Frequently Asked Questions

You can select one of two possible endpoints for your studies:

  • M.Sc. – direct entry
  • Ph.D. i) – begin in the M.Sc. program and after one year, transfer to a Ph.D. program without completing a M.Sc. Must be approved by program.
  • Ph.D. ii) – direct entry – must have a relevant M.Sc.

Instruction at UBC and SFU is in English and there are requirements for proficiency. The program requires either a TOEFL (100 iBT) or IELTS (7.0) test, if your first language is not English, or you have not had instruction at an English speaking University. If you do not have a sufficient score, it is recommended that you do not apply. Bioinformatics courses are difficult enough already, and if you do not have the language skills to understand and process the required information, you will not be successful in the program.

If you have already studied at an English-speaking secondary institution, then the English proficiency test is not required.

Note: GRE is not required for application to the program, but it may be helpful to the admissions committee in evaluating international applications.

It is in your best interests to first find a supervisor who is willing to accept you for your graduate studies, before you apply to the program. You may send in your complete application to the program, and we will circulate your application to interested faculty. However, just because you send an application into the program, does not guarantee that a supervisor will be found for you. It would be most beneficial to contact potential supervisors and make them aware that you are interested in entering their lab for graduate studies. The program will make every attempt to match you with a potential supervisor, but it is ultimately your responsibility to find someone. Please see the application process page for more detail.

Before you even consider applying to the program, you require a 76% average, or B+ (based on your last two years of full time study).

The answer is no. We recommend that you do not apply on-line through the Faculty of Graduate Studies; until you have been informed by the Bioinformatics graduate program coordinator that you have been accepted into the program. Applying on-line through G+PS, means that you will have to pay an application fee, that is non-refundable. It is best to send the required application materials to the program coordinator. Once you have been informed of your acceptance, you will then be required to apply to UBC or SFU’s graduate studies office and pay their application fee at that time.

Note: We cannot return application materials once they are received by the program.

As part of our program, our students are required to take professional development courses, which offer training to students in the general area of career management – how to choose a job, how to get a job, and other areas of interest such as how to make a scientific presentation, write your CV, etc.

Unfortunately, no. Our philosophy is that bioinformatics is a difficult discipline to study, and full-time attention during the program is required. If you wish to maintain your job during your studies, some employers will offer you an unpaid leave of absence in order to improve your educational qualifications; you may wish to investigate that possibility.

Sorry, you can’t start in the middle. Every student that starts a M.Sc. degree can only begin the degree in any given September – and takes the same required courses and a certain number of electives. You may get an exemption for course equivalents; however, you are still required to take the full number of course credits required by the university department you are registered at. Ph.D. students can start their program in September, January or May. However, if you are a PhD student selected for the internship program, you will need to begin your studies in September.

That depends. If your academic record is very good, and you have most of the background, the program can offer you the opportunity to learn the rest. Each application is considered on a case-by-case basis by the faculty, so we cannot tell you if you will be accepted until you send in your full application.

First of all – there’s nothing that we could recommend that would be a way to improve your qualifications that would guarantee your entrance to our program. Even if you follow our suggestions, we cannot guarantee that you’ll be admitted to our program. However, we do think it’s a great idea that you want to study bioinformatics. There are two paths for people in your position: (1) improve your qualifications and hope to get access to our program, or (2) study bioinformatics in another program.

There’s nothing that you can do to raise your grade-point average retroactively. But our Admissions Committee looks at your entire application, not just your GPA. If you have, say, a B+ average, you can look for ways to make your background better-rounded. For instance, if you have a lot of life science education, you might consider studying computing science or statistics.
One very good program is the Canadian Bioinformatics Workshops, and you can find out more about them at www.bioinformatics.ca. These workshops are a great introduction to the tools and techniques of bioinformatics – taking one of the CBW courses may give you the exposure to bioinformatics that you would need to decide whether you are truly suited to studying and working in the field.

Incoming students who have outstanding qualifications may be considered for an NSERC-CREATE scholarship through the program. The program will provide stipend support for the first 12 months (the supervisor provides all other financial support for stipends). Scholarship students undertake a 3-month internship in an academic or industrial lab either in Canada or internationally. Once you are accepted by a supervisor, let them know you are interested in this program. Then they will help you select either a pre-arranged internship, or you can suggest an internship that meets the programs specifications. Regardless, the program is flexible on where you would like to undertake the research work. For more information please see the Internships page.

There are a number of excellent undergraduate and post-graduate programs in bioinformatics all over the world, and more are becoming available all the time. If you want to do an undergraduate degree in bioinformatics or just take some bioinformatics courses, please see: http://www.nslij-genetics.org/bioinfotraining/ Many other undergraduate options exist, and you should research available programs carefully. There are many available opportunities to study life sciences, computing science or statistics at the undergraduate level, take courses in bioinformatics during progress towards an undergraduate degree, and then specialize in bioinformatics at the post-graduate level.

If you have an undergraduate degree and want to get a certificate or diploma in bioinformatics that will get you into the workforce quickly, there is a Canadian program you could investigate. Seneca College in Ontario, Canada offers a one-year diploma program that is designed to teach computer science material to students who are already qualified in the life sciences area. Further information can be found at http://bioinformatics.senecac.on.ca/program.html.

There are a huge number of job opportunities available to graduates with bioinformatics degrees. You will be able to work at the interface between biochemistry, computer science, and mathematics, creating new solutions for high-throughput biology, designing analysis systems for drug design, and many other things. In general, there are two paths: you can teach bioinformatics at a university or college, or you can work at a government institution or in the industrial sector, such as a biotechnology company. Both areas seem to have plenty of available positions right now.

We post jobs on our own website, that may be of interest to our graduates and there are a number of good Internet-based resources that will help you. Entering “bioinformatics, jobs” into your favourite search engine is a good place to start. You can find information about Canadian positions at http://www.bioinformatics.ca/jobs/. Science magazine maintains a listing of positions, primarily academic ones.

Briefly, all of our students receive a stipend. It is not expected that students “pay their own way”. There are no required duties such as becoming a teaching assistant (TA), though TA-ships may be available.

From the stipend, the student is required to pay tuition and any other university fees. Some departments or supervisors can provide partial tuition awards and entrance awards.

For MSC students, a stipend of no less than CDN$22,000 per year is paid. Stipends for PhD students are to be a minimum of $25k. The exact stipend level is subject to negotiation with your supervisor, who is ultimately responsible for the costs of your stipend.

Students who obtain their own scholarship (either NSERC-CREATE or from an outside source such as CIHR) are to receive a top-up to their stipend of up to $5000 per year or 25% the value of the scholarship, whichever is less.

Students who are awarded NSERC-CREATE scholarships will be paid a one year stipend to fund their research studies and a yearly travel allowance of $500.

At UBC, the maximum amount of funds a student can receive is $50K from any source, as recommended by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. All awards and scholarships above this amount must be declined by the student.

We cannot advise you on matters such as eligibility for Canadian student loans, your income tax situation, etc., but recommend strongly that you investigate your situation before making a decision to apply. You should definitely check the latest fee structure that’s posted on the Websites of our affiliated universities.

There is additional fine print; please consult us if you require more details. Furthermore this information may change without warning, so get the best information during your decision-making process. “Additional fees” are often mandatory and include programs such as athletics, health coverage and student union fees.