How do I know if iSci is the right program for me?

Is the Integrated Science Program right for you? The answer may be yes if:

  1. You have an interest in all sciences, enjoy problem solving and like to interact with peers and faculty members
  2. You are interested in developing research skills, and enjoy self-directed and collaborative learning
  3. You are interested in learning about the relationships between scientific disciplines
  4. You enjoy conducting laboratory work and fieldwork, and applying your knowledge to solve practical scientific problems
  5. You are interested in developing science literacy, analysis, critical thinking, numeracy and communication skills

iSci is a program for students that are interested in all science disciplines, enjoy problem solving, and like to interact with peers and faculty members. If you are interested in learning about the relationships between scientific disciplines and applying your knowledge to solve practical scientific problems in a broad sense, the Integrated Science program is right for you.

What makes the McMaster iSci program unique?

The McMaster iSci program is different from other university programs for several reasons. iSci is the only four year Bachelor-level Integrated Science program in Canada. Because of the limited enrollment (we accept a maximum of 60 students each year) students receive a more personal education that allows them to interact with their peers and work closely with a team of faculty members from departments across the Faculty of Science.

Each year the program is structured around a year-long integrated course that is the equivalent to several regular university courses allowing for dynamic and exciting learning opportunities. Students are taught primarily through project work which is supplemented with non-traditional lectures. They are encouraged to explore issues independently and with the help of professors through research projects and interactive classroom exercises. With almost as much lab and field time as classroom time, iSci students learn by doing.

Research projects, which are a central component of the program, employ cutting edge teaching and learning strategies such as McMaster's Problem Based Learning. A strong emphasis on research-based learning exposes students early on in their undergraduate careers to the skills required for advanced science studies and allows students to learn in both team-based and individual settings.

The Science Literacy aspect of the program teaches students how to communicate science to all audiences. Furthermore, research is assisted by the program's Science Fluencies Librarian and the strong ties with the university library-the program's home base is located in Thode Library.

In addition to the quality of education students receive, the iSci program also offers a close-knit community of curious and intelligent academic individuals. Frequent group work and a work space dedicated solely to the program creates a receptive atmosphere of collaboration.

How is iSci “Project-Based”, and what does that mean?

Integrated Science delivers the same content that first year science students at McMaster all receive. However, this content is taught through research projects in conjunction with iSci classes, rather than all content being delivered through a traditional lecture environment. The project-oriented nature of iSci supports this learning structure, where students learn concepts by applying them in project scenarios. For instance, a typical first year chemistry course will cover thermodynamics and combustion reactions through lectures. An iSci student will learn combustion reactions through the Planetary Exploration research project, where students must research and choose a type of rocket fuel for their mission. Students will not only learn fundamentals in thermodynamics, but also how they can be applied to projects.

Will there be opportunities for study abroad?

All iSci students have the option to go on an exchange in their third year to the University of Leicester in England. The University of Leicester is home to our sister program, Natural Sciences (formerly the Interdisciplinary Science program), the only other program like iSci in the world. For more information visit the iSci Exchange Program page of our site.   


If I apply to the iSci Program but do not receive an offer of admission, will I be considered for admission to another Level I program at McMaster?

McMaster does not automatically make alternate offers of admission. Instead, we encourage students to apply to all McMaster programs in which they are interested (up to three). Applicants will be considered simultaneously for each program they apply to and will receive an admission decision for each program. To amend your application to add any additional programs, please visit the OUAC website.

I don't see a place in the application for referee/reference information. Am I missing something?

The 2016 application does not require referee or reference contact information. Please complete all parts of the application.

What are the Ontario high school (Grade 12) course requirements for first-year iSci?

6 Grade 12 U/M courses including:

  • ENG4U – English
  • MHF4U – Advanced Functions
  • MCV4U – Calculus and Vectors
  • Two of: SBI4U (Biology), SCH4U (Chemistry), SPH4U (Physics)

*Students are strongly encouraged to take all three Grade 12 U science courses (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics).

I am currently in another program at McMaster. Can I transfer to the iSci program?

Unfortunately, the iSci program does not allow transfers from other programs. However, if you are already in another program you may apply by following the  Application Procedure. All students entering the iSci program must begin from Level I iSci.

What are you looking for in the Supplementary Application?

iSci a unique program filled with equally unique individuals. We are not looking for a specific ‘type’ of student, but rather a range of personalities that would excel in our dynamic learning environment. However, through the Supplementary Application, we aim to identify:

  • highly motivated, well rounded students with an interest in all fields of science
  • students with strong communication skills
  • students who are excited about scientific research
  • students who can ‘think outside the box’

You can draw upon your experiences in extracurricular activities when answering the Supplementary Application questions; however it is not necessary to provide a list of activities that you have been involved in or a resume. The best advice for writing a supplementary application for iSci is to be genuine. The selection committee is trying to select the students best suited to iSci, and this means they don’t want to read applications tailored to what you think is appropriate. We want to learn about you as a person and to determine whether you would thrive in iSci.

When will offers of admission be made?

Offers of admission will typically be made in early May.

Future Opportunities

What can I do with a degree in iSci?

Graduates of iSci will be broadly educated research scientists capable of contributing to all modern fields of science, with both specialist knowledge in their chosen field and the background to understand science in its broader context. The program will ensure graduates have a strong foundation in science, in addition to an understanding of the wide range of applications (and limitations) of scientific approaches and concepts. iSci students will be involved in research activities throughout the program and become proficent in critical and analytical thinking, as well as written, verbal, and visual communication - transferable skills that will allow graduates to follow a number of career paths. 

Currently, iSci Alumni have pursued research, professional programs (e.g. medical or law school), and employment in leading research laboratories.

For more information about what you can do with a degree in Science, visit McMaster Career Services.

Will iSci prepare me for Medical, Dental, Veterinary, or Law School?

Many professional schools do not require a degree in a certain program, but rather requisite  courses, high marks, success at an interview, and specific test scores on the MCAT, GMAT, LSAT, etc. . The iSci program is designed to help students develop an understanding and appreciation of fundamental scientific concepts, approaches and skills, to learn about the interactions between scientific disciplines, and to understand the role of interdisciplinary science in the search for solutions to societal challenges.  All iSci students will gain a strong foundation in science - but they will also understand the range of applications (and limitations) of scientific approaches and concepts from the perspective of multiple scientific disciplines. iSci students will be involved in research activities throughout their program and their skills in critical and analytical thinking, and written, verbal and visual communication will be extremely well developed.  This is excellent preparation for Professional Schools as well as a wide range of alternative career paths.

I'm thinking of a career in teaching, but would need to specialise. Can I gain enough credit in my chosen area in the iSci course?

The answer will depend a great deal on what 'elective' courses are selected by the student during the course of the program. The iSci program is designed to allow students sufficient choice of ‘elective’ courses beyond Level 1 so they may complete an honours degree in Integrated Science with a concentration in another subject (i.e. iSci & Physics, iSci & Biology, iSci & Chemistry) or to graduate with a ‘Minor’ in a selected discipline area. This allows for students to have enough ‘teachable’ subjects for Teachers College, which will be determined by the college through the examination of the graduation transcript. 

You can find more information on potential 'teachables' within iSci by taking a look at available Concentrations.

To find the requirements for Minors, check the McMaster Course Calendar

Program Structure

Does iSci include a co-op component?

The full-year structure of iSci does not allow for iSci students to take co-op. However, many iSci students find valuable work experience during the summer with researchers at universities, with the government, and in industry. 

What is an “Interdisciplinary Research Project”? What is a thesis?

We envision 'Interdisciplinary Research Projects' as projects that will be conducted as part of the structured iSci class time.  These projects will change in form and scope as students move through the 4 year program and according to the subject material being investigated.  In Level I we will begin work on small (3 week duration) projects (e.g. Mission to Mars) that will help students begin to develop their research skills in a closely 'guided' environment.  By the end of Level I students will be working on a longer duration research project (e.g., Finding a Cure for Cancer) in which they will take on more responsibility for the design, analysis and communication of the research.  In Level IV students may elect to work in conjunction with a particular researcher and his/her research team here at Mac (or in the community) and communicate the results of their work in the form of a 'thesis'. Others may want to communicate research results in different ways (e.g., as manuscripts submitted for publication in refereed journals, as consultancy reports, as products) and we have purposely left the options open at this stage.

How much group work is involved in iSci?

The purpose of the iSci program is to provide students with the skills and resources that they will require to be successful in their careers. A key component of most professional environments is teamwork. For this reason, the iSci program is structured around group-based assignments. Research projects, which are completed in teams of 4-5, account for 40% of the iSci grade. Compare this against the 35% that comes from exams. This illustrates the value that is placed on group work in iSci.A powerful group environment is created and supported where all team members will contribute individual skills and assets to the project. Group work represents a major component of iSci.

What courses will I take in first year?

ISCI 1A24: Fully integrated delivery of content across all science disciplines, with a particular focus on Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Inquiry- based learning (in addition to formal lectures, tutorials, laboratories, fieldwork, and team and individual research projects). Content will be taught through ‘thematic modules’ (e.g. Mission to Mars, Finding a Cure for Cancer). This course counts for 8 of the 10 courses taken in first year.

6 units Electives (1 course per term): can be any course(s) for which you have the requisite.

More information can be found on the Level I structure page.

What courses will I take in my second year?

ISCI 2A18: Integrated learning of scientific concepts and issues such as quantum mechanics, relativity, linear algebra, electricity, magnetism, neuroscience. Strong emphasis on research, inquiry, and problem-based learning. This course counts for 6 of the 10 courses taken in second year.

12 units electives (may be focused in field of specialization e.g. chemistry, physics, math, biology)

More information can be found on the Level II structure page.

What courses will I take in third and fourth year?

ISCI 3A12: In third year, students will have a complement of interdisciplinary research projects and will develop scientific skills through labs, seminars and tutorials. The various backgrounds and concentrations of students will allow students a taste of truly multi-disciplinary colaboration.

More information can be found on the Level III structure page.

ISCI 4A12: The culmination of the iSci program will be a senior undergraduate thesis/interdisciplinary team research project. It will be carried out under the direction of an iSci faculty memeber.

Both are equivalent to 4 of 10 courses in their respective years. This leaves 18 units (or 6 courses) of electives each year.

What if I wish to transfer out of iSci?

Students wishing to transfer out of iSci will have their course work evaluated by an Academic Advisor to determine which course equivalents have been completed. iSci I students who have successfully completed all components of iSci 1A24 will have the appropriate requisites to register in any Level 2 course in the Faculty of Science.

Does the iSci course have an accompanying tutorial, where students review class content in smaller groups?

The structure of the iSci program is adjusted to meet the needs of each year. While iSci doesn’t have lectures and tutorials we do have iConS (Integrated Concept Seminars) in our schedule. These sometimes include ‘tutorial-like’ classes. Students in the past have requested an optional tutorial for a given subject, math for instance. These are typically offered by iSci teaching assistants.

Student Review: Much of the small-group content review is student organized. The dedicated study space for iSci students (iStudy) is often utilized for this purpose. Students will meet in groups to discuss readings, practice problems, or general inquiries about different courses. Further, the iSci Society, a student run committee, has organized peer mentorship programs in the past where upper year students can assist interested first years in all iSci subjects, and even certain elective courses.

Contact iSci

H.G. Thode Library, 306
McMaster University
1280 Main Street West Hamilton ON L8N 3Z5