Master (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
INFORMATION AND GUIDELINES FOR MPhil AND PhD STUDENTS IN THE DEPARTMENT OF GENETICS
The purpose of this document is to provide an outline of the principles and the requirements for higher degree studies in the Department. They should be regarded as supplementary to the guidelines in the MPhil and PhD Handbooks prepared by the School of Graduate Research.
Information about MPhil available at: http://gradresearch.unimelb.edu.au/handbooks/mphil/
Information about PhD available at: http://gradresearch.unimelb.edu.au/handbooks/phd/
In addition information is supplied on facilities and administrative matters in the Department of Genetics.
The formal requirements of higher degrees in the Department all involve original research leading to the submission of a thesis for examination by external examiners. In addition, students are required to participate in broader aspects of scholarship in the general field of Genetics.
Higher degree students are required to:
The Department is required to
POSTGRADUATE STUDENT SUPERVISORY COMMITTEES
Each student will be advised by a committee consisting of supervisor(s) and two other members, one, of whom may be external to the Department.
Within the first three months of their candidature the supervisor/s, in consultation with the postgraduate student, should invite two additional academic or senior research-only staff to serve on the student’s confirmation/supervisory committee. At least one of these two should be a member of the Department. The second may be from another Department or even another institution. The role of the committee is to provide support and guidance to the student. Members should be selected not only because the student feels comfortable in interacting with them, but also for their ability to complement the strengths of the supervisor and provide expertise in experimental areas or techniques relevant to the project.
(PhD students enrolled through Genetics but undertaking their research largely at an external institute will have a member of the Department as a formal co-supervisor. In these cases the co-supervisor may be the only member of the Department on the supervisory committee. The third member of the committee may be from the external institute or elsewhere.)
At the first meeting, the committee should elect a chairperson who is not the primary supervisor, but is a member of the Department (and may be the co-supervisor of an external student). The chairperson will be responsible for ensuring that the formal reports submitted via the Genetics office to the School of Graduate Research accurately describe the state of progress of the research and any difficulties in the experimental work, student/supervisor relationship or other areas. The chairperson will also be responsible for alerting the Departmental Postgraduate Coordinator of any difficulties that cannot be resolved by the supervisor or the supervisory committee.
The student is responsible for scheduling and arranging meetings of the committee. Meeting times/dates should be organized and agreed on at least two months prior in order to ensure that all members of the committee can attend. This is especially important where anniversary dates fall in the January-February period when academic staff may be on annual or conference leave. Students must communicate the dates of meetings to Department’s Administrative Officer.
RESEARCH PROPOSAL AND FIRST COMMITTEE MEETING
Within the first six months, a written proposal (recommended length, 3000 to 4000 words) detailing the specific aims, background,experimental timetableand progress in the project will be circulated by the student at least five days before the meeting. At the beginning of the meeting, the chairperson will explain the committee’s role. The committee will discuss the research proposal with the student and make recommendations as necessary.
The following issues should be addressed:
Within the first 6-9 months of commencing, students are required to give an oral presentation to the Department on their project and planned experiments. The object of this is to help clarify project ideas and to inform the Department about the project. These processes should result in valuable feedback being obtained.
CONFIRMATION OF Ph.D. CANDIDATURE AND TRANSFER FROM MPhil. TO Ph.D. (before 12 month anniversary)
This process is described in "The Ph.D. Handbook".In general this must take place within the first 12 months of candidature. Well before the anniversary date the student should receive a Confirmation of Candidature form (or a form for conversion from MPhil. candidature to Ph.D. candidature) by post from the School of Graduate Research. This form must be completed by both the student and the supervisor prior to the meeting of the confirmation/supervisory committee.
In order for confirmation to be considered a detailed writing up of results achieved to date is required and this should be completed one month before the first anniversary of postgraduate enrolment. This should take the form of a draft results thesis chapter (of at least 3000 words) without an extensive literature or background section. The results should be discussed thoroughly. A detailed plan of future experiments and research for a Ph.D. should be attached. It should be demonstrated clearly that your work would lead to completion of a Ph.D. within another two years (after the probationary year). Your document will be considered by your supervisory committee, the Head of Department, and other academic staff who the Head feels should have an input. This document and the student’s progress will be discussed at a meeting with their supervisory committee which also acts as a confirmation committee. You will be expected to verbally defend the proposed research project and the confirmation committee will assess the feasibility and resource requirements of the proposed project and offer suggestions towards its successful completion.
At the beginning of the meeting the chairperson will explain the committee’s role.
The following issues should be addressed:
The Confirmation Committee will make a recommendation to the Head of Department to either;
MID-SECOND-YEAR REPORT & MEETING
Mid-way through a PhD can be a time of frustration and occasionally a student may feel a loss of direction. A committee meeting at this stage is recommended. The student should prepare a brief report summarizing progress and any difficulties. Some, but not necessarily all, of the topics listed above may be the focus of discussion.
Students are required topresent an annual seminar to the Department- see below. These seminars will be arranged by the postgraduate coordinator in consultation with you.
SECOND-YEAR ANNUAL REPORT and MEETING
Well before the anniversary date the student should receive an Annual Report form by post from the School of Graduate Research. This form must be completed by both the student and the supervisor prior to the meeting of the confirmation/supervisory committee. The student should organise a time/date for the committee meeting well in advance.
Each student is expected to prepare a detailed annual report (1,000 - 2,000 words) one month before the anniversary date on the Annual Report form. This should include data, tables & diagrams where appropriate, should include details of experiments planned and should clearly indicate the position with regard to completion of experimental work. The report should be prepared in consultation with your supervisor(s). Please note that this report for the department is separate from and more extensive than the brief annual report requested by the School of Graduate Research. The report is to be prepared early so there is time for consultation and discussion.
This meeting should introduce discussions concerning preparation of the thesis and the student's career options. The student should bring to the meeting the completed School of Graduate Research Progress Report Form which falls due on the 2-year anniversary and the associated written report.
Other questions and points to be covered may include:
THIRD-YEAR ANNUAL REPORT and MEETING
See the requirements above for the second-year annual report/meeting.
This meeting should be especially concerned with the timetable for completion of experiments and writing of the thesis. The meeting agenda may include items listed above but should cover:
Publications are the “currency” of science and are an important means by which scientific peers and potential employers can judge the outcomes of your PhD and your productivity as a scientist. It is of considerable value to a student to have published one or more papers during the course of their PhD. There is value to your CV/reputation, but writing manuscripts also assists in thinking clearly about how your work can best be structured, ensures there are no experimental gaps, and seeks external peer review of your work.
A focus of committee meetings should be how your work can/will be presented for publication: what questions are being addressed?; how will the data/experiments fit together for a publication?; what experiments are (still) required?; what are the main findings?; how do they fit with the literature?; which journal/s would be appropriate?
As a minimum expectation it is anticipated that a draft of at least one manuscript be submitted to your supervisor BEFORE your thesis is handed in.
Students should explore with their supervisor/s the possibility of writing a review based on some part of the literature review for their thesis.
Between submission of a thesis and completion of the examination process it is possible for students in the Faculty of Science to apply for a “David Hay Memorial Fund (Postgraduate Writing-Up Award)” to prepare manuscripts for submission.
Details are available at: http://science.unimelb.edu.au/scholarships?awardId=10625
Students will normally have one or two official supervisors responsible for their studies. The other members of their committee are available for consultation on a regular basis. The supervisor(s) and the Committee interact most directly with a student. However, it should be noted that students should always be prepared to consult anyone within or outside the Department for advice and help. When preparing reports, theses, etc., students are encouraged to ask other members of the Department to read and comment on drafts. As a guide, you should aim to have the data and analysis for at least one and more likely two, major publications. Reading published papers in your field is a good judge.
Although the supervisor, followed by the advisory committee, should be the first points of contact, the coordinator of postgraduate students can be consulted on individual and postgraduate student group issues (e.g. "pastoral care" matters).
RESPONSIBILITIES FOR DEPARTMENT RESOURCES
Resources available for Postgraduate Research Students
Resources available for Postgraduate Coursework Students
Within the limits of available research funds the Department will provide all reasonable facilities and resources for higher degree students. Students are expected to be careful in their use of the provided resources and to show consideration for other members of the laboratory and Department. Students should be prepared to accept particular responsibility for various duties within their laboratory and at the general Departmental level. It is expected that particular expertises developed by students in the course of their studies will be generously shared with all members of the Department as required. The Department welcomes suggestions and inputs on any issue including equipment and facilities at any time. It is important that a collegial spirit is developed where your participation in events, which promote Genetics and the Genetics Department, is an active one.
LEAVE - WORKING HOURS
Recreation leave (maximum four weeks) should be notified in advance to supervisor(s) and to the Department’s Administrative Officer, although not to the School of Graduate Research. Recreation leave will not alter the submission date. Extended sick leave or leave of absence from studies is required to be notified to the School of Graduate Research. Special forms need to be completed for this.
While making the most of the opportunities for flexible working hours, students are expected to work at their studies as hard as is required to meet international standards of research. This includes both laboratory and desk (reading and writing) work. No strict guidelines can be laid down because of variation in individual work patterns and field of study. It is the end point that matters. A guide to the standard of work required can be obtained by reading published papers in your field.
Attendance and participation (poster and oral presentations) by students at meetings and conferences is strongly encouraged. Financial support will be provided by the Department for attendance at a scientific meeting most relevant to the student's research area. This is applicable to students undertaking their research projects in a laboratory in the Department of Genetics. Possible additional support from research grants should be discussed in advance with your supervisor(s).
Postgraduate Scholarship for Conference Travel
Please see details at http://www.fpg.unimelb.edu.au/io/unimelb/student.html regarding travel insurance for students travelling for University or course-related business where the travel has been approved by the Head of Department.
Higher degree students are encouraged, where practical, to participate enthusiastically in the teaching activities of the Department. This includes assisting Honours students and casual demonstrating/tutoring. The experience you obtain may be a valuable addition to your Curriculum Vitae and will be rewarding to you and to the students you teach. Consultation with your supervisor before undertaking tutoring/demonstrating is strongly advised.
The current periods of maximum candidature are stipulated as 2 and 3 years for full-time MPhil. and Ph.D.’s respectively. A fourth year of a PhD candidature may be obtained as two six months extensions. Scholarships run for 3 years, with the possibility of one six-month extension. In both cases, application for extension must be made via the Department to the School of Graduate Research. This is not automatic. The policy on candidature is based on the RTS scheme instituted by the Federal Government to cover post-graduate training. The University is paid in arrears for each candidate on graduation. This means that there is considerable pressure on individuals and the Department for students to complete within the four years. Candidates requiring extensions beyond four years will have exhausted their RTS entitlement and the University may elect to impose fees. Extensions beyond four years are only granted in exceptional circumstances. You should be aware that these issues are of considerable importance to the generation of future graduate student places at the University of Melbourne. The limit on scholarship extension places very real pressures on students and you should make every effort to complete your degree within the time frame.
International candidates requiring extensions will also need to check the validity of their visa.
Well in advance of completing studies, students are advised to consult widely about their future careers. A large number of advertisements and information about possible positions come to the Department. Most of these are placed on the postgraduate noticeboard. In addition, information on useful workshops, e.g. thesis writing, is placed on this noticeboard. Students are encouraged to visit the School of Graduate Research and be aware of resources the School has to offer.
The Department believes that Science (and Genetics in particular) is a rewarding, fulfilling activity both intellectually and socially. It is hoped that an environment can be created and maintained where it is possible for all higher degree students to experience this.
We wish you an enjoyable and productive stay in your Department.
Date Created: 01 May 1995