Program Advisory Committee (PAC)

What is a PAC? 

A Program Advisory Committee (PAC) includes your supervisor and a least two faculty members with a current membership in the School of Graduate Studies (see Members for more information). 

The purpose of the PAC is to provide you with research expertise, guidance and mentorship.  The PAC meetings are documented meetings between you, your supervisor and other members of your supervisory committee. 

Your first meeting must take place within the first six months after admission (by February for September entry students, and by June for January entry students). 

To remain in good standing, a documented PAC meeting must be held twice a year or every six months at a minimum.

 

Members and Approval

All IMS students are required to submit the proposed membership of their PAC to the IMS using the PAC Approval Form by December 1st for September entry students, and April 1st for January entry students.

PAC members should provide expertise in the areas relevant to your thesis topic and should complement your supervisor’s own research interests. Committee members assess, encourage, and motivate, as well as provide guidance and mentoring. If this is your supervisor’s first graduate student supervision, an experienced IMS graduate faculty member must be included on the PAC. 

The PAC must include at least two other faculty members (in addition to the supervisor and co-supervisor where applicable) with graduate appointments in the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). Students sometimes include additional members later during their program if they require expert guidance in an area that is not covered by their current PAC members. Only SGS-appointed faculty are permitted to serve on a PAC. Not all U of T faculty members have a graduate appointment with SGS.  Any faculty member or member of the research lab without a graduate (SGS) appointment cannot attend meetings, sign paperwork or act as an official member on the PAC.  

Only approved PAC members are eligible to participate in PAC meetings.

Of these two committee members: 

  • At least one of these must be a Faculty member who has an arm’s length relationship with you and your supervisor (i.e. not a collaborator, spouse, etc.) 
  • At least one of these must have expertise different from that of your Supervisor. 
  • At least one must be from a different hospital site/research institute hub.
  • Please note that one committee member may fulfill multiple (or even all) of these criteria. The choice of additional committee members is not restricted with respect to their research, departmental affiliation, or arm’s length relationship with the student/supervisor. 
  • A PAC member, other than your supervisor/co-supervisor, will act as the designated “Chair” of the committee. This faculty member will be responsible for ensuring that the PAC meeting is conducted in agreement with IMS policy and procedures as outlined on the PAC Report Form.  The PAC Chair is also responsible for completing the PAC Report Form.

Disagreements among your PAC members should be brought to the attention of the Chair of the Committee.  If necessary, an IMS Graduate Coordinator can attend a student’s PAC meeting. 

You can determine the graduate faculty status of a proposed PAC member by checking with:  

(a) the faculty member,

(b) the SGS Graduate Faculty listing,
Please note that this is a static list updated by SGS twice per year. If a name is not listed, you may email (sf.medscience@utoronto.ca) to verify the status of a faculty member

(c) the IMS Faculty Search Tool, or

(d) the IMS Faculty Affairs Administrator at sf.medscience@utoronto.ca 

Meeting and Forms

The purpose of the meeting is to review your research and progress in the graduate program. 

Before the Meeting

One week (seven calendar days) before of the meeting, you must circulate a short PAC Research Report and your previous PAC Meeting Report to each of your PAC members. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Do not wait for experimental results before setting up a meeting! 

Before the meeting, you must print the IMS PAC Meeting Report (or ITER Form for students enrolled in the Clinician Investigator Program (CIP) within a Faculty of Medicine clinical department). Please note that if you are in the CIP stream of the seminar course but are not enrolled concurrently in the CIP program, you must use the IMS PAC Meeting Report Form. 

Bring the PAC Meeting Report to your meeting to be completed and signed by your PAC members.

 

During the Meeting

Meeting Organization 

At the first meeting, you should present an outline of your proposal including a review of pertinent literature, your hypothesis, experimental approach, and the course work to be undertaken. At subsequent meetings, you should present and an overview of results obtained so far, an update on your research proposal, and an update on course completion, in order for the PAC to monitor progress. 

Meeting Attendance 

The meeting should be attended by you, your supervisor and at least two members of the PAC. One PAC member, other than the supervisor/co-supervisor, will act as the designated “Chair” of the committee. However, if there are scheduling difficulties for a single member, the meeting should proceed without that member so long as it is not the final PAC meeting (at which all members must be present). If a PAC member is unable to make a meeting the student should still meet with that member separately to present their progress and receive feedback. In the case of repeated instances of scheduling difficulties, the student and supervisor should consider replacing that member.

 

After the Meeting

PAC Meeting Report and related minutes must be submitted electronically to the Graduate Program Assistant, MSc for Masters students or the Graduate Program Assistant, PhD for PhD students, and to every member of your committee within two weeks of each meeting.

All PAC forms are reviewed by IMS office staff and the IMS Graduate Coordinators. The IMS office will confirm receipt of your PAC Meeting Report and will contact you if clarification is needed.

Documentation of the meeting (IMS PAC Meeting Report or CIP ITER form) is an essential part of your student record. It is your responsibility to ensure that the documentation is provided to the IMS office in a timely fashion. You and your supervisor must also retain a copy of the form for your own records.  

If you receive two consecutive unsatisfactory reports, the IMS may recommend termination of your registration and eligibility according to the SGS guidelines. 

Frequency

To remain in good standing, a documented PAC meeting must be held every 6-8 months at a minimum. 

  • If you fail to meet with your PAC within a given year, you will be considered to have received an unsatisfactory progress report from the committee. This could jeopardize your standing in the program and your eligibility to apply for awards. PhD students who have not had at least four meetings within the first 3 years of their program may not achieve candidacy. 
  • The first meeting must take place within the first six months after admission (by February for September entry students, and by June for January entry students). An outline of the student's proposal including course work should be presented at this meeting. At the meeting near the end of the first year, the student should present a review of the pertinent literature, an update on course completion, and an overview of the hypothesis and experimental approach that is being undertaken. Experimental results should be presented at the first-year meeting.  Students are also encouraged to meet informally with members of the Committee as often as necessary.
  • You are also encouraged to meet informally with committee members as often as necessary. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is it possible to add someone to my committee who doesn’t have a graduate faculty membership at U of T?

No, this is not allowed under any circumstances as PAC meetings are closed meetings. All members must be approved by the IMS and no extra members may join the PAC after this approval, without express permission (through the submission of a new PAC Approval form). This includes lab managers, faculty without a graduate membership, a faculty member at another U of T, or a member acting on a “temporary” basis, among others. If you have any doubt, please contact the IMS.

Q: Can my co-supervisor be from another university?

A: No, both the supervisor and the co-supervisor must have a graduate membership in the IMS. (It is not necessary to have a co-supervisor).

Q: Should meetings with my co-supervisor be as frequent as with a primary supervisor?

A: Ideally yes, but it depends on the level of involvement of the co-supervisor.

Q: If the minimum number of PAC members is three, can I have a supervisor, a co-supervisor and one more committee member?

A: No, the supervisor and co-supervisor count as one member. You will need to secure two additional PAC members.

Q: What does the Chair of the PAC do?

A: The Chair is responsible for ensuring that the PAC meeting is conducted in agreement with IMS policy and procedures as outlined on the PAC Report Form. The PAC Chair is also responsible for completing the PAC Report Form.

Q: Is the Chair of the meeting required to have an IMS appointment as well, or is an appointment elsewhere suitable?

A: The Chair does not need to have a membership in the IMS, but they must have a graduate faculty membership elsewhere at U of T. The Chair is considered a member of your PAC.

Q: Can the Chair be my supervisor?

A: No, ideally the Chair should be a member who is not your supervisor.

Q: Can we have different Chairs for different meetings, or should he/she be always the same person?

A: Yes, the Chairs can rotate.

Q: I am doing an MSc and plan to graduate within 2 years – would I need 4 PAC meetings at 6 month intervals or will the 4 PAC meetings need to be at closer intervals? And to clarify, the defense is separate from the 4 PAC meetings, right?

A: You should still have four PACs - the final PAC will be a practice for your defense. The defense is not considered a PAC meeting, but a formal examination.

Q: When should we submit the PAC Approval Form? / When should be the first PAC meeting?

A: For January starts, the PAC Approval Form is due April 1st. For September starts, it is due Dec. 1st. You should schedule your first meeting within another month of that, if possible.

Q: Is it normal not to have data for the first meeting?

A: Yes - quite normal to have little or no data – it depends on the project. It is still a good idea to have a meeting to plan next steps.

Q: How long do they usually take? What is the appropriate amount of time to ask from the members?

A: Meetings usually take 1.5 to 2 hours. Schedule 2 hours to be sure. Do NOT schedule 1 hour as it is not enough time and you won’t get good feedback.

Q: I’m in the CIP program; do I need to complete the PAC report form in addition to the CIP ITER?

A: No, you can submit your CIP ITER to the IMS Office. Please be sure to indicate your student ID# and the date of your meeting.

Q: How often should you update your PAC between meetings via email?

A: You do not need to update PAC members between meetings, unless they have asked for an update.

Q: What is the process for replacing PAC members?

A: If you and your supervisor agree that a PAC member should be replaced, please send an updated PAC Approval Form listing all members to the IMS.

Q: Can we record our PAC meetings (with permission from our PAC members)?

A: No. The IMS adheres to the SGS policy that exams cannot be recorded, and as PAC meetings are closed, they cannot be recorded either.

Q: When can I expect to hear whether my PAC was approved after submitting the PAC approval form?

A: Within two weeks.