Becoming a Graduate Student in McGill Biochemistry

Why should I?

  • McGill Department of Biochemistry offers research training over a wide range of topics in the field, and an opportunity to do research at a level comparable or superior to the best institutions in Canada, and competitive world-wide
  • Graduate work in our department emphasizes lab research, rather than coursework or additional examinations, and is streamlined compared to some other universities
  • Graduate degrees open up high-paying career possibilities in industry and academia

How do graduate degrees work?

  • Our graduate students are paid researchers – real scientists
  • Students with a BSc. join the program as MSc. students, and take two or more courses
  • After about two years, if the research is going well, students can continue in the same lab as PhD. students without having to finish the MSc. degree first
  • Completing an MSc. provides an early chance to switch labs or universities
  • An MSc. degree should take around 2 years, a PhD. around 5 years
  • An MSc. student should demonstrate technical proficiency; a PhD. student should demonstrate mastery of the research
  • Tip: join as an MSc. student, but envision yourself as a PhD.

How do I apply?

  • Instructions for submitting application packages are on the department web site Graduate admissions
  • Finding a good supervisor is key: do some background research on professors who interest you
  • Contact professors by e-mail, with copies of CVs and unofficial transcripts attached

What do I look for in a professor?

What kind of research does s/he do? Does the topic excite me?

  • Do a PubMed (not Google!) search of prospective supervisors, and of the research subject too
  • Read a few papers from prospective labs – not necessarily in great detail, but to get a feeling for the techniques and experimental models

What kind of group do I want to work in?

  • Large vs. small groups; established vs. expanding; teamwork vs. independence
  • Contact the professor by e-mail and ask for an interview in-person or by phone.
  • If possible, talk informally to people actually working in prospective labs – what is the atmosphere like? Who is around to train people? Labs are as different as the people in them

What can I do to prepare myself?

  • Work in labs as a summer student, or for research project courses (BIOC462 and BIOC491 at McGill, or the equivalent in your BSc program)
  • Look for part-time work in labs during the school year
  • Ace your exams...

Who else can I talk to?

  • Try the BGSS (Biochem Grad Students Society) for a student viewpoint, contact us: mcgill.bgss [at]
  • Contact the Student Affairs Officer, christine.laberge [at] (Christine Laberge) and make an appointment


Back to top