Ph.D. Program


The PHD.MCB program is offered in five fields: 1) biochemistry; 2) cell biology; 3) microbiology; 4) molecular biology and genetics; and 5) plant biology.  See 2023-24 program brochure.

A collaborative specialization is an intra-university graduate field of study that provides an additional multidisciplinary experience for students enrolled in and completing the degree requirements for MCB graduate program.  Opportunities for collaborative specializations are available in the areas of Neuroscience, Toxicology, and One Health. 

The objective of the program is to develop independent and creative scientists specializing in molecular and cellular biology. Graduates will be prepared for positions as scholars in academic institutions, as leaders in the research and development sector of the biomedical and other industries or government agencies, and in social institutions.

Admission Requirements

There are three pathways for admission to the PhD program:

  1. Students who have achieved an “A-minus” (80%) average or higher during the last two years of full-time study while completing a four-year honours BSc program (or its equivalent) and who provide evidence of research aptitude and potential based on laboratory research experience may apply to enter the PhD program directly, or

  2. An MSc student may apply to transfer to the PhD program before completing the MSc degree. To be eligible for transfer, the student must have completed a high-quality undergraduate degree with a grade average of B+ or higher. Before applying for transfer to the PhD program students must complete MCB*6500 (MSc Research Topics in Molecular and Cellular Biology) plus an additional course with at least 0.5 graduate course credit, attaining an overall A minus average (at least 80%). Applications for transfer must be approved by the end of the fourth semester in the MSc program.

  3. Applicants may have completed a recognized Masters degree in a relevant discipline with a minimum academic standing of “A-minus” (80%).

Applicants must obtain the support of a faculty member willing to serve as their thesis advisor. We strongly recommend that potential graduate students contact faculty members who share their research interests BEFORE completing and submitting an official application form. A list of graduate faculty in the department is available here. To assist our faculty in making a selection from the pool of interested students, we suggest you include in your correspondence the following:

  • courses completed (plus the mark received)
  • relevant research and/or work experience you have, and with whom
  • whether you have a scholarship
  • two or three academic or research references
  • the reason for contacting our particular faculty

All components of the application, including transcript(s), graduate certificate(s), grading scale(s), language test results, assessment forms, a statement of interest, and the name of the faculty advisor must be uploaded no later than two months after an application is submitted through the OUAC portal. Applications that are incomplete after this time period will be closed.

Admission may be granted for entry in September, January or May. Completed applications should be uploaded at least one full semester (four months) before the expected date of admission (at least eight months for international students).

Meet our faculty and students, and view our facilities:  Contact individual faculty members by email and/or telephone to arrange a visit.  Be prepared to discuss your specific interest in their research program.  Submit your application, then contact the Graduate Studies Coordinator (Dr. Jaideep Mathur, to be considered for an expenses-paid visit to our Department.    

Application Process

Graduate student applications are handled by the Office of the Associate Dean, Research (ADR).  Prospective students may contact the CBS Graduate Admissions Assistant by emailing

Before submitting an application, applicants are strongly encouraged to review the information listed on the ADR website.  Complete application instructions can also be found on the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website.

Degree Requirements

Students in the PhD program must complete MCB*7500 PhD Research Topics in Molecular & Cellular Biology. This two-semester course should be completed in the first year of study and normally within the first two semesters. Students without an MSc degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology or the equivalent are required to take one additional graduate course. Other courses may be taken on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee. An average of “B-minus” (70%) must be achieved in the prescribed courses. To be a candidate for the PhD degree, each student must pass a PhD Qualifying Exam. The Qualifying Examination is completed before the end of the fifth semester (for students with an MSc) or the end of the seventh semester (for students without an MSc).

The PhD thesis research must involve original inquiry into a well-defined question in the molecular biosciences. It is expected to result in the publication of one or more papers in high-quality peer-reviewed journals. The research must represent a significant contribution to the relevant research field.

All students beyond year 1 in the program are required to participate annually in the CBS Graduate Student Symposium by presenting a poster or giving a short talk describing their research progress.