Departments and institutes

UBC Science is organized into 12 departments and academic units offering an exceptional range of research and study opportunities.


One of the largest and strongest of its kind in North America, the department is a focal point for research and education in plant science—from plant and microbial ecology and evolution, to molecular genetics and biochemistry. The departmental community consists of 28 full-time faculty members, 100 graduate students, numerous post-doctoral fellows and research associates, laboratory technicians, and a support staff.

Department Head: Shawn Mansfield


From ultra-cold condensates to living systems – faculty and students probe the molecular properties of matter to make discoveries such as the first noble gas compounds. Recent renovations to the historic Chemistry building and joint space shared with the Department of Physics have enhanced interdisciplinary research opportunities and gives the department one of the most comfortable and up-to-date research spaces in North America.

Department Head: Michael Wolf

Computer Science

The top computer science department in Western Canada, and one of the top three in Canada. Recognized internationally for excellence in research and teaching with a conscious focus on interdisciplinary programs, the Department of Computer Science encourages diversity both within its community and areas of study, and plays a leadership role in research, teaching and outreach activities to champion the understanding and integration of computer science within all aspects of society.

Department Head: Joanna McGrenere & Margo Seltzer

Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences

In the largest and most competitive department of its kind in the country, faculty and students are dedicated to understanding how the earth works – from core to stratosphere. The Department brings together a dynamic, diverse group of scientists and engineers. The research focus of the department extends from pure science studies of the earth`s deep interior, through near-surface geological studies and environmental earth science, to the oceans and atmosphere.

Department Head: Philippe Tortell

Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries

The UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries (IOF) brings together a community of experts in ocean and freshwater species, systems, economics, and issues—and provides new insights into how our marine systems function, and the impacts of human activity on those systems.

Director: William Cheung

Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability

The Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES) is a problem-focused and curiosity-driven interdisciplinary research institute and graduate program, with interest and expertise in a wide range of topics under the realm of environment and sustainability.

Director: Navin Ramankutty


A world leader in research areas such as probability and number theory, the Department of Mathematics at UBC is one of the leading mathematics departments in Canada. Department faculty have won half of the major Canadian Math Society research prizes in the past five years, as well as other prestigious institute and society awards. The department offers students lively programs exploring pure and applied mathematics.

Department Head, Interim: Daniel Coombs

Microbiology and Immunology

With faculty members recognized around the world for contributions in microbiology, molecular biology and immunology, the Microbiology and Immunology offers excellent facilities and a strong support staff. The department also provides a stimulating environment in which to pursue a graduate or undergraduate research program—students experience the most up to date molecular approaches to the study of problems in microbiology and immunology.

Department Head: Michael Murphy

Michael Smith Laboratories

The Michael Smith Laboratories is an interdisciplinary research unit that supports a diverse mix of biologists and engineers from the faculties of Science, Medicine, Applied Science, Forestry, and Land and Food Systems. Founded by the Nobel Laureate Dr. Michael Smith in 1987 as the Biotechnology Laboratory, his vision was to accelerate collaborative research and promote science literacy through outreach programming. With more than 300 researchers, the Michael Smith Laboratories aims to inspire creative ideas and lead the discovery of innovative solutions to society’s most pressing health and environmental needs.

Director: Martin Hirst

Physics and Astronomy

An international leader in general relativity, superconductivity and subatomic physics, the Department of Physics and Astronomy stimulates student learning through inquiry and hands-on exposure to contemporary science and technology. The department attracts and trains outstanding local, national and international students, and conducts forefront research that probes the big unsolved questions of life and the universe.

Department Head: Colin Gay


Teaching and research at the Department of Statistics focuses on methodology for quantitative studies in virtually every discipline in the sciences, social sciences and engineering. The department boasts 18 regular faculty members, four professors emeriti, and a number of associate members. Graduate students, postdocs, and collaborators are a critical component of this research-intensive academic department.

Department Head: Paul Gustafson


With strong roots in fisheries and fish technology, the Department of Zoology’s faculty and students pursue 21st-century questions in developmental biology, comparative animal physiology, ecology and evolution. The department encompasses over 50 principal investigators and vigorously promotes integrative research in biology and actively participates in several interdisciplinary programs, including the graduate programs in genetics, neuroscience, applied mathematics and resource management.

Department Head: Jeffrey Richards