Graduate Symposium

The annual Biology Graduate Symposium (BGS) brings together a diverse breadth of exciting research taking place in the Department of Biology.

The BGS provides an opportunity for graduate and post-doctoral trainees from the natural and health sciences to showcase, discuss, and celebrate their research with other students, faculty, and staff. This poster symposium prepares both junior and senior trainees for conferences by encouraging communication and networking skills under a laid-back and intimate setting.

Biology Graduate Symposium

May 3 and May 4, 2021,  9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. PST
Online Virtual Event, All are welcome to attend

Presentations will be conducted in a Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) style. One student from each presentation session will be awarded a prize for the best talk. There will be faculty and student networking opportunities after the event, please join us!


  • Abstract Submissions: April 2, 2021
  • Event Registration: April 16, 2021


Register to present a talk at the conference or attend the conference only.

register now

Judging Criteria

  1. How well did the presentation provide the necessary background information to the research question and its significance?
  2. How clear was the presentation’s description of the key results, conclusions, and outcomes of the research?
  3. How appropriate was the language used to explain the topic, key results, significance, and outcomes of the research to a non-specialist audience?
  4. How well-organized was the presentation in terms of the clarity and logic of the presentation order and the amount of time spent on each topic?
  1. How well did the presenter hold your attention and make you want to know more about the research?
  2. How well did the presenter balance the explanation of the research done with the need to communicate it to a non-specialist audience?
  3. How engaging was the presenter in their enthusiasm for their research and in their presentation of the information?
  4. How effective was the Powerpoint slide in enhancing the presentation of the research?

More information on Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) formatting and criteria can be found on the College of Graduate Studies website.

Judge Profiles

Mehdi SharifDr. Mehdi Sharifi
Research Scientist – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Dr. Sharifi’s work is focused on sustainable and organic agriculture. He works with nutrient management in high-value horticultural crops, nitrogen dynamics in agroecosystems, and soil health. Dr. Sharifi’s current projects include: evaluating inter-seed cover crops for grain corn in Southern Ontario; water and soluble C and N retention in an amended cherry orchard by a new soil water retention technology, and water and nutrient management strategies to reduce competition between grapevine and cover crops.

Thu-Thuy_DangDr. Thu-Thuy Dang
Assistant Professor – Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Chemistry

Dr. Dang’s work focuses on discovering new biosynthetic enzymes and pathways that contribute to the diversity of plants specialized metabolism. Her labs immediate focus is on medicinal alkaloids, of which many constitute the essential ingredients of traditional medicine worldwide. They utilize available, and/or generate new, RNA-seq and genome data of medicinal plants to investigate their metabolism with a suite of analytical, biochemical, bioinformatic and molecular genetic approaches. Their long-term goal is to deliver biotechnologies that produce and/or customize high-value phytochemicals. These will allow sustainable alternatives complementing chemical extraction from plants or synthesis from petrochemicals.

Wesley ZandbergDr. Wesley Zandberg
Assistant Professor – Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Chemistry

Dr. Zandberg’s work is in the field of analytical glycobiology: the use of modern instrumental techniques to study carbohydrates, their oligomers (glycans) and their metabolism. He is working to develop new methods to investigate carbohydrates. Dr. Zandberg uses chemical and analytical tools to investigate the functions of protein-linked glycans in cells and animals.

Wesley ZandbergDr. Karen Perry
Associate Professor & Acting Department Head, Chemistry

Dr. Perry holds a PhD from the University of British Columbia. She teaches environmental and analytical chemistry. Her research focuses on Geochemical oceanography and limnology, mineralization of organic matter, and saline lakes.

Sepideh_PakpourDr. Sepideh Pakpour
Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Dr. Pakpour’s research interest is to better understand forces and factors influencing the human microbiome. She is also interested in how microorganisms interact with their environment, with each other, and with their host. As well, she has also continuously focused on translating basic microbiome discoveries into applications ranging from bioengineering and biomaterials to medicine. Dr. Pakpour is also the microbiome research lead in the Nurse Engagement and Wellness Study (NEWS) as part of the Hoffman Program on Chemicals at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as well as the lead of Human Virus Project at MIT Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics. Her background and broad expertise in microbiome science, omic technologies and advanced bioinformatics have allowed her to establish the Biomedical Microbiome Research (BMR) laboratory at UBC focusing on advancing microbiome science in health and disease.

Wesley ZandbergDr. Melanie Jones
Professor, Biology

Dr. Jones’s research interests include the influence of ectomycorrhizae and ericoid mycorrhizae on nutrient uptake and carbon allocation by woody plants. Since 1991, she has studied the effect of various forestry practises on the diversity of ectomycorrhizal fungi in BC forests. Members of her lab are currently working on the contribution of ectomycorrhizal fungi to soil nutrient cycling, factors that influence nutrient distribution within mycorrhizal networks, the contribution of soil carbon to the carbon budget of mycorrhizal fungi, and soil carbon dynamics in orchard soils.

Nathan PelletierNathan Pelletier
Assistant Professor – Biology, Faculty of Management

Dr. Pelletier currently holds the NSERC/Egg Farmers of Canada Industrial Research Chair in Sustainability. His areas of research interest include the theory and practical application of ecological economic instruments in bio-economy (food, feed, and biomass) sustainability measurement, management and communication initiatives. His work contributes to the development of methodological frameworks for evaluation and management of the scale, resource efficiency, and social dimensions of sustainability – in particular, life cycle-based product and organization-level accountancy tools for supply chain sustainability management. Specific areas of interest include climate change, energy use, reactive nitrogen, food security, social licence, and market access.

Paul ShipleyPaul Shipley
Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Chemistry

Dr. Shipley’s 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. Dr. Shipley’s work also included biosynthesis of natural products and rational modification of biosynthetic pathways in bacteria to produce novel compounds with the potential to be pharmacologically relevant.

Andis KlegerisAndis Klegeris
Professor, Biology

Dr. Klegeris’ work focuses on neuroimmunology including the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Dr. Klegeris’ research includes Glial cell biology and cellular and molecular pharmacology. He is also working on developing methods for protecting neurons from age-related deterioration. His research includes signaling between different cell types of the central nervous system and problem-solving skills of students and effectiveness of alternative instructional techniques.

Zoe SoonZoe Soon
Associate Professor of Teaching, Biology

Dr. Soon’s work focuses on developing and implementing innovative educational tools that are designed to enhance student learning, engagement, and mastery of course content. Here research involves the scholarship of teaching and learning as well as research in innovative teaching strategies designed for higher education.

More information on Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) formatting and criteria can be found on the College of Graduate Studies website.

Thank you to all who participated in past symposia.

Ariel photo of the 2019 Biology Graduate Symposium

Biology Graduate Symposium 2019 Participants