Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (PhD)
The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Graduate Program provides advanced, research-based education that will prepare students for a career in academic, industrial, or professional positions in British Columbia and beyond. The Program offers MSc and PhD degrees, with the option to transfer from the MSc into the PhD track during the second year. The bulk of the program is research-intensive and assessed by examination of a dissertation, although students starting in the MSc program are required to take six formal course credits, which are usually completed within the first two academic terms. Course topics include protein structure and function, gene regulation, epigenetics, membrane structure and function, cellular regulation, and bioinformatics. Students also present a departmental research seminar in each year of their program, contribute to peer-reviewed publications, and present their work at local, national, or international meetings.
What makes the program unique?
The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is home to more than thirty, highly funded, well-equipped, research groups, that seek to understand the molecular basis of multiples diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, retinal degenerative diseases, bacterial and viral infections, including COVID-19. The Department has a rich history and on-going record of exceptional academic and research excellence. The Department was home to Nobel Laureate, Michael Smith, and current members hold research chairs, Killam awards and are members of the Royal Society of Canada. While the majority of our research laboratories are located in the Life Sciences Institute and Michael Smith Laboratories on the Point Grey Campus, member labs are also found in the BC Cancer Research Centre, the Centre for Brain Health, the Centre for Blood Research, and the Child and Family Health Research Institute. Thus, our program offers trainees a broad range of research topics, world-class mentorship, and diverse training environments. We encourage you to visit the Department website to check out the specific research interests and achievements of the professors in the Department.
Contact the program
Admission Information & Requirements
1) Check Eligibility
Minimum Academic Requirements
The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:
Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive process.
English Language Test
Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.
Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:
TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based
Overall score requirement: 106
IELTS: International English Language Testing System
Overall score requirement: 7.5
Other Test Scores
Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:
The GRE is required by some applicants. Please check the program website.
2) Meet Deadlines
January 2022 Intake
Application Open Date01 March 2021
3) Prepare Application
All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.
Letters of Reference
A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.
Statement of Interest
Many programs require a statement of interest, sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.
Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.
Instructions regarding supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (PhD)
Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.
4) Apply Online
All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.
Tuition & Financial Support
|Fees||Canadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / Diplomat||International|
|Installments per year||3||3|
|Tuition per installment||$1,698.56||$2,984.09|
|Tuition per year|
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
|Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible)||$3,200.00 (-)|
|Other Fees and Costs|
|Student Fees (yearly)||$969.17 (approx.)|
|Costs of living (yearly)||starting at $17,242.00 (check cost calculator)|
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. Tuition fees are reviewed annually by the UBC Board of Governors. In recent years, tuition increases have been 2% for continuing domestic students and between 2% and 5% for continuing international students. New students may see higher increases in tuition. Admitted students who defer their admission are subject to the potentially higher tuition fees for incoming students effective at the later program start date. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.
Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.
Program Funding Packages
Successful applicants to this program will be provided with a base funding package of at least $25,000 for each of the first two years of an MSc or four years of a PhD program. Students awarded major (i.e. greater than $15,000 per year), merit-based (for example: NSERC/CIHR CGSM, NSERC PGSD, or UBC Four-Year Fellowships) awards will receive a minimum of $28,000 per year financial support. PhD students, except those who have their tuition paid by an external sponsor, will additionally receive the Presidents Academic Excellence Initiative PhD Award, PAEIPA. Additionally, with the exception of Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship or Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship recipients, tuition for the first four years of a PhD will be covered by either UBC or a BMB Graduate Tuition Award. These minimum support packages can be further supplemented by TAships, and overall, the average support package for graduate students exceeds $30,000 per annum.
- 11 students received Teaching Assistantships. Average TA funding based on 11 students was $4,820.
- 28 students received Research/Academic Assistantships. Average RA/AA funding based on 28 students was $14,239.
- 30 students received internal awards. Average internal award funding based on 30 students was $10,866.
- 11 students received external awards. Average external award funding based on 11 students was $23,432.
Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)
All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.
Teaching Assistantships (GTA)
Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union.
Research Assistantships (GRA)
Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their direction. The duties usually constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is a form of financial support for a period of graduate study and is, therefore, not covered by a collective agreement. Unlike other forms of fellowship support for graduate students, the amount of a GRA is neither fixed nor subject to a university-wide formula. The stipend amounts vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded. Some research projects also require targeted research assistance and thus hire graduate students on an hourly basis.
Financial aid (need-based funding)
Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans.
All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.
Foreign government scholarships
Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.
Working while studying
The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.
Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals
Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.
Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.
Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.
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 EducationUniversity 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
Johns Hopkins University
Sample Employers Outside Higher EducationBC Cancer Agency (2)
Centre for Drug Research and Development (2)
STEMCELL Technologies (2)
McGivney Global Advisors
Inception Sciences Canada
Criterion Bioscience Capital Advisory Group
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher EducationResearch Scientist (3)
Postdoctoral Fellow (2)
Senior Scientific Researcher
Group Scientific Director
Head of Research
PhD Career Outcome SurveyYou may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on outcomes.grad.ubc.ca.
DisclaimerThese 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.
Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats
These statistics show data for the Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (PhD). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.
Completion Rates & Times
Upcoming Doctoral Exams
Thursday, 8 April 2021 - 9:00am
|2018||Nuclear pore complexes allow the transfer of molecules across cell membranes. Dr. Manhas found that these pore complexes are essential in the replication of DNA elements, called transposons, that move from one location in the genome to another. These findings help us understand the replication of viruses that are related to transposons.|
|2018||Dr. Carlson developed a simple, scalable method for the rapid stabilization of membrane proteins called the peptidisc. He used the technique to rapidly identify novel and known interactions between membrane proteins in the bacterial cell envelope.|
|2018||Dr. Chan worked on developing ways to enhance the natural function of platelets by loading them with potential drugs, such as clotting factors. These modified platelets may improve the effectiveness of platelet transfusions during uncontrolled bleeding, and platelets loaded with other drugs may also be useful in treating diseases such as cancer.|
|2018||Dr. Kulkarni studied nanoparticles to enable gene therapies for the treatment of liver diseases. Through his research, he overturned the existing paradigm of the structure of these nanoparticles; proposed a novel structure; and re-engineered the nanoparticles for diagnostics and gene therapy applications.|
|2018||Dr. Whitfield studied the machinery that drives the formation of clathrin-coated vesicles, the 'transport vans' of the cell. He identified several new components of this machinery, helping us to understand a fundamental cellular trafficking process implicated in a range of neurological and inflammatory diseases.|
|2018||Dr. Martin studied the physical packaging of the genome, and how this is altered upon gene expression. He found that chemical modifications of structural proteins, called histones, largely occur as a consequence of gene expression, contrary to previous reports. These findings help us to better understand the mechanisms governing gene expression.|
|2018||Dr. Crowe studied how Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, is able to use cholesterol while inside the lungs of infected individuals. Specifically, he clarified how the last half of the cholesterol molecule is degraded. This work has implications in TB pathogenesis and may facilitate the development of new therapies.|
|2018||Dr. Kerr established a new tool to study viruses that infect agriculturally and economically important insects, such as honeybees. With this tool, he researched how these viruses produce proteins. This work has deepened our knowledge of fundamental protein synthesis, common to all life, and our understanding of this emerging family of viruses.|
|2017||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.|
|2017||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.|
Sample Thesis Submissions
Possible areas of research in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology include: control of gene expression in eukaryotes and bacteria; structure and function of genes; systems biology; blood proteins; the mechanism of the action of insulin; membrane and membrane protein structure and function; protein trafficking; cell-surface receptors, signal transduction, and cell-growth control; neural and retinal photoreceptor membranes; lipid-based targeted delivery systems; macromolecular crystallography and X-ray diffraction techniques for the characterization of enzymes and protein complexes; metalloprotein structure and function; mechanisms of enzyme activity; mechanism of hemoprotein electron transfer; structural analysis of proteins by nuclear magnetic resonance; mechanisms of multi-drug resistance; and cancer.