Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (PhD)


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. All students are expected to give a research seminar in each year of their program. It is anticipated that each student will contribute to the successful completion of peer-reviewed publications and will present their work at national and international meetings.

What makes the program unique?

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.

Quick Facts

Doctor of Philosophy
Life Sciences
Mode of delivery
On campus
Registration options
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Program Components
Faculty of Medicine


TOEFL (ibT) Overall Score Requirement


IELTS Overall Score Requirement


GRE required?

Required by some applicants (check program website)

Funding Sources

Applicants who are interested in nanomaterials synthesis, characterization and application, and nanoscience instrumentation may consider the NanoMat program that provides additional funding and professional development opportunities.

Successful applicants to this program will be provided with a funding package of at least $22,000 for each of the first four years of their PhD. The funding package may consist of any combination of internal or external awards, teaching-related work, research assistantships, and graduate academic assistantships.

Career Outcomes

66 students graduated between 2005 and 2013: 2 are in non-salaried situations; for 6 we have no data (based on research conducted between Feb-May 2016). For the remaining 58 graduates:

RI (Research-Intensive) Faculty: typically tenure-track faculty positions (equivalent of the North American Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor positions) in PhD-granting institutions
TI (Teaching-Intensive) Faculty: typically full-time faculty positions in colleges or in institutions not granting PhDs, and teaching faculty at PhD-granting institutions
Term Faculty: faculty in term appointments (e.g. sessional lecturers, visiting assistant professors, etc.)
Sample Employers in Higher Education
University of British Columbia (8)
Harvard University (2)
University of Toronto (2)
Oregon Health and Science University
University of Alberta
Washington University in St Louis
University of Ottawa
University of Washington
Southeast University
Johns Hopkins University
Sample Employers Outside Higher Education
BC Cancer Agency (2)
Centre for Drug Research and Development (2)
STEMCELL Technologies (2)
Samsung Bioepis
McGivney Global Advisors
Inception Sciences Canada
Arbutus Biopharma
Boreal Genomics
Renaissance BioScience
Criterion Bioscience Capital Advisory Group
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher Education
Research Scientist (3)
Postdoctoral Fellow (2)
Associate (2)
Senior Scientific Researcher
Owner, designer
Group Scientific Director
Head of Research
PhD Career Outcome Survey
You may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on
These data represent historical employment information and do not guarantee future employment prospects for graduates of this program. They are for informational purposes only. Data were collected through either alumni surveys or internet research.
Career Options

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.

Alumni on Success

Tuition / Program Costs

FeesCanadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / DiplomatInternational
Application Fee$102.00$165.00
Tuition *
Installments per year33
Tuition per installment$1,632.61$2,868.22
Tuition per year$4,897.83$8,604.66
Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible) $3,200.00 (-)
Other Fees and Costs
Student Fees (yearly)$923.38 (approx.)
Costs of living (yearly)starting at $16,884.10 (check cost calculator)
* Regular, full-time tuition. For on-leave, extension, continuing or part time (if applicable) fees see UBC Calendar.
All fees for the year are subject to adjustment and UBC reserves the right to change any fees without notice at any time, including tuition and student fees. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.

Statistical Data

Enrolment Data

New registrations41114
Total enrolment5048403642

Completion Rates & Times

This program has a graduation rate of 100% based on 10 students admitted between 2004 - 2007. Based on 12 graduations between 2013 - 2016 the minimum time to completion is 3.33 years and the maximum time is 6.33 years with an average of 5.00 years of study. All calculations exclude leave times.
Admissions data refer to all UBC Vancouver applications, offers, new registrants for each year, May to April [data updated: 9 March 2018]. Enrolment data are based on March 1 snapshots. Program completion data are only provided for datasets comprised of more than 4 individuals. Rates and times of completion depend on a number of variables (e.g. curriculum requirements, student funding), some of which may have changed in recent years for some programs [data updated: 29 September 2017].

Upcoming Doctoral Exams

Monday, 19 March 2018 - 12:00pm - Room 1416, Life Sciences Centre, 2350 Health Sciences Mall

Benjamin John Elwood Martin
Targeting of Histone Acetylation to Transcribed Chromatin

Wednesday, 28 March 2018 - 9:00am - Room 200

Craig Howard Kerr
Anatomy of An RNA Virus: Dissecting the Host-Virus Interactions that Govern Dicistrovirus Gene Expression and Transmission

Research Supervisors

This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.

  • Brayer, Gary (Proteins, catalytic action, structure, X-ray diffraction)
  • Bromme, Dieter (Lysosomal proteases, centre for blood research )
  • Brumer, Harry (enzymes, polysaccharides, carbohydrates, biomass, cellulose, plant cell walls, microbiota)
  • Conibear, Elizabeth (Molecular pathways, cellular transportation, Alzheimer's, lysomsomal storage diseases, yeast genetics)
  • Cullis, Pieter (Molecular biology for therapeutic purposes, lipids, immunological drugs)
  • Dedhar, Shoukat (molecular biology, molecular biology as it relates to disease; developing new theraputics for cancer; how brain cells (neurons)make connections, therapeutics for cancer; molecular genetics and cancer; medical research, cancer, inflammatory diseases, cariovascular diseases, Cellular proteins, extracellular martrix, integrins, signal transduction, calreticulin, protein kinase, gene expression, cell differentiation)
  • Devine, Dana Virginia (Biochemistry, blood regulation, platelet biology)
  • Duong, Franck (Membrane protein, nanodiscs, ligand-receptor interactions, cell membranes, lipids, soluble proteins, porin, iron intake)
  • Eltis, Lindsay (Bacterial catabolism of steroids and lignin, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, biocatalyst development)
  • Finlay, B Brett (Infectious agents, bacteria, microbial infections and how humans react to it)
  • Foster, Leonard (honey bees, host-pathogen interactions, antigen presentation, systems biology)
  • Gsponer, Joerg (Protein-DNA, protein-RNA and protein-protein interactions)
  • Hieter, Philip (Molecular biology of eukaryotic chromosome transmission )
  • Howe, LeAnn (gene regulation, epigenetics, chromatin)
  • Jan, Eric (Virology, Virus, Antiviral innate immunity, translation, Protein synthesis, RNA, RNA structure function, tRNA, ribosome, RNA virus, protease, molecular biology, picornavirus)
  • Kastrup, Christian (drug delivery, coagulation, biomaterials, atherosclerosis, in-vivo imaging, microfluidics )
  • Kelleher, Dermot (immune response to many of the leading causes of gastrointestinal infectious disease worldwide)
  • Kim, Hugh (platelet biochemistry)
  • Kobor, Michael (Epigenetics, Social Epigenetics, Molecular Biology , Chromatin Biology)
  • Ling, Victor (Resistance to anticancer drugs, glycoprotein, chemotherapy, proteins )
  • Mayor, Thibault (Proteostasis, Protein Degradation, Protein Folding, Proteomics, Ubiquitin, Proteasome, Neurodegenerative diseases, Aging, Cell Biology, Yeast Genetics, Biochemistry)
  • McIntosh, Lawrence (Protein structure-dynamics-function, Regulation of gene expression, Signal transduction, Cancer, Enzyme mechanisms)
  • Measday, Vivien (Chromosome segregation in the budding yeast using molecular biology and genomic tools)
  • Molday, Robert (Proteins, cell structure, lipids, drug discovery, gene therapy)
  • Mui, Alice (Inflammatory Signalling Pathways)


Recent Doctoral Citations

  • Dr. Desmond Ka Wing Lau
    "The interplay between ETS transcription factors and DNA is tightly regulated to maintain our normal daily life, and misregulation often leads to disease such as prostate cancer. Dr. Lau investigated the mechanism that regulates the activity of ETS factors. He also worked to develop new molecules that inhibit ETS-DNA interaction." (November 2017)
  • Dr. Dheva Tri Setiaputra
    "Dr. Setiaputra used electron microscopy to study the structures of protein complexes that control gene expression. He explored the architecture of these molecular machines and shed light into their mechanisms of action. These findings provide insights into fundamental processes found in all eukaryotic life." (May 2017)
  • Dr. Hilda Hiu Tung Au
    "Viruses rely on cellular resources to propagate. Dr. Au investigated how agriculturally important viruses hijack and manipulate host ribosomes by the use of an RNA element. Her research further sheds light on how viruses have evolved clever strategies to overcome the limited sizes of their genomes." (May 2017)
  • Dr. Lauren Elizabeth Dalton
    "Dr. Dalton studied the machinery required to move proteins to the right places in the cell. She searched the entire yeast genome for new protein trafficking components and did initial investigations into how they work. Her work contributes to our understanding of the mechanisms that cause Parkinson's disease, Alzheimers's disease and others." (May 2017)
  • Dr. Julienne Maurisse Jagdeo
    "Dr. Jagdeo explored new ways in which picornaviruses hijack host cellular pathways to support the viral life cycle. The picornavirus family include many clinically relevant viruses such as poliovirus and coxsackievirus. Her work has provided new insights into viral-host interactions required to promote infection that may contribute to disease." (May 2017)

January 2019 Intake

Application Open Date
01 May 2018
Canadian Applicant Deadline
30 June 2018
International Applicant Deadline
31 May 2018

Program Information

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