Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (PhD)

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Overview

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.

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Program Enquiries

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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

Reading

27

Writing

29

Speaking

24

Listening

27

IELTS: International English Language Testing System

Overall score requirement: 7.5

Reading

7.0

Writing

7.0

Speaking

7.0

Listening

7.0

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 2025 Intake

Application Open Date
01 September 2023
Canadian Applicants
Application Deadline: 15 May 2024
Transcript Deadline: 15 May 2024
Referee Deadline: 22 May 2024
International Applicants
Application Deadline: 15 May 2024
Transcript Deadline: 15 May 2024
Referee Deadline: 22 May 2024

3) Prepare Application

Transcripts

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.

Supervision

Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their thesis supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding thesis supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (PhD)
Applicants should browse faculty profiles and indicate in their application who they are interested in working with. No commitment from a supervisor prior to applying is necessary, but contacting faculty members is encouraged.

Citizenship Verification

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

Tuition

FeesCanadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / DiplomatInternational
Application Fee$114.00$168.25
Tuition *
Installments per year33
Tuition per installment$1,838.57$3,230.06
Tuition per year
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
$5,515.71$9,690.18
Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible) $3,200.00 (-)
Other Fees and Costs
Student Fees (yearly)$1,116.60 (approx.)
Costs of livingEstimate your costs of living with our interactive tool in order to start developing a financial plan for your graduate studies.
* 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. 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.

Financial Support

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.     

Average Funding
Based on the criteria outlined below, 32 students within this program were included in this study because they received funding through UBC in the form of teaching, research, academic assistantships or internal or external awards averaging $36,059.
  • 14 students received Teaching Assistantships. Average TA funding based on 14 students was $5,136.
  • 27 students received Research Assistantships. Average RA funding based on 27 students was $17,707.
  • 12 students received Academic Assistantships. Average AA funding based on 12 students was $461.
  • 32 students received internal awards. Average internal award funding based on 32 students was $11,680.
  • 10 students received external awards. Average external award funding based on 10 students was $22,461.

Study Period: Sep 2021 to Aug 2022 - average funding for full-time PhD students enrolled in three terms per academic year in this program across years 1-4, the period covered by UBC's Minimum Funding Guarantee. Averages might mask variability in sources and amounts of funding received by individual students. Beyond year 4, funding packages become even more individualized.
Review methodology
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.

Graduate 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 supervision. The duties constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is considered a form of fellowship for a period of graduate study and is therefore not covered by a collective agreement. Stipends vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded.

Graduate 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.

Graduate Academic Assistantships (GAA)

Academic Assistantships are employment opportunities to perform work that is relevant to the university or to an individual faculty member, but not to support the student’s graduate research and thesis. Wages are considered regular earnings and when paid monthly, include vacation pay.

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.

International students enrolled as full-time students with a valid study permit can work on campus for unlimited hours and work off-campus for no more than 20 hours a week.

A good starting point to explore student jobs is the UBC Work Learn program or a Co-Op placement.

Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals

Students with taxable income in Canada may be able to claim federal or provincial tax credits.

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.

Cost Calculator

Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.

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
Consultant
Owner, designer
Group Scientific Director
Scientist
Physician
Head of Research
PhD Career Outcome Survey
You may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on outcomes.grad.ubc.ca.
Disclaimer
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.

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.

ENROLMENT DATA

 20222021202020192018
Applications2126152216
Offers67134
New Registrations36134
Total Enrolment5044455046

Completion Rates & Times

This program has a graduation rate of 96% based on 28 students admitted between 2010 - 2013. Based on 10 graduations between 2019 - 2022 the minimum time to completion is 2.27 years and the maximum time is 7.4 years with an average of 5.69 years of study. All calculations exclude leave times.
Disclaimer
Admissions data refer to all UBC Vancouver applications, offers, new registrants for each registration year, May to April, e.g. data for 2022 refers to programs starting in 2022 Summer and 2022 Winter session, i.e. May 1, 2022 to April 30, 2023. Data on total enrolment reflects enrolment in Winter Session Term 1 and are based on snapshots taken on November 1 of each registration year. Program completion data are only provided for datasets comprised of more than 4 individuals. Graduation rates exclude students who transfer out of their programs. 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.

Upcoming Doctoral Exams

Monday, 18 March 2024 - 12:30pm - 1312, Life Sciences Institute, 2350 Health Sciences Mall

James Kwan
TBP and Its Diversified Role in Transcription Initiation

Research Supervisors

Supervision

Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their thesis supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding thesis supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (PhD)
Applicants should browse faculty profiles and indicate in their application who they are interested in working with. No commitment from a supervisor prior to applying is necessary, but contacting faculty members is encouraged.
 
Advice and insights from UBC Faculty on reaching out to supervisors

These videos contain some general advice from faculty across UBC on finding and reaching out to a supervisor. They are not program specific.

 

Doctoral Citations

A doctoral citation summarizes the nature of the independent research, provides a high-level overview of the study, states the significance of the work and says who will benefit from the findings in clear, non-specialized language, so that members of a lay audience will understand it.
Year Citation
2020 Dr. Caffrey applied light and electron microscopy to answer key questions in human health and disease across several size scales, from human tissue to single proteins. His research examines 3D distribution of mitochondria in tissues, the effect of novel therapeutics on cells and illuminates the role structural defects in protein play in disease.
2020 Dr. Caveney showed how the final stages of bacterial cell wall biosynthesis can be modulated. These modulations are part of both natural bacterial life but additionally can play an important role in bacterial infection. This research paves the way for improved antibacterial therapeutics.
2020 Dr. Gerak studied a protein fragment, called the PNT domain, that is present in many oncoproteins. She investigated how the PNT domain self-associates to activate these oncoproteins, thereby causing cancer, and searched for molecules that might prevent this self-association. This knowledge aids in identifying a new class of anticancer therapeutics.
2020 Dr. Workman used X-ray crystallography to study the structure-function relationship of enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of the bacterial cell wall. His structural data revealed an unexpected topology and suggested an additional function for a key membrane protein. This knowledge provides a foundation for the development of novel antibiotics.
2020 Dr. Wong studied the properties of flexible proteins that are not folded prior to binding. These proteins play critical roles in signaling and regulation by interacting with other proteins. He created a computational predictor for protein sites that bind to these flexible proteins and explored their relationship with disease-causing mutations.
2020 Dr. Ordobadi studied nanoparticles for delivery of small molecule drugs and nucleic acids. Through her studies, she looked at the effect of nanoparticle composition on therapeutic relevance. Her findings can ultimately be used to develop treatments for a range of diseases.
2020 Dr. Ren discovered a novel mechanism that increases the coding capacity of a virus through an intergenic region internal ribosome entry site (IRES). This study will further our understanding of IRES' mediated translation initiation and reading frame decoding, which will inform our ability to recognize and treat viruses.
2020 Dr. Wang's research characterized the structure of the calmodulin protein, which is mutated in people who have heart rhythm disorders. Her findings demonstrate that each mutation causes disease through distinct mechanisms. This work will improve our understanding of heart rhythm disorders and their causes.
2019 Yeast is a single-celled organism that has been used to model human biology and disease. Dr. Hamza tested the extent to which human genes can replace the similar yeast genes and operate in a yeast cell. These humanized yeast cells were used as a platform to study mutations found in cancer and model the activity of a cancer specific drug target.
2019 Dr. Cheung studied the genome targeting mechanism of the Ty1 jumping gene element using budding yeast as a model organism. She discovered the cellular components that Ty1 hijacks. Due to the conservation between Ty1 and retroviruses such as HIV, her work will ultimately help with better design of anti-viral drugs or viral vectors for gene therapy.

Pages

Further Information

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.

Faculty Overview

Program Identifier

VGDPHD-CP
 

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January 2025 Intake

Application Open Date
01 September 2023
Canadian Applicant Deadline
15 May 2024
International Applicant Deadline
15 May 2024
 
Supervisor Search
 

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