Advanced Research Project in Biochemistry


BCH473 provides real-world individual research opportunities in biochemistry, under the direct supervision of a Biochemistry Department faculty member. The course takes advantage of the resources and expertise of the over 50 faculty researchers within the department. It gives students an appreciation of the scientific method that comes from intensive experimentation. It enhances students’ understanding of theoretical concepts learned in other courses through a better understanding of the experimental approaches upon which those theories are based, and provides one on one contact with faculty members.

To enroll

Students may approach any of the academic staff in the Department of Biochemistry about the possibility of doing a research project under his or her supervision. Faculty who have expressed an interest in supervising a BCH473 student are listed under ‘Instructors’, below. If accepted, the student must then request enrollment by sending an email with the name of the student, student number, current transcript, academic program, and name of the supervisor, to the course coordinator. The student is expected to spend at least one full day per week during the academic year on a project in the supervisor’s laboratory.

Course Next Offered

September 2019


BCH340H + BCH377H + BCH378H + MGY311 + cGPA of 3.0 + permission of the Department, for BCH Specialists
BCH370H + BCH311H + cGPA of 3.3 + permission of the Department, for BCH Majors
Corequisite BCH478H, for BCH Specialists

Enrollment Limit


Method of Student Evaluation

There are four components to the final grade for BCH473:

Thirty-five percent of the final grade is contributed by the student's research project supervisor, based on the student's performance in the lab. The supervisor will evaluate the student's progress at the end of the Fall term (10 marks out of 35) and at the end of the Winter term (25 marks out of 35).

Five percent of the final grade is contributed by the course coordinator, based on a 3 page research project proposal. The proposal should introduce the project, outline the hypothesis to be tested or the goals of the project, and present the methodology to be used, in 3 pages, double spaced, 1" margins, 12 point font, not including references and figures. Descriptions of methodology should not be too detailed, but should allow Dr. Smibert to have a general understanding of how experiments will be conducted. For example, the composition of solutions used in experiments should NOT be included. The proposal must be submitted to Dr. Smibert before the deadline, via email as a PDF file.

Ten percent of the final grade is contributed by the course coordinator, based on a 5 page midterm report. The midterm research report should summarize progress, present preliminary data and conclusions, and outline the direction the project will take during the Winter semester. In should be divided into five sections: 1) Introduction, 2) Results, 3) Work proposed for the Winter Term, 4) References and 5) Figures. The Introduction should include enough information to provide context for your work. Methodologies should be described in the Results section and at a similar level of detail as was used in your proposal. The Results section should indicate how you interpret the results of each experiment. The page limit for the midterm report is 5 pages double spaced, 1" margins, 12 point font, not including references and a maximum of FOUR figures. The report must be submitted to Dr. Smibert and your project supervisor before the deadline, via email as a PDF file.

Fifty percent of the final grade is contributed by the student's exam committee, who will base their assessment on the merits of the final written report, the oral presentation, and the student's handling of questions during the oral examination. These three components will be weighted equally.

Important dates for 2019-20

Oct. 1: Research project proposal due before 5 pm
Jan. 14: Midterm research report due before 5 pm
March 6: Email Dr. Smibert your exam schedule to facilitate oral exam scheduling.
April 3: Final report due before 5 pm
April 6-25: Oral exams

The Final Research Report

At the completion of the project, each student drafts a typewritten report (not more than 14 double-spaced pages, not including references and a maximum of EIGHT figures) of their findings. The report should follow the guidelines provided by Dr. Smibert, and must include: a title, your name, a capsule, abstract, introduction, materials & methods, results, and discussion. Figures should follow the references, one per page, with the legend included on each figure. Sufficient detail should be given in the methods so that the experiments can be understood without reference to secondary sources. Standard techniques can be referenced. Students are encouraged to be selective in the data presented. It is not necessary or desirable to present every experiment that was performed. Choose those that best fit with the goals of the project. Future directions and alternative approaches can be included in the discussion.

The Oral Exam

The student describes the findings of her or his research, orally, before two members of the academic staff of the Biochemistry Department selected by the course co-ordinator. The use of PowerPoint slides is encouraged. The oral presentation should take no longer than 20 minutes and is followed by a question period of 30 minutes. The student's supervisor will be present during the exam, but will not be evaluating the student's exam or report.

Students must consult with Dr. Smibert to determine a time and date for the Oral examination. The Oral examination will be held during the normal final exam period. The student's report should be submitted to Dr. Smibert and the members of the examination committee by 5 pm on the last day of classes for the semester. Reports must be submitted as PDF files, via email, to all examiners, with Dr Smibert cc'd.

Late reports (proposal, midterm, and final report) will be penalized 10% per day.

Additional Notes and Resources


Craig A. Smibert

Craig A. Smibert

MaRS West Tower, 15th floor
661 University Ave


Carol J. Schuurmans

Last Updated 28 August 2019