Biology

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

Focus on research with cutting-edge technology and individualized attention from top professors who enable your best scientific work.

Graduate Program Overview

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

The 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 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 centred on conducting research in the biological sciences. Graduates of the MSc program are prepared for positions in government, management, industry, education, consulting, or for PhD research.

PROGRAM MILESTONES

  • establishing a faculty supervisory committee
  • preparing, presenting, and defending a thesis research proposal
  • completing coursework
  • researching, writing, and defending a thesis

COURSEWORK & THESIS REQUIREMENTS

  • biology seminar course (BIOL 501)
  • minimum of 6 additional credits of coursework, with a cumulative average of 75% or higher
  • 21-credit MSc thesis (BIOL 599)

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

Most MSc students become Teaching Assistants for at least one semester in order to gain valuable experience and to learn effective communications strategies.

The PhD degree is centred on conducting original research. Graduates of the PhD program are prepared for careers requiring advanced independent research and teaching in academia, government, and industry.

PROGRAM MILESTONES

  • establishing a faculty supervisory committee
  • preparing, presenting, and defending a dissertation research proposal
  • passing an oral candidacy examination that demonstrates breadth and depth of knowledge in one’s chosen field and specialization
  • completing dissertation research and writing, and defending the work

Most PhD students complete Teaching Assistantships for at least two semesters.

coursework

At the PhD level, coursework is required only at the discretion of the student’s advisory committee. We recommend that PhD students have completed upper-level undergraduate or graduate-level courses in the following:

  • a taxonomically-based course (e.g. mammalogy, vascular plants, invertebrates)
  • physiology/cell biology
  • genetics/molecular biology
  • ecology/evolution systematics

Students lacking any of these courses prior to entering the program must take the necessary courses as part of their PhD training.

other requirementS

PhD students are also required to demonstrate outreach or application of their results. The method and timing for fulfilling the requirement will be determined by the student in consultation with the committee no later than one year after a successful candidacy exam.

Possibilities include:

  • presentation of the results to a public (non-scientific) audience
  • contributing information to a species assessment for the Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada
  • presenting research at a government-led workshop
  • developing and disseminating educational material on subjects related to the research
  • presenting to school groups

Research & Supervisors

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

  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical sciences
  • Cell and developmental biology
  • Conservation biology
  • Ecology and evolution
  • Genetics, genomics and molecular biology
  • Microbiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Paleoecology and climate change
  • Physiology
  • Plant-microbe interactions

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


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Michael Deyholos | Professor | Biology | michael.deyholos@ubc.ca | 250.807.8541 | SCI 156
Research Interests: Genetics and genomics of plants, especially in relation to pectin, cell walls, and fibers.
Daniel Durall | Associate Professor | Biology | daniel.durall@ubc.ca | 250.807.8759 | SCI 307
Research Interests: Fungi in forest and wine systems; determining the structure of fungal networks connecting trees and the strains of yeast responsible for fermentation.
Adam Ford | Assistant Professor | Biology | adam.ford@ubc.ca | 250.807.9773 | SCI 109
Research Interests: Wildlife ecology and conservation; mammals; temperate forests, grasslands, and tropical savannas.
Deanna Gibson | Associate Professor | Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biology | deanna.gibson@ubc.ca | 250.807.8790 | ASC 368
Research Interests: Gut health; intestinal microbiome; gut immunity; dietary lipids; susceptibility to acute and chronic gut diseases like colitis.
Miranda Hart | Associate Professor | Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biology | miranda.hart@ubc.ca | 250.807.9398 | ASC 372
Research Interests: Microbial ecology of soil microbes; the role and the applications of microbes in sustainable agriculture, viticulture, and ecological restoration.
Karen Hodges | Professor | Biology | karen.hodges@ubc.ca | 250.807.8763 | SCI 382
Research Interests: Ecology; conservation biology; effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on behaviour and population dynamics; predator-prey dynamics; extinction risks; species-at-risk legislation; wildfires and wildlife; biosolids and wildlife.
Melanie Jones | Professor | Biology | melanie.jones@ubc.ca | 250.807.9553 | SCI 385
Research Interests: Physiology of ectomycorrhizas and roots of woody plants; effects of fire and silviculture on ectomycorrhizal fungal communities; carbon allocation within and between woody plants, orchard management under climate change.
Andis Klegeris | Professor | Biology | andis.klegeris@ubc.ca | 250.807.9557 | ASC 371
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; signaling between different cell types of the central nervous system; problem-solving skills of students and effectiveness of alternative instructional techniques.
John Klironomos | Professor | Biology | john.klironomos@ubc.ca | 250.807.9254 | SCI 159
Research Interests: Community ecology; soil ecology; plant ecology; microbial ecology; restoration ecology; invasion biology; global change biology; determinants of plant and microbial community structure; biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
Bruce Mathieson | Associate Professor | Biology | bruce.mathieson@ubc.ca | 250.807.8760 | SCI 378
Research Interests: Effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals on brain neurochemistry.
Louise Nelson | Honorary Professor (Post-Retirement), Professor Emeritus | Biology | louise.nelson@ubc.ca | 250.807.8756 | SCI 103
Research Interests: Plant-microbe interactions; soil health; plant-growth-promoting rhizobacteria; biological control; postharvest fungal pathogens; orchard replant disease; nitrogen cycling; nitrification; denitrification.
Nathan Pelletier | Assistant Professor | Biology | npelleti@mail.ubc.ca | 250.807.8245 | FIP 340
Research Interests: Sustainability measurement and management; life cycle thinking; environmental and social life cycle assessment of food, feed and biomass supply chains; resource efficiency; social license and market access; trade-based externalization of environmental and social risk.
Jason Pither | Associate Professor | Biology, Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences | jason.pither@ubc.ca | 250.807.9629 | ASC 367
Research Interests: Biogeography; landscape ecology; biodiversity conservation; community ecology; paleoecology; biodiversity patterns in space and time.
Scott Reid | Associate Professor | Biology | scott.reid@ubc.ca | 250.807.8761 | SCI 379
Research Interests: Comparative physiology, fish physiology, and metal metabolism in freshwater fish; how animals physiologically adjust to changes in the quality of their environment.
Mark Rheault | Associate Professor | Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biology | mark.rheault@ubc.ca | 250.807.9630 | ASC 370
Research Interests: Physiology of epithelial ion transport; insect toxicology; insect-plant interactions; metals toxicology; organic ion transport.
Michael Russello | Professor | Biology | michael.russello@ubc.ca | 250.807.8762 | FIP 346
Research Interests: Population genomics; conservation genetics; molecular ecology; life-history evolution.
Ian Walker | Professor | Biology, Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences | ian.walker@ubc.ca | 250.807.9559 | FIP 339
Research Interests: Environmental change; chironomid palaeoecology; quaternary palaeoecology and paleoclimatology; dynamics of arctic and alpine tree-line ecosystems; aquatic insect ecology; and biomonitoring; use of aquatic insects (living and fossil) as indicators of environmental change.

BC Lavender Network

Lavenders are a diverse group of species in the mint family, with over 40 different species and many more cultivars within these species. We are interested in the molecular, cellular, biochemical, and environmental factors that regulate the quality and quantity of aromas and essential oils produced by lavendar, and to improve crop plants through biotechnology.

Biodiversity and Landscape Ecology Research Facility

Our researchers are interested in invasive species ecology and biocontrol; the origins of diversity patterns among freshwater diatoms; the influence of regional/historical processes on community assembly; and historical/biogeographical perspectives on associations between plants and mycorrhizal fungi.

Durall Wine Microbiology Lab Group

The overarching goal of the Durall Wine Microbiology Lab Group is to understand how wine microbes (yeast and bacteria) interact during fermentation and ultimately affect wine quality. Our specific research interests are varied, but our ultimate goal is to understand what makes a good wine.

The Ecological and Conservation Genomics Laboratory

Human modification of the environment, including large-scale habitat conversion and soaring greenhouse gas emissions, pose major threats to global biological diversity. Maintaining species’ ability to persist in changing environments ultimately means preserving genetic variation underlying ecologically important traits. Work in our lab is at the interface of ecology and evolution, investigating the genetics of adaptation, life history variation, speciation, population history and phylogeography.

Okanagan Institute for Biodiversity, Resilience and Ecosystems Services (BRAES)

The Okanagan Institute for Biodiversity, Resilience, and Ecosystem Services (BRAES) is a group of over 30 faculty members and their graduate students working in ecology, biodiversity and conservation, and environmental sustainability on UBC’s Okanagan campus. BRAES’ special strength is its multidisciplinary focus, with members from departments of biology, mathematics and statistics, literary and cultural studies, earth and environmental sciences, physical geography, economics and creative arts.

PALEOecology LABoratory

The PALEO LAB specialises in the use of midge fossils for the reconstruction of past environmental changes, particularly glacial and postglacial climates, and recent human impacts on lake ecosystems. We collaborate extensively with researchers at universities across Canada, as well as Parks Canada and the Royal British Columbia Museum.

WILDLIFE RESTORATION ECOLOGY LAB (WIRE LAB)

Across the Earth, human modification of the environment has never been so widespread as it is today. The Wildlife Restoration Ecology Lab (WiRE Lab) is addressing the impact of human activity on the interactions among large predators (wolves, bears, cougars), their prey (deer, elk), and plants, in human-modified landscapes. We use a combination of field experiments, GPS tracking, computer models, and satellite imagery to bring together the ecology of individuals, populations, and communities.


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.

BGSS

Officially, the Biology Graduate Student Society (BGSS) is a student union dedicated to connecting students with each other, the university and the community in order to enhance their research, learning, and overall experience at UBC Okanagan.

Unofficially, the BGSS is a big group of friends who support each other throughout graduate school.

Theses & Dissertations

Search all UBC Okanagan biology 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 biology MSc program are expected to have:

  • the academic equivalent of a four-year BSc from UBC in 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

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 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 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 biology MSc program are expected to:

  • have the academic equivalent of a four-year BSc from UBC in 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 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 biology 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 department of biology has funding opportunities and assistantships available for qualified students.

Program Minimum funding Duration
MSc $17,500 per year 2 years
PhD $21,000 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 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, compare notes, and organize and participate in academic and recreational events in the Biology Graduate Student Society (BGSS).

There are orientation events for all graduate students, but biology grad students have their own introduction to UBC Okanagan through the BGSS. 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 biology MSc or PhD degree from the University of British Columbia, graduates are well-positioned to meet the reporting requirements for membership in the governing body for Professional Biologists in British Columbia (the College of Applied Biology), and thrive in a variety of occupations, such as

  • Agricultural technologist
  • Agrology technician
  • Aquaculture technician
  • Bacteriology technician
  • Bioanalyst
  • Biogeographer
  • Biological laboratory technologist
  • Biostatistician
  • Biotechnologist
  • Botanical technician
  • Conversation officer
  • Environmental educator
  • Environmental impact assessor
  • Fish and wildlife officer
  • Fish hatchery technician
  • Food bacteriological technician
  • Food inspector
  • Food science technologist
  • Forensic biologist
  • Horticulturalist
  • Hydrometric technologist
  • Interpretive naturalist
  • Microbiology quality control technologist
  • Park warden
  • Pathology assistant
  • Pharmaceutical sales representative
  • Plant breeding technician
  • Pollution control technologist
  • Science policy analyst
  • Seed technologist
  • Soil conservationist
  • Toxicologist
  • Wildlife manager

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.