The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is home to more than thirty well-funded research groups, offering opportunities for research that is fundamental in advancing basic science and at the same time provides knowledge that is being translated to help tackle human diseases. The graduate programs in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology therefore provide advanced research-based education with the goal of preparing students for a career in academic, industrial or professional positions in British Columbia and beyond.
The Department offers MSc and PhD degree programs, with the option to transfer into the PhD track during the second year. Enrollment in the two programs combined has been steadlily increasing over the last 5 years from about 65 to 84 grads. The requirements for formal course credits are usually completed within the first two academic terms. Course topics include laboratory techniques, nucleic acids, membrane structure and function, cellular regulation, protein chemistry and molecular biology. Additional options include bioinformatics, genome analysis, cell growth and differentiation, bacterial pathogenesis and immuno-genetics. The balance of the program is research intensive and assessed by examination of a dissertation.
The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has a rich history and on-going record of exceptional academic and research excellence. The Department was home to Nobel Laureate, Michael Smith and his legacy is sustained through involvement of a number of our professors with the Michael Smith Laboratories and the closely-associated Centre for High Throughput Biology. The majority of our research laboratories are located in the Life Sciences Institute, the largest multidisciplinary research hub at UBC. Key features of our research and graduate programs are that they are set up to enable top-notch work, with the very best facilities and with opportunities for collaboration with researchers from a range of disciplines. Research groups in the Life Sciences Institute include those with a focus on diabetes, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration, bacterial and viral diseases, chemical biology, blood research, molecular epigenetics and others. We encourage you to visit the Department website to check out the specific research interests and achievements of the professors in the Department. A number of our professors have developed and maintain major and cutting-edge equipment that underpins research using macromolecular crystallography, mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, high-throughput imaging and a range of spectroscopic techniques for macromolecular analysis.
The Department provides tuition benefits to more than half of all students and scholarships to assist with travel to meetings. The Department makes every effort to enable students to gain teaching experience through teaching assistantships, mostly to support teaching in undergraduate laboratory and lecture courses and for which further stipend support is achieved. Overall, the average support package for graduate students exceeds $27,000 per annum.
During the past year we undertook a detailed survey of all graduates who completed their graduate programs in the period from 2003-2014. Of the total of 138 graduates, we have tracked the career progress of more than 120 so far. Of this total, 35 have completed further training in graduate and postdoctoral positions, 20 have entered a professional program (mostly in Law or Medicine), 11 have progressed to a tenure-stream faculty position and 32 have full-time research positions in academia (8), industry (21) or government departments (3). Others have established careers in technical writing or management and the most recent cohort (13) are still at a very early stage of career development. Although we need to continue to track and refine our understanding of career outcomes, it is very clear that our programs enable our graduates to achieve career success in a number of academic, professional and commercial areas.
The Microbiology and Immunology programme involves immune cells, bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites. Students can investigate the ecology, evolution and environments of micro-organisms, the diseases they cause, the microbiome and its influence on the immune system and our health, immunity and disease. We are seeking solutions to the problem of antibiotic resistance; designing new, combination drug therapies; using microbial engineering in industrial processing and environmental remediation; determining how our immune system can best protect us against infection and cancer; using this information to design new immunotherapies and treatments for inflammation and auto-immune diseases. Our projects span population and systems biology and ecology, organism behavior and function, cell interactions and molecular mechanisms, and our students graduate with extensive training in analytical thinking, creative innovation and effective communication. Degrees in our programme accelerate students in a great variety of careers in industry, academia, non-for-profit organisations and the business world.
Microbiology has been an integral part of UBC since the university's inception in 1915. Our program is a strong and collaborative community of microbiologists, immunologists, biochemists and cell biologists, based at UBC and affiliated hospitals. We promote fundamental and translational research and we enjoy strong connections to clinical colleagues across Canada. Many of our students are located in the Life Sciences Institute, a world-class collection of scientists with facilities including advanced flow cytometry, microscopy and imaging, together with the Facility for Infectious Disease and Epidemic Research, the Advanced Structural Biology for Re-emerging Infectious Diseases group, and the Genome Sciences Centre. We work closely with the Centres for Drug Research and Development and for High-Throughput Biology, emphasising commercialisation and entrepreneurship. We have 90 MSc and PhD students currently enrolled in our program and have an excellent track record in mentoring and training. We are proud of the many and diverse successes of our alumni.
Our MSc graduates excel at jobs that require attention to detail, critical thinking, scientific translation and interpretation skills. Recent graduates have successfully moved into the private sector, working in forensics for the RCMP, managing natural resources and managing people at city municipalities, training technical experts in hospitals and universities. Many continue their education, entering professional schools in programs such as Dentistry, Pharmacology, Medicine and Law. An M&I MSc is an excellent platform for advancing to a PhD within UBC or anywhere in the world.
Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary program that combines the application of computer technology to the management and analysis of biological data. The result is that computers are being used to organize data generated from experiments into databases, develop new algorithms and software, and use this software for the interpretation and analysis of the data into meaningful biological information. For the past ten years, our M.Sc. program has been training students to organize, visualize, analyze and interpret biological data. Students have access to world renowned bioinformaticians at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the BC Cancer Agency, and have exposure to the latest technologies to develop their skills.
Strategic Program Objectives:
The Bioinformatics M.Sc. program integrates academic centres in computer science, statistics, molecular biology, and biotechnology, with translational groups at hospitals and at the clinical interface. The innovative partnership among the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the BC Cancer Agency allows students access to top experts in the field of bioinformatics, exposure to original research and opportunities to complete significant practical work on real bioinformatics problems. Internships allow student mobility between Canadian and international universities, institutions and industries to further enhance collaborations among Canadian high-technology research groups in both the private and public sectors. Students have done research in various locations over the years such as the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and Mexico, Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Moscow, European Bioinformatics Institute at Cambridge, National University of Singapore and the National Institute of Genetics in Japan.
Students who secure an NSERC-CREATE scholarship will undertake a 3-4 month internship that may be local, within Canada or at an international University or Institution.
Bioinformatics faculty are spread throughout the UBC campus, as well as off-campus at the BC Cancer Research Centre or hospital research labs and Institutions.
As biological data sets increase exponentially in both size and complexity, bioinformatics tools have central importance in fields and industries ranging from environmental management, forestry, aquaculture, and bio-fuels to personalized medicine, drug development, preventative medicine and gene therapy. Individuals who can analyze and interpret large data sets or "big data" are highly sought after by both public and private sector employers. Academic positions are also available at universities and research institutions, for those who continue their studies toward a PhD degree in Bioinformatics. Recent graduates have taken positions at local research institutions and biotechnology companies, a gaming company in California, a computer software company in Japan, and a chemical company in Montreal. Those looking to further their academic career have entered medical school, or are pursuing a PhD degrees in Australia, Cambridge, Oxford, and locally at UBC and SFU.
The Interdisciplinary Oncology program (IOP) is a graduate program designed to appeal to a broad range of students interested in cancer research. IOP offers advanced study and research in a variety of fields relating to oncology. Those fields include: molecular and cellular biology, genetics, biophysics, bioinformatics, pharmaceutical sciences, radiological sciences, immunology, molecular pathology, sociobehavioral studies, epidemiology and health economics. The goal of the program is to provide graduate students from diverse backgrounds, with an education in a number of disciplines relating to oncology, and to provide training opportunities for intensive training in specialized aspects of cancer research. For more than ten years, the program has been training the next generation of cancer research leaders.
IOP integrates the diverse areas of oncology by offering two required courses which provide an interdisciplinary perspective on oncology in a form that is accessible to students from diverse backgrounds. The elective courses provide intensive training in one or more subjects specific to the student's research, and also gives the student an opportunity to gain expertise in other disciplines that have potential for synergy with their primary specialization. Students have access to clinicians and university faculty through the world-renowned BC Cancer Agency, to get a practical perspective on oncology treatments and outcomes. An innovative rotation course is a unique option for students to gain hands-on experience by rotating through specialty laboratories and by shadowing clinicians.
Once students are enrolled in the program, they will have an opportunity to design a program that allows for rotations through other IOP faculty's labs to gain insight into other research areas other than their specific supervisor's research.
Most IOP supervisors reside off-campus at the BC Cancer Research Centre, the Prostate Centre at Vancouver General Hospital or other hospital-related buildings.
Graduates have a wide range of options from working in government institutions to academia to biotechnology and bio-pharm companies. Those looking to further their academic career have entered medical school or are pursuing a Ph.D. degree in Canada and abroad.
Experimental Medicine is the study of the pathogenesis and treatment of disease. Modern experimental medicine represents a rapidly growing body of knowledge involving the determination of diseases processes and the development of appropriate therapies.
The Experimental Medicine Program is intended for individuals seeking a career in research. The Department of Medicine offers opportunities and facilities for advanced studies in experimental medicine, leading toward the M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees. Members of the Department direct research programs in a wide range of basic and clinically relevant areas. There are a variety of special interest areas of national and international stature. Specialties within the Experimental Medicine Program include: Cardiology, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, Hematology, Infectious Diseases, Medical Immunology, Medical Oncology, Molecular Biology, Nephrology, Neurology and Respiratory Medicine.
Students may work with investigators located on the main campus of the University of B.C., or they may work in laboratories located off campus (Vancouver General Hospital, Jack Bell Research Centre, Terry Fox Laboratory, St. Paul's Hospital, Biomedical Research Centre, BC Children's Hospital).
The goal of the Graduate Program in Reproductive and Developmental Sciences is to provide students with a broad knowledge of mammalian reproductive and developmental biology, as well as with in depth expertise in at least one area of research, including reproductive and molecular endocrinology, immunology of reproduction, maternal adaptations to pregnancy, women's mental health, fertilization and early embryonic development, perinatal metabolism, fetal/neonatal physiology and pathophysiology and perinatal; epidemiology.
Basic science, clinical or epidemiologic research projects are possible. The MSc program involves both course work and a thesis research project.
The main research activities take place in the BC Women's Hospital, the main obstetrics hospital in Vancouver and in the adjacent B.C. Research Institute for Children's and Women's Health. In addition, research is carried out on the main University campus, at Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul's Hospital. All sites possess modern, well equipped laboratories for basic science research. In addition, there are facilities for conducting research on human subjects and for clinical and epidemiologic research.
The RDS program is the only graduate program in Canada that is based in a Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. RDS students thus have the opportunity to interact with both basic science and clinical research faculty, which can lead to the formulation of research projects that address important clinical issues in women (e.g. ovarian cancer, preeclampsia). Moreover, the location of the department within the teaching hospitals in Vancouver facilitates the collection of human samples (e.g. placental or ovarian tissue, sperm and testes tissue) that can be used in thesis research projects.
The MSc program provide students with the opportunity to gain research expertise and knowledge of reproductive and developmental issues that can lead to doctoral research. In addition some of the MSc students undertake medical training after completing their MSc degree and the research experience gained during the MSc program can aid in the development of a clinical research career.
Over the past decade, advances in genomic medicine and genetic technology have been dramatic. Genetic counsellors have an integral role to play in helping patients and other healthcare professionals understand the options, benefits and limitations of this rapidly changing landscape. Established in 1996, the University of British Columbia’s Genetic Counselling Program is dedicated to equipping the next generation of genetic counsellors with the skills, knowledge and mindset to flourish as part of an inter-disciplinary team and work across a broad range of health care settings and specialties. Accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling, graduates are eligible for certification and/or licensure across North America.
Based in the heart of Vancouver at Children's and Women's Health Centre of British Columbia, the tertiary care provider for clinical medical genetics services, UBC's Genetic Counselling Program is one of only five programs in Canada, and the largest.
The program balances strong academic grounding and direct clinical experiences with independent research, preparing graduates for the dynamic field of genetic counselling.
With only six students accepted into the program every year, students receive close mentorship and one-on-one support from award-winning faculty in the Department of Medical Genetics.
Program curriculum and learning opportunities are constantly evolving to equip students with the tools and knowledge they need to succeed and adapt to advances in the field of genomic medicine.
Students have the opportunity to gain a specialized skillset and work toward a genetic counselling degree with diverse clinical placements including prenatal, pediatrics, oncology, cardiology, neurology and psychiatric genetics.
Starting in the first week, students learn through a combination of direct classroom and hands-on experience working with genetic counselors, medical geneticists and other health care professionals.
Through collaboration with the College of Health Disciplines, UBC's Genetic Counselling program also offers students a number of inter-professional health education experiences, including:
Our graduates have gone on to pursue stimulating careers in genomic research, private industry, public and private clinical services, as well as policy development.
Many of our alumni and faculty have become international leaders in the field, including President of the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors (CAGC) and the National Society of Genetic Counsellors (NSGC), as well as board members on the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC), American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC), CAGC, and NSGC.
Plant Science graduate program offers advanced study in applied plant biology, with a commitment to development of sustainable managed agroecosystems. Our graduate program offers opportunities for advanced studies in basic and applied research, leading to M.Sc. or Ph.D. degrees, in plant production, plant protection, plant biotechnology, plant physiology and biochemistry, and plant-environment interaction.
Graduate students have the option to develop research programs that address problems through an interdisciplinary approach involving collaboration with faculty members in other graduate programs (e.g. Soil Science, Botany, Zoology, Microbiology, and Forest Science) on campus.
Our graduate program offers students the opportunity to develop their graduate studies uniquely tailored to their professional goals and research interests in consultation with their research supervisor. The diversity of plant agriculture in British Columbia provides excellent opportunities for students to select a cropping system most suitable for their thesis research. Students have the opportunity and are encouraged to develop their research programs through an interdisciplinary approach involving other departments on campus.
Excellent facilities for thesis research are available on the UBC campus in the MacMillan Building, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm, Totem Field Laboratory, UBC Wine Research Centre, the Michael Smith Laboratories, and the Horticulture Glasshouse. Some Plant Science graduate students also work with our Adjunct Professors, spread throughout the province of British Columbia.
Plant Science graduates (M.Sc., Ph.D.) generally opt for a teaching and/or research career. Some also work for government agencies (Agri-Food Canada, B.C. Ministry of Agriculture), agri-industry, or do consulting work in plant science.