Installation, Maintenance & Breakdowns in the Physiology Program


It is assumed that you have a supervisor, bench space, access to equipment and materials, the outlines of a research problem, and financial support.

Take a minute to note that the world is not perfect.

Take another minute and arrange for your Supervisory Committee, now!

Copy any important deadlines from the SGS Calendar to your diary. Remember the deadline for Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS)is around October.

Is your Supervisory Committee in place? The Committee should be in place as soon as possible, and at most 3 months after beginning your program. Read important information about the Supervisory Committee: composition of your Supervisory Committee, scheduling meetings and submitting the Annual Report. 

Have you developed a hypothesis? Discuss this with your supervisor and supervisory committee members.

M.Sc. - Is your research project both good and concise? It has to be good to be worth doing, and it has to be concise enough so that you can finish the degree in 12-18 months.

Ph.D. - Will your research problem lead to an undoubted advance in knowledge? Is it sufficiently restricted that you can treat it exhaustively in 4 years? Will it nail the problem down once and for all? If there are to be a series of experiments are they logically linked to form a whole.

Now is the time to discuss general laboratory procedures with your supervisor. Each laboratory operates under somewhat different rules, usually put in place by the principal investigator. Be aware that the granting agencies which support the work carried out in your laboratory require adherence to the principles of "Good Laboratory Practice" (GLP). These may be interpreted differently in each laboratory; however, you should inquire now under what rules you are to carry out your work. In particular, discuss and agree upon the following issues:

  • Collaborations outside your laboratory and with other trainees within your laboratory.
  • Order of authors on publications; who is first author, who is senior author and what determines the order of authorship on publications resulting from joint projects.
  • Signing authority to purchase laboratory supplies.
  • Manner of keeping experimental laboratory records (notes). GLP requires that detailed, dated records be kept in bound note books. Be aware that you are spending public funds and that your supervisor is fully accountable for the manner in which these funds are used.
  • Be aware that you are responsible to adhere to the protocols established for the use of biohazardous and radioactive materials and the care of laboratory animals. Make use of the (mandatory) courses especially offered by the University for these purposes, and do so very early during your training.

To which Research Grouping do you belong? Graduate students are members of the Research Grouping to which their supervisor belongs and you will attend the regular meetings of your Research Grouping.

Watch for announcements of Departmental Seminars in our weekly newsletter, PhysioLINK, which will be sent to you by e-mail every Friday. Graduate students in Physiology are expected to attend the departmental seminars as part of their program requirement.


Repeatedly take the time to discuss your research with your supervisor, Supervisory Committee, members of your Research Grouping (see below), and any other staff, students or visitors who may be interested.

Don't expect your supervisor to single-handedly formulate a detailed and lengthy fool-proof plan of research. Your supervisor may be older and wiser but the unknown and the future are still difficult to predict. The most apparently straightforward schemes may require a lot of thought, discussion, and even trial and error.

It is unfortunate if you do not discuss your work with other students and staff.

Allow plenty of time for the convening of supervisory or examination Committees. Although a thesis ought to be readable in one day the reader will likely need 3 weeks, given the other demands on time and the need for reflection. Help your supervisor speed the arrangement of meetings by checking with the Committee members as to suitable or alternate times. Deliver thesis proposals, scholarship forms, theses, etc. personally and with plenty of time to spare. 


Breakdowns are usually due to a lack of maintenance.

Your Supervisory Committee is there to help you resolve any problems that you and your supervisor cannot jointly surmount.

If a lot of things have failed to work out and you are fairly exhausted have you considered a short holiday, visiting some other laboratories to broaden your outlook. A leave of absence is also possible.

Difficulties should be communicated, as soon as they arise, to the Graduate Coordinator and Chairman who will consult with the parties involved and report, if necessary, to the Associate Dean of the School of Graduate Studies.

Difficulties in the university community are always resolved sooner or later by extra consultation between the parties involved and by seeking additional opinions. It may therefore be natural and appropriate for the Department (i.e. the Supervisor, appropriate Research Group Leader, Graduate Coordinator or Departmental Chairman) to expand the Supervisory Committee or examination Committee on occasion.

Graduate Student Formal Grievances

The Department of Physiology has a formal procedure for dealing with complaints of Graduate Students.Complaints should pass through the following chain:

Supervisor, Supervisory Committee, Graduate Coordinator, Departmental Chair, The Graduate Grievance Committee for Physiology, and subsequently, if no resolution is forthcoming, to the School of Graduate Studies.