As a graduate student, you are making a commitment to devote the time and energy needed to engage in research and write a thesis. Your supervisor has a right to expect substantial effort, initiative, respect and receptiveness to suggestions and criticism.

The principal role of the supervisor is to help students achieve their scholastic potential. They will provide reasonable commitment, accessibility, professionalism, stimulation, guidance, respect and consistent encouragement to the student.

For research students, the supervisory committee should be in place by the end of the first academic year.  Details on graduate student-supervisor relationships and expectations can be found in the Handbook of Graduate Supervision.

Handbook of Graduate Supervision

Expectations Documents

All incoming MASc and PhD students and their supervisors will be given a set of expectation documents. Students are required to meet with their supervisors at the onset of their program to discuss roles, responsibilities, and expectations of both student and supervisor. Mutual understanding of expectations between students and their supervisors is critical to achieve excellence in research, and to the overall success of a graduate program. This document is intended to be read and discussed by students and their supervisors at the onset of the students’ programs.

Discussion of expectations can foster open communication between supervisors and students and prevent misunderstandings that might otherwise arise. This document is not a replacement for University rules. To the extent that any statements in this document contradict University of British Columbia policies, rules, or regulations, the University of British Columbia policies, rules and regulations prevail. Ultimately, successful completion of a graduate program of study is the student’s responsibility.

After the documents have been reviewed and signed, please return School of Biomedical Engineering (SBME) Student Services via Canvas.

Graduate Advising Canvas

Supervisors of students with program start dates prior to September 2018 are encouraged to use this document as well to facilitate a discussion on the graduate student-supervisor relationship.

MASC Expectations

PHD Expectations

Changing Supervisors

It is possible that changing circumstances and life events may lead either you or your supervisor to consider ending the working relationship. A change of supervisors may be the best option for both the student and the supervisor:

  • Supervisor leaves the university
  • Incompatibility of the graduate student and supervisor
  • Funding
  • Student changes area of interest

Changing supervisors is a big step that may be stressful and time consuming. Before a student or supervisor takes this step, consult the Handbook on Graduate Supervison for suggestions on the decision making process.

Handbook of Graduate Supervision

Department Procedure for Changing Supervisor

    • Attempt to resolve the issue through discussion with the Graduate Advisor and the original supervisor
    • Ensure that both the “old” and “new” supervisors are part of the decision
    • Notify the department by using the contact us form.

Contact Us Form

The Responsibility of a Supervisory Committee

Every Graduate Student in our program will have an appointed Supervisory Committee that must meet at least annually. The student’s supervisory committee is responsible for:

  • Providing general supervision of the student’s research and academic studies for PhD and MASc students.
  • Overseeing the comprehensive examination for PhD students.
  • Reviewing the student’s program of studies and the composition of the Committee. Transmit to the Graduate Advisor any recommended changes in the program or in the Committee.
  • Reviewing and approving the student’s Research Proposal.
  • Reviewing the student’s progress. Confirm that there is sufficient material for inclusion in the thesis. This includes completing an annual supervisory committee report which is submitted to the Student Services office along with the student’s annual report. These forms are found on the Graduate Advising Canvas course.
  • Certifying to SBME that the student’s thesis is ready for the final examination for the MASc and PhD degrees.

Who should be a member of your Supervisory Committee?


The research supervisor or a co-supervisor must be a full-time, regular faculty (at least at the rank of Assistant professor) or an Associate Member in the School. Emeritus faculty are normally required to appoint a full-time regular or associate faculty member as a co-supervisor. Further information is at

Other members of the supervisory committee are nominated by the student’s advisor. The committee should be as diverse as possible, including faculty members with primary appointments in Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Applied Science. Please note that your committee is subject to the approval of the SBME Graduate Program and changes may be requested if your committee is not diverse enough.

The supervisory committee membership may include senior instructors, honorary faculty, adjunct faculty, off campus professionals as well as faculty members from other universities. A request for approval for these members must be submitted to the School of Biomedical Engineering, for any further processing. For PhD students, a request for approval must include a copy of the individual’s curriculum vitae and a letter from the graduate program advisor.


The program of each student is overseen by a committee of no fewer than 3 members, one of which is the student’s supervisor. This committee is nominated by the student’s supervisor and approved by the Director of the Graduate Program in consultation with the program graduate advisor, within 4 months of the candidate’s registration in the program. The membership of the research committee may be altered during the program with the approval of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Meetings of the committee, at least annually, are to be scheduled by the student.


The program of each student is overseen by a committee of no fewer than 3 committee members (normally at least at the rank of Associate Professor), plus the student’s Research Supervisor who acts as chairperson of the supervisory committee. This committee is nominated by the student’s supervisor and approved by the Director of the Graduate Program in consultation with the program graduate advisor, within 8 months of the candidate’s registration in the program. Supervisory committees are submitted on the Graduate Advising Canvas for approval by the department.

Graduate Advising Canvas

The supervisor provides academic guidance directed toward the completion of Ph.D. dissertation of high quality, and assists with the financial planning associated with the program. In case of absence from the campus of a month or more, the advisor must appoint an acting advisor for each of their Ph.D. candidates.

Supervisory Committee Members Form

When should I form my committee?

Students should form their supervisory committees as early as possible. We recommend you have your first Supervisory Committee meeting with yourself, your supervisor and your Chair within the first four months of being admitted to the program.

The purpose of this meeting will be to:

  • Introduce the student to the committee chair.
  • Review the current courses being taken and recommend courses for the next semester.
  • Discuss the general discipline and strategy for the proposed research (Note: A full research proposal and presentation is not required at this meeting).
  • Identify additional members of the supervisory committee.
  • Set a provisional date for the next meeting.

Committee membership must be submitted through the Advising Canvas within 8 months of the student’s registration in the program for approval.

Graduate Advising Canvas

Changes to the membership should be set before the research proposal defense, and certainly no later than the student’s admission to candidacy. It is in the best interests of the student, and a G+PS requirement, for the student to schedule a meeting with the supervisory committee every year, especially after admission to candidacy. The majority of cases with a very difficult doctoral examination or extended completion time occur when there are not regular meetings with the supervisory committee.

When should committee meetings be held?

It is required that the supervisory committees meet regularly to ensure student’s progress. Annual meetings require 3 people (of which the supervisor is one). If a committee member cannot attend, they will organize a one-on-one meeting with the student.

Below is the minimum required timeline for annual meetings for PHD Students

  Type From Start of Program
First Meeting Initial meeting with student and committee 6-12 months
Second Meeting Comprehensive Exam 18-24 months
Third Meeting Pre-defense meeting 36 months
Final Meeting Defense If the defense does not happen by the fourth year, committee must meet yearly (month 48, 60, etc) until thesis defense

What should be on the agenda for the Annual Meetings?

Annual Meetings of the supervisory committee must take place every 6 – 12 months and are designed to be a supportive endeavor through which the students can demonstrate progress in their studies and research. However, it is also an important tool for helping the student who is experiencing difficulties with their research project or academic progress. It should be clear to all that the mandate of the committee is to help the student in as many ways as possible. It is critical that the meeting should not be delayed for any reasons; especially, if the student or supervisor are experiencing difficulties. Many committees meet every 6 months, especially MASc students who wish to transfer to the PhD program. We have also developed a tips document to assist you with the success of this meeting: SBME Annual Supervisory Committee Meeting Tips (coming soon).

In preparation for the meeting, the student should distribute the following to each of the committee members 4 days before the meeting:

  1. A complete progress report – you must use the following form: Graduate Student Annual Progress Report.
  2. Additional documents including papers in press and accepted abstracts.
  3. The presentation to be used at the meeting (in draft form).

The purpose of the annual meeting is to review the student’s progress. At that time the student must report on their academic progress and research. The student should outline further research work necessary to complete the project. The Supervisory Committee reviews and evaluates the academic and research progress of the student. A recommendation for re-registration should be made based on satisfactory progress and should be substantiated by appropriate comments. It is the function of the Chair of this committee to submit a written report to immediately after the meeting. This must be in place by May 31st every year.

The written evaluation of each student by his or her supervisory committee will be reviewed by the Graduate Advisor. A student whose progress either in academic or research activities is deemed unsatisfactory may be required by the Graduate Studies Committee to withdraw from the graduate program.

The Role of the Student

  • Ensures that the initial supervisory meeting take place within 6-12 months of registration in the program.
  • Presents research proposal to the Supervisory Committee during the first year of the student’s registration in Graduate Studies. It is strongly advised that this proposal be presented to the Supervisory Committee before the end of the second term of registration.
  • Schedules all required meetings of the supervisory committee. If this is proving difficult, please contact your Graduate Advisor.
  • Students should submit a summary report of progress and any supporting material one week prior to the meeting to assist the Supervisory Committee.
  • Notifies the of dates and time of scheduled meetings.
  • Ensures all necessary paperwork outlined on this page is completed by your Chair and your Supervisor and are sent to SBME Student Services Office ( after the Annual Meeting.

The Role of the Supervisor

  • Assists with research and educational program, and offers stimulation, respect and consistent encouragement.
  • Assists the student with the selection and planning of a suitable and manageable research topic.
  • Keeps research and tasks aligned to agreed upon research topic.
  • Be accessible for consultation and discussion of academic progress and research.
  • Help establish the supervisory committee which will meet at least once a year to review progress and provide guidance for future work.
  • Responds thoroughly and in a timely fashion to submitted written work.
  • Ensures that sufficient resources needed for thesis project are available.
  • Ensures that your research environment is safe and free from harassment and conflict.
  • Help to be aware of program requirements, deadlines, etc.
  • Encourages presentations of research results within and outside the University.
  • Assists in planning research program, setting a time frame, and adhering as much as possible to the schedule.
  • In case of absence from the campus of a month or more, the advisor must appoint an acting advisor for each of their PhD candidates.
  • Acknowledges contributions, when appropriate, in published material and oral presentations.
  • Ensures that the minimum stipend (currently $21,000 per year for MASc and $23,000 per year for PhD) is received.
  • Assists with the comprehensive exam and final defense process.

The Role of the Chair

  • Moderates the discussion in meetings and examinations.
  • Summarizes the opinions of the committee.
  • Helps the committee come to consensus decisions.
  • Files a written report for the student’s file.
  • For PhD students completes and submits the Comprehensive Exam report detailing a pass, conditional pass, or fail.
  • Contributes to the discussion and to the examination.
  • If there is a lack of consensus, the chair helps determine an appropriate course of action, for example, taking an average of suggested marks (in the case of a Master’s defense), scheduling additional meetings, etc.
  • In the case of significant disputes or problems, the Graduate Advisor should be informed.
  • Ensures that the research project is grounded in biomedical engineering research.