Biochemistry and molecular biology investigates the relationships of chemical structure to the function of biological compounds. To achieve these goals, biochemistry uses a specific approach that combines basic principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics to dissect complex biological processes.
Over the past 50 years the biochemical approach has been spectacularly successful in providing fundamental explanations for biological events. Technologies based on biochemistry are used in all areas of biological and biomedical science.
Investigating simple life forms has helped us to understand similar processes in complex organisms, and has resulted in the emergence of common themes in metabolism and in the structure and function of biologically important molecules. This knowledge allows biochemists and biomedical scientists to develop or improve pharmaceutical, industrial, bio-technological and food products and to monitor biological processes. It assists biomedical scientists and physicians to define the normal state, to describe the biochemical and molecular basis of disease and to improve diagnosis and therapy.
Biochemistry requires a good foundation in chemistry, biology and related subjects.
The Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology is in the Faculty of Medicine and provides a core component of the metabolism and function unit in the first year undergraduate medical program. We offer Minor, Major, Double Major, Co-op and Honours BSc programs through the Faculty of Science as well as MSc and PhD programs through the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
- First year: students study chemistry, biology, and mathematics.
- Second year: courses in analytical and organic chemistry, cell biology, genetics and introductory biochemistry.
- Third and fourth years: advanced level courses focus on different aspects of biochemistry such as biotechnology, enzymes, intracellular communication, metabolism, and proteins. In addition, relevant courses in related subjects are available (for example immunology, microbiology, neurobiology, pathology, pharmacology, physiology, and more advanced chemistry).
The department has a strong research focus, with a breadth and calibre indicated by our research funding from sources such as:
- Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
- Heart and Stroke Foundation
- Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute (formerly the National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC))
- National Health and Research Development Program (NHRDP)
- Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
- Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation (NSHRF)
- Canadian Diabetes Association
- Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International (JDRF)
Our research strengths include molecular evolution, cell signalling, gene expression and protein chemistry. A vital component of our research activity is our commitment to training students for successful careers in academic, medical and industrial settings. This training includes not only laboratory work, but also guided seminar presentations and discussion groups to develop the well-rounded researcher. Our students' successes have established a reputation of excellence for our training program.
These degrees open the door to a variety of careers. Many biochemistry graduates find employment in government and industrial laboratories. Government laboratories are concerned with monitoring policies and research in agriculture, fisheries and forestry. The RCMP employs biochemists in forensic science laboratories. There are also opportunities in clinical diagnostic medicine in hospitals and in the numerous companies now providing diagnostic procedures. The pharmaceutical, brewing and food processing industries employ biochemists. Monitoring and control of pollution are also expanding fields for biochemists. Recent advances in molecular biology and genetics has given biochemistry a major role in the biotechnology industry. The creation of many jobs at the BSc level is expected as the biotechnology industry moves from a research base to a manufacturing base. Biochemistry will continue to be a very good preparation for the professions of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy. Opportunities exist in universities and research institutes for biochemists with post graduate degrees.