Ph.D. Proposal

Regulations and process

The candidate will be expected to present his/her research proposal before the members of the Biology GAU and other interested persons, and successfully defend the proposal to the satisfaction of an examining committee, within 12 months of beginning the PhD program.

The examining committee will comprise (1) the Supervisor (non-voting), (2) one other member of the Supervisory Committee, and (3) two others, at least one of whom is not a member of the supervisory committee.  (Normally all examiners will be members of the Biology GAU, however a case may be made in writing if the most appropriate examiner is not a member of our GAU, or of the UNB School of Graduate Studies.)  These voting members will be recommended by the supervisory committee, on the basis of expertise related to the proposed research, and approved by the GAU. The candidate is encouraged to meet with each examiner for discussion and to obtain appropriate readings to guide his/her preparation.

Note: The student, in discussion with supervisor and committee, should submit a brief abstract, three topics to be examined, and at least two appropriate examiners for each topic; the DoGS will seek the approval of the GAU committee, and then approach the examiners.

Proposal summary and presentation

Both written and oral components of the Research Proposal will include:

•     Background - Literature review
•     Statement of problem - Objectives, hypothesis, & their significance
•     Methods - Experimental design
•     Anticipated results & their analysis

The written summary should constitute a maximum of five pages of text plus references, all typed, single spaced, with margins no less than 3/4 inch and font no less than 12 point. Summaries not meeting this criteria will be returned for revision.

The summary (in digital format) should be presented to the Director of Graduate Studies (Kate Frego), not less than two weeks before the first presentation slot for the block. It will be posted on website for the Biology GAU and other interested persons not less than one week before the presentation.

The summary should be submitted to the DoGS (Kate Frego) two weeks before the defence, for distribution to members of the GAU prior to the defence. The defence will be chaired by the DoGS (or alternate), with one faculty member as rapporteur.

In a short presentation (20-30 minutes), candidate will be expected to review literature in the field, outline the proposed research, and show how the literature relates to the study design. The chair will invite general discussion and questions. The rapporteur will provide a written summary of the feedback to the student, supervisor and DoGS (for the student's file).

Proposal defence

Following the proposal presentation, the chair will then request that all non-GAU members leave, and the defence will begin. It will last a maximum of 3 hrs, proceeding as rounds of questioning, with each examiner posing questions for 10-15 minutes per round. The intent of the defence is to assess both the student's ability and the suitability of the proposed research.

Each examiner will try to determine (a) whether the student possesses the appropriate level of knowledge, and can integrate and utilize the information obtained through previous training in the fields relevant to the proposal; and (b) whether the research proposed is sufficient to constitute a PhD.

In camera, the three voting members of the examining committee will reach a consensus, with one of three possible recommendations on this form:

1.    The student and the proposal are unconditionally passed.
2.    The student demonstrates the necessary abilities, but requires remedial work (conditional pass).
3.    A second stronger defence must be undertaken within 2 months. In this case, the committee will provide guidance on what must be improved.

Following a second defence, the committee may recommend that:

1.    The student and proposal are unconditionally passed.
2.    The student should transfer to an MSc program.
3.    The student should withdraw from the program.


In consultation with the DoGS, the student is responsible for setting the time, booking a room for the presentation, and ensuring that the chair, rapporteur and all examiners are able to attend. You are therefore strongly recommended to begin booking this presentation well in advance of the proposed date.