Master of Science

Meet Kate Merritt, MSc candidate in Neuroscience

“I knew that the innovative environment and wealth of expertise at Western University’s Brain and Mind Institute offered the ideal setting to pursue my graduate degree. I was also drawn to the flexible course schedules offered by Western’s graduate program, which in turn allowed students to maintain a core focus on research.”

Supervisor: Dr. Penny MacDonald

Why did you come to Western for your graduate degree?
My decision to stay at Western for my graduate studies was an easy one. I had completed my Honor’s thesis project working alongside Dr. Mel Goodale at the Brain and Mind Institute. This positive experience not only solidified my interest in the neuroscience field, but also my trust in Western’s training facilities. Furthermore, I was attracted to the fact that Western provides the option for students to directly ‘roll over’ into a PhD degree.

What’s your favourite book?
You Only Live Once: Lonely Planet Guide for the Explorer in All of Us

Describe your research in 100 words or less.
My research is primarily focused on exploring visuomotor control in patients with Parkinson’s disease. In particular, I am interested in elucidating whether the ability to use visual information to continuously and automatically modify motor responses is impaired in this disease. Ultimately, our aim is to better understand automaticity and motor functioning in Parkinson’s patients and explore how common Parkinson’s-related pharmacological therapies may alter performance.

How do you de-stress?
Yoga. Or search ‘Google Flights’ to plan out my next adventure.

What is it about your grad program that enables you to thrive and be successful?
I think that the people you surround yourself with during your graduate studies is critical to success. I have been able to establish some great friendships with other students in my program. This circle of friends has always been there for one another whether it is to listen to practice talks, edit proposals, or just to provide a laugh during stressful times.

I also think that having a strong relationship with your supervisor is important in order to thrive in your graduate work. Their mentorship is invaluable and they can offer a lot of advice not only about your current work, but also on how to be successful following graduate school.

What are you most passionate about?
As cliché as it may be, I think that I am most passionate about making a difference. Whether that be through my research and unearthing important clinical answers or by working directly with those in need abroad - I want to be able to use the skills that I have harnessed and apply them in a way that can help others.

Degree Requirements - Master of Science

  1. A research thesis, which in the opinion of the Advisory Committee, would form a paper acceptable to a refereed journal. The thesis must also be successfully defended in an oral examination. The examining committee will consist of two faculty members from the Neuroscience Program who are not members of the student's Advisory Committee and an additional faculty member from outside the Program.
  2. Course requirements:  
    1. Principles of Neuroscience (Neuroscience 9500A/B)
    2. Perspectives in Neuroscience Seminar Series: students will be required to complete this milestone in each academic year of their full-time enrollment
    3. One optional 0.5 credit.  As well, students without a strong background in Neuroscience will be required to broaden their background in specific areas related to their research interests. View course options online.
  3. In exceptional cases, when the research project has clearly developed beyond that of an MSc, students may be permitted to transfer directly to the PhD without completing a MSc research thesis.

Our graduate program is highly interdisciplinary and students enter with a variety of academic backgrounds. Some students admitted to the program will be required to enroll in Neuroscience 9000A: Fundamentals of Neuroscience. The course better prepares new graduate students in Neuroscience that may lack training in the biological sciences and hence lack a fundamental knowledge of the language of neuroscience. This course combines graduate level skills training with learning about fundamentals in Neuroscience, with an emphasis on sensory systems and cellular/molecular Neuroscience. Enrollment in this course will better prepare students for the required Neuroscience 9500 A/B course. It will not count towards the required credits for degree completion. In consultation with potential supervisors, applicants identified by the Program Committee to require this course are notified through their admission offer letter.

Advisory Committee

The Program Committee, after consultation with the student and supervisor, appoint an Advisory Committee for each student. The Advisory Committee will consist of the supervisor, a member of the Program Committee, and at least two faculty members each from different departments. The composition of the Advisory Committee must be approved by the Program Committee. The role of the Advisory Committee is to:

  • tailor course selection to the student's background and academic interests
  • provide advice on research and feedback on its progress
  • determine when the thesis is ready for submission (using the regulations stated in the Faculty of Graduate Studies   "General Information" calendar as a guideline)

The Advisory Committee will meet at the request of the student or any member of the Advisory Committee. The committee will meet at least twice a year.

Residency Requirement

The median duration for finishing the MSc degree is two years. The minimum residence requirement is 3 terms (one year).