Prof. Robert J. McCann, Department of Mathematics

Prospective graduate students:

Every year, I receive many inquiries regarding graduate studies. Too many to devote individual attention to. Most of these inquiries make it clear that the writer does not know how the admissions system works. So let me explain.

I do not make decisions regarding graduate student admission. As is the case in most and probably all North American universities, there is no such thing here as a PhD position offered by a supervisor or group. Positions in the programme are offered by the School of Graduate Studies, and held within the Department of Mathematics. The decision on acceptance is made by the department's Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, on the advice of the Graduate Admissions Committee. That committee invites a few faculty members to comment on each application. Every year I am asked to comment on a few applications relevant to my area. That is my only role in the process.

If you'd like to be a graduate student here, you must apply to the Department. See

If you are accepted into a thesis-based programme, my department will also offer a package of financial support. Typically, this involves a Teaching Assistantship position and/or scholarship support, and an anticipated eventual contribution from the grant of your research supervisor.

Usually the research supervisor is chosen after you arrive and have taken some courses. (Prior to your arrival, the department may appoint a first-year faculty mentor for you, who helps you choose your courses and settle in to the programme. First-year mentors occasionally become supervisors, but that is the exception rather than the rule. Typically, after two semesters in our program, you seek a faculty member willing to supervise a summer project. This is an excellent opportunity to test out a potential supervisor.) However, if you have a particular supervisor or research area in mind, it is wise to contact that person in advance to see if he or she will be interested in having students. (They may be considering retirement, or may have too many students, or may not have a sufficient research grant to support students.) It is also wise to list such people on your application, even if you haven't contacted them. This helps the admissions committee to choose the most suitable faculty members to comment on your application. Feel free to contact me, especially if you are seriously interested in my area, but please don't send me your file and expect me to review it. There is a formal procedure for that. Please do not write that you want a "PhD position in my research group''. I won't respond. As I say, there is no such thing as a PhD position in a group. You must become a graduate student in a department, and the department is then responsible for your funding. After that, if our research interests coincide and you perform well in your courses, I may be interested in supervising your research. And a positive response from me means only that, if you are accepted, then after you arrive and are doing well in your courses, if you are still interested in my area, we can talk about potential research projects. You can take it for granted that I am interested in having students, in principle.

Professor Robert J. McCann, FRSC
Department of Mathematics,
University of Toronto, Bahen Centre
40 St George St Room 6290
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2E4
Office: (416) 978-4658
FAX: 978-4107
E-mail: mccann -at- math -dot- toronto -dot- edu
Office location: Room BA 6124

Last modified on 25 September 2023
Comments and questions to mccann -at- math -dot- toronto -dot- edu

(The above statement is modelled on a similar statement in use by my collaborator Eric Woolgar, at the University of Alberta.) @