Finding a Research Supervisor

Some Helpful Suggestions

for Research Projects (CHEM 4000, BCHM 4000), Research Experience (CHEM x20x) courses and summer placements

Compilation of Biochemistry Faculty Members in the departments of Chemistry, Biology and Kinesiology for BCHM 4000 and BIOL x60x courses, with office locations, phone numbers, email and website addresses.

List of Chemistry Faculty Members (with office locations, phone numbers and email addresses) and their research websites for CHEM 4000, CHEM 4300 and CHEM x20x courses.

  • You perhaps know what areas of Chemistry or Biochemistry that you like. Keep in mind that professors' research may be in fields that are significantly different from what they teach, and it can often be multi- or interdisciplinary whereas their teaching assignments may not be. For instance, Professor X may teach subject A but work mostly in subjects B and C, related to A.
  • You already know quite a few professors from courses you've taken, but don't limit yourself to just those professors you know.
  • Skim over the professors' research websites (see the lists above). These are meant for their colleagues at other universities and for potential graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, and are not usually written for undergraduates to understand. They can contain a lot of information and you may not be able to understand much of it, but it can give you a taste of the kinds of areas that professors work in, the kinds of problems they tackle and the nature of their work. Don't let the fact that you don't understand something scare you. You're not expected to be an expert nor even to become one.
  • It's always best to approach a potential supervisor in person. Email is not so often effective. Knock on the supervisor's door. Ask the main office when they have scheduled office hours and use those. Find out what courses they are currently teaching and go see them in their office a few minutes after (never before) their classes.
  • Students interested in volunteering (via the CHEM x20x 0.00 Research Experience courses) should place a request in order to publicize your interest department-wide. Biochemistry majors are also eligible for the BIOL x60x 0.00 Practicum courses (see the course descriptions on the Courses & Timetables pages).

for BCHM 4000 and CHEM 4000

  • Make a point to attend the "Meet the Profs Night" organized by the Chemical Society at York. Not all professors will be there, but you can gain a lot of insight into the nature of the work in professors' labs for CHEM 4000 starting the following summer or fall terms. You also get to talk to them in an informal, social setting.
  • Try to attend the BCHM 4000 and/or CHEM 4000 presentations in mid- to late April (for Fall-Winter sessions), or late August to early September (for Summer sessions). These presentations are generally held back-to-back on the same day for all CHEM 4000 students registered in that session. For BCHM oral presentations, these may be scheduled differently. The oral presentations are open to everyone (you can always ask the Course Director or at the Main Office in 124 CB when the presentations are scheduled). These presentations will give you a flavour of the work in particular research groups, as well as an idea of what a project consists of, and, since you will need to eventually present your own research results yourself, you will get an idea of what goes into a presentation.
  • Keep in mind that not all professors can take on a new BCHM 4000 or CHEM 4000 student, either because they will have no more space for a new student, because they will be away on sabbatical leave or for a number of other possible reasons. Be prepared to consider more than one possibility. Some professors want to wait to decide until funding decisions come through, which is most often in mid to late March.
  • Go visit the professors whose work interests you even slightly, making sure that they can make time for you. Most professors will gladly talk about possible BCHM 4000 or CHEM 4000 projects. Ask them questions about whether or not they can take on new project students, what sorts of projects would be available for you, what would be expected of you, and so on. Ask to borrow a copy of a previous final project report by a previous student in the professor's group, to give you an idea of what is involved.
  • Keep in mind that you can start an 8-credit BCHM 4000 or CHEM 4000 project in the Fall and in the Summer. BCHM 4000 students can also start in Winter term. You can start a 4-credit CHEM 4000 project in the Fall, Winter or Summer terms.
  • Take on a project you really like - it's perhaps more important than getting a supervisor you really like - so shop around.
  • Start looking fairly early, several months before starting.