Doctor of Philosophy

Welcome, FHS PhD students

The information and resources found here are for current FHS PhD students. Over the course of your postdoctoral studies, you’ll want to visit to this page, or reference the PhD welcome package.

Course planning

The FHS PhD Program Plan is designed to help you plan your courses, term by term. It is your responsibility to be aware of any course prerequisites, as well as the program requirements necessary for graduation.  

Course planning is completed in cooperation with your supervisor and committee.

For course planning assistance and advising throughout your degree, we encourage you to meet with Jessie Choi, FHS Manager, Graduate Programs. At least two semesters prior to your planned thesis defence, you should book an appointment with Jessie to ensure that you are on track for completion. Please refer to the advising guide for further resources during your program.

Refer to the course timetable for detailed information on course time and location. To help you plan your courses over the next two years, FHS has released the future course offerings. The schedules are subject to change.

Typically, HSCI 902 must be completed in the Fall term and HSCI 903 must be completed in the Spring term. For a full listing of HSCI graduate courses, please see the SFU Calendar.

PhD students who completed the FHS MSc or transferred from the FHS MSc with a minimum grade of A- in HSCI 902 and/or HSCI 903 are not required to repeat these courses.

Continuity of enrollment

To maintain continuity of enrollment, PhD students must be enrolled in one of the following courses each term that you are not on a leave of absence:

  • HSCI 983 each term until both the comprehensive exam and thesis proposal confirmation of acceptability are approved and submitted

  • HSCI 990 each term while you work on your thesis research and then defend your thesis.

PhD committee

A committee is required to help graduate students stay on track and to advise their research.  Each graduate student will meet with their committee during the course of their graduate studies.

To understand the roles of the student, supervisor and committee, please refer to these guidelines for supervision, written by Graduate Studies.

Forming the supervisory committee

The committee includes your supervisor and at least two other members. Your supervisor will assist with recruitment of the remaining committee members. One of the two additional committee members must be a member of the FHS research faculty. The third supervisory committee member could be from SFU, or could be an adjunct professor or faculty member from another institution. You can also request to have a committee member from the community. If your member is not from SFU, include their curriculum vitae with your forms.

Committee members should complement the student’s research and program goals and should be available for regular consultation. You can make changes to your committee as needed through your program. Each time a change is made submit the change of supervisory committee form.

See best practices in forming and utilizing a supervisory committee from Graduate Studies.

Initial committee meeting

The initial committee meeting is to ensure that you, as a new graduate student, are set up for success from the outset. A checklist will assist in the preparation of the formation of the committee.

You need to meet with your supervisory committee early in your graduate program, ideally in the first term.

Once the meeting has taken place, an approval of supervisory committee form must be submitted to your graduate program assistant.

SFU regulations state that you need to have a committee in place four months after you start your program. Students who do not submit these two forms on time may not be allowed to register in the following term.

Sensitive or classified material

Students, in consultation with their supervisors, will need to read the guidelines for sensitive and classified material. Both must confirm they have reviewed the guidelines by signing and returning the approval of supervisory committee form.

Supervisor relationship

We encourage students meet regularly with their supervisor. A good supervisory relationship established early in the program will have clear and mutually agreed expectations for the entire graduate program. A Supervisory Agreement will guide the progress throughout the program. We recommend students and their supervisors review the Student Responsibilities page and the Graduate Student Handbook on the Graduate Studies website for details on supervision.

Students may find a number of well-being projects on the SFU Healthy Campus Community website useful for well-being through the supervisory process including:

The Well-being through the Supervisory Process: Graduate Student Guide for Action

Thriving in Graduate School

FHS research seminar

The Faculty of Health Sciences interdisciplinary research seminar series focuses on the research of the FHS faculty and related researchers. The seminar is held in the fall and spring semesters and is an excellent opportunity for students and faculty to engage.

While attendance is mandatory for first year MSc and PhD students as a requirement of HSCI 902 and HSCI 903, we encourage you to continue attending the seminars throughout your program.

Graduate progress report

In collaboration with your supervisor, you are required to meet with your committee once per year for the purpose of discussing your progress as a graduate student.

As a Graduate General Regulation (GGR) 1.8.1, all active SFU graduate students in a research-based program are required to complete an annual Graduate Progress Report (GPR).

The student, supervisor and committee members each need to complete the appropriate sections of the Graduate Progress Report (GPR). In addition to an evaluation of your progress, the report will provide:

  • A review of courses taken and grades achieved, research progress and research-related activities (e.g., conference attendance, publications)

  • A proposal for coursework and research-related activities and plans for the coming year

  • Any sources and amounts of financial support from the supervisor, TA positions, fellowships, etc., for the previous and coming years.

Students will not be allowed to register for the next semester until the Graduate Progress Report has been submitted.

Students who start their program in September can expect to complete the report in the summer term; students who start in January can expect to complete the report in the fall term.

For more information and instructions, visit the GPR website. See managing your progress for ways to stay on track during your studies.

PhD thesis proposal defence and comprehensive exam

Comprehensive examination

As part of the comprehensive exam you will be expected to write a paper on a research question within the proposed research topic. Your supervisor and committee will write a set of questions based on your paper and submit them to you with a timeline for written responses to the questions.

The comp exam (sometimes called comps) is meant to assess your broad understanding of your research area and is normally completed before the end of the fourth term of the program. You normally meet with your supervisor and committee prior to the exam to discuss the process and expectations. Review the PhD Comprehensive Exam Procedures before you begin your preparations.

At the end of your comprehensive exam presentation, your supervisor and committee members will sign the PhD Comprehensive Examination Confirmation of Acceptability and submit it to the PhD program assistant.

PhD thesis proposal and defence

As a program requirement, you will write a thesis proposal and present (defend) it to your supervisor and committee members, typically before the end of the 6th term of your program. You will meet with your supervisor and committee to discuss the proposed areas of work.  Review the PhD Thesis Proposal Defence Procedures before you begin the process.

Your thesis proposal will integrate theory, current research and methods in the fields related to your research area.

At the end of your presentation, your supervisor and committee members will sign the PhD Thesis Proposal Confirmation of Acceptability, and submit it to the PhD program assistant.

PhD combined comprehensive exam and thesis proposal

The process follows the same steps as outlined above; the only change is the timeline. You can complete the comprehensive exam and once you pass the exam then you proceed to present and defend your thesis proposal.  Be sure to complete and return the required confirmation of acceptability forms to the PhD program assistant. 

PhD thesis

All PhD candidates must write a thesis and pass a formal oral thesis defence that is conducted in accordance with University Graduate General Regulations (1.9 & 1.10).

See SFU information and resources for writing your thesis and preparing for your defence.

FHS provides all PhD students with a PhD thesis completion guideline.  Also, see the option to write a manuscript based thesis in the FHS.