Explore UBC Science Program Specializations
Astronomers use principles of physics and mathematics to learn about the fundamental nature of the Universe, including the Sun, Moon, other planets and moons, asteroids and comets, stars, our Milky Way and other galaxies, and cosmology. The phenomena they explore include the births, evolution, and deaths of stars - from protostars to red giants, and the stellar corpses of white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes, as well as properties of galaxies and the origin and evolution of the Universe.Astronomers also apply their knowledge to celestial navigation, space flight, and satellite communications, and to develop the telescopes, instrumentation and techniques used to collect, analyse and interpret astrophysical data.
- Major, Astronomy
- Combined Honours, Physics and Astronomy
Atmospheric Science includes the study of the physical processes of the atmosphere, and the atmosphere's interaction with land and oceans. Some of the topics encompassed by atmospheric science are: air pollution, air chemistry and cloud and precipitation physics. One of the most prominent characteristics of the weather and climate is its changeability. The problems of forecasting the day-to-day weather (meteorology) and the climate are also encompassed in this field. Some professionals with Atmospheric Science backgrounds become meteorologists and climatologists and work in weather forecasting. They use numerical computer models of the local or global airflow to guide weather prediction and storm forecasting and aid in understanding environmental conditions such as air pollution. Other professionals continue to work in research nationally and internationally in industry and government.Academic Calendar Entry
- Major or Honours, Atmospheric Science
- Combined Honours, Atmospheric Science and Computer Science
This specialization in Behavioural Neuroscience will not be admitting new students as of 2022W. Students interested in neuroscience should apply for the new Neuroscience specialization. For 2022W only: the required courses for entry into the Neuroscience specialization will be the same as for the Behavioural Neuroscience specialization.
Behavioural neuroscience is considered to be both a branch of psychology and a branch of neuroscience. Behavioural neuroscientists are neuroscientists who bring to their research a knowledge of behaviour and of the methods of behavioural research. It is their behavioural orientation and expertise that make their contribution to neuroscience unique. Behavioural neuroscience is a tremendously varied field composed of individuals engaged in a wide variety of research and non-research activities. Behavioural neuroscientists conduct both basic and applied neuroscientific and/or psychological research, they serve as consultants to communities and organizations, they diagnose and treat people, and they teach future behavioural neuroscientists and other types of students. They assess behavioural and mental functioning—stepping in to help when appropriate
- Major or Honours, Psychology
Biochemistry is the field of chemistry that deals with the chemical compounds and processes that occur in plants, animals, and microorganisms. Specifically it involves the analysis of proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids, which comprise the basic constituents of cells. The work of biochemists goes towards, for example, mass-producing chemicals that are usually found in the body in very tiny amounts. Such chemicals have been helping diabetics and heart attack victims for years. They also work to discover the full genetic code of humans (the Human Genome Project), and create genetically engineered crops that are supposed to be more resistant to adverse weather conditions, spoilage, disease, and pests.Academic Calendar Entry
- Major or Honours, Biochemistry
Biology is a very broad field dedicated to the study of all aspects of living things and their vital processes. It encompasses the study of animals, plants, insects, and microbes as well as their relationships with their environments. Biologists work in industry, government labs, universities, park services, consulting companies, and other areas. Consider the range of occupational fields in the life sciences: agronomy, biophysics, developmental biology, environmental law, forensic entomology, forestry, genetic counseling, immunology, medical practice, molecular biology, neurobiology, secondary school teaching, veterinary medicine, and much more.Academic Calendar Entry
- Major or Honours, Biology
- Honours, Animal Biology
- Honours, Cell and Developmental Biology
- Combined Major or Combined Honours, Computer Science and Biology
- Honours, Conservation Biology
- Honours, Ecology and Environmental Biology
- Honours, Evolutionary Biology
- Honours, Marine Biology
- Honours, Plant Biology
- Combined Honours, Chemical Biology (See Chemistry)
- Combined Major or Combined Honours, Biology and Oceanography
The primary objective of the Biophysics program is to give students a good working knowledge of one subfield in the biological sciences at the senior undergraduate level. Students graduating in the program will also have an understanding of the basic concepts and quantitative skills of physics. It is intended that graduates of this program will be able to go to graduate school in biological sciences or physics with minimal remedial work.
- Honours Biophysics
Biotechnology is the scientific manipulation of living organisms, especially at the molecular genetic level. One of the biggest applications of biotechnology is the genetic engineering of certain food crops to incorporate desirable traits in them, such as disease or pest resistance. Computers are used to closely study the genetic structure of organisms and tools such as the 'gene gun' are used to introduce desirable genes into the DNA of organisms. Biotechnology is also vital to the medical field in creating new medicines, as well as applicable to the environmental sector, for example in the development of bacteria that consume toxic chemicals and reduce pollution. There are also much older forms of biotechnology that include biological techniques used for brewing wine and beer, and for making bread and cheese.
- Honours, Biotechnology
Botany is the branch of biology that involves the study of the structure, properties and biochemical processes of all forms of plant life, including algae, fungi, ferns and trees. Also included within its scope are plant classification and the study of plant diseases, as well as the interactions of plants with people and their physical environment. Positions for people with botany backgrounds are usually in educational institutions, government and environmental organizations and in industry. Drug companies, the oil and chemical industries, lumber and paper companies, seed and nursery companies, fruit growers, fermentation industries (including breweries), and biotechnology firms all hire people trained in botany. Environmental concerns, such as air, water and soil pollution, will create openings for ecologists in government and industry. The search for new drugs and medicines and useful genes for improving crop plants will continue to create a need for botanical explorers.Academic Calendar Entry
- Major or Honours Biology Plant Biology
Cellular and Physiological Sciences
Physiology explores the basis of life. Physiologists view life from the simplest to the most complex levels of organization--from the subcellular to the whole person. For example, they research the male and female reproductive systems, the process of birth, and the physiology of the fetus and newborn. Some physiologists study neurophysiology in an attempt to unravel mysteries of the brain with respect to control of eye and limb movements and the neural control of circulation. Others do cardiovascular research including the study of normal and abnormal heart rhythms, mechanisms of contraction of the heart, age-related changes in heart function, and the influence of the kidney in the control of blood pressure. Physiologists that study cellular physiology examine how the stomach is protected from its own acid, how nerve and muscle cells communicate with each other, how bone cells make and break down bone, and how various hormones are produced, secreted, and are involved in controlling cell function. Physiology provides the basic information for understanding the normal function of the body, explains how normal function may be altered in pathological conditions, and provides insight for developing strategies to manage and treat various diseases and conditions.Academic Calendar Entry
- Honours Cellular, Anatomical and Physiological Sciences
Chemistry is the study of matter and the changes matter undergoes. It can be applied to make stronger metals, to improve soil, and to destroy bacteria. It has also made possible the development of substances such as rubber, nylon, and plastics from other, completely different materials. Chemists play a key role in the development of drugs. They are involved in biochemistry and genetic engineering, which can lead to synthesizing useful products such as human insulin. They are also involved in environmental issues, helping to tap new sources of energy and replace the earth's finite reserves of petroleum. Chemists can also enter chemistry-related fields, such as materials science, biomedical sciences, bioengineering, chemical engineering, food science, pharmacology, toxicology, oceanography or marine science. An education in chemistry can also lead to medical, dental, osteopathic or veterinary school or professional studies in other health-related areas.Academic Calendar Entry
- Major or Honours, Chemistry
- Combined Honours, Chemistry and Mathematics
- Combined Honours, Chemical Biology
- Combined Honours, Chemical Physics (See Physics)
- Combined Honours, Chemistry and another science subject
Cognitive systems explores how intelligent systems (eg. human beings and autonomous robots) perceive, act upon and learn about their world. It sits at the intersection of computer science, linguistics, philosophy and psychology. It is the study of the systems that enable people to think, of the systems that can help and hinder our thinking, and of the artificial systems in which something like cognition is accomplished. UBC's COGS program provides students with a thorough grounding in the principles and techniques used by intelligent systems (both natural and artificial) to interact with the world around them. Strong, multidisciplinary foundations established through the COGS program provides our students with a unique, multifaceted perspective and prepares our graduates to think flexibly. People with backgrounds in cognitive systems design intelligent computer systems (for example, medical diagnosis systems), or may become psychiatrists or researchers in cognitive neuroscience. The field is useful to researchers who want to know how people take in and interpret information and communicate with language. All students in the COGS programme have a hands-on experience of research.Academic Calendar Entry
- Major Cognitive Systems: Cognition and Brain
- Major Cognitive Systems: Computational Intelligence and Design
Combined Major in Science
The CMS provides a structured curriculum that develops breadth by offering foundations in three discipline areas of science as well as an introduction in a fourth generalist requirement. Lab and field experiences through newly developed courses will promote experiential learning, and provide students the opportunity to understand how research is done. A statistics requirement will familiarize them with basic data interpretation and statistical modeling. A computing requirement will provide students with a basic ability in computation and data manipulation as well as develop problem-solving skills using computers. SCIE 300 (Communicating Science) will help students develop skills in critical evaluation and communication of scientific issues.
Computer science deals with using and improving computers as tools for numerous applications. For example, one stream of computer science is in computational intelligence, where people work to create computer systems that can perceive and reason about the world and surroundings. Bioinformatics is another stream in which computers are used to characterize and sequence the molecular components of living things. The Human Genome Project relied heavily on computer systems to store the human gene sequence. One can also study and design hardware and software programs and develop databases. Computer graphics and animation is another stream, which is used for creating games and movies and even modeling human body parts, which can be used to train medical students. Computer Science graduates move into high-tech careers as software engineers, systems analysts, technical writers, web developers, researchers, programmers, and software testers. They may also apply their computer skills to enhance careers as biologists, architects, foresters, teachers, and psychologists.Academic Calendar Entry
- Major or Honours, Computer Science
- Major or Honours, Computer Science (with Software Engineering option)
- Combined Major and Honours, Computer Science and Biology
- Combined Major, Computer Science and Another Science Subject
- Combined Major or Honours Computer Science & Microbiology and Immunology
- Combined Major and Honours, Computer Science and Mathematics
- Combined Major and Honours, Computer Science and Physics
- Combined Major and Honours, Computer Science and Statistics
- Combined Major, Computer Science and Chemistry
Earth and Ocean Sciences
Earth and ocean sciences spans virtually all aspects of understanding the history and dynamics of our planet, as well as how to best manage its resources and the environment we live in. The field is all about understanding how the earth works, from the core to the atmosphere, and from the distant genesis of our planet to current and future trends in environmental and global issues.Academic Calendar Entry
- Major, Earth and Ocean Sciences
Environmental Sciences is the application of scientific knowledge from many disciplines to issues and questions relating to the increase in human population, the sustainability of resource use, degradation caused by pollution and disturbance, and the endangerment and extinction of species and natural systems. There are many career opportunities in environmental sciences, as population and consumption rates rise alongside the Earth's finite space and resources. Some graduates choose to go into environmental protection or conservation, exploring ways of reducing pollution and finding alternate methods of extracting resources from the Earth that are minimally destructive. Others choose to enter the promotion and lobbying side of environmental science, increasing public awareness of environmental issues. It is also possible to work in the management sector by working in environmental policy and law. The opportunities to work in environmental science are certainly varied and diverse, as society becomes increasingly conscious of the vulnerability of Earth's ecosystems and inhabitants.
- Major or Honours, Environmental Sciences
Forensic science is the application of science to criminal and civil laws during a criminal investigation. The Biochemistry and Forensic Science specialization will provide students with job ready skills and abilities to become the future leaders of the forensic science and biochemistry industries. The curriculum taught at UBC and BCIT will include courses in core science and provide a broad exposure in biochemistry, forensic science, chemistry and molecular biology.
Graduates will be proficient at working in a laboratory setting and gain important critical-thinking and analytical skills. In addition, graduates will have conducted both academic and applied research, conducted forensic testing, and will be able to communicate their results effectively. Graduates will also have gained knowledge of the accredited laboratory environment, which will help expand their employability beyond accredited forensic laboratories. This program is the only forensic science bachelor of science degree offered in Western Canada.
BCIT Program Website
BCIT Program Advisor: Jason Moore
- Combined Honours, Biochemistry and Forensic Science
The program focuses on the fundamental interactions between life (including human societies) and the Earth's atmosphere, hydrosphere and geosphere. Students build on a broad base in the basic sciences by completing at least two of five upper-year 'concentrations' in biogeography, climatology, geographic information science, geomorphology or hydrology. With appropriately selected electives, this degree forms a suitable basis for completing the academic requirements for registration as a professional geoscientist, which is legally required of all people practicing geoscience in Canada. Students should also consider geoscience related electives in other departments.
- Major, Geographical Sciences
Geology is the science of the solid earth, including its composition, structure, physical properties, and history. Professionals in geological fields tend to have a strong background in chemistry and basic sciences, but they must also be able to integrate a wide variety of information in order to make decisions about where resources might be, how to extract them, what impact human activities will have on the Earth, and so on. Vancouver is the world capital for mineral exploration, and UBC has been supplying geologists to the mineral exploration industry for decades. Many graduates find work in the geo-environmental sector (especially within hydrogeology) or continue on to advanced studies at the graduate level and research careers in industry and academia.Academic Calendar Entry
- Major Geology
- Honours, Geological Sciences
- Combined Honours, Geology and another subject
- Combined Honours: Geology and Geography
Geophysics involves the use of physics and mathematics to understand the history, structure and processes of Earth and other planets. The field explores topics such as the cause of earthquakes and the Earth's magnetic field. Today's geophysicists contribute their expertise to solving a host of practical and fundamental problems that range from locating buried contaminants to using high-performance computers to simulate the flow of Martian ice caps. Many geophysics undergraduates find employment with companies involved in environmental engineering, petroleum exploration, or mineral exploration. Those who are interested in becoming research scientists continue their studies as graduate and postgraduate students.Academic Calendar Entry
- Major or Honours, Geophysics
- Combined Honours, Geophysics and another subject
The Integrated Sciences specialization is designed for students whose interests cross disciplinary boundaries within the sciences. It gives students the opportunity to design their own interdisciplinary course of study.
- Major or Honours, Integrated Sciences
Mathematics is a powerful tool for solving practical problems and a highly creative field of study, combining logic and precision with intuition and imagination. It is more than just numbers and rules for calculating with them. The basic goal of mathematics is to reveal and explain patterns - whether the pattern appears as electrical impulses in an animal's nervous system, as fluctuations in stock market prices, or as fine detail of an abstract geometric figure. The ability to simplify complex situations through abstraction and systematic reasoning is a great asset. However, math is not just an abstract, academic pursuit. There are many career opportunities for math students. A math background is one of the best ways to get into an Education program--there is a shortage of math teachers at the secondary school level, and teaching positions at the university and college level. The business and IT sectors also employ math grads, especially in the software industry, actuarial field, investment and banking.
- Major or Honours, Mathematics
- Major, Mathematical Sciences
- Combined Major, Mathematics and Economics
- Combined Major, Computer Science and Mathematics (See Computer Science)
- Combined Honours, Mathematics and another subject
Microbiology and Immunology
Microbiology is the study of minute, simple life forms (microbes), including bacteria, algae, fungi, protozoa, and viruses. Microbes are everywhere - in the air, in our food, and in our bodies. They are critically important in many processes of life on Earth and despite their small size, microbes exert a huge influence on all terrestrial and aquatic environments, thereby affecting all plants, animals, and humans. Immunology is the branch of science that deals with how the body defends itself against disease-causing microbes. Microbiology and immunology together involve studying how microbes can be controlled to prevent disease. Microbiology is one of the fastest developing fields of research in biology. Some examples of what microbiologists do include manipulating bacteria to produce useful products like human insulin, and using other microbes that naturally feed on pollutants to clean up polluted water bodies. They have also developed pesticides made out of microbes that attack only pests and not the plants they are sprayed on (unlike traditional chemical pesticides).Academic Calendar Entry
- Major or Honours, Microbiology and Immunology
- Combined Major or Combined Honours, Computer Science and Microbiology and Immunology
- Biotechnology in Microbiology and Immunology
Neuroscience is interdisciplinary by nature: It is a tremendously varied field composed of individuals engaged in a wide variety of research and non-research activities. Neuroscience has displayed accelerated growth in recent decades. In the past decade, biotechnological advances have dramatically expanded the toolkit of neuroscientists, further fueling this growth.
Neuroscientists conduct both basic and applied neuroscientific research, they serve as consultants to communities and organizations, they diagnose and treat people, and they teach future neuroscientists and other types of students. They assess behavioural and mental functioning—stepping in to help when appropriate. Neuroscience comprises a large number of subdisciplines, including but not limited to: neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, neuroendocrinology, neuropathology, neuropharmacology, neurophysiology, neuropsychology, behavioural neuroscience, and cognitive neuroscience.
Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia (UBC)
Neuroscience has been a research area within UBC for at least 6 decades. Currently, there are over 110 research faculty members on the UBC Vancouver campus who either identify as being neuroscientists or are involved in neuroscience-related research. Neuroscientists at UBC represent over 13 departments from the Faculties of Medicine, Science, and Arts. Laboratory and teaching areas are located across the UBC-Vancouver campus, at UBC Hospital, and at Vancouver General Hospital. Since 1984, there has been a graduate program in neuroscience at UBC, offering MSc and PhD degrees. The UBC graduate program in neuroscience is a multidisciplinary, research-oriented program administered through the Faculty of Medicine and the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at UBC, and aims to provide students with a broad knowledge of Neuroscience as well as intensive program in at least one area of research.
Beginning in 2022W, UBC’s Faculties of Science, Arts, and Medicine will offer an Undergraduate Program in Neuroscience at the UBC Vancouver Campus. This new BSc specialization in Neuroscience brings together research and teaching expertise spanning the three faculties and multiple departments to offer a unique interdisciplinary approach to neuroscience. Graduates with the Neuroscience specialization will be well positioned to apply their unique training to tackle complex problems in healthcare, research, and policy.Academic Calendar Entry
Oceanographers study the physical and chemical properties of ocean water, as well as the life within it, the sea floor and the ocean's connection to the rest of the planet. Oceanography draws from biology, physics, chemistry and geology, making it a truly multidisciplinary science. Oceanographers work in many different areas of the field. For example, the most popular conception of this vocation is in biological oceanography, where one studies the various ocean life forms and their relationships with each other, with humans, and with their environments. Other oceanographers study the physics of waves, tides, and currents, while others study the creation, evolution and structure of sea floors over time. Chemical oceanographers study properties and useful chemicals in seawater and analyze the effects of pollutants.
- Combined Major: Oceanography and Chemistry
- Honours, Fisheries Oceanography
- Combined Honours, Oceanography and another subject
Pharmacology is the science of drug action on biological systems. It deals with the sources, chemical properties, biological effects, mechanisms of action, therapeutic uses and adverse effects of drugs. It is a science that is basic not only to medicine, but also to pharmacy, nursing, dentistry, midwifery and veterinary medicine. Pharmacologists' work ranges from exploring the potential hazards of pesticides and herbicides, to developing treatment and prevention of major diseases by drug therapy. Pharmacologists are also involved in molecular modeling of drugs, and the use of drugs as tools to dissect aspects of cell function.Academic Calendar Entry
- Major or Honours, Pharmacology
Physics, which deals with matter and energy and the interactions between the two, allows us to understand phenomena that take place around us and in the universe. Physical laws help us perceive our world. Some physicists use these principles in theoretical areas, such as the nature of time and the origin of the universe; others apply their physics knowledge to the development of advanced materials, electronic and optical devices and medical equipment. Physicists design and perform experiments with lasers, cyclotrons, telescopes, mass spectrometers, and other equipment. Based on observations and analysis, they attempt to discover and explain laws describing the forces of nature, such as gravity, electromagnetism, and nuclear interactions. Physicists also find ways to apply physical laws and theories to problems in nuclear energy, electronics, optics, materials, communications, aerospace technology, navigation equipment, and medical instrumentation. Most physicists work in research and development. For example, basic research in solid-state physics led to the development of transistors and, then, of integrated circuits used in computers. Physicists also design research equipment. For example, lasers designed by physicists are used in surgery. Although physics research may require extensive experimentation in laboratories, research physicists also spend time in offices planning, recording, analyzing, and reporting on research.Academic Calendar Entry
- Major or Honours, Physics
- Honours, Biophysics
- Combined Honours, Physics and Astronomy
- Combined Major, Computer Science and Physics
- Combined Honours, Physics and another science subject
- Combined Honours, Chemical Physics
- Combined Honours, Physics and Mathematics
Statistics is a science that deals with collecting, organizing and analyzing data, and the theory for statistical methods involves mathematics and probability. Statisticians extract information from data. Nowadays, due to increased computer use, massive amounts of data are collected and, thus, statistics has become one of the most pervasive of all disciplines. Statisticians work in almost all areas of science, engineering, business, government and industry. Their expertise is required in practical projects such as the design of clinical trials to test a new drug, economic model-building to value financial instruments, assessment of risk factors to determine insurance premiums, predicting the outcome of a national election, conducting market research and estimating animal populations. The average citizen now requires some familiarity with statistical analysis in order to critically assess the steady flow of information in society.Academic Calendar Entry
- Major or Honours, Statistics
- Combined, Major Statistics and Economics
- Combined Major or Combined Honours, Computer Science and Statistics
- Combined Honours Mathematics and Statistics
Zoology is the study of animals, their function and way of life. It includes: development, evolution, ecology, physiology, and behaviour. Zoologists study everything from single-celled protozoa to whales. All aspects of animal function are included - molecular biology, cell ultrastructure, tissues and organs, and the physiology of animals, through to the interactions of individual animals, the dynamics of whole populations of animals, and the structures of communities and ecosystems. Some zoologists specialize in studying particular kinds of animals: entomologists study insects, herpetologists study amphibians and reptiles, ornithologists study birds and mammalogists study mammals. Other zoologists concentrate on special kinds of questions, such as: workings of digestive processes, mechanisms and function of aggressive behaviour, or the special adaptations of parasites. Yet other zoologists work in special fields: aquaculture and mariculture, wildlife conservation and management, and population or community structure. Zoology makes a direct contribution to society through its contributions to veterinary science, medicine, dentistry, animal husbandry, aquaculture, fisheries biology, environmental management and conservation.Academic Calendar Entry
- Major or Honours Biology, Animal Biology