Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Master of Science (MSc), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Conduct research to discover and characterize fundamental processes relevant to essential biological systems.

Graduate Program Overview

Program Components Duration
MSc Coursework and thesis 24 months
PhD Dissertation 48 months

The biochemistry and molecular biology graduate program at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna, BC, offers tier-one research-based degrees to students in a collegial, close-knit setting.

Our dynamic faculty and students are engaged in a variety of research projects, many in collaboration with partners in government, non-profit agencies, or industry.

Our research-based MSc and PhD degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology provide students with theoretical, practical, and analytical expertise, as well as experience in the application of scientific results to real-world problems.

The MSc degree is designed to enable and support students as they conduct original research, develop teaching and mentoring skills, and become engaged in the scientific community at large.

Students learn the theoretical, technical, analytical, and communication skills needed to perform timely and groundbreaking research. Their original work makes significant contributions to our understanding of the mechanism of biochemical processes and the complex interactions between organisms.

PROGRAM MILESTONES

  • establishing a faculty supervisory committee
  • preparing, presenting, and defending a thesis research proposal
  • completing coursework
  • researching, writing, and defending a thesis
  • working as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for at least one term

COURSEWORK & THESIS REQUIREMENTS

  • biochemistry seminar course (BIOC 530)
  • 6 additional credits of coursework, as approved by the student’s advisory committee, with a cumulative average of 75% or higher
  • 21-credit MSc thesis (BIOC 549)

Exceptional MSc students can transfer to the PhD program if they meet program requirements.

The PhD degree is designed to enable and support students as they conduct original research, develop teaching and mentoring skills, and become engaged in the scientific community at large.

Students learn the theoretical, technical, analytical, and communication skills needed to perform timely and ground-breaking research. Their original work makes significant contributions to our understanding of the mechanism of biochemical processes and the complex interactions between organisms.

PROGRAM MILESTONES

  • establishing a faculty supervisory committee
  • preparing, presenting, and defending a dissertation research proposal
  • completing dissertation research and writing, and defending the work
  • working as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for at least two terms

COURSEWORK

  • biochemistry seminar (BIOC 630), unless BIOC 530 or a similar graduate-level course was previously taken as part of MSc coursework
  • 9 credits of other science elective courses

Research & Supervisors

Graduate students can pursue these and other faculty research and teaching interests:

  • Analytical glycobiology
  • Applied microbiology
  • Biological wastewater treatment
  • Biomolecular structure/function
  • Bio-nanotechnology
  • Cell signaling
  • Chemical biology
  • Environmental microbiology
  • Insect molecular physiology
  • Medical microbiology, virology and immunology
  • Mechanobiology
  • Microbial ecology
  • Natural products / Specialized metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative disease
  • Neuroimmunology
  • Organic chemistry
  • Plant chemistry and biotechnology
  • Plant molecular biology
  • Single-molecule biophysics
  • Soil microbiology

Please connect with a faculty supervisor before you start the application process. We look forward to hearing about your research interests and career goals.


Philip Barker | philip.barker@ubc.ca | 250.807.9582 Research interests: Neurodegenerative disease, signal transduction, neurotrophin biology, cell biology, fly and mouse genetics.

Thu-Thuy Dang | thuy.dang@ubc.ca | 250.807.9582 Research interests: Discovering new biosynthetic enzymes and pathways, generating specialized metabolites structural and functional diversities, and re-constituting natural products metabolism in synthetic biology chassis.

Sanjoy Ghosh | sanjoy.ghosh@ubc.ca | 250.807.8162 Research interests: Biochemical aspects of dietary fats and exercise in preventing the development and complications of obesity and diabetes.

Deanna Gibson | deanna.gibson@ubc.ca | 250.807.8790 Research interests: Dietary modulation of the intestinal microbiome; immune responses and susceptibility to inflammatory bowel diseases.

Miranda Hart | miranda.hart@ubc.ca | 250.807.9398 Research interests: Microbial ecology of soil microbes; the role and the applications of microbes in sustainable agriculture, viticulture and ecological restoration.

Andis Klegeris | andis.klegeris@ubc.ca | 250.807.9557 Research interests: Neuroimmunology; pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases; Glial cell biology; cellular and molecular pharmacology; method development for protecting neurons from age-related deterioration.

Isaac Li | isaac.li@ubc.ca | 250.807.8069 Research interests: Single-molecule biophysics, optical trapping, super-resolution microscopy, programmable molecular devices and biosensors, DNA bio-nanotechnology, single-cell manipulation, cancer and immune cell biology, cell mechanics and mechanobiology.

Soheil Mahmoud | soheil.mahmoud@ubc.ca | 250.807.8752 Research interests: Molecular, cellular, biochemical and environmental factors that regulate the quality and quantity of aromas and essential oils produced by herbal and medicinal plants; identification, cloning and characterization of structural and regulatory genes that are involved in the biosynthesis, inter- and intra-cellular trafficking, secretion and storage of monoterpenes in plants cells specialized for secondary metabolite production.

Frederic Menard | frederic.menard@ubc.ca | 250.807.8225 Research interests: Chemical biology: use of small molecules to study and manipulate biological systems, design of molecular tools to study the real-time dynamics of cellular events; using organic chemistry, natural products are modified to label proteins involved in cellular signaling; the biology questions studied focus on protein-protein interactions, astrocytes communication, synapse elimination, and neurodegeneration.

Susan Murch | susan.murch@ubc.ca | 250.807.9566 Research interests: Plant chemistry and biotechnology; the identification, quantification and metabolism of plant secondary metabolites, the impact of these phytochemicals on human health, and the development of technologies for mass-production of specific plant chemicals as medicines, natural health products, food additives and functional foods.

Louise Nelson | louise.nelson@ubc.ca | 250.807.8756 Research interests: Plant-microbe interactions; soil health; plant-growth-promoting rhizobacteria; biological control; postharvest fungal pathogens; orchard replant disease; nitrogen cycling; nitrification; denitrification.

Richard Plunkett | richard.plunkett@ubc.ca | 250.807.9650 Research interests: Environmental microbiology, microbe/metal interactions (e.g., Cu, U, As) and the role of microbes in biogeochemical cycles.

Mark Rheault | mark.rheault@ubc.ca | 250.807.9630 Research interests: Molecular identity and physiological characterization of various epithelial transport processes used by insects to regulate their internal ion composition, fluid balance, and pH; the processes by which insects excrete potentially toxic organic compounds or heavy metals.

Deborah Roberts | deborah.roberts@ubc.ca | 250.807.8722 Research interests: Anaerobic biological treatment of recalcitrant compounds; biological systems for treatment of extreme wastewaters; sulphur oxidizing microbes and their effects on the environment (microbial deterioration of concrete and acid rock drainage); detection of pathogens in water and source tracking of pathogens.

Paul Shipley | paul.shipley@ubc.ca | 250.807.8749 Research interests: Organic chemistry; natural products biosynthesis; the biochemistry of secondary metabolism; nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry; rational modification of biosynthetic pathways in bacteria to produce novel compounds with the potential to be pharmacologically relevant.

Kirsten Wolthers (On Leave) | kirsten.wolthers@ubc.ca | 250.807.8663 Research interests: Enzyme guided radical-chemistry: use of fast reaction and spectroscopic methods to probe the interplay between protein dynamics, function and structure; rational design of biocatalysts; study of vitamin-derived cofactors by biological systems.

Wesley Zandberg | wesley.zandberg@ubc.ca | 250.807.9821 Research interests: Analytical glycobiology: the use of modern instrumental techniques to study carbohydrates, their oligomers (glycans) and their metabolism; developing new methods to investigate carbohydrates; and using chemical and analytical tools to investigate the functions of protein-linked glycans in cells and animals.

The Biological Solutions Laboratory (BSL)

Our objective is to develop solutions to difficult and unsolved environmental issues. Our achievements are the result of collaborations between faculty and students with backgrounds in the disciplines of chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering, as well as chemistry and biology.

The Barker Lab

The Barker lab studies cellular decisions that regulate life and death decisions in the normal and damaged nervous system. We combine genetics with cell and molecular biology to study and decipher conserved intracellular pathways in model systems ranging from flies to rodents.

The Facility for Environmental and Biological Imaging (FEBI)

The Facility for Environmental and Biological Imaging provides state-of-the-art confocal microscopy services to members of the UBC community and external researchers.

Services include training and advice on imaging needs, as well as the use of the facility’s instruments, including the Olympus FluoView FV10i, Olympus FluoView FV1000, and Zeiss Axioimager.

The Menard Lab

The Menard lab works at the interface between chemistry and biology. We use small molecules to study and manipulate biological systems. The group provides a multidisciplinary environment where students and researchers work together to develop new chemical and biophysical tools for the study of living systems.

plant Secondary Metabolite Analytical Research Team (PlantSMART) 

PlantSMART investigates the chemicals produced by plants and how plant chemicals affect human health. Research themes include: chemistry of cannabis and other medicinal plants; plant chemistry for food security; chemistry of natural non-protein amino acids; chemical regulation of plant signalling behaviour; chemistry of plant responses to light.

Mahmoud Lab

We are concerned with the metabolism of isoprenoids in plants, more specifically, the molecular, cellular, biochemical, and environmental factors that regulate the quality and quantity of aromas and essential oils produced by herbal and medicinal plants. Current work focuses on identification, cloning, and characterization of structural and regulatory genes that are involved in the biosynthesis, inter- and intracellular trafficking, secretion and storage of monoterpenes in plants cells specialized for secondary metabolite production.

Wolthers Research Group

Enzymes are large macromolecules that serve as biological catalysts for an immense number of biochemical reactions. We explore how enzymes can serve as valuable tools for the synthesis of new drugs and other high commodity chemicals, and also lead to the treatment of diseases, including bacterial infections, cancer, and metabolic disorders.

Single Molecule Cellular Biophysics Lab

We study the biophysics of cells at the single molecule and single cell levels. Our studies address fundamental cell biology questions that have many practical applications from smart DNA-based biomaterials to cell screening technology.

Shipley Lab

Our lab focuses on describing the chemistry of medicinal plants and bacteria to investigate the chemical differences between species and samples. This is used to discover biological activities, optimize natural health product formulation, identify adulterated products, and classify species by their chemistry.

Zandberg Lab

A key objective of our lab is to combine capillary electrophoresis (CE) and mass spectrometry (MS) into a sensitive and high resolution method for glycan analysis. As a complement to the development of improved hyphenated analytical methods, we are also interested in devising more efficient sample preparation techniques. We also explore the roles played by glycans in diverse biological phenomena. Our lab members: investigate the effects of known chemical inhibitors of glycan processing enzymes; synthesize and test new inhibitors; devise assays to explore the functions of glycan biosynthetic enzymes; develop new methods for identifying glycan-binding proteins and their target.


Students & Theses

Meet Our Students

See what our students are up to—find them in our Contact page for their research interests, supervisors, alma maters, and info.

Biochemistry Course Union

The Biochemistry Course Union is a student union dedicated to connecting students with each other, the university and the community in order to enhance students’ research, learning, and overall experience at UBC Okanagan.

Theses & Dissertations

Search all UBC Okanagan department of biology and department of chemistry student publications at cIRcle, the University’s digital repository for research and teaching materials.


Admission Requirements

Admission to UBC graduate programs is competitive. Applicants must meet the following criteria.

MASTER OF SCIENCE (MSc) APPLICANTS 

Applicants to the biochemistry and molecular biology MSc program are expected to have:

  • the academic equivalent of a four-year BSc from UBC in biochemistry, chemistry, combined chemistry and biochemistry, biology, or a related field, with a minimum average of B+ (76%) or better in their third- or fourth-year classes, or
  • at least 12 credits in third- and fourth-year classes in their intended field of study, with an A- (80%) grade or better, or
  • significant formal training and relevant professional experience

Your background training must be sufficient for advanced work in your chosen field.


DOCTORAL APPLICANTS (PhD)

PhD applicants are expected to:

  • hold the academic equivalent of a two-year master’s degree from UBC in biochemistry, chemistry, combined chemistry and biochemistry, biology, or a related field, with a B+ (76%) average or better
  • demonstrate clear evidence of research ability or potential

Your background training must be sufficient for advanced work in your chosen field.


EXCEPTIONAL CASES

Exceptional students who do not meet the requirements above, but who have significant formal training and relevant professional experience, may be admitted on the recommendation of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Graduate Program Committee and approval of the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

MORE INFORMATION

Visit the UBC Okanagan Academic Calendar for full admission and program requirements information. The calendar is a comprehensive guide to all programs, courses, services and academic policies at the University of British Columbia.

Note: In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct. 

The College of Graduate Studies defines additional requirements and degree equivalencies.

MASTER OF SCIENCE (MSc) APPLICANTS 

International applicants to the biochemistry and molecular biology MSc program are expected to:

  • have the academic equivalent of a four-year BSc from UBC in biochemistry, chemistry, combined chemistry and biochemistry, biology, or a related field, with a minimum average of B+ (76%) or better in their third- or fourth-year classes, or
  • have at least 12 credits in third- and fourth-year classes in their intended field of study, with an A- (80%) grade or better, and
  • present evidence of competency to pursue studies in the English language (please see details below)

Your background training must be sufficient for advanced work in your chosen field.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS 

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): minimum score of 550 (paper version); 90 overall with a minimum score of 22 in Reading & Listening and a minimum score of 21 in Writing & Speaking (Internet version), or
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing Service): minimum overall band score of 6.5, with no individual component score less than 6.0, or
  • MELAB (Michigan English Language Assessment Battery): minimum overall score of 85, with a final score of 3 in the speaking test

DOCTORAL APPLICANTS (PhD)

International PhD applicants are expected to:

  • hold the academic equivalent of a two-year master’s degree from UBC in biochemistry, chemistry, combined chemistry and biochemistry, biology, or a related field, with a B+ (76%) average or better
  • demonstrate clear evidence of research ability or potential
  • present evidence of competency to pursue studies in the English language (please see details below)

Your background training must be sufficient for advanced work in your chosen field.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): minimum score of 550 (paper version); 90 overall with a minimum score of 22 in Reading & Listening and a minimum score of 21 in Writing & Speaking (Internet version), or
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing Service): minimum overall band score of 6.5, with no individual component score less than 6.0, or
  • MELAB (Michigan English Language Assessment Battery): minimum overall score of 85, with a final score of 3 in the speaking test

MORE INFORMATION

Visit the UBC Okanagan Academic Calendar for full admission and program requirements information. The calendar is a comprehensive guide to all programs, courses, services and academic policies at the University of British Columbia.

Note: In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct. 

REQUIRED GRADES AND CREDENTIAL GUIDE

Grades and degree credentials required by UBC vary by country. Search the Required Grades and Credential Guide—a guide to assist international students in estimating their eligibility.

INTERNATIONAL ADVISORS

An international student advisor can answer questions about immigration, medical insurance and the transition to UBC’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna, BC. Visit the International Programs and Services website to meet the team.


Tuition & Funding

Tuition

Tuition amounts presented here are estimates only and all fees are subject to change. For official tuition and fee information, visit the UBC Okanagan Academic Calendar, a comprehensive guide to all programs, courses, services, and academic policies at the University of British Columbia.

Program Schedule Domestic (per year) International (per year)
MSc Full-time $4,995.78 $8,776.74
PhD Full-time $4,995.78 $8,776.74

Tuition is paid three times a year, on the first day of each term: Winter Term 1 (September), Winter Term 2 (January), and Summer Term (May).

Funding Opportunities

Graduate student stipends are funded through a combination of internal and external funding awards, Teaching Assistantships and Research Assistantships.

Although funding and stipend amounts are not guaranteed, the biochemistry and molecular biology graduate program has a number of assistantships available for qualified students. Talk to your potential supervisor about funding opportunities.

Students are expected whenever possible to apply for relevant scholarships and fellowships. These include principally, but are not limited to, Canadian Tri-Council scholarships, University Graduate Fellowships, and Graduate Dean’s Entrance Scholarships.

If students wish to hold off-campus (external) employment, they should discuss with their supervisor, particularly if the student is a grant-holder, as restrictions on hours of work may apply.

GRADUATE ENTRANCE AWARD

The Irving K. Barber School of Arts & Sciences offers a $15,000 merit-based entrance scholarship to six exceptional individuals entering their first year of thesis-based graduate studies under a supervisor from the IKBSAS faculty.

All applicants to IKBSAS graduate programs who have submitted an application by January 31 will be automatically considered for the award. No additional application is required. Successful applicants will be notified by March 15.

The biochemistry and molecular biology graduate program has funding opportunities and assistantships available for qualified students.

Program Minimum funding Duration
MSc $17,500 per year 2 years
PhD $19,000 per year 4 years

TEACHING ASSISTANTSHIPS (TA)

Paid TA positions are provided through the department and allow graduate students to develop skills in teaching, supervision, facilitation, and student assessment. Teaching assistants may lead seminars, help teach undergraduate courses, or assist in student evaluations and marking.

  • MSc students are eligible for paid TA positions for up to two years.
  • PhD students are eligible for paid TA positions for up to four years.
  • TA positions usually occur September to April. TA hours and wages are governed by the British Columbia Government Employees Union (BCGEU).

Teaching assistants are mentored by their supervisor and via the Centre for Teaching and Learning. To learn more or apply for a position, see our Careers page.

Research Assistantships (RA)

As paid research assistants, graduate students assist their supervisor or other researchers in conducting high-level research. RAs are typically funded by a supervisor’s external grants, contracts or other sources of funding, and, therefore, are not guaranteed.

Research Assistantships are wholly dependent upon individual research supervisor’s funding. RA positions may take place at any time during the school year and wages and hours will vary. RA positions are not guaranteed. Talk to your potential supervisor about RA opportunities.

UBC Awards

The College of Graduate Studies administers merit-based graduate awards at the Okanagan campus. The College manages a number of award competitions each year and administers payment of all internal awards and selected external awards.

External Awards

All prospective graduate students (Domestic and International) should explore and apply for external awards and fellowships, including awards offered by Canada’s three research councils: CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC.

Graduate scholarships and awards may also be available from foundations, private organizations or foreign governments (check with your country’s education authority).


How to Apply

Find a Supervisor

Please contact our faculty supervisors before starting your application. Admission to the program requires the confirmed availability and mentor-match with a faculty supervisor as well as meeting program-specific criteria and requirements.

A complete application package will contain:

  • Online application and application fee
  • Unofficial transcripts for all post-secondary institutions attended are required for the application package. However, if admitted, the student must submit official transcripts to the College of Graduate Studies
  • English language test (for non-native speakers of English)
  • CV or resumé
  • Three reference forms or letters

Applying takes time. We recommend you start your application two months in advance.

For full consideration students should submit all application materials by the following deadlines:

INTAKE APPLICATION DEADLINE
September January 31
January June 1
May October 1

UBC’S Okanagan Campus

The University of British Columbia is a global centre for research and teaching, consistently ranked among the 40 best universities in the world. In the biochemistry and molecular biology program at UBC’s Okanagan campus, you gain all the benefits of attending a globally respected university while studying in a close-knit learning community.

DYNAMIC CITY

UBC’s Okanagan campus borders the dynamic city of Kelowna, a hub of economic development with a population of about 150,000 people—the fourth fastest growing population in Canada. In fact, the Okanagan Valley is rated one of the best communities in Canada to grow your business.

More than 160 buses travel daily from campus to key locations such as Kelowna’s cultural district and thriving downtown waterfront. The campus is two minutes from the Kelowna International Airport, one of the top 10 busiest airports in Canada.

UBC Okanagan is situated within the First Nations territory of the Okanagan Nation, whose spirit of stewardship for the land is reflected in the university’s respect for sustainability.

NATURAL BEAUTY

A diverse natural region with sandy beaches, beautiful farms, vineyards and orchards, and snow-capped mountains, the Okanagan Valley features sweeping stretches of lakeside and endless mountain trails for biking and hiking.

Check out this 360-degree video: Kelowna From Above.*

* Best viewed using desktop Chrome or Firefox (desktop) or YouTube app (mobile).

CAMPUS HOUSING

Full-time UBC Okanagan students can live in residence, which offers modern living with easy access to academic and personal support. Residences are surrounded by hiking and biking trails, plus panoramic views of the campus and valley.

OFF-CAMPUS HOUSING

* UBC does not verify or endorse information shared on this third-party website, which is offered here as a public resource only.

Join the club: Make friends with similar interests, and organize and participate in academic and recreational events in the Biochemistry Course Union.

There are orientation events for all graduate students, but biochemistry and molecular biology grad students have their own introduction to UBC Okanagan through the BGSS (Biology Graduate Student Society). The club organizes events throughout the year such as the Welcome BBQ, field trips, outdoor adventures, bowling and other game nights.

Stay active: Take advantage of the many opportunities to get involved and play—from workout space in the new Hangar Fitness and Wellness Centre and our 1,561 square-metre gymnasium, to athletic courts, intramurals, fitness classes, and nationally ranked varsity athletics. Have a ball in Sports and Recreation.

Relax: The Graduate Collegium is a gathering place where grad students can hang out, eat lunch, spend time with their fellow students, and attend or host special events. The lounge-style room is open seven days and week and is outfitted with comfortable furniture, kitchen facilities, and individual and group-work spaces.

College of Graduate Studies: Your hub for administrative support and such things as graduate workshops for professional development and for assisting you from the admissions process through to your graduation.

Centre for Scholarly Communication: Supports graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, staff, and faculty in disseminating their research. The Library’s CSC provides one-on-one consultations and workshops, including writing support for theses, dissertations, journal articles, and grant proposals.

Centre for Teaching and Learning: Provides support related to teaching, TA training, and use of technology in educational programming.

Learn more about graduate student resources and support.

Careers and Occupations

With a biochemistry and molecular biology MSc or PhD degree from the University of British Columbia, graduates are well-positioned to thrive in a variety of occupations, such as:

  • Analytical chemist
  • Biochemical educator
  • Biochemical researcher
  • Biomedical researcher
  • Biomedical instrumentation
  • Biotechnologist
  • Cancer researcher
  • Clinical biochemist
  • Drug development officer
  • Environmental auditor
  • Environmental health officer
  • Food product inspector
  • Food service technologist
  • Forensic service technologist
  • Forensic analyst
  • Genetic technician
  • Hazardous waste
  • Technologist
  • Immunologist
  • Industrial hygienist
  • Microbiologist
  • Nanotechnology
  • Nurse
  • Nutrition researcher
  • Pharmaceutical research assistant
  • Physiotherapist
  • Public health inspector
  • Science instrumentation
  • Scientific journalist
  • Toxicology assistant
  • Wine scientist

Career Services

Map out your future and prepare to hit the ground running with resources and services provided by the Advising & Involvement Centre.

Tell your story with resumé and cover-letter strategies, and search Work Study jobs for experience relevant to your degree and career goals. You can also book an appointment to meet one-on-one with our career advisor.

alumni UBC

alumni UBC is a member-driven association that offers a variety of lifetime programming and communications to enrich the lives of UBC graduates.

The ‘Your Next Step’ program offers webinars, speaker series, and professional development sessions. It is designed to provide advice, tips, and resources in areas of career development to graduates for life after university.

Realize the promise of a global community with shared ambition for a better world and an exceptional UBC.