McMaster University

Outstanding Graduate Training One of the first structural biology groups in Canada State-of-the-art major equipment facilities and technology Devices unique to academic research in Canada World-leading antimicrobial research

Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences

Welcome from the chair

Karen Mossman, Chair BBS

Welcome to the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences within the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University!  We are a dynamic and enthusiastic group of faculty, staff and students with a passion for research, teaching and fun!

Research – Our faculty run internationally recognized, multi-disciplinary research programs spanning diverse areas of biochemistry, including anti-microbial research, drug discovery, cell biology and regulation, structural biology, infection and immunity, nutrition and metabolism, stem cell biology and cancer.  Our research laboratories are supported by state of the art infrastructure and research facilities.

The Centre for Microbial Chemical Biology houses the High Throughput Screening Lab, the Natural Products Chemistry Lab, the Protein Lab and the Bioanalytical Lab.  The McMaster Biophotonics Facility provides cutting edge microscopy and fluorimetry capabilities while the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy houses world-class electron microscopy infrastructure. The passion of our investigators for research and discovery has created a rich and collaborative environment, as evidenced by international personnel awards, competitive funding and publications in high impact journals.

Teaching - The innovation and discovery of our investigators’ research programs ensure excellence in our undergraduate and graduate programs.  Undergraduate students are exposed to a diverse curriculum in our Honours Biochemistry program, administered through the Faculty of Science. Students with more specialized interests can take our Biomedical Research Specialization, Origins Specialization, Honours Arts & Science and Biochemistry or Honours Integrated Science and Biochemistry programs. Our graduate students are involved in cutting-edge research and scholarship in two graduate programs, Biochemistry and Chemical Biology, the latter being jointly administered with the Department of Chemistry. Our graduate students are routinely awarded provincial and national fellowships and awards and publish in high impact journals.  Additionally, the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences has a dynamic group of post-doctoral fellows, who play an active role in the Faculty of Health Sciences Post-Doctoral Association. The broad expertise of our faculty members along with active and innovative approaches to learning ensures that our graduates are poised for success in their future careers.

Fun – Within the Department, we have an active Biochemistry Society whose motto is “It’s only biochemistry but we like it!”. The society runs a diverse array of programs culminating in the yearly Formal, an event not to miss.  Check out BiochemRocks on Facebook, to keep up with the latest events in the department.  Scroll through photos of our many social events, including the annual Halloween, Christmas and summer picnic activities!

Please take this opportunity to browse through our web pages to learn more about the research, teaching and fun that make Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences such a wonderful and engaging environment.  Do feel free to contact us at any time if you would like to meet with a faculty member or tour our facilities.  We hope to see you soon!

Karen Mossman, Chair



Faculty Member of the Month

Alba Guarné

Alba Guarne

Why has the UN declared 2014 the International Year of Crystallography? Most people do not think about crystallography everyday, but if they did, they would realize how profoundly crystallography affects every aspect of our life 100-years-x-ray-crystallography-video-animation. Biochemistry is no exception. From designing better drugs to understanding the molecular mechanisms that control life and death, crystallography has re-defined the way we do research today. 

True to the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, the Guarné laboratory uses crystallography, among other structural and biochemical techniques, to visualize critical interactions in the DNA damage response. DNA carries the biological information of the cell and its integrity has to be preserved generation after generation. Failure to do so results in devastating hereditary diseases. Therefore, cells devote endless resources –in the form of repair and checkpoint proteins– to guard and mend their DNA.  To make matters worse, DNA replication (the process of copying DNA) and DNA repair are spatially and temporally regulated. A complex network of cues that often present themselves as protein conformational changes coordinates the two processes. Visualizing these conformational changes is the best way to understand how the guardians of the genome function. We take this approach to address two specific questions: How do cells know when –and if– they should copy their DNA? How are DNA replication errors repaired? Check our webpage for the latest updates on these two fronts.

Two exciting things have recently had us celebrating. Dr. Lindsay Matthews (PhD graduate from our laboratory and now post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan) was awarded the 2013 Governor General’s Academic Medal. This is the first time that this recognition has been bestowed on a graduate student from the BBS program. The high-throughput crystallization, single crystal diffraction and small angle X-ray scattering facility is now fully operational and generating important results (Huang et al (2014) Molecular Cell). This facility is a dream-come-true for the crystallography aficionados, and has attracted several collaborations with other structural biology groups.

Graduate Application Procedure

NOTE: Graduate school applications for the 2013/2014 session are now closed.

Our Latest Story

The Hamilton Spectator interviewed Joaquin Ortega (Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences) about a new research study that uses nano-balloons to carry chemotherapy drugs through the bloodstreams of cancer patients


Canada Research Chair program names 3 McMaster recipients: Eric Brown, Jonathan Bramson, and Meguni Harada.


#MyBBS @BBS_McMasterU

Announcing: our first-ever departmental Twitter contest!

We want to see YOUR Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences.

What's your favourite class? Most inspiring prof? Most awesome TA? Most educational lab? What does your day look like? Where are the best study spots? What are the craziest activities? Most memorable events? Who is the most helpful person in the department? What are the weirdest sights? What's the thing that you will never forget? Use your imagination…but keep it classy :)

We are looking for the greatest photos and/or short videos. From Feb 24, 2014 to March 24, 2014, follow us @BBS_McMasterU and post your best with the hashtag #MyBBS.

The photos/videos that get the most 'favourites' and 'retweets' will win CASH, and be selected to promote our department!

First prize = $100
Second prize = $50
Third prize = $25.

Contest is open to everyone. In the event of a tie, we will hold a tie-breaker retweet.

Have fun, and GAME ON!

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