Biology

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Meet Meg Haggitt, PhD candidate in Biology

“Make sure you decide to pursue a degree because you truly love the field of study and not just for a pay cheque afterwards. If you’re in grad school for the money you will get from a potential job after, you’re bound to be unhappy. If you’re here to learn and grow in an area you enjoy, it will be an incredible experience. The best mindset for grad students is that the job will come from your passion in an area, which will enable you to excel and build a career in the field.”

Supervisor: Dr. Mark Bernards

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?
University of Waterloo, Honours BSc Co-op, Plant Specialization

Why did you come to Western for your graduate degree?
I had a Julie Payette NSERC Scholarship, and could have taken it anywhere in the world. I chose Western because of the research faculty in the Biology Department.

What is it about your grad program that enables you to thrive and be successful?
The support of the faculty to build the degree that you want to, with the understanding that you have choices in how you pursue your degree. I had two children during my PhD, both with year long maternity leaves of absence. This may not have been the “average” choice throughout graduate work, but it was the right one for my family and was fully supported by my faculty supervisor. Also, the incredible resources of the different faculties at Western means there are always great speakers and professionals speaking and facilitating workshops, which allows me to build not only research and teaching skills but develop as a professional.

How do you de-stress?
I play competitive soccer in London, recently my team won the Ontario Championship and went to Nationals in 2015.

What is your “dream” career?
I love to learn and then pay it forward however I can. Thus, as long as there is a component of learning, mentoring, and teaching I am in my dream career. Right now I find that in a mix of business ownership (Health and Wellness Company); tutoring students (where I get to work one-on-one to help them learn new information); and my own research is the perfect blend for all these areas.

What idea, suggestion, or comment would you like to share with the Western graduate community?
Grad students need to take part of their time here at Western to build networks, relationships and utilize the incredible resources outside of their own department. You have access to so many incredible people across this campus, and can build a community that will not only enrich your life while you are here but also will help you transition into the professional community when you have finished your degree. You may be here to focus on a certain area of research, but don’t have too narrow of a focus that you forget to look around and learn from other academics too.

Have you taken any professional courses that Western makes available to graduate students?
I have taken many workshops from MITACS, which are incredible opportunities for students to develop their professional skills. MITACS training is a high caliber with small class sizes, making it an ideal environment to really understand, practice and ask questions on the material.

Do you engage in volunteer activities?
In prior years I have been involved in Let’s Talk Science, an outreach program. I also ran my own Science Enrichment Program for Rural High Schools for a couple years with Biology graduate students before I had kids. I also thoroughly enjoyed volunteering at the Science Olympics at Western.

What are you most passionate about?
Learning and growing – whether on the floor with a four-year-old, in the classroom with a 20-year old, or in a business meeting with a colleague – I love to learn, mentor and grow.

What one thing would you like people to know about you?
I am just like every other student here – often times people look at those who have built a successful life in many areas and think they cannot possibly do it too. You just have to choose what you would like and then find the time to bring it into your life. It started with grad school, then added in a baby, then balancing that, then bringing soccer into the mix, finding a balance, second child … Every time you add in something new you will be a little out of balance for a short period of time, but then you find your system and can keep building a full and happy life.

Program Websites


Program Contact

Sarah Abbas (sabbasep@uwo.ca)
Graduate Program Assistant

Department of Biology

Western University
Biological and Geological Sciences Building Rm 2025C
London, Ontario N6A 5B7

t. 519-661-2111 ext. 81207
f. 519-661-3935

Biology at Western offers research-intensive, thesis-based graduate training at the Masters' and the Doctoral level. We offer world class facilities, a stimulating and collegial training environment, and high profile research programs overseen by internationally recognized faculty. We study life from a variety of perspectives including ecology and evolution, molecular and cellular biology, and physiology and biochemistry.


The Own Your Future doctoral professional development program will help you become a career-ready graduate with the skills necessary to excel in your studies and achieve your future goals. By participating in the program, you will assess your own strengths and opportunities for growth, choose what skills you want to enhance during your time at Western, and learn how to articulate the skills you gained in your degree to optimize your future career opportunities. To learn more, visit www.uwo.ca/ownyourfuture.

Program Length

  • 12 Terms

Program Design

  • Full-time study
  • Thesis-based

Funding Information

Applicants are encouraged to apply for the following scholarships (if eligible):

Admission Requirements

  • Successful completion of a thesis-based Master’s Degree in Biology or related discipline.
  • Achieved at least a 78% overall average in the master's degree.

English Language Proficiency

Applicants whose first language is not English must furnish evidence of their proficiency in the use of the English language:

  • The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Minimum acceptable score is 600 for the paper and pencil version, 250 for the computer version, or 100 for the internet version with no individual score below 23 of the four skill categories. [Western's TOEFL ID is 0984].
  • The International English Language Testing Service (IELTS Academic). Minimum acceptable score is 6 overall and in each of the four categories.

Application Deadline

Domestic Applicants:

  • November 1 - Winter Term
  • March 1 - Spring Term
  • June 15 - Fall Term

International Applicants:

  • April 30 - all terms

Applications are processed on a rolling basis. Students are typically notified within one month of receipt of a completed application. Most students apply for and are admitted for the Fall term, but January and May admissions are also considered.

Fields of Research

  • Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Ecology and Evolution
  • Physiology and Biochemistry