Our Specialist program is research-intensive and is designed to provide strong in-depth training in science. This includes:

  • extensive exposure to critical analyses of scientific concepts and literature
  • advanced laboratory experience
  • detailed understanding and application of molecular biology

Specialists enter the program in 2nd year and then choose one of two Streams, Genetics or Microbiology, by the start of the third year. Each Stream provides focused training, but there is considerable overlap between the streams, reflective of both the cross-disciplinary requirements of these two rapidly evolving disciplines and the impact of each on areas spanning modern biomedical science. A listing of the course requirements is below:


Genetics Stream:

The properties of an individual of any species are primarily determined by one’s genetic makeup; that is, your genes. Changes in gene sequence and/or expression (when they are turned on and/or off) can have dramatic consequences to health. News reports about the genetic basis of cancers and other diseases, stem cells, personalized medicine, and genetically modified organisms, for example, are now commonplace. Molecular geneticists have powerful tools at hand that should lead to an understanding of many problems, which we face in areas such as health and agriculture, among others.

The MGY specialist program emphasizes both basic and advanced concepts of genetics and molecular biology. Some of the questions being asked are: how are genes are turned on and off? How does the genetic makeup of an entire organism (genomics) relate to function? What makes cells multiply in a controlled fashion so that organisms can grow normally, and how is this altered in cancer? How do protein molecules interact with each other, and what are the consequences of such interactions? What genes are involved in the normal development of an organism from a fertilized egg? What happens when these genes don’t function properly? It is essential to understand the normal workings of cells and organisms in order to understand how they are altered in disease.


Microbiology Stream:

The study of microbes continues to be important in the control of infectious diseases. Recent events, including the emergence of the SARS and H1N1 flu viruses, and the spread of antibiotic-resistance bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, emphasize that pathogens continue to co-evolve with us and that we must continually adapt to defeat their strategies. With modern techniques, it is now possible to study microbe/host interactions at the molecular level and thereby develop our strategies for prevention and treatment of specific diseases.

In addition however, the significance of microbiology goes far beyond the control of infectious disease, and contrary to what you might think, most microorganisms are not “bad”. Bacteria and viruses control the health and ecological balance of this planet; they govern the balance of organic and inorganic cycling of nutrients. Microorganisms play a valuable role in industry, for example in food and pharmaceutical production. More recently, microbes and their metabolic activities have provided the basis for modern techniques in molecular biology and biotechnology.