The Department of Biological Sciences offers a thesis option in Biology, Biotechnology, Neuroscience or Oenology & Viticulture for those admitted into the fourth year of the Honours program. Students enrolled or planning to enrol in 4F92 or 4F90/4F91 thesis courses are encouraged to thoroughly browse the Biology website to find information on the department’s research interests.
Frequently asked questions
At present, an overall average grade of 75% is required. Students may be enrolled in the Honours Biology Program, but not guaranteed a place in 4F90/4F91 due to changes in research funding or space constraints in researchers’ labs. The 4F90/4F91 course is designed to assist in preparation for graduate school (MSc/PhD) in the sciences. Currently, most graduate schools in the sciences have at least a 75-78% minimum entrance requirement, so this requirement is quite reasonable all considered.
4F90/4F91 projects are intense research projects in the laboratories of researchers in the Department of Biological Sciences. No two students have identical experiences, since research projects are geared toward the discovery of new knowledge. To conduct an effective research project, the student should expect to spend at least 20 hours/week conducting experiments (which will differ according to field, project, or supervisor!), reading background scientific literature, or writing up parts of their thesis. This commitment is also matched by time commitments by your supervisor, who is also engaged in teaching, research and administrative duties of their own. Most faculty members are unable to take on multiple 4F90/4F91 students in a given year. Further, the research you would be conducting is usually part of a larger scale project in the researcher’s lab which is funded by National or International granting councils. Scientific research is not cheap, so the 4F90/4F91 spots available in research labs can become limited for financial reasons as much as time and space constraits.
As mentioned above, the 4F90/4F91 course is a large time commitment, often requiring committing your weekends and evenings to get the experiments to work. Students with a full course load and a part time job are not recommended to engage in the 4F90/4F91 program simply because of the time commitment required in the laboratory. If you are seriously considering doing research at the graduate level and have the grades to do so, then 4F90/4F91 is highly recommended. If not, then the 4F92 route is recommended.
A minimum average of 75% is required for BIOL 4F92. In spite of that, however, this course is not to be taken lightly! This literature based thesis requires considerable commitment to reading primary scientific literature. This course is particularly suited to students with multiple commitments during the academic year that might prevent them from dedicating the hours required to conduct a lab-based research project.
BIOL 4F90/4F91 do not appear to have pre-requisites. What courses should I take before entering fourth year honours?
This depends on what field you plan to study. Labs that focus on molecular biology would recommend that you take courses with a molecular focus. Likewise if you wish to work on animal behaviour, you should have an animal behaviour or zoology background. Generally, your professors can help to recommend courses that are appropriate. Note that most research projects in the biological sciences will involve statistics, so it is recommended that students planning on pursuing the BIOL 4F90/4F91 route should take more advanced statistics courses such as BIOL 3P96.
Start thinking about this in 2nd and 3rd year. Visit your professor’s websites to find out what they work on. Reading their papers is a great start as well! It is best to come up with an idea and see if a professor is able to support you with that idea. Taking a course that they teach is an easy way to find out more about the possible research questions you could ask.
Any professor who is listed as a Biology Professor or a Cross Appointed Professor (nearly 27 people in total to choose from). You may elect to conduct a 4F90/4F91/4F92 project with an Adjunct Professor, though normally you will be required to have a Biology Professor as a co-supervisor.
To get started with your thesis, take a look at the links to the right. Each provides more information about specific thesis guidelines, and has information on how to get started.