Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology


The PhD graduate program in the Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology uses multidisciplinary approaches to investigate fundamental properties of human structure and function that relate to health, movement, and physiology. The PhD program offers opportunity for trainees to engage in detailed and in-depth examination of novel lines of investigation in the fields of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology.

Note that official degree program requirements are listed in the SFU Calendar. If there is a discrepancy between what is written here and what is written in the SFU Calendar, the SFU Calendar should be taken as the most accurate and up to date requirements.

Admission requirements

Applicants must satisfy the University admission requirements as stated in Graduate General Regulations 1.3 in the SFU Calendar. Students are admitted to a program area that is defined and determined prior to recommendation by the Department's graduate program committee. The program must be within the capabilities of the student and Department. Students must show competence in methodology relevant to proposed research.

Students may be admitted to the PhD program in Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology via one of three routes:

  • Admission to the PhD program with a Master's degree
  • Transfer from the MSc to the PhD program
  • Direct admission to the PhD program with a Bachelor's degree.

Admission to the PhD Program with a Master's Degree

Students with a completed Master's degree who satisfy SFU admission requirements may be admitted to the PhD program.

Transfer from the MSc to the PhD Program

Students currently in the Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology Master's program may be considered for a transfer to the PhD program. Normally, only students enrolled in their third through sixth terms may apply to transfer to the PhD program. The graduate program committee (GPC) reviews such applications, and the GPC chair forwards a recommendation to the Dean of Graduate Studies. The decision is made by the Dean of Graduate Studies.

In addition to Graduate General Regulations 1.3.4, eligibility and the decision regarding transfer to the PhD in BPK will include the following criteria:

  • strong support letters from the senior supervisor and supervisory committee members;
  • excellent academic performance (e.g. minimum GPA of 3.67);
  • strong background in research design and statistics or modelling as appropriate to the area
  • completion of 3 of the 4 courses required by the MSc program, which must include BPK 801 and STAT 603;
  • evidence that the student is capable of completing and disseminating research. Such capability will be judged by research to date, publications, and letters from referees.

Direct Admission to the PhD Program with a Bachelor's Degree

In exceptional cases, students may be admitted to the PhD program direct from completion of a Bachelor's degree.

Program Requirements

This program consists of a comprehensive examination (BPK 896), two seminar presentations (BPK 897), and a thesis (BPK 899). Normally the supervisory committee will prescribe courses necessary to complete the student's academic preparation. However, the supervisory committee may allow the student to proceed without additional course work over and above that for a Master's degree. Students who transfer from the MSc to the PhD program are required to complete the elective course requirements for the MSc. Students with a bachelor's degree admitted directly to the doctoral program must complete BPK 801, STAT 603, and two elective graduate courses as specified for the MSc Program. Students admitted with a Master's degree are recommended to complete BPK 801.

Study and research is designed to suit the background and research objectives of each student and may differ widely from student to student.

Students must complete:

BPK 896 - PhD Comprehensive Examination (0)

The PhD comprehensive exam consists of a written research proposal, and a related oral exam conducted by the Supervisory Committee and one additional member external to the committee. The written research proposal will be written in the format of an Operating Grant application, with an eleven page limit exclusive of references, appendices, figures and tables. The proposal is to be written independently by the candidate, and should be written in enough detail to determine that the research is feasible and sufficient for PhD level work. The oral examination is designed to assess the candidate's ability to understand the underlying science and their ability to undertake the proposed research. The examining committee will explore the student's knowledge in any area that is relevant to the proposed research. The Graduate Program Committee Chair or designate will chair the examination. Graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.

2x BPK 897 - PhD Seminar (0)

The student will present two seminars on topics approved by the student's senior supervisor. One of the seminars will be presented as a departmental exit seminar in the student's last term, and will summarize, integrate, and synthesize the thesis work for the whole department. The second seminar should be at a national or international conference, or an oral presentation at BPK Research Day, and must be approved by the Graduate Program Committee Chair. 

BPK 899 - PhD Thesis (18)

Students must register in BPK 899 every semester they are in the program. This thesis will be completed and defended at the end of your program.

Optional specialization in translational and integrative neuroscience (TRAIN)

Application to TRAIN is through the TRAIN steering committee. Students must fulfill all Departmental requirements for the MSc.

To receive TRAIN specialization, students must complete both NEUR courses with a grade of B+ or higher. These courses would replace graduate elective course requirements for this program.

Students must complete:

NEUR 800 - Foundations of Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience (3)

Covers fundamental concepts related to the basic cellular neurobiology of neurons and other nervous system cells, neuronal pathfinding, electrophysiology, dendritic organization, axonal transport, plasticity, and signal transduction, as well as the integration of neurons into neural circuits and diseases of the nervous system. This course can only be taken once, either during a Masters or Doctoral program.

NEUR 801 - Foundations of Systems Neuroscience (3)

Fundamental concepts related to information processing (sensing, encoding, planning, decision-making, execution) by neural circuits are discussed. Topics include: neural communication, sensorimotor control of movement, neuroplasticity, and diseases of the brain. Issues of experimental design and application of modern neuroscience methods will be integrated across these topics. Additional topics will vary depending on the year. This course can only be taken once, either during a Masters or Doctoral program.


4x NEUR 802 - Translational and Integrative Neuroscience Workshop (0)

Workshops focus on providing students with skills to facilitate the translation of neuroscience, broadly defined, for the benefit of society. Faculty members at SFU as well as relevant clinicians and company representatives will run these workshops. Topics may include: how to translate fundamental questions into clinical-oriented questions; how to perform clinical research; how to start a spin-off company; how to pitch ideas for commercialization; how to work with industry; how drug-discovery works; and how to communicate to different audiences. All topics will relate specifically to neuroscience. Prerequisite: Enrollment in translational and integrative neuroscience graduate specialization or permission from lead workshop organizer.

Students must complete at 4 NEUR 802 workshops to graduate with TRAIN desgination. 

For more information on TRAIN, please see Translational and Integrative Neuroscience.

Optional specialization in interdisciplinary oncology

This specialization within the BPK PhD Program is for students who are interested in gaining exposure to diverse facets of cancer-related research. Application to the Interdisciplinary Oncology Graduate Specialization (IOGS) is through the interdisciplinary oncology steering committee. Students must fulfill all Departmental requirements for the MSc. For more information, please see Interdisciplinary Oncology Graduate Specialization requirements.

Thesis Requirements

A thesis describing the PhD research must be submitted and defended at an open forum in accordance with Graduate General Regulations 1.10.

Program length

Students are expected to complete the program requirements within fifteen terms from first enrollment, including students who have transferred from the MSc program. Time limits for program completion are governed by Graduate General Regulations 1.12.

Academic requirements within the graduate general regulations

All graduate students must satisfy the academic requirements that are specified in the Graduate General Regulations, as well as the specific requirements for the program in which they are enrolled.