MRI images of a brain

Thesis-Based Programs

MSc & PhD

The outstanding thesis-based PhD and MSc programs at Temerty Faculty of Medicine provide the highest quality research education to trainees. With access to state-of-the-art research spaces both on campus and within our partner hospitals in the downtown core, our students can access cutting-edge equipment and modern tools to maximize their research training experience.

Our programs offer students the best opportunities to be at the forefront of impactful and innovative healthcare research. With 50% of our alumni employed in post-secondary educational institutes and universities, and approximately 25% pursuing careers in the private sector (biotechnology and pharma), our programs provide the necessary tools you need to build your future.

Additional Information

Exploring Your Interests

  • Find your interests early in your undergraduate years by visiting departmental and researchers’ websites and following up on lecture topics that have sparked your interest.
  • Find out which undergraduate courses you need for your chosen graduate program and what grades you need for admission.
  • Get hands-on undergraduate research experiences. These are important for admission to graduate departments and for obtaining a supervisor. Participate in research courses, project courses and summer research experiences.  Visit our undergraduate research opportunity database to explore what's available. 
  • Explore affiliated hospitals and their research institutes.
  • Talk to course instructors/professors, lab instructors, teaching assistants and graduate students in your area of interest.
  • Use the U of T Blue Book to find professors.
  • Speak with undergraduate and graduate student societies/unions, which often provide information sessions and seminars.
  • Visit your career centre and speak to a career counselor about career management, networking, cover letters, resumes and interviews.

Choosing the Right Program

  • Find the right fit for you by looking at several programs. 
  • Know what you want to get out of the program and understand its admission requirements.

Some questions to consider:

  • Is there a clear description of the program available to students?
  • What is the average time to completion for students in this program?
  • What is the course load?
  • How is stipend funding arranged?  Do you apply for competitive internal and external awards?
  • What seminars and visiting lectures are open to students?
  • Are there opportunities for formal student presentation of research?

Admission Requirements

Carefully review the SGS website and department website to make sure you have met all of the admission requirements.

Academic Requirement for Masters Programs

In general, you will need a 4-year bachelors degree from a recognized university, with a minimum of a mid-B average in the final year of study to apply for a basic science graduate degree*. 

Academic Requirement for Doctoral Programs

In general, you will need an MSc degree from a recognized university with a minimum of an A- average*.Some departments admit highly qualified BSc graduates directly to the PhD program (minimum A- average required).

*Some programs may have additional prerequisites (e.g., coursework) or higher GPA requirements than the minimum SGS requirement. Review the department website carefully. 

Language Requirements

Applicants who have completed their degree at a recognized institution whose language of instruction is not English, are required to provide a recent English-proficiency test scores (less than two years).


Check with the department if incoming students are responsible for finding a supervisor prior to applying or if there is a rotation program.

Other Requirements

Check with the Graduate unit if a Graduate Records Examination (GRE) is required as part of the program application. Most programs require a minimum of 2 reference letters as well as a CV. Some programs may require prerequisite courework, a portfolio of work, or other documented experiences. Check the department website carefully.

How to Apply

  • Start applying at least one year before starting a program. Programs can be competitive and there are a limited number of graduate research positions available.
  • Apply through the SGS website.
  • A complete application typically includes:

    • all post-secondary transcripts
    • 2 letters of reference
    • CV
    • Application fee
  • Keep track of application deadlines in departments and SGS.
  • Contact your references ahead of time to let them know they may be asked for a reference.
  • Choose a Faculty member who knows of your interest in research and who can provide an evaluation of work habits and research skills. Make sure you give your reference time to write something meaningful.
  • If applicable, when you contact your potential supervisor by email, include a cover letter describing your research interests, program and year of study, and career goals.  Include a copy of your resume and transcript.

Finding a Supervisor

  • Acceptance to a graduate program is conditional on acceptance by a graduate supervisor who can fulfill the department requirements for supervision, which include providing student stipends as applicable. 
  • Choosing the right supervisor is important. You should contact several potential supervisors to increase your chances.  Send each one an individual message, address the professor by name and show you are knowledgeable about the professor’s field of research.
  • In most cases, supervisors are identified after you’ve been admitted to the department. Some departments will allow you to rotate through a few laboratories before a final decision on supervision is made.  
  • The interview with a potential supervisor is critical. Know the scientist’s work very well. Be able to communicate why you want to train in the laboratory. Be ready to talk about any research you have done in the past. Use the questions below to find out about the supervisor and the laboratory.
    • How does the supervisor run his or her laboratory/research program?
    • What are the expectations of the supervisor for his or her students? 
    • Are students encouraged to become independent, explore their ideas and take charge of their own projects?
    • How often are formal meetings held with supervisors?
    • What peer support is there in the laboratory/research group?
    • Is there enough space and equipment? Is the supervisor well-funded?
    • Does the supervisor provide feedback in a timely manner?
    • Do students finish their program, course work and thesis in a timely fashion?
    • Does the supervisor encourage students to participate and present at national and international conferences?
    • Do students publish first-authored, high-quality work?
    • Does the supervisor support your career goals and participation in activities outside the laboratory and research program?
  • Visit the research environment and talk to current students to get their perspective on the environment.
  • Remember: your supervisor will also be your mentor.  That relationship will help shape your career, so you need to be able to talk about your aspirations and goals together.

Funding Information

Students registered in research-stream graduate programs in the basic sciences qualify for a stipend through the Temerty Faculty of Medicine Harmonized Base Funding Agreement*. Yearly stipend amounts are calculated based on an estimate of living expenses (living allowance) and the current year’s tuition fees.

*Students enrolled in RSI research-stream programs should refer to the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute website for funding details.

You are advised to apply for awards prior to being accepted into a program. In addition to financial aid, you may apply for other financial opportunities such as teaching/research assistantships.

Take some time to review our page on Funding for Basic Science Students to learn more about funding opportunities.

What if I Don't Get In?

Given the level of competition in graduate programs, it is important to have a backup plan. Make your application stronger and reapply in the next session. Contact the program admission staff and/or faculty to talk about ways to make your application stronger.