If you’re wondering what our degree is about, what you can do with a Biotechnology degree, if you should choose this specialization among the many UBC Science majors, or what requirements you need to enter our program, then you’re in the right place (for starters). We’ve compiled a short guide to help answer these questions and more.
What is Biotechnology?
In a nutshell, it’s using life to make life better! Biotechnology is a cross-functional and integrative approach that uses living organisms or their products for human or environmental benefit, to make a product, or solve a problem. Biotechnology encompasses all the biological sciences, as well as information technology and health care. Real-life applications include stem cell research, making edible vaccines in fruits, developing new pharmaceuticals, finding uses of the human genome, discovering cancer targets, working on space colonization, and much, much more. If you’re familiar with films, Gattaca, Jurassic Park, Splice, Unknown, and other films do show some aspects of Biotechnology, although movies can show some huge scientific misrepresentations.
What is the Biotechnology program?
Established as a joint program between BCIT and UBC’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, the Biotechnology program offers the best of both institutions. Through the 5 years of the UBC-BCIT Biotechnology program, you’ll get two certifications: a B.Sc. Honours in Biotechnology and a Diploma of Technology in Biotechnology. Additionally, you’ll get 16 months of paid Co-op work experience and Honours standing, which means you may be eligible to bypass a Masters program and go straight into a PhD after graduation.
Which courses will I take?
Another advantage of the Biotech program is that you take a wide variety of courses, so you learn a lot from different fields and get to see them integrate and overlap in labs and lectures. You also take non-Science courses designed to build your soft skills and improve your communication, critical thinking, and presentation skills. You’ll learn more about the industry and how it works, as well as branch out into areas like business. More detailed course descriptions are available here.
BCIT First Year → Lab Safety, Microbiology, Intro to Biotech, Animal Physiology, Organic Chemistry, Communications, Info Tech, Animal Cell Biotechnology, Plant Anatomy and Physiology, Communications Workshop, Probability and Statistics
BCIT Second Year → Molecular Genetics, Plant Cell Biotechnology, Biochemistry, Intro to Pharmaceutical Development, Process Systems, Analytical Chemistry, Applied Ethics, Virology and Immunology, Management and Regulatory Affairs, Management Skills and Applications, Critical Reading and Writing
UBC Fourth and Fifth Years → A HUGE selection of courses in Microbiology, Biochemistry, Commerce, Biology, and Medical Genetics. A full list is available here.
What sort of lab experience will I get?
If you like labs, you will love this program! Not only does the joint UBC-BCIT Biotechnology program provide you with academic rigour at UBC, you get extensive laboratory training at BCIT. You’ll get an awesome 12-15 hours per week in our very own lab, where you will gain hands-on experience. By the end of it, you will have an expansive range of lab skills including PCR, gel-electrophoresis, Western blot, bacterial culture, cell passaging, and plant micropropagation. Most employers and co-workers are impressed by our technical proficiency and we’ve even been compared to Masters and PhD students in terms of our lab skills! Some examples of our experiments include using microarray chips to compare expression of a gene, determining the efficiency of transfection methods on animal cell cultures, and using recombinant viruses to infect cells and measure their level of fluorescence. Don’t know what any of that means? Don’t worry! We didn’t either; all you really need is an enthusiasm for science!
What is the workload like?
Like any Honours program, the workload will probably be heavier than in first-year university. You can expect around 20 hours of classes per week, as well as 4-5 3+ hour labs. A benefit of this workload type is that grading is spread out over the term, so instead of your final mark being dependent on a 40% midterm and a 60% final, it will be broken down into smaller assignments, reports, and quizzes. We find that another benefit of this is that it forces you to stay on top of what’s going on in class, so you’re not scrambling to re-learn a whole terms worth of material before the final. Students who took IB and AP in high school will find the workload fairly easy to adjust to.
What is Co-op?
One of the advantages of coming into the Biotechnology program is the automatic enrollment into our Co-op program, meaning you will get 16 months of paid work experience related to Biotechnology. You get access to job websites, workshops, and resources while building up some great work experience in the field and opening up the possibilities in your future career. You can check out what we’ve written about Co-op, or the official UBC Science Co-op and BCIT Co-op sites.
What is BCIT like?
You may be hesitant to join the program because you don’t know much about BCIT and are worried about switching schools. Located in Burnaby, BCIT’s main campus actually does quite well in offering good facilities and student life. Some of our students use the gym and basketball courts on a regular basis, and others have taken dance or fitness classes at the recreation centre. There’s also a nice trail that wraps around the field, which the teachers use to go for lunch walks.
The library has lots of study areas, including the workspace downstairs, called the ehPod. The hidden gems of BCIT are probably the numerous computer labs; they are open late (some say as late as 1am) and have updated hardware. There are enough of the computer labs so you don’t have to wait around for someone to leave, like in Irving, and you don’t have to wait for the computer’s lag, like in Woodward (two of the libraries at UBC). SW-1 has a brand new Gateway building, which houses student services, labs, classrooms, exam and project rooms, and study areas.
There are many student clubs (the UBC-BCIT Biotechnology Club being one of them!) and something is usually going on in the Great Hall, the main lounge space at the Burnaby campus, or Professor Mug’s, the campus bar. Additionally, Metrotown, the largest mall in British Columbia, is just a 10 minute transit away, and the campus is well-connected by frequent buses and Skytrain stations to the North and South. On-campus housing is available (see BCIT’s housing site for more details), and off-campus housing is another good alternative.
If you can’t bear the thought of being away from UBC, remember, it’s temporary and after two years, you’ll be right back! Additionally, you can choose to do your Co-op terms or some summer courses at UBC. Some of our students have maintained close bonds with their UBC friends and clubs, so it’s definitely possible to stay connected.
What are the teachers like?
The instructors at BCIT are probably the best part of this program. You may have seen a white-haired, moustached man in your Biology class at UBC advertising our program. That man is Keith Turner, our awesome Plant Science instructor. He is just one of the many knowledgeable, caring, funny Biotechnology program instructors who will help you learn and grow. Our instructors have experience in academia as well as working in industry settings, and they always make themselves available for questions or chats. Each instructor will know your first name, last name, tendency to ask questions, how well you usually come prepared for lab, and more. Basically, you’ll know them on a first-name basis!
What are the entry requirements?
|Courses (UBC 100-level)||Number of courses||Credits||UBC Equivalency|
|Biology||2||6||Two of BIOL 111, 112, 121, or other 100-level BIOL|
|Chemistry||2||8||CHEM 121+123 OR CHEM 111+113|
|English||2||6||Any two 100-level English or SCIE 113|
|Math||1||3||One of MATH 100/102/104 (or 110, 120, 180, 184)|
(Info from UBC Calendar)
- Requirements must have been completed within the past 5 years
- There is no interview, and you will mostly be admitted according to GPA. Extracurriculars and personal achievements may be taken into account, so don’t let bad grades prevent you from applying!
- 22 students are accepted each year.
More program entry information can be found here.
First Year Science Students:
If you are from UBC, have completed the requirements in the table above, and have a GPA of 70% or better, you will be directed by UBC sometime in late May to go online and select your top 3 choices for your major. Simply select Biotech as your first choice and you’re done!
Students from other institutions (eg. SFU, BCIT degree transfer, Douglas College, etc), please apply though BCIT directly, as below.
Second Year Students or Students With GPA <70%:
You will need to apply through the BCIT Biotechnology Program Head, Carol Fong (Carol_Fong@bcit.ca). You can also apply through the BCIT Biotech website. You will need to submit your resume and a completed questionnaire form (PDF) before June 1.
Students Missing Prerequisites:
You should still apply! If you are missing one or two of the prerequisite courses, these can be taken at UBC over the summer. You can be granted conditional acceptance (a spot in the program) if you successfully complete the missing prerequisite courses.
You will need to apply through the BCIT Biotechnology Program Head, Carol Fong (Carol_Fong@bcit.ca). You can also apply through the BCIT Biotech website. You will need to submit your resume and a filled out questionnaire form (PDF) before June 1.
If you have a GPA over 70%, you should submit required forms to UBC Admissions before January 31. More details are at BCIT’s program entry site.
How competitive is the admission?
If you’re discouraged from applying because you don’t think your application will be strong enough for one of the 20 or so spots in each year, please reconsider! In fact, a little reverse psychology goes on and students who may have been accepted don’t apply because they don’t think they’ll get in. We’re not saying admission is guaranteed, but your chances are a lot better if you apply.
How much will it cost?
Tuition fees are similar to the cost of tuition at UBC. Fees (tuition, student fees, insurance) for the 2010/2011 year were $3015.17 per term and $458.27 for the Co-op term. You will spend less on books and supplies than suggested on BCIT’s program costs site, as you’ll be able to get a good deal from students in years above you and some textbooks will be optional. BCIT also offers the U-Pass, so you’ll get the extra benefit paying significantly less than $81 for a monthly transit pass!
Are there any difficulties in transferring from UBC to BCIT?
The people in charge of admissions have made things pretty seamless, so we don’t know of any major difficulties. Going back to UBC is also pretty easy; most of us just have to adjust to course selection, which we haven’t done in two years. Academically, the instructors always prepare you and challenge you in lectures and labs so you won’t have a difficult time when you get back to UBC. Bill Ramey, the Undergraduate Advisor for UBC Microbiology and Immunology, also has an information session with the BCIT 2nd years to prep them on the transition to UBC.
What can I do after graduation?
What are some things you can do after graduation from the Biotechnology program? Our alumni are everywhere: Med school, Law school, Business school, Dental school, getting higher degrees, in the workforce right after grad, and much more. Really, the degree is flexible enough to get you anywhere you want to be.
Where can I go for more information?