MSc Program

Information for new students

Welcome to the School of Environmental Sciences!  Here are a few notes that will help you with getting started in the MSc program at Guelph: MSc Welcome Package


SES graduate policy document

All SES graduate policies can be found here: SES Graduate Student Policies (2021/01/18)

The Graduate Calendar is the foremost source for information concerning university-level regulations of graduate studies in general and SES academic programs in particular.


Program Requirements

The M.Sc. thesis program requires candidates to complete:

  • At least 1.5 graduate course credits, including one mandatory 0.50 credit course (Research Seminar in Environmental Sciences), and
  • The completion and defense of a thesis detailing research carried out under the direct supervision of a core faculty member.

The required Research Seminar in Environmental Sciences (ENVS 6900) focuses on developing writing and communication skills by having the students develop a research proposal that is both written and presented to the class. 

For the remainder of your course requirements as determined in consultation with your advisory committee, you will be able to choose from a number of disciplinary specific seminar courses, independent study courses and lab or field courses spanning the following broad areas of expertise within the school: Earth and atmospheric science, soil sciences, and environmental biology.  Students may also select related courses from other departments on campus.  

For more information see the full program requirements in the graduate calendar.


Common Policies and Procedures

Advisory committee

The Advisor is responsible for forming the Advisory Committee in consultation with the student. The Committee for MSc students shall consist of the Advisor or Co‐Advisors (who usually serves as Chair of the Committee) and at least one additional member of the Graduate Faculty, Associate Graduate Faculty, or Special Graduate Faculty. The majority of MSc Advisory Committees have three members. Preferably, the Advisory Committee should be established and should meet before the end of the student's first semester. The Advisory Committee must be formed and the advisory committee appointment form submitted to the Graduate Program Assistant no later than the tenth week of the student's second semester. 


Scholarship search tool

Students may receive external scholarships (e.g NSERC, OGS) and/or internal scholarships.  For more information, please consult the graduate studies Scholarships and Awards website.  You may also use the Graduate Award Search Tool to find internal scholarships.

Other useful links:

NSERC: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Scholarships information

OGS: Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) information

Awards for SES students: List of SES Awards   Application/Letter of Interest for 2016


Research/writing course enrolment

For each semester that you will be registered, you must choose one of the following: UNIV*7510*01 Active Full-time Registration or UNIV*7520*01 Active Part-time Registration. Registering for one of these courses serves only to activate your registration.

In addition to this basic selection, you must be registered in at least one other course: UNIV*7500*01 Research/Writing or any real course for which an active section exists. Failure to do this will result in the term simply not appearing on any official transcript of record.


Commonly used forms


MSc Defense

Planning for your defense

There are many steps to getting your thesis ready for defense.  Please check the following checklist for suggested timelines.  It is also important to factor in time for your advisor and the advisory committee to review your thesis chapters ahead of the deadline to submit the Exam request form (4 weeks before your defense date).

 MSc Defense Checklist/Timeline

Please refer to the Office of Graduate Studies link on thesis completion for important information.

SES specific policies related to the defense and thesis completion can be found in the SES policies and guidelines document.


General guidelines

The thesis results are defended in a process that includes a presentation of the work and defense of the thesis results through oral questioning. Both are open to the public.

The MSc examination committee normally consists of three or four members appointed by the Associate Director (Graduate Studies), as follows:

  1. Examination chair
  2. A member of the Candidate’s Advisory Committee (normally, the Advisor);
  3. A member of the graduate faculty or the associate graduate faculty or special graduate faculty who may be a member of the Advisory Committee;
  4. A fourth member may be appointed from among graduate faculty from another Department, from SES, but not from the Advisory Committee (the “internal external”).

The Defense consists of a 30-40 minute presentation by the student, followed by questions from the public.  Following a short break, the examining committee members have two rounds of questions for the student.  The first round is 15-20 minutes per examiner, whereas the second round of questions is usually 5-10 minutes per examiner.  At the end of the examination, the student and public are asked to leave and the committee deliberates the results of the examination.  The chair will then inform the student of the outcome as well as give an overview of any corrections or revisions required.  


Forms that need to be filled out in consultation with your advisor prior to defense

  • SES Examination Information Form to be submitted to the Graduate Program Assistant ( at least 6 weeks before your defense.
  • Examination Request Form to be submitted to the Graduate Program Assistant ( at least 4 weeks before you defense.


Forms and information needed after defense


Graduate courses

Please refer to the SES Graduate Courses page for information on SES courses and current semester offerings. You may also wish to refer to the University Graduate Calendar course listing for information about all SES Graduate courses.

Students must register for courses through WebAdvisor (see Tutorial). You may also search for course availability by semester through WebAdvisor.

NOTE: Students may need to fill out a course waiver/request form with instructor consent to register in some of our courses.  For Special Topics courses (section 01) where the graduate coordinator is listed as Instructor: please be advised that students will need to identify a faculty advisor who will work with them on a one-on-one basis to complete the course BEFORE the form is signed by the graduate coordinator. When submitting the form for signature, please state the name of faculty advisor you have identified.  All forms need to be complete, filled out in full and in one .pdf file to be accepted. This includes collecting the signature from instructors that are not the Graduate Coordinator.  Students should send completed forms to the Graduate Secretary;  she will ensure that the forms are signed and returned to students in a timely manner.


Contact Information

If you require more information or assistance, please contact:

SES Graduate Program Assistant

Jean Wolting (Acting GPA)
phone: 1-519-824-4120 ext. 53937
office location: Alexander Hall 275

SES Graduate Coordinator

Prof. Youbin Zheng
phone: 1-519-824-4120 ext. 52741
office location: BOVEY 2220