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Biochemistry & Microbiology

Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology

Interested in the molecular basis of life?

Our undergraduate programs combine biochemistry and microbiology - the two disciplines central to molecular biology and biotechnology. We offer courses that emphasize modern laboratory techniques taught by award winning teachers. Our honours programs offer you the opportunity to study with world renowned researchers.

Or perhaps you are looking for graduate research opportunities. Graduate students study with researchers in this department on projects to improve human health and the environment.

New to biochemistry?

Check out BIOC 102 Biochemistry & Human Health


frogSAP funded by Compute Canada

Compute Canada has provided 3 years worth of funding valued at $162,111 total towards the development of a frog sequence analysis platform (frogSAP). This was a joint application from Canadian scientists in British Columbia led by Dr. Caren Helbing at the University of Victoria with Dr. Inanc Birol from the BC Cancer Agency's Genome Sciences Centre and Dr. Fiona Brinkman at Simon Fraser University. frogSAP supports large-scale research projects in genomics-based activities revolving around frog wildlife as an initial step in providing go-to resources for a broad international audience and user-base to evaluate environmental impact of human activities, for conservation efforts, and to support new discoveries aiding human health. The portal/platform will feature useful resources including the first “true frog” genome (Lithobates (Rana) catesbeiana). The goal within the next 4 years is to complete a reference-quality bullfrog genome resource and provide pipelines for using genomics resources by the global research community.

Mobilizing a cellular army

International co-ops chart a path to med school

Stacey Ledoux shares her story about her coop experience with The Ring:

Dr. Michelle Parker: 2015 DDA Winner

Dr. Michelle Parker has won the 2015 Canada's Distinguished Dissertation Award from the Canadian Association for Graduate studies. See the full article here:

Kudos to the Siscapa team

The SISCAPA team has won the 2015 HUPO Science and Technology Award  presented at this past week’s HUPO world congress in Vancouver. This is a great recognition for a local startup with roots here. Well done!


From left to right: Prof. Terry Pearson, Dr. Morty Razavi, Dr. Selena Larkin, Dr. N. Leigh Anderson, Matt Pope

Welcome Dr. Perry Howard, our new Chair!

Dr. Howard takes over from Dr. Burke as Chair of the department effective July 1, 2015.

Dr. Terry Pearson retires!

After many years of dedicated service, Dr. Terry Pearson has retired as Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology. That doesn't mean he is actually leaving the University. He will continue as Professor Emeritus, but focussing on his role in research for Siscapa Technologies.

Rob Beecroft - Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient 2015


Rob Beecroft (BSc Microbiology 1984) is the recipient of the 2015 Faculty of Science Distinguished Alumni Award. Rob is the CEO and founder of ImmunoPrecise Antibodies.

Hotel Grand Pacific (463 Belleville St, Victoria)
7pm Registration/7:30pm Award Presentations
Business Attire
Event information: (250) 721-6000 or
To register:

Dr. Michael Przybylski - Adjunct Professor

Dr. Przybylski

Michael Przybylski, Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry and Biopolymer Structure Analysis, University of Konstanz

Michael Przybylski studied chemistry and completed his PhD dissertation at the University of Mainz. After being research associate in Bioorganic Chemistry at Mainz, he spent two years as a Visiting Scientist at the National Cancer Institute, NIH/USA. He was Associate Professor in Organic and Biopolymer Chemistry at the University of Mainz, and was appointed in 1989 to the Professorship and Head of Analytical Chemistry at the University of Konstanz, where he is the Director of the Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry and Biopolymer Structure Analysis. Since then his laboratory has made numerous developments and applications of biopolymer mass spectrometry methods, combined with protein- and peptide-chemical methods, tertiary structure analysis by protein-chemical modification and mass spectrometry, and mass spectrometric determination of biopolymer recognition structures. His laboratory has invented proteolytic-excision mass spectrometry for the elucidation of protein-ligand interaction structures, and peptide/protein epitopes, and has elucidated the structure of several membrane proteins, such as Lung Surfactant protein-C.

The laboratory’s current research is focused on applications of mass spectrometry and peptide biochemistry to structure and mechanism of neurodegenerative proteins; pathophysiological protein modification; vaccine chemistry; structure and epitope analysis of therapeutic antibodies; affinity-mass spectrometry of biopolymer interaction epitopes; mass spectrometric elucidation of oligomerisation/truncation pathways and structures of “misfolding”/aggregating proteins in neurodegenerative diseases.

Michael Przybylski has been awarded the St Denis Prize in Cancer Research; several international Guest Professorships; the Life Science Prize of the German Society for Mass Spectrometry; an honorary doctoral degree of the University of Iasi, RO; He is currently Guest Professor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changchun, and of Jilin University, China. He has been member of Scientific Committees of several International Conferences, has been Editor and is Editorial Board member of several International Journals in the field of biopolymer chemistry and mass spectrometry, and has been Chairman of the German Society for Mass Spectrometry. He has been coordinator of two previous FP5 and FP6 EU projects. He has served as scientific advisor, and board member of several international Research Institutions in mass spectrometry and proteomics, and is member of the Graduate School “Chemical Biology”, and board member of the “Zukunftskolleg”, two recently appointed Excellence Centers of the University of Konstanz. He has ca. 300 publications in International Journals; 6 monographs/reviews; ca. 25 patents; ca. 100 invited lectures.

Dylan Collins - Rhodes Scholar 2014

Dylan Collins

Congratulations to our Honours (Biochemistry) student Dylan Collins, who has been awarded the very prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.  Dylan will be attending Oxford University commencing Fall 2014. Below is an excerpt from Dylan’s Rhodes Scholarship webpage.

"Dylan is currently reading for a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and is passionate about improving health equity and harm reduction. Last year he partook in the Complex Humanitarian Emergency Leadership Training Program at the University of California, San Francisco. He is a current board member of AIDS Vancouver Island and has worked with the BC Centre for Disease Control, the Foundation for Sustainable Development, and KPMG’s management consulting practice. For relaxation Dylan enjoys cycling, sailing, Bhangra and is excited about rowing. In the long term, Dylan aspires to be able to inform and influence public policy regarding health especially along the lines of harm reduction."

Grad student research makes news in ProteoMonitor

Morteza Razavi, a PhD student in Dr. Terry Pearson's lab, is first author in a paper recently published in the Journal of Proteome Research, which decribes the development of a workflow which could lead to the application of mass spec-based proteomics as a clinical tool.  The research was done in collaboration with SISCAPA Assay Technologies and Agilent Technologies. An online article in the ProteoMonitor discusses the significance of the research.

Molecule of the month

The structures elucidated by Dr. Stephen Evans' lab of the enzymes responsible for the generation of some of the common blood types have been designated the RCSB Protein Data Bank's "Molecule of the Month". The Human ABO(H) Blood Type A and B 'glycosyltransferases' are enzymes that change the carbohydrate structures associated with blood type 'O' into those associated with blood types 'A' and 'B', respectively. The A, B and O(H) antigens are presented on many cells in your body, including red blood cells, and are a major source of tissue incompatibility. The Protein Data Bank has outlined the significance of these structures here.

Student Recognition

Ainsleigh Hill Co-op student of the year 2015

 Ainsleigh Hill has been awarded Co-op Student of the year. For full story, click here.

Michelle Parker wins Governor General's Gold Medal

Dr. Michelle Parker with the Governor General's Gold Medal at the spring 2015 convocation. For full story, click here.

Brigette Church - BCMB Grad TA Award

Brigette Church

Congratulations to Brigette Church, recipient of the BCMB Graduate Teaching Assistant Award 2014. Brigette is pictured here receiving the award from the Chair, Dr. Robert Burke. This award is given annually to a graduate student TA who demonstrates an outstanding ability to work with the undergraduates in the teaching labs. Brigette excelled in active participation and leadership in the BCMB teaching labs, particularly in the tissue culture laboratories.

Kyle Irvine - Co-op Student and Athlete

Kyle Irvine

Vikes announce major award winners at annual banquet.
Kyle Irvine is a BIOC/MICR co-op student who has completed 6 co-op work terms plus won many medals as a runner. He will be graduating in June 2014.

Ross Prager - Co-op Student of the year

Ross Prager

Ross Prager (microbiology honours) is the Co-op Student of the Year for the Optional and Professional Co-op Programs. We asked Ross what attracted him to the co-op program and to describe his co-op experience.

"I first became interested in the Biochemistry and Microbiology (BCMB) co-op program with the hope that through science related work experience I could narrow down possible career options. Having now completed 3 co-op terms: a volunteer work term with St. John Ambulance Victoria, a work term in Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne's cellular and molecular neuroscience lab, and a work term as a paramedic with the British Columbia Ambulance Service, I know that co-op has truly enriched my undergraduate experience, and has allowed me to explore several different career options. Throughout this process, the BCMB co-op coordinator Dr. Rozanne Poulson has been incredibly supportive and integral to my positive co-op experience. She has helped me apply for jobs, funding, and develop my resume. I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone completing a Biochemistry or Microbiology undergraduate degree should consider co-op, as I am sure it will be as positive an experience for them, as it has been for me."

Amanda Carew - Dr. Richard Playle Award

Amanda Carew

Amanda Carew from Dr. Caren Helbing’s lab has received the Dr. Richard Playle Award for Outstanding MSc Thesis in Aquatic Toxicology, for her work on "The sublethal effects of nanosilver on thyroid hormone-dependent frog metamorphosis". This award is given by the Aquatic Toxicity Workshop, a national organization of toxicologists.

Andrew Leung - BCMB Grad TA Award

Andrew Leung TA Award 12_13

Congratulations to Andrew Leung, recipient of the BCMB Graduate Teaching Assistant Award 2013. Andrew is picture here receiving the award from the Chair, Dr. Robert Burke. This award is given annually to a graduate student TA who demonstrates an outstanding ability to work with the undergraduates in the teaching labs. Andrew is approachable, knowledgeable, and well prepared for his teaching assistant duties.

Michelle Tonkin - Elsevier Investigator Award


Michelle attended the 12th International Congress on Toxoplasmosis in Oxford, England at the end of June 2013. For her poster and short talk entitled "Toxoplasma gondii sporozoites invade host cells using two novel paralogues of RON2 and AMA1", which represented work from a collaboration between our lab, Heather Fritz at UC Davis and John Boothroyd's lab at Stanford, she won the "Elsevier Investigator Award - Best Short Talk/Poster".

Honours Fest 2013

Well deserved congratulations to all of our Honours students who participated in the Honours Fest, hosted by the Faculty of Science. See our Facebook page for photos of them all. Below are the prize winners in the department.


Jennifer Evancio (left) received first prize at the 2013 Honours Fest. She is an Honours student in Dr. Marty Boulanger's lab. Jennifer's poster was entitled "Purification and Crystallization of Trypanosoma brucei BARP". Her research focused on Brucei alanine-rich protein (BARP), a Trypanosoma brucei surface protein present when the parasite is in the epimastigote stage in the tsetse fly. The goal of this project was to recombinantly express, purify, and crystallize the protein for structural characterization by xray crystallography.


Rob Mackenzie (left) received honorable mention at the 2013 Honours Fest. Rob, a Biochemistry and Microbiology Honours student, carried out his research in Dr. Brian Christie's lab in the Division of Medical Science. His poster is entitled: "Alterations of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subunit profile in the developing rat hippocampus following mild traumatic brain injury". Rob's research focused on the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, a heterotetrameric, ligand-gated cation channel that is involved in synaptic plasticity. The purpose of this study was to characterize possible alterations of NMDA receptor subunits in a rodent model for juvenile concussion using a semi-quantitative, densitometric analysis of protein immunoblots.

Jenna Ries - ACE Co-op Student of the Year 2012

Jenna Ries

Jenna Ries has been awawded the 2012 ACE (Association for Co-operative Education in BC) Co-op Student of the Year. In their letter to Jenna, they state:

"This award recognizes a BC or Yukon Co-op student who demonstrates an outstanding level of achievement in their Co-op position and in their academic studies, and also makes significant contributions to co-operative education and in their volunteer activities at school and in the community.

The Awards Committee was extremely impressed with all of your achievements during your work term with the BC Cancer Agency’s Deeley Research Centre; your strong academic record through your Bachelor of Science degree program; your publishing and research accomplishments; as well as your dedication to supporting your peers through mentoring and student leadership activities at the University of Victoria."

Jenna Ries - Co-op Student of the Year 2012 for Optional and Professional programs

Jenna Ries

Jenna Ries (biochemistry) is the 2012 Co-op Student of the Year for Optional and Professional Programs. She has completed work terms with the National Research Council of Canada and the BC Cancer Agency Deeley Research Centre, where she co-authored two papers in the peer-reviewed scientific journals Autophagy (Landes Bioscience) and The Journal of Pathology (Wiley Publishing). "Jenna's work made it possible for us to publish our findings in a short period of time, which undoubtedly helped to raise the profile of our research both regionally and internationally," says supervisor Dr. Julian J. Lum of the BC Cancer Agency. "I would rank her performance, productivity and contribution in the top 5% of all students at her career stage."

David Dilworth - BCMB Grad TA Award

Congratulations to David Dilworth, recipient of the David Dilworth BCMB Graduate Teaching Award 2012. David was presented with the award by Dr. Robert Burke, Chair of the department.

The Microbiology 200 lab instructors have this to say of David:

"Dave was an exceptional TA. He consistently went above and beyond in terms of preparation for the lab and assistance to the Instructor and students during the lab. Dave was very personable and professional and received many positive comments from students on their course evaluations."

In BCMB 406, Dave was instrumental in the development of the new ChIP lab. He worked well independently processing the qPCR samples. He was an efficient marker and gave the students extensive feedback on their assignments.

Michelle Tonkin - EMBO 2012

Michelle has been accepted to the EMBO Practical Course on Structural Characterization of Macromolecular Complexes being held in Grenoble, France June 4-9, 2012. She is one of 20 successful candidates chosen from a field of 179 applicants consisting of PhD students, Post-docs, MSc students, undergrads and other scientists from around the world.


Michelle has provided this description of her research project: “There are more than five thousand species of Apicomplexan parasites, including Plasmodium and Toxoplasma (the etiological agents of malaria and toxoplasmosis, respectively), that together cause globally devastating diseases leading to millions of deaths every year. My research project is focused on elucidating the conserved mechanism used by these diverse parasites to invade host cells. A detailed understanding of the essential steps in invasion will provide a solid foundation for the engineering of broadly neutralizing therapeutics targeting the Apicomplexans.

Further to this, Michelle has published a paper in the prestigious Science journal, and has also recently been awarded a PEO Scholar Award for 2012-2013.

Michael McLean - 2012 BCMB Co-op Student of the Year

Michael McClean has been named 2012 Biochemistry & Microbiology Co-op Student of the Year. Mike has excelled in the classroom and on his Co-op placements. Dr. Francis Choy, Mike's most recent Co-op supervisor, noted "Mike exemplifies what a model co-op student in molecular biology research at UVic is about and raises the bar to a new high standard."

Mike provided the following account of his Co-op experience at the BIOC/MICR Co-op student recruiting event last year:
"I joined Co-op as a second-year student solely to enhance my medical school applications. Unbeknown to me at the time, that decision resulted in a profound and positive change in my outlook. After two work terms, I had become passionate about my studies and developed a new view of the whole UVic experience. Co-op provided me with role models and friends who have helped me out during tough times and who I know I can rely on today and tomorrow for support and advice. I gained much knowledge and many skills during my work terms but, most importantly, I gained the confidence to question and critique what I hear and read. Although many Co-op programs are optional, in my experience Co-op is a mandantory part of a successful degree at UVic. There is no downside to cooperative education. Even if you don't get the most prestigious placements, in the end you will have grown in ways you never expected and never would achieve by only attending classes."

Lyndsay Spriggs - Journal of Medicinal Chemistry publication 2010

Ausio, Spriggs, Choy

L-R: Ausio, Spriggs, Choy
Lyndsay Spriggs graduated from UVic with a BSc Honours in 2009. She studied with Dr. Francis Choy in Biology and continued to complete her Honours degree in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology in Dr. Juan Ausio's lab. She published her research, as first author in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry:
Sprigg, L., Li, A., Choy, F.Y.M., and Ausio, J. 2010. Interaction of daunomycin with acetylated chromatin. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 53 (17), 6457-6465.
Lyndsay was awarded the International North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) research award for her work.
Dr. Choy writes this of Lyndsay:
"Upon graduation in June 2009 with an Hons. B.Sc. in Biochemistry and Microbiology at UVic, Lyndsay continued her research with the B.C. Cancer Agency in Vancouver for a year. She applied for admission to study Medicine at UBC to further advance her study in the field. Because of Lyndsay's academic and research excellence, she was admitted by UBC Faculty of Medicine in August 2011 and is currently studying Medicine at the UBC Kelowna campus. Regarding the award, the NRW Research Schools were founded as an initiative of the German federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). International networks of renowned scientists, world leading supervisors and excellent scientific environments – the NRW Research Schools provide a forum for pre-doctoral candidates with superior academic track records. In the summer of 2011, they sent the Dean of Science at UVic a flyer inviting UVic faculties to nominate outstanding undergraduate research students for this award. I communicated with Juan and we subsequently nominated Lyndsay for this award under the category Cell Dynamics and Disease (Biomedicine, Molecules and Cells). In November,we were informed that Lyndsay received the highest ratings from the adjudicating committee in this category and was given the top award."

Brett Eyford - BCMB Grad TA Award

Congratulations to Brett Eyford, recipient of the Brett Eyford BCMB Graduate Teaching Award 2011. Brett was presented with the award by Dr. Robert Burke, Chair of the department.

Scholarships and Awards

hats in air

Graduate Student Recipients

There are numerous awards and scholarships for which our graduate students successfully compete. Below is the list of current recipients.

2015/16 Grad student scholarships (donor awards) and Faculty of Science Awards

Gillian Dornan – Eileen Ford Wood and Alexander James Wood Scholarship
Susannah Gagnon – Melva J. Hanson Graduate Scholarship
Nicole Little – Edythe Hembroff-Schleicher Scholarship
Robert Popp – Dr. Julius F. Schleicher Graduate Scholarship

University of Victoria Fellowships

Teesha Baker
Bjorn Frohlich
Kevin Jackman
Shireen Partovi

President's Research Scholarships

Geoff Gudavicius
Karen Lithgow
David Neilson

University of Victoria Grad Awards

Ryan Blackler
Nick Brodie
Brigette Church
David Dilworth
Gillian Dornan
Susannah Gagnon
Claudia Gaither
Andrew Hettle
Dan Kemp
Karen Lithgow
Nicole Little
Sarah MacPherson
Richard Nixon
Stephanie Pearce
Fangni Peng
Robert Popp
Raghavendran Ramaswamy
Neda Savic
Jason Serpa
Connie Sobsey
Kevin Yongblah

UVic Outstanding Graduate Student Entrance Awards

Teesha Baker
Kevin Jackman
Shireen Partovi


Geoff Gudavicius: Alexander Graham Bell CGS-D (ongoing)
Karen Lithgow : NSERC CGS-M (starting in Jan2016)


Nicole Little
David Neilson

Faculty awards

Dr. Caren Helbing - Genome BC SOF


Dr. Caren Helbing and Dr. Inanc Birol (Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre) have been funded by Genome BC's Strategic Opportunities Fund (SOF) program for their project: A leap in technology: Frog reference genome assembly and annotation. Amphibians are sentinel species of environmental health. The research goals of this project are to identify the genome and transcriptome of the bullfrog. This could subsequently be used to develop genomic tools to assist in early detection of changes in sensitive habitats. For details, please see the announcement on the Genome BC website. (photo courtesy of Dennis Churchill)

Dr. Marty Boulanger - Research Excellence

Dr. Marty Boulanger receives the 2012 Faculty of Science Award for Research Excellence from Dean Lipson.

Dr. Robert Burke, Chair of the Department, says this of Marty: "The Research Excellence Award is recognition that normal standards have been surpassed by research of exceptional merit. I believe that there are several clear indications that Marty has accomplished this. The quality of his publications, the grants and awards he has received, the recognition of his peers and the leaders in the field all indicate that Marty’s research is worthy of this important distinction. Marty is the epitome of what this award intends to recognize – a young scientist who is doing world-class research."

Dr. Marty Boulanger

Dr. Marty Boulanger - Tier 2 CRC

Dr. Marty Boulanger has been awarded the Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Molecular Interactions and Structural Biology.

Dr. Marty Boulanger

Apicomplexan parasites such as Toxoplasma. gondii (toxoplasmosis) and Plasmodium spp. (malaria) pose a major risk to human health on a global scale. To survive host immunity, those pathogens take refuge inside the protective environment of host cells. Thus, understanding the mechanisms that govern host cell attachment and invasion is central to defining parasite virulence characteristics and to controlling their pathogenesis, and is a major research focus in the Boulanger lab.

Dr. Al Boraston - Governor General Award

Dr. Boraston

Dr. Al Boraston (pictured here with Governor General David Johnston) was one of six outstanding Canadian University faculty researchers awarded a prestigious 2012 E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship.

For the next two years Dr. Boraston will be able to devote his time and resources to his research on carbohydrate-binding proteins, and their potential application in fighting microbial infections and generation of biofuels.

Photo credit: MCpl Dany Veillette, Rideau Hall © 2012 Office of the Secretary to the Governor General of Canada

Dr. Caren Helbing - Craigdarroch Award

Dr. Caren Helbing is the 2011 recipient of the Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Dr. Helbing

Pesticides, drugs and industrial effluents are being released into the environment daily, yet we know little about their adverse effects. Biochemist Caren Helbing is working hard to change that.

Over the past decade, Dr. Helbing has provided advanced scientific tools and technical training to regulatory agencies and private sector companies to help them generate meaningful environmental assessment information. She continues to develop new technology for environmental monitoring.

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