Chair's Message

 Dr. Charles Holmes
Dr. Charles F.B. Holmes
Professor and Chair

“Always to Excel”

Fittingly, the first course in Biochemistry given at this University was given in the University Power House in 1916 and delivered by the famous biochemist James Bertram Collip, who went on to become the founding Chair of the Department of Biochemistry in 1922. Over the past ninety-five years, the department has flourished within the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta. Over this time, with a firm grasp of its past achievements and future ambitions, the department continues to succeed in its mission to deliver world class research, teaching, and learning excellence.

Recognizing that great academic institutions are built, first and foremost, on the excellence of their people, the department cherishes innovative thinking, pioneering research of real gravitas and, above all, a collegial and supportive approach to its academic endeavor that is second to none. Our faculty continues to publish their findings prolifically in first rate scientific journals and are highly sought after for international speaking engagements. The department recognizes that a key strength of the University of Alberta is to marry excellent teaching and learning with world-class research expertise. We strive to be in the vanguard of the best and brightest approaches to scholarship and learning and we are privileged to number eight faculty who are fellows of the Royal Society of Canada and a further two who are Fellows of the Royal Society (London).

The department is especially proud of its marvelous group of non-academic staff whose expertise provide the backbone for our activities. We consider all members of the department valuable members of our team and, whilst the early years of this century have provided significant fiscal challenges, the department has firmly hoisted the sails to catch the winds of change that are blowing through all aspects of university life.


The department places all facets of student learning at the forefront of its mission. The department teaches Biochemistry to all students requiring this discipline as part of their degree program at the University of Alberta. This translates to teaching over 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. We have developed many innovative teaching techniques including introduction of i-Clicker learning methodology in all classrooms, small group teaching and learning, in-depth seminar and lecture presentation instruction and practice, as well as outstanding teaching laboratory based courses in the “real life practice” of biochemistry. The department has a core of national award winning faculty who provide exemplary service, teaching expertise, and administrative support to all our faculty and students.

In 2012, the department developed a new “study abroad” research program for many of our undergraduate students. We have developed collaborative relationships with several top universities throughout the world (including the United Kingdom and Germany) and we strongly encourage our students to participate in exchange visits with those universities.

The department offers graduate training programs at the Masters and Doctoral levels. Many of our graduate students hold scholarships from a number of prestigious foundations and training programs including AIHS, CIHR, HSFC, and NSERC. Our graduate student program is the largest in the faculty and we have a vibrant academy of 57 students that bring vitality and youthful endeavor to our activities. Many of these are international students hailing from all corners of the globe. Our students are also highly encouraged to participate in national and international conferences and exchanges as part of their learning experience.


Research funding—primarily from agencies such as CIHR, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and NSERC—provide support in the form of operating research grants, equipment grants, summer studentships, graduate studentships, post-doctoral fellowships, scholarships, and establishment grants for new investigators. Members of the department receive support from the Alberta Prion Research Institute, Alberta Innovates Health Solutions, Burroughs Welcome Fund, Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Diabetes Association, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and NIH, USA. For the period 2016-17, the department received, from peer reviewed national and international funding programs, in excess of $6 million in extramural support.

Interdisciplinary approaches to science are fast becoming a key aspect of our research endeavors. The department is a key member of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and, working alongside its sister departments within the faculty, Biochemistry drives molecular approaches to solving key research problems and is actively involved in translating biomedical advances to the worldwide medical community, eventually impacting the public at large.

The department is actively seeking to further develop its research capacity in the areas of molecular and cellular approaches to human disease, as well as in the molecular biochemistry underlying all life processes on this planet and beyond.