We are so excited to be returning to primarily in-person learning in Fall 2021! Although larger lectures will likely remain online, McGill students will have the opportunity to study and interact with peers in-person. We understand that the tumultuous circumstances of the past year have increased apprehension about change, but McGill and the Biochemistry department are confident that courses can be delivered safely while maintaining the academic rigor that McGill is known for. In-person learning in the Biochemistry department means a return to the lectures, lab work, and research that we know and love, and a hands-on introduction to techniques and skills that will prove useful in any future career or graduate program.
Should you choose to major in Biochemistry at McGill, know that you will be supported not only by your professors and TAs, but by your fellow students as well, through the Biochemistry Undergraduate Society (BUGS). This letter was written by various members of the BUGS council to provide a student perspective on the Biochemistry program at McGill, and to shed light on the vast array of resources, both academic and social, that BUGS will provide for you, should you choose to major in Biochemistry at McGill.
Why McGill Biochemistry?
So why should you choose Biochemistry over another life science program? As you may have noticed, many people refer to the two Biochemistry lab courses when talking about what makes the Biochemistry program difficult. These courses are demanding, true, but they offer what is likely the best introduction to real world research in the biological sciences that you can get at McGill. As a result, Biochemistry graduates often find themselves very well prepared when continuing on the path of biological research.
If you have an interest in Chemistry as well as Biology, Biochemistry just might be the program for you. As the name implies, Biochemistry combines many aspects of Molecular Biology and both Organic and Physical chemistry. As such, the Biochemistry program leaves graduates with a more robust background in Chemistry than most other life science programs do, which will prove very useful should you decide to shift your focus towards the chemical sciences later on.
Another great aspect of Biochemistry at McGill is the student community. As the program is not very large, you are likely to get to know many of your peers well and forge meaningful connections. Lab courses are particularly strong in this regard; you are likely to be well acquainted with everyone in your group by the end of a course. BUGS also hosts a number of very fun social events, so you will certainly not be at a loss for things to do if you choose Biochemistry.
All in all, Biochemistry at McGill is a challenging but extremely rewarding life sciences program. If you’re considering a future in medicine or the biological/chemical sciences, Biochemistry at McGill is an excellent choice for your undergraduate program.
What resources does the Biochemistry Undergraduate Society provide for students?
BUMP: Biochemistry Undergraduate Mentoring Program
The first year in any new program is undoubtedly intimidating. You might be new to McGill, or you might have completed the freshman program: either way, starting a major in Biochemistry at McGill means more difficult courses than ever before, and entering a cohort of like-minded individuals who will probably become some of your closest friends by the end of the 3-year program. Because making friends and starting new courses can be very daunting, BUGS has implemented the Biochemistry Undergraduate Mentoring Program (BUMP) to help your U1 year feel a little less scary. BUMP matches U1 Biochemistry student mentees with Biochemistry upperclassmen mentors. Mentors can help guide mentees through completing tough coursework, meeting peers in Biochemistry, and securing research positions. They provide a unique student perspective, as they were once U1’s in Biochemistry as well. During the pandemic, BUMP mentors hold an especially important role, as communication becomes even more difficult over virtual platforms. Even with some courses remaining remote, BUMP is here to ensure that your U1 year is everything you envisioned it to be, both academically and socially. Signup for BUMP will open in August or September this year, and mentees will be matched with mentors shortly after the start of the school year.
BUGS wants to hear your feedback on courses and advocate for changes you would like to see! We have a very good relationship with the Biochemistry department, and that’s why we write our own course evaluations (in addition to Mercury course evaluations which are run through McGill) for courses including BIOC 212, BIOC 220, BIOC 311, etc. These are made by students, for students - and are completely anonymous. We cater the questions to students’ concerns and needs. Keep an eye out for these at the end of the term on our website and in our listserv! We want to hear what you thought about your courses, especially those delivered remotely.
Note Taker’s Club
Each of the Biochemistry classes offers a wealth of resources to help you succeed, from your helpful teaching assistants (TAs) to professors’ office hours. However, if you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of material, the Note Takers’ Club (NTC) offers comprehensive sets of notes (for a fee) assembled based on class materials. These notes are reviewed by BUGS members and have served as a great study supplement to many students over the years. If you have great note-taking skills, keep an eye out for writer and editor job listings at the beginning of the semester.
Throughout the year, BUGS organizes a series of events to help bring the Biochemistry community together. Here is a teaser of just a few events that you won’t want to miss. First, we organize a U1 student welcome event, where you can make new friends or meet your future study partner that will accompany you through the intense study sessions to come. Another event worth keeping in mind is Research Awareness Day (RAD). We understand that many students are interested in getting involved with research at McGill. We also understand that the process of finding a research position can be daunting to new students. As such, BUGS invites a panel of Biochemistry professors to showcase their research at RAD. After their presentations, you will have a chance to chat with the professors whose research interests you the most in more intimate groups. At the end of the day, you will have a better understanding of the research that is being done in the department to help you narrow down your search, and maybe you will also walk away with an offer to join one of the many research groups in the Biochemistry department.
How can you stay ‘in the know’ about BUGS resources and events?
The best way to stay informed about Biochemistry Undergraduate Society events and resources is through your McGill email. Every week, BUGS sends a listserv to your email detailing everything going on in the world of McGill Biochemistry. Expect to see announcements for upcoming BUGS events, links to course evaluations, updates on the BUMP program, opportunities to become a writer for the Note Takers’ Club (NTC), and so much more. There is no need to sign up for our listserv: if you’re in McGill Biochemistry, it will be sent to your McGill email automatically.
Another great avenue for contact with BUGS is our ‘BUGS McGill’ Facebook page. Not only will important updates and events be posted here, but you can use this Facebook page to reach out to us as well. We are always responding to messages about BUGS or McGill Biochemistry in general, so please don’t hesitate to reach out!
We have a website! Be sure to check out http://bugs.sus.mcgill.ca/ for everything BUGS and McGill Biochemistry all in one convenient place.
Lastly, we know that sometimes you may have more pressing concerns about BUGS or McGill Biochemistry, so we want to provide an avenue for you to contact us directly. For academic concerns, please email bugs.daa [at] gmail.com (Yi Fei), our Director of Academic Affairs. It is important to note that our Director of Academic Affairs is not involved with course registration, so please contact your academic advisor for issues in this domain. For any other concerns, you can contact bugs.president [at] gmail.com (Michael), our President.