Department of Biology

Message from the Chair of Biology

Biology is the study of life. Its scope ranges from the molecular interactions within cells to the complex biodiversity of a rain forest. Biology deals with fundamental questions such as the origin and evolution of plants and animals, interactions between living organisms and their environment, mechanisms of embryonic development, structure and function of the living cell and its organelles, molecular basis of inheritance, biochemical and genetic basis of human diseases, and the operation of the brain and the nervous system. The study of Biology has vast practical applications in agriculture, medicine, biotechnology, genetic engineering, environmental protection and conservation.

The programs in Biology provide you with an introduction to the broad spectrum of Biological Sciences in contrast to more specialized programs in Biochemistry, Microbiology, Pharmacology, Physiology and Anatomy and Cell Biology. The B.Sc. degree in Biology prepares you for a wide range of employment opportunities as well as entry to professional schools in medicine, veterinary science, dentistry, agriculture, nursing, education and library science. It also provides solid background for those interested in careers related to environmental protection, wildlife management, biotechnology and genetic engineering. The B.Sc. degree in Biology can also lead to post-graduate studies and research careers in universities, research institutes, hospitals, and industrial or governmental laboratories.

The Department of Biology's well-equipped research laboratories are located in the Stewart Biology Building, 1205 Docteur Penfield Avenue and in the adjacent Bellini Life Sciences Building. Due to massive renovations that began in the Fall of 2017, only the North Wing of the Stewart Building is currently in use and freshman biology labs have temporarily moved into the Duff Medical Building. The Department includes many biologists who are international leaders in their research fields, but who nevertheless remain deeply committed to undergraduate education. We have outstanding infrastructure for cell, developmental and neurobiology research, and extensive links to biomedical scientists throughout McGill and all over the world. Our ecology and evolutionary biology group is also internationally prominent and dedicated to studying aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

We have created a core undergraduate program that will expose you to the broad areas of biology at all of these levels of complexity. At the same time you will be able to concentrate on topics related to your specific interests through complementary and elective courses. Once you are past the large introductory classes, our class sizes are relatively small and you will have lots of opportunities for contact with your instructors; this is one of our strengths! Biology's teaching and research resources are extended by affiliation with the Redpath Museum, the hospitals and research institutes of the McGill University Health Centre, the Montreal Neurological Institute, the Sheldon Biotechnology Institute and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Field courses enable you to study biology in a natural setting, in local ecosystems (e.g., at McGill’s Gault Nature Reserve), and in distant ones such as Barbados, Panama, and East Africa.

The Biology Department is also deeply committed to providing individual research experiences to its undergraduates. U2- and U3-level students, not just Honours program students, can carry out semester- or year-long independent study projects for course credit in Biology department research labs. Numerous summer opportunities are also available.

Gregor Fussmann
Chair, Department of Biology

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