Grad Student Checklist

Congratulations and welcome to the Biology department at SFU! Your biology graduate caucus has put together this checklist, hoping you will use it to make your graduate studies an efficient, successful and memorable experience. The BISC grad caucus is an elected body of graduate students representing the interests of fellow grad students in our department.

This list provides you with both short-term and long-term guidance on how to plan your time here at SFU.

This information is explained in greater detail in the Survival Guide.

1. New Graduate Student

  • Find a place to live. Popular platforms to search for a place to live include Craigslist, Kijiji and Facebook housing groups
  • Get an computing account (email etc.) from Academic Computing Services. You can follow their instructions.
  • Get your student ID card at the Student Society offices in the Maggie Benston Centre (MBC) 
  • Sign up to email lists. Email lists are how information is disseminated in the department. Once you have a computing account make sure Marlene Nguyen, the graduate program assistant, knows your email address and she will subscribe you to the bisc-grads mail list.
  • Get a set of lab keys which your professor has to order for you
  • Follow this guide for buying a Translink Compass Card and loading your U-pass onto
  • Get familiar with the Graduate Student Health Plan

2. Every Semester

  • Register and pay your tuition fees
  • Plan a meeting with your supervisor early in the term. Bring this checklist and ensure the following details are addressed:
    • Review your progress and research goals from the past semester, identifying and discussing both your accomplishments and shortfalls. Identify realistic research goals for the semester that include: field work, lab experiments, data analysis, manuscript/thesis chapter draft writing.
    • Discuss plans to publish research results including co-authorship.
    • Discuss what courses you need to take in the upcoming semester.
    • Confirm financial support for the current semester and discuss plans for financial support for the upcoming term.
    • Discuss plans for professional development (e.g. conferences, learning new techniques, writing etc) and allot sufficient and realistic time in your semester plan. Not all supervisors pay for conference attendance. Discuss your situation and check-out additional sources of funding: BISC caucus travel lottery, graduates studies, NSERC travel funding, conference website.
    • What is the best way to contact your supervisor this semester, by appointment or drop-in?
    • Discuss your schedule with your supervisor, including how many hours a week you plan on working and what days/time your supervisor can expect to see you in the lab.
    • Note: Studying to acquire a Masters or PhD involves developing a good relationship with your supervisor. Here is a guide to get your started. 
  • Plan time for family, recreation, vacations etc. Being a grad student is a demanding job, but somebody has got to do it. It is not expected to be your life. As a grad student you do get time off and balance is a key component to enjoying your life and being an efficient grad student!! In addition, if you have any other major time commitments that will affect the amount of time you can dedicate to your graduate work it is important to be open with your supervisor about these (e.g. part-time job, childcare). If you're having a tough time, the SFU Health and Counseling has some great online resources on everything from posture, to stress, to relationship issues.
  • Identify the scholarships and awards for which you are eligible and that have deadlines during this term. It is your responsibility to ensure that your application is complete and submitted on time. Here is a list of deadlines for scholarships in the BISC department.

3. Annually

  • Plan a supervisory committee meeting. Discuss your progress, goals and funding.
  • Submit an annual progress report. It should include:
    • Annual Progress Report form (placed in your mailbox): Report on funding and permits
    • Committee Meeting Minutes: Brief summary of your annual committee meeting, no longer than 2 pages
    • Tables of milestones: Form stating your goals to be filled by you and signed by your supervisor
    • Summary of progress: Summary of the work you have done and the courses you have completed
    • SFU Unofficial Graduate Transcript
    • Assessment of the student and research program: Form filled out by the committee members after the committee meeting. It is advised to print out the forms to hand in to your committee members during the meeting, but they can also complete it online.
  • File your taxes (Guide)

4. Finishing up

  • To prevent making the common, frustrating and expensive, yet easily avoidable mistakes when preparing your thesis attend one of the many thesis workshops delivered each semester.
  • Be aware of the following timelines:
    • Once a “final” draft of your thesis is written you have to obtain the signatures from all members of your examining committee on an “approval of examining committee form”, before you can set a defense date.
    • MSc students can set their defense date no earlier than 6 weeks following the hand-in of the “approval to defend form”. The examining committee consists of the supervisory committee, an Internal Examiner and a Chair.
    • PhD students can set their defense date no earlier than 8 weeks following the hand-in of the “approval to defend form”. The examining committee consists of the supervisory committee, an External Examiner, a Internal Examiner and a Chair.
    • For more information about who qualifies for the role of an examiner and chair please speak with the graduate secretary or go to the graduate studies website.
    • Ensure that you allow sufficient time for corrections and printing following your defense to meet the library submission deadline.

Good luck with your graduate studies and remember the key to a successful graduate experience is balance and hard work (not to mention following everything on this list)!!