Dear McGill Biochemistry Students,
First, I would like to congratulate you on having been accepted to pursue undergraduate studies in Biochemistry at McGill University. I do not need to tell you that McGill University is not only one of the leading institutions of higher learning in Canada, but also among the top research-intensive academic institutions in the world. Furthermore, the Department of Biochemistry is recognized as one of the very best life-science departments, with our professors spearheading cutting-edge and ground-breaking research; research you will have an opportunity to participate in. Therefore, having been accepted to join our department is a testament to your past scholarly achievements and a recognition of your academic potential. Again, congrats!
In my assessment, now is the most exciting time to study biochemistry. Over the last 2-3 decades, biochemistry has evolved from a science that describes how “life” is maintained at a molecular level, to a science that can pinpoint in amazing detail the molecular basis of diseases, and we are presently at the stage where biochemistry offers practical solutions. Thanks to the ever-growing knowledge of biochemistry, leveraged with new enabling technologies, such various -omix approaches, CRISPR-CAS, high-resolution cryo-EM, the use of AI, etc., it is now possible to do research in months that less than a decade ago would have taken years…. and excitingly, this research now has direct medical implications and applications.
What does this mean for you as a student in our department? Studying biochemistry at McGill is not about memorizing pathways. On the contrary: it is about discovering how intricately linked all the molecular constituencies are that make a living organism and how disruptions in these connections impact that organism, it is about learning to do the right experiment to get the right answer for the right question, and it is about receiving the skills and training so you can contribute to the medical revolution that is underway right now. Indeed, because biochemistry is an experimental science, you will not just have lecture courses, but critically the program has an emphasis on teaching you how to do experiments. For this, you will be taught by those that have contributed to the science underlying your textbooks and are leading the research that will be described in future chapters. Excitingly, you will have many opportunities to contribute to those next chapters by participating in one or more of our research project courses. Know that, for example, some of your predecessors have contributed to foundational knowledge that underpins the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, so …. Who knows what your contributions will be.
Of course, being a student at McGill is not only about taking courses. The Biochemistry Program is very fortunate to have a very active undergraduate student society: BUGS (Biochemistry Undergraduate Society). BUGS provides additional support to our students through mentorship programs, opportunities to meet professors and other professionals with a biochemistry background, a variety of social events and countless other resources, thereby further ensuring that your time at McGill will be an invaluable experience that will prepare you for the rest of your life.
Wishing you a wonderful experience as a McGill student in our Biochemistry Program and looking forward to seeing you on campus, in our lecture courses, our teaching labs and our research labs.
Albert Berghuis, Ph.D.
Distinguished James McGill Professor and Chair