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Biological and Chemical Sciences

The PhD program in Biological and Chemical Sciences is research-based, and works on an apprenticeship model, where students work closely with a faculty supervisor. Student research falls within one or more of three areas of identified research strength: environment and health, biotic interactions, and structure and reactivity. The research component of the program is complemented by coursework, which is designed to emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary approaches to biological and chemical research.

The program prepares students for 21st-century careers in research and teaching, or other career opportunities in industry or government.

Research Strengths

Environment and Health

The environment and health area encompasses research directed at issues affecting the environment that may ultimately impact global health on a broader scale. Fundamental and applied research from various perspectives in both biology and chemistry are required to address the increasing concerns surrounding environmental and human health. Research in this area may focus more specifically on the environment itself, related health issues, or other aspects of their complex relationship.

Biotic Interactions

Research in this area focuses on the biotic interactions that occur at all levels of biological organization, how such interactions influence biochemical and cellular processes, and the fitness and survival of individuals, populations, and entire ecosystems. Research in this area may focus on theoretical and/or experimental skills needed for asking basic and applied questions in areas ranging from biophysics, chemical biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, cell biology and microbiology, to physiology, toxicology, and ecology and evolution.

Structure and Reactivity

Chemical and biological reactivity of molecules and supramolecular assemblies is tightly interrelated to their structure. Many areas in chemical and biological sciences, ranging from organic and organometallic chemistry to polymer and materials science, biochemistry and structural biology can be interconnected by studying the structure and function of molecules. The objective of research in this area is to understand how the structures of chemical and biological molecules influence function. Students will develop an understanding of the theoretical and/or experimental methods used for structure determination and explore the ways in which structure influences chemical and biochemical reactivity and/or biological processes.

Graduate Officers

The PhD program is administered jointly between the Biology and Chemistry and Biochemistry departments. The graduate officers, currently associate professors Geoff Horsman (Chemistry) and Michael Wilkie (Biology), are responsible for ensuring that the regulations for the PhD degrees are met, approving chairs for examinations, ranking and recommending students for scholarships and for the general conduct and operation of the graduate program.

Students are welcome to approach the graduate officers at any time for clarification of rules or for advice. In the rare instance of a disagreement between a student and the supervisory committee, attempts at resolution should first be directed to a graduate officer.

The graduate officers will also be responsible for ensuring that graduate teaching assistants work their assigned number of hours and do not exceed that number of hours.

The PhD Program Committee consists of the graduate officers and one graduate faculty member (from Biology or Chemistry & Biochemistry).


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Academic Advising

For academic advising, contact: