PhD Program Guide

To be in good academic standing, a student registered in Chemistry Department must:

  • Complete all courses including research courses with a satisfactory grade of at least B- and maintain a minimum of B+ standing;
  • Adhere to the specific requirements in their field of study;
  • Meet with supervisory committee annually; and
  • Comply with the General and Degree Regulations of the School of Graduate Studies (SGS);

The Department may recommend to the School of Graduate Studies the termination of registration and candidacy of a student who fails to make a satisfactory progress toward the completion of the degree.

In addition, make sure to review SGS guidance on Understanding Good Standing and Satisfactory Progress. It lays out expectations regarding coursework completion, supervisory committee meetings and evalutions, candidacy, and program length and time limit.

If there are challenges that may be hindering your progress, there are options:


Students must establish a supervisory committee within three months of entering the doctoral program. The committee will consist of the supervisor (or co-supervisors) and at least two University of Toronto graduate faculty members. One of the two members can be outside of the chemistry graduate department. Student must fill out the Doctoral Supervisory Committee Enrolment form and upload to the Chemistry Graduate Office drive.

How Do You Choose Committee Members?
Committee members are best selected in consultation with your supervisor.   Here are some key questios when considering prospective members:

  • Can they add value (eg. field-specific advice) to your research program?
  • Will they be around and available for consultation and meetings throughout most of your program?.
  • Will they be approachable and offer constructive advice?
  • Can they be objective enough to help if problems arise?
  • Will they be able and wiling to offer their opinion even if contrary to that of your supervisor or other members?
  • Is there a good balance?  Do their reas of expertise cover a sufficient range?

Membership must remain the same throughout the doctoral program. If a member needs to be replaced, please forward another Doctoral Supervisory Committee Enrolment form along with a letter of justification for the change.

Students must also arrange a supervisory committee meeting within twelve months of entering the doctoral program. Thereafter, students are required by School of Graduate Studies to meet with the committee at least once a year to assess the student's progress in the program and to provide advice on future work. Students are expected to meet with their committee at least once a year, and more often if the committee so requires. A 20-30-minute meeting is generally sufficient but students or faculty may request for more time if needed. Students must fill out the Doctoral Supervisory Committee Meeting Report which needs to be submitted to the Chemistry Graduate Office after the meeting. If a member is unable to make it to the meeting, the student must arrange a separate meeting.  As a best practice and to get as much from this annual meeting, it is utmost important to schedule a it when all members are available. 

The meeting is meant to provide guidance and advice to both the student and to the supervisor from interested colleagues, to ensure that the progress towards graduation is satisfactory and to provide a forum to resolve any issues (eg. research, academic, personal) which may arise. It thus follows that if either the student or the supervisor (or, on occasion, the Associate Chair) feels that a meeting is in order outside the required annual one, it is their right to request such a meeting and the responsibility of all the members of the committee to agree to such a meeting.  

What You Can Expect of your Supervisory Committee
Your supervisory committee should:

  • Meet regularly (at least once a year)
  • Provide guidance during your research
  • Add complementary value to your supervision
  • Provide meaningful written feedback
  • Resource towards enhancing your professional development

The School of Graduate Studies have developed guidelines for students to peruse.  It provides information on responsiblities of the student, supervisor and advisory committee. 

A student falls out of good academic standing if the supervisory committee concludes that unsatisfactory progress is being made on two consecutive meetings.

Arranging the annual meeting is generally the student's responsibility. However, if a student experiences difficulty in arranging a meeting with any member(s) of their committee or should require additional meeting(s), they should contact the Graduate Office for assistance.

Failure to meet the above timelines can be grounds for termination in the program.

A student enrolled in a full-time PhD degree program will be denied further registration in that program and will have their candidacy terminated at the end of the third year of registration in the case of a four-year program, or at the end of the fourth year of registration in the case of a five-year program (direct entry from bachelors degree), if, by that time, either:

  1. the candidate has not completed all requirements for the degree exclusive of thesis research including course requirements and qualifying departmental examinations; or
  2. the candidate does not have an approved thesis topic, supervisor, or supervisory committee.

In exceptional circumstances, such a student may be permitted to register in the program for two further sessions at the Department's discretion. Student must fill out a Request for Extension to Achieve Candidacy form and receive approval from the supervisor before submitting to the Chemistry Graduate Office. Continuation beyond two sessions will require the approval of both the department and the SGS Admissions and Programs Committee.

Our Department requires students to register in courses that run continuously throughout the program, e.g., ongoing research and seminar courses. The foregoing time limit does not apply to such courses. Doctoral students in their third year must be ABD (All But Dissertation) in order to continue in the program.

Course Reduction

With the approval of Department of Chemistry and School of Graduate Studies, course reduction may be granted for graduate work completed in another MSc program. This will reduce the number of courses a doctoral student will need to complete to fulfill in the program requirements. Students may request up to two half-courses which must be equivalent to courses offered by our Department. Graduate or cross-listed courses taken while in the undergraduate level do not apply.  Doctoral students who completed their MSc in chemistry at UofT are not required to submit a course reduction request. 

Since the course(s) has been credited towards another degree, the course cannot be transferred towards the doctoral degree.

To request a course reduction, the following documents must be submitted to the Graduate Office for approval within ayear of entering the doctoral program:

  • Request for Course Reduction Form;
  • Copy of the course syllabus for each course requested;
  • Unofficial copy of transcript

Course Transfers

With the approval of the department and the School of Graduate Studies, transfer credit may be granted for graduate work completed in another program, provided that the course(s) has not been credited towards another degree. Transfer credit will be limited to two half-courses. Student must submit the Request for Transfer Credit form to the Chemistry Graduate Office for departmental approval.

All students are required to participate and give at least two to four seminars in the doctoral program. Students who fail to meet the seminar requirement before their final oral examination will be denied by School of Graduate Studies to proceed with the examination. Students must contact the seminar coordinator in their field of study if they are due to present. The seminar series generally run from September to April.  For more information about the seminar requirement and oral presentation guidelines, review the program requirements for the doctoral program.  View upcoming seminars.

Here are online resources for oral presentation guidelines and skills:

The purpose of the examination is to test the knowledge of the student's subject area and to determine if the student is prepared to proceed on to the thesis writing. The examination typically lasts for 2 hours which includes a 20-minute presentation by the examinee.

Students may request to arrange a comprehensive oral examination generally after the completion of the required course work in their field of study. However, students should satisfy this requirement before the end of their third year of registration in the case of a four year program or before the end of their fourth year in the case of a five-year program (PhD direct-entry from Bachelors degree).

To arrange an examination, please contact the Chemistry Graduate Office with the proposed dates, and names of the three members of the supervisory committee including your supervisor (4 if co-supervised) and another University of Toronto graduate faculty member. No more than one member outside the Chemistry Department is acceptable. The exam requires four voters and the student needs at least 3 votes to pass (4 if co-supervised).

The examinee should print out the voting ballot for the examination. Examinations to be held in the Lash Miller building may contact the departmental receptionist to book a projector. If the exam is booked in LM151 there is no need to book a projector through the receptionist. Students also have the option to hold their annual supervisory meeting after the examination. The Doctoral Supervisory Committee report form should be forwarded to the Chemistry Graduate Office to ensure a record of the meeting.

If a student fails to pass the examination, a reconvened examination is to be held within one year. No new members shall be added to the committee except for necessary replacements to ensure a quorum. The chair of the examination is required to explain in a written report reasons for an unsuccessful exam and determine, if possible, a timeline to reconvene.

Academic fees for full-time doctoral students in the final year of their program are pro-rated based on the twelve-month academic year. Incidental fees are charged on a sessional (term) basis.

When a final corrected thesis is submitted to School of Graduate Studies, fees and service charges are adjusted accordingly. For more information please review the monthly academic and incidental fees schedule with Fees Department.

The aim of the Doctoral Completion Award (DCA) is to help ensure that meritorious PhD students who are no longer receiving the normal funding from their graduate unit can complete their degree program within time limit. Students may receive a DCA only once during their program. Criteria and conditions include: academic merit and quality of research, the availability of alternative funding, and, if appropriate, special features of the research program that require more time than usual. Deadline: The Chemistry Graduate Office generally sends out a notification in the spring

Review the SGS Guide to Program Completion. In addition, the Department follows its own procedures to ensure that the PhD candidate meets the timelines specified by SGS. 

Guidelines on thesis formatting, submission, copyright and deadlines can be found on the SGS website.   There are no specific requirements by the department but consult with your supervisor for their expectations.  Make sure to peruse the Writing at UofT for tips and advice and use the resources offered at Graduate Centre for Academic Communication.

Planning for the final oral examination must begin at least eight weeks before the proposed date(s) of the examination. Note that the two-week closure in December does not count.

At Least Eight Weeks or Earlier Prior to the Proposed Exam Date(s)

  1. The supervisor and student discuss the potential members of the Examination Committee. Please forward the names of the members to the Chemistry Graduate Office. The quorum for voting members is four. However, SGS requires five voting members to obtain approval from the SGS Vice-Dean to book the examination. In case of emergency in which one of the members is unable to attend, the candidate can therefore still proceed with the examination since it meets the quorum. A maximum of three of the voting members of the Exam Committee will have served on the candidate's Supervisory Committee. At least two voting members (including the external examiner) will not have been closely involved in the supervision of the thesis. Eligible voters are the external appraiser, members of the graduate faculty of the Chemistry Department and members of the graduate faculty of other departments, centres or institutes of the University of Toronto.
  2. The supervisor must submit a list of three potential external appraisers to the Graduate Office. The list should be in order of preference. For each name listed, the reason for the choice is presented with specific regard to the subject of the thesis. The first choice is generally approved unless the Associate Dean at SGS deems the first choice unsuitable. To avoid issues with SGS and delays, the supervisor and the student should ensure that there is an "arms-length" relationship between the external examiner and the rest of the examination committee.
  3. Once the Graduate Office receives the list of the potential members of the Examination Committee, a request is forwarded to the SGS Associate Dean for pre-approval. Once approved, the Graduate Office may contact the members, including the external appraiser for their availability to determine acceptable dates for the examination. It is not required that the external examiner be present at the examination. Teleconference or videoconference is available upon request.
  4. The student completes the thesis and forwards copies to members of the Supervisory Committee for the review. The members must have at least two weeks to review the thesis. Please contact them directly as early as possible to confirm if the allotted time for appraisal is sufficient in case of other commitments and to properly estimate a timeline. Forward a copy of the Thesis Review Guidelines to your reviewers along with your thesis. The advance reading by members of the Supervisory Committee allows the student to avoid situations where major changes are needed after the examination and a good quality appraisal can be expected.
  5. The student amends the thesis based on the comments and suggestions from members of the supervisory committee. The members must also deem that the thesis is ready and may be forwarded to the external appraiser. A thesis may only proceed to examination without the approval of the Supervisory Committee, if there is a letter of authorization from the Associate Dean (SGS).
  6. The student must certify that he or she has fulfilled all the degree requirements for his or her field of study. These include completion of courses with satisfactory grades, seminars, cumulative examinations (if applicable) and comprehensive examination. For more information about the degree requirements for your field of study, please refer to PhD Program Requirements.
  7. The student must confirm that the record of Supervisory Committee meetings in the Chemistry Graduate Office is up-to-date. The last committee meeting must have taken place within the last 12 months prior to the proposed examination date and the outcome must be noted as "satisfactory" on the record.

At Least Six Weeks or Earlier Prior to the Exam Date

  1. The student submits a copy of the corrected version of the thesis to the Graduate Office along with the signed PhD Examination Form. The office will forward the thesis to the external examiner via FedEx. The supervisory committee members must have signed the form to confirm that they have read the thesis before a copy can be forwarded to the external examiner. An e-mail from the faculty members to the Graduate Office will suffice.
  2. As well, a thesis abstract (no longer than 350 words) via e-mail must be submitted to the Graduate Office.
  3. A copy of the reviewed thesis is also forwarded to the fourth University of Toronto examination member. The copy can be submitted to the Graduate Office if faculty member(s) is not easily accessible.
  4. The Graduate Office books the examination at the SGS PhD Office and sends out a final confirmation of the examination date and location to the candidate and members of the examination committee.

At Least Two Weeks or Earlier Prior to the Exam Date

  1. A copy of the external appraisal is forwarded to the candidate, members of the Examination Committee, Graduate Chair and the Ph.D. Office. The student may discuss the appraisal with members of Examination Committee except with the external appraiser. The candidate may have the option to revise the thesis and postpone the examination date at this point.
  2. An examination program is forwarded to the candidate and members of the Examination Committee as a final confirmation along with the name of the Examination Chair.
  3. Prepare presentation (up to 20 minute for a closed oral exam or 30 minutes for a public seminar). 
  4. Review Voting Procedure.
  5. Additional reading:  The Last BIg Hurdle

After a Successful Examination

Theses are submitted electronically to SGS and approved by the PhD Completion Office.  Carefully follow the SGS' instructions.  Theses that do not conform to the formatting guidelines will be rejected and negatively impact eligibility to proceed with graduation.  In addition, final corrections to the thesis must be approved by the supervisor before submitting to SGS. Please refer to Producing Your Thesis for more information. Enquiries should be redirected to the PhD Completion Office.

See also: SGS Academic Calendar