The course description for the NSCI 499 project is described below. A PDF version of the following information is also available:
NSCI 499 Course Description (PDF 17KB)
Also, see the NSCI 499 manuscript guidelines for a detailed description of formatting for the final research paper.
There are two components to this course:
Research for the thesis should be directed towards answering a specific scientific question, applying new methods to a problem or testing a hypothesis relating to the mechanisms underlying neural
processes. In some cases, the thesis research may lead to new data, which will eventually result in a scientific publication. However, because of time constraints and, in some instances, the development of new technology, the amount of data you collect may be less than you originally anticipated. Remember that projects often fail to produce hypothesized results. You should not consider this your failure and you will not be marked more harshly because of this. This is simply the reality of experimental science. It is important to consult regularly with your supervisor and the course coordinator who will assist you in keeping your research project focused and manageable within the time available to you. The main objective of the course is to introduce students to the scientific research method and to test their application of this method to a defined question.
Research project students should be involved in most phases of the research process from
formulation of the hypothesis to be tested through experimental design, data collection and the
communication of results. Students should not be simply handed a project with all the details
previously worked out. The students should be encouraged to participate in the early stages of the
The neuroscience research project must be completed with six to eight months of part-time work and
therefore should not be considered to be the equivalent of a graduate research project. It is especially important to design a project that is feasible within the time available to the student. Supervisors of the projects should ensure that the written work of the students is of reasonable quality with respect to style and organization before submission for review. Many students at this stage of their training will require assistance with the style and organization of their scientific writing. However, it should be emphasized that the final written report must not be extensively re-written by the supervisor prior to marking; the thesis must represent the student’s own work.
After the end of the Fall-term classes and before the beginning of the Fall-exam period, students will be required to present a 10-minute oral presentation of their Research Project Proposal to the rest of the class and their supervisors as well as anyone interested in attending these public presentations. The formal presentation will be followed by ~5 minutes of questions. It is not expected that students will have completed the practical work for their project at the time of this initial presentation. The main emphasis for these presentations should be on the background to the project, the study objectives and a brief description of the methods being used. If students have collected some data by this date they may, if they wish, include this in the presentation, primarily to demonstrate feasibility.
Approximately 10 days after the presentations of their Research Project Proposals, students will be required to hand in the Introduction and Methods sections of the manuscript that will eventually become their Final Written Reports. The format of this document must comply with the guidelines of The Journal of Neuroscience. In addition to serving as an evaluative component of the course, the organization of the background literature for the thesis serves to begin the process of writing the Final Written Report and should provide the student with a clear context for their project work. Students are free to modify these sections for their final report should changes arise. Note: A penalty of 5% will be deducted from the student’s final grade for each late day for submitting this report.
Near the end of the Winter-term, students will be expected to produce a poster describing their research project. Posters from all the Life Science Research project courses will be displayed together and, in addition to the 5% mark assigned for the quality of the work, there will also be at least one monetary award for the best poster presented.
The Final Oral Presentations will take place on a specified day after the end of the Winter-term classes and before the beginning of the Winter-term exam period. The student will have 10 minutes to give a formal and public presentation to the rest of the class and faculty who evaluated their earlier presentations. The formal presentation will be followed by ~5 minutes of questions. Students should only briefly summarize the introduction and methods and focus primarily on the results and conclusions of their study.
Approximately 10 days after their Final Oral Presentations, all students will be required to hand in their Final Written Report, which must be formatted as a manuscript that would be submitted for publication in The Journal of Neuroscience. This part of the project will likely prove to be the most difficult for students to complete. In light of the fact that written scientific communication forms the basis for the dissemination of most important research advances, training in the skills of scientific writing is an essential component of any biomedical researcher's education. For many students at this stage of their careers, it will be their first attempt at original scientific writing. Students are encouraged to seek advice from their supervisors regarding the outline, content, and style of this report. However, this document must clearly be the student's not the supervisor's work.
Note: A penalty of 5% will be deducted from the student’s final grade for each late day for submitting this report.
Supervisors of NSCI 499 students are to provide a formal evaluation of the laboratory work performed by their students. This mark count for 20% of the final grade and it must takes into account the following attributes: Background preparation, Ability at research, Originality / creativity, Industry motivation, Organizational skills, Self-reliance / independence, Judgment, and Integrity. This mark must not be based upon the success or failure of the techniques used by the students and that the latter were expected to spend, on average, 1.5 days/week on work related to their project.
Each report will be evaluated by two faculty members other than the student’s supervisor. The mark awarded for the report will be the average of these two evaluations. The evaluators are to assess each Final Written Report as if it was a manuscript submitted to The Journal of Neuroscience that they had to review. Their reviews should answer the following questions:
The evaluators will assess the Preliminary Written Reports with the first four questions in mind and they are requested to provide the students with as many comments as possible to help them submit an excellent thesis in April.
Each oral presentation will be evaluated by all faculty members in attendance. The criteria by which they will grade the presentation include: Content (background knowledge, rationale, hypothesis, objectives, methods), Organization (clarity, pacing, use of language, quality of visual aids), and response to questions. The mark awarded will represent the mean of these evaluations.
The course coordinator will meet at specified dates with all students, first, to provide instructions about the course logistics and, second, to discuss relevant issues related to conducting science and skills development expected from the students to succeed in science in general and in Neuroscience in particular. The topics that will be discussed at these meetings will include the following: Scientific method, Scientific integrity, Ethics in research, Reading and Communicating science. These meetings will be scheduled along with informal ‘journal clubs’, in which papers already published in The Journal of Neuroscience and selected by the students will be discussed with a problem-based learning approach.