Postgraduate study

Our postgraduate degrees help prepare you for a career across a wide range of areas. You will find our courses exciting, challenging and at the cutting edge. We have a large cohort of new staff, including three Rutherford Discovery Fellows, who bring new ideas and enthusiasm to the school.

Our staff are actively engaged in research, ensuring your projects are relevant and employ the latest methods. We have emerging and established strengths across a wide range of areas including Genetics, Evolution, Ecology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Bioinformatics, Plant Science and Cell Biology.

The school runs a weekly seminar series in seminar room 275 (Pūtaiao Koiora building) on Thursdays at noon. Seminars are an important part of your postgraduate education.

At the School of Biological Sciences we offer several postgraduate degree paths:

  • Bachelor of Science (Honours) – BSc(Hons)
  • Postgraduate Diploma of Science – PgDipSc
  • Master of Science – MSc
  • Doctor of Philosophy – PhD

Applying for Postgrad studies – what to do first

  1. Contact the Fourth Year Course Advisor to discuss your course of study and proposed major.
  2. Apply to enrol online (current UC students). Students new to UC should consult the Future Students webpage 
  3. Monitor your email over summer as the Course Advisor may need to contact you.
  4. Once you have been approved for entry you will receive a letter of offer and fees invoice.

More information is available on the UC postgraduate websites:

PgDipSc

The Postgraduate Diploma of Science is a one-year program equivalent to the first year of an MSc. Students take eight 400-level courses, including  BIOL411 (Research Preparation) and BIOL412 (Research Proposal), but do not carry out research. See page 11 for the list of courses we offer.

The PgDipSc is a great option if you are unsure whether you want to commit to an MSc or if you want to extend your theoretical grounding in biology prior to entering the workforce.

It is common for students enrolled in a PgDipSc to transfer to MSc part II providing they achieve a B average or better in their 400-level courses.

Entry Requirements

Normally a B- average (GPA 4) for your 300-level science courses.

How is my grade calculated

Class    Letter Grade    GPA 

Distinction   A-, A, A+   7–9

Merit   B+   6

Pass   B-, B   4–5

Transferring from a PgDipSc to MSc part II

If you are interested in progressing into MSc part II you need to decide on a research project and complete a research outline and proposal (see below). Don’t wait until you receive your grades before organising a project and supervisor.

Things you need to know

  • To transfer to MSc part II you need to obtain a B average (GPA 5) across your 400-level courses. 
  • If you are awarded a PgDipSc then your MSc result is determined on thesis only and you are not eligible for MSc with Honours. However, you can still be awarded an MSc with Merit/Distinction.
  • Your MSc research outline forms part of the assessment of BIOL 411 and is due in late April. This brief statement tells us that you are intending on doing an MSc research project, that you have spoken to a prospective supervisor, that they have agreed to take you on as a student and that you have a provisional topic. This topic might change later.
  • Your MSc Thesis Proposal forms part of the assessment for BIOL 412 and is due in late September. This is a more detailed document outlining the main aims and methods of your proposed research and contains details on what permits, equipment and funding you might need. 
  • Both of these documents need to be signed by your potential supervisor and submitted to the School of Biological Sciences office.

MSc 

A Master of Science degree comprises one year of coursework (part I) and a 12 month research project (part II).

The MSc degree provides a solid grounding in the scientific process and provides sought after research skills applicable to a wide range of careers. 

Entry Requirements

  • MSc part I: B average (GPA 5) in 200- and 300-level science courses.
  • MSc part II: B average (GPA 5) across your 400-level courses and an accepted research proposal.

Things you need to know

  • You must enrol and pay fees in February every year of your degree.
  • You must include BIOL 411 (Research Preparation) and BIOL 412 (Research Proposal) as two of your 4th year courses.
  • All papers must be passed at the first attempt but if no more than one paper is failed, a pass in the year as a whole may be recommended, provided that a B- average (GPA 4) is attained including the failed course. However it should be noted that normally a B- would be insufficient to allow progress from MSc part I to MSc part II. If your grades are not sufficient for progress to MSc part II, but you have passed MSc part I, you will be awarded a PgDipSc.
  • Your MSc Research Outline forms part of the assessment for BIOL 411 and is due in late April.
    This brief statement tells us that you are intending on doing an MSc research project, that you have spoken to a prospective supervisor, that they have agreed to take you on as a student and that you have a provisional topic. This topic might change later.
  • This brief statement tells us that you are intending on doing an MSc research project, that you have spoken to a prospective supervisor, that they have agreed to take you on as a student and that you have a provisional topic. This topic might change later.
  • Your MSc Thesis Proposal forms part of the assessment for BIOL 412 and is due in late September.
    This is a more detailed document outlining the main aims and methods of your proposed research and contains details on what permits, equipment and funding you might need. 
  • This is a more detailed document outlining the main aims and methods of your proposed research and contains details on what permits, equipment and funding you might need. 
  • Both of these documents need to be signed by your potential supervisor and submitted to the School office.

MSc Part II 

  • The recommended commencement date for MSc part II is 1st March. However, preliminary work can be started earlier (e.g., summer fieldwork) and so we encourage students to enrol in BIOL 401/402 (summer research courses) prior to the start of MSc part II.
  • Your research proposal is due two months after commencement, and your progress report is due at six months. 
  • You must complete your thesis in the equivalent of 12 months (full-time) to be eligible to graduate with honours 
  • If you take a break between Part I & Part II and enrolment is not completed by March 1st or August 1st then a start date must be registered.
  • In exceptional circumstances it may be possible to complete Parts I and II concurrently. For more information contact the 4th Year Course Advisor.

How is my grade calculated?

Your thesis will be marked by two examiners, one external to the University and one examiner from within the University. Members of your supervisory team cannot be examiners. If you completed MSc part I then your final grade is calculated on a ratio of 2:3 (coursework:thesis). Grades are calculated on your GPA.

In the School of Biological Sciences you may be eligible for an MSc with honours. Your final thesis GPA grade (ie., including your thesis and course grades) is converted as below:

Class    Letter Grade    GPA
First Class    A-, A, A+    7– 9
2nd Class Div 1    B+    6
2nd Class Div 2    B-, B    4–5
Masters    C+    3
PGDipSc       <2

MSc part II by thesis only 

Marking is as above but your final grade is based solely on your thesis.

Class Letter Grade GPA
Distinction A-, A, A+ 7–9
Merit B+ 6

BSc (Hons)

Honours is an intensive one-year programme designed for high achieving students seeking to fast-track to a PhD.

Honours students must take six 400-level courses, including BIOL 411 (Research Preparation) and BIOL 412 (Research Proposal), and a research project.

We recommend this option only for students with an A- average (GPA 7) or higher at 300-level.

Entry Requirements

B average (GPA 5) for 200- & 300- level science courses and an accepted research proposal

Things you need to know

  • The research project is worth 30 points (20% of your Honours year grade).
  • You must pass all your courses (including the project) on the first attempt.
  • Your Honours thesis is due on November 1st. Exceptions may apply if you are taking courses outside of Biology.
  • You should be contacting prospective supervisors by July or August of the year before your honours year officially starts.

How is my grade calculated

Class Letter Grade GPA
1st A-, A, A+ 7–9
2nd Div 1 B+ 6
2nd Div 2 B-, B 4–5
3rd C+ 3

PhD

The PhD at UC is a research degree that typically requires three, but no more than four years of study. It is the highest academic qualification available at the University. Completing a doctorate is a mark of academic achievement and requires self-discipline and commitment. 

A PhD prepares you for an academic or research career and the skills you gain are increasingly sought after in the international job market.

Entry Requirement

BSc (Hons) or MSc with a B+ average (GPA 6).

Things you need to know

  • Entry is competitive and grades do not guarantee acceptance into the degree programme.
  • UC and external doctoral scholarships are available for domestic and international students. For more information see the UC scholarships webpage: www.canterbury.ac.nz/get-started/scholarships
  • You need to arrange a supervisor and decide on a research project
  • A detailed research proposal must be submitted and accepted within six months of beginning your PhD. 
  • After 12 months there will be a Doctoral Confirmation where we will confirm that you a capable of undertaking a PhD, that you understand the science behind the project and that you have begun to make significant progress towards you PhD.
  • Progress reports are due every 6 months. 

Research Proposal

A research proposal is a detailed document that describes the questions your intended research project will address, how you will address them, and why answering these questions is scientifically important. 

Make sure you start writing your proposal well before its due date, allowing time for your supervisors to comment on one or two drafts. It is not unusual for your proposal to go back to your supervisors several times before it is polished enough to hand in.

Grade Point Average (GPA)

GPAs are rated as follows:

Grade GPA Percentage
A+ 9 89.5+
A 8 84.5–89.4
A- 7 79.5–84.4
B+ 6 74.5–79.4
B 5 69.5–74.4
B- 4 64.5–69.4
C+ 3 59.5–64.4
C 2 54.5–59.4
C- 1 49.5–54.4
D 0 39.5–49.4
E -1 <39.5

Applying for postgraduate study
  • Contact the postgraduate coordinator to discuss your course of study and proposed major.
  • Apply to enrol online (current UC students). 
  • Monitor your email as the course advisor may need to contact you.
  • Once you have been approved for entry you will receive a letter of offer and fees invoice.
Qualifications
Important dates for fourth year students
Courses

Entry into all 400-level Biological Sciences courses is subject to approval from the Head of School.

Honours
Master's
PhD
  • A full description of PhD processes and milestones, including how to apply and all forms, is available from UC's postgraduate web pages.
Step-by-step guide to getting started
  • International students: Open a bank account and register with your embassy.

  • See Enrol at UC webpage for full details of enrolment process

  • Bring all original academic documents and other paperwork for registration (to student services).
  • Arrange tuition fees payment (supervisor and student services) and levy.
  • Get a student card (Security building).
  • Remember to re-enrol every 12 months.
Being part of the Biological Sciences postgraduate team
  • Request keys, card access and office room (Biology Administration)
  • Sign up at the UC Health Centre
  • Register for free at the gym (UC Recreation Centre)
  • Go to a welcome PG students meeting to get an overview of the PG services on campus and mentoring program (UCSA/PGSA)
  • Request laboratory access (Biology Administration and Security Services), health and safety training for labs and field work (lab managers)
  • Discuss any intellectual property issues, sign the relevant school forms, and check if research ethics forms are needed (supervisors)
  • Get internet and required software (John Davis and supervisor)
  • Find out about the academic life (websites, Biology newsletter, supervisor)
  • Check if UC email added to Biology newsletter (administration), BIOL seminars and other seminars, Journal Club,  lab meetings, proposal, progress report, one year jump, ABC, workshops (Academic Skills Centre) and UCSA website.
  • Talk to floor manager
  • Install and get trained on EndNote for free (Central Library/Academic Skills Centre)
  • Consult the aAcademic Skills Centre for free individual consultations with a learning advisor to maximise your writing skills (especially useful for non-native English speakers).
  • Enjoy your new UC life!
Committee

Biological Sciences Student Postgraduate Committee 2019

  • Mareike Babuder
  • Michelle Marraffini
  • Rogini Runghen
  • Moritz Miebach
  • Samuel Aguilar Arguello

email canterburybiolPG@gmail.com

Mentoring

The mentor programme will pair you up with a current biology postgraduate student who can be your guide to the department, postgrad life and just a friendly face. If you are interested, please contact the student committee (email above) to be linked with a mentor.

IT and graphics support
  • For IT support contact John Davis
  • For graphics support contact Matt Walters
Employment opportunities
  • Postgraduate students in Biological Sciences can be employed as demonstrators in undergraduate laboratories. A full list of labs including numbers required will be updated at the beginning of every academic year.  See Learn for details.
  • A certain number of lab supervisors are also required every year.  Contact the school administration office for information.
  • Postgraduate students can sometimes be employed on a fixed term contract as a research assistant depending on demand and funding. 
Scholarships

There are a number of small grants and scholarships that are offered to ongoing postgraduates to help with research costs, travelling to conferences, or just a top up of personal money. If your supervisors are from different departments or institutions you may be eligible to apply for scholarships from all of those departments/institutions. Some societies, such as the Royal Society Te Apārangi, provide grants to conferences. Also, conferences themselves often offer travel grants to students who are presenting.

Of particular interest to Biological Sciences postgraduate students:

Research

Personal money

Travel awards

 

For all enquiries about postgraduate study please contact:

Elissa Cameron

4th year Coordinator
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Internal Phone: 95596

Daniel Stouffer

MSc Postgraduate Coordinator
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Internal Phone: 92880

Tammy Steeves

PhD Postgraduate Coordinator
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Internal Phone: 95378

Jim Briskie

Deputy Postgraduate Coordinator
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Internal Phone: 95138