes part of the overall Ph.D. Supervisory committee report. This page is the initialed by the supervisory committee members.
Please submit this form with your technical report that is to be circulated to the supervisory committee, one week in advance of your supervisory meeting. The format of your technical report should be discussed with your supervisor. The report should be a maximum of 25 pages. Supplemental material such as thesis chapters or paper submissions should be sent separately electronically.
Melissa will keep the signed original for supervisory committee members’ initials. The progress report form copies will be distributed, with the technical report, to the supervisory committee.
The duties of the Supervisory Committee will be as follows:
- to assist in planning and to approve the candidate’s program of courses and research;
- to approve the thesis research proposal;
- to decide, within departmental regulations, on the timing of the Comprehensive Examination and, where applicable, of the language and other examinations;
- to act as members of the Comprehensive Examining Committee;
- to maintain knowledge of the candidate’s research activities and progress;
- to give advice on research;
- to provide the student with regular appraisals of progress or lack thereof;
- to perform such other duties as may be required by the Department and report annually;
- to initiate appropriate action if the candidate’s progress is unsatisfactory;
- to decide when the candidate is permitted to write the thesis, its form and provide advice as needed;
- to act as internal examiners for the thesis, and
- to act as members of the examination committee for the final oral defence when appointed.
Students should feel free to consult with any of their supervisory committee members at any time and to have a meeting of the committee called if necessary.
Departmental Comprehensive Examinations Purpose
The comprehensive examination will test the breadth of knowledge and the ability to synthesize and integrate ideas from within and peripheral to the candidate’s research area. Successful completion of the comprehensive examination is a requirement for the candidate to continue in the Ph.D. program. The candidate’s level of achievement in this examination may determine academic background deficiencies that the candidate will have to address through course work or other means as determined by the committee.
The comprehensive examination will normally take place between 6 and 18 months after the candidate initially registers in the Ph.D. program. If an examination date has not bee set with the 18 month period, then the Department Chair will set the date of the examination.
The comprehensive examination will normally be held during periods when graduate courses are not in session, though they may be scheduled at other times depending on the availability of examiners. It is the responsibility of the Supervisory Committee to recommend and notify the department and the candidate in writing, within a period of 4 to 16 months from initial registration in the Ph.D. program, that a candidate will take the examination. Upon receipt of the recommendation, the Department Chair will appoint a Chair for the Examining Committee who shall determine the examination date.
The Examining Committee will determine the research proposal topic and the Committee Chair will communicate the examination date, research topic, examination instructions and scope of the general oral questioning, in writing, to the student within 28 days before the oral examination date. Five copies of the proposal must be submitted 7 days before the oral examination date.
Structure of the Examining Committee
The Chair of the Examining Committee for the candidate will be appointed by the Department Chair and, in no case, will be the research supervisor(s).
The Examining Committee will consist of the members of the Supervisory Committee and at least one additional faculty member, who is normally the Committee Chair. The Committee Chair, in consultation with the Supervisory Committee, may appoint an additional member of the Examining Committee from within the Department.
Format of the Examination
The Comprehensive Examination will consist of a written part and an oral part.
The candidate will be required to submit a proposal, up to 25 pages in length, on a research topic related to, but not the same as, the Ph.D. research topic. The candidate will be required to prepare this report, within 21 days of receiving the proposal topic, without aid from any other individual.
The written report must include:
- a critical survey of the directly related literature in the field,
- an explanation of the relevant background in terms of chemical engineering principles, and
- a research proposal related to the topic.
Five copies of the report must be submitted to the Department at least one week prior to the date of the oral examination. Late submissions without an explanation acceptable to the Examining Committee will be deemed to be a failure by default and the candidate will be asked to withdraw from the program.
The oral examination will be conducted in two parts. In the first part, the candidate will be required to make a brief presentation of the report (no more than 15 minutes), followed by questions directly related to the report. The second part of the oral examination will probe the candidate’s general comprehension of the research field and peripheral areas. The oral examination will normally require two hours to complete, but in no case will continue for more than three hours.
It is the responsibility of the Chair of the Examining Committee to call a meeting of the Committee at least five weeks in advance of the examination date to examine the candidate’s records and background to determine an appropriate research topic and scope of background examination.
Comprehensive Examination Result
The candidate’s performance will be judged as: Pass with Distinction, Pass, or Fail on the written and oral parts of the examination. The Examining Committee report may make recommendations with regards to remedial actions necessary to overcome deficiencies in the candidate’s background. A candidate who fails the Comprehensive Examination will be given a second opportunity for a retake on the portions of the comprehensive examination deemed to have been failed. There is no opportunity for a third attempt.
The Chair of the Examining Committee will communicate the results of the examination, in writing, to the Department Chair who will communicate the result, in writing, to the candidate.
The Comprehensive Examination may be rescheduled due to documented medical or other emergencies that preclude the originally chosen date. The Examining Committee may recommend a retake of the examination only is unusual situations, which must be documented, and this recommendation communicated in writing to the Department Chair who will take appropriate actions.
Research Proposal to the Supervisory Committee
No later than six months after a successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination, the Ph.D. candidate is required to present a detailed research proposal to their supervisory committee. The proposal will document the research objectives, relevant background literature, required experimental, analytical or computational approaches, and projected timetable for completion of the steps necessary in the research. The candidate will be asked to make an oral presentation of the proposal for approximately 30 minutes, and the proposal will normally be about 25 pages in length. The candidate should identify potential problems and approaches that will be undertaken to resolve difficulties in the proposed research program. The Supervisory Committee must consider the research proposal to be satisfactory for the candidate to be permitted to continue in the Ph.D. program.