Biological Sciences Current Academic Plan
5-Year Academic Plan 2013-2018
The Department of Biological Sciences teaches and conducts research at all levels of biological organization, from molecules to ecosystems. Thus we embrace the interdisciplinary approach that is often the key to solving complex biological problems, and that is espoused by the SFU Strategic Vision. However, as we prepare our 5-Year Plan, the Department of Biological Sciences faces many challenges. Given that the Department has not been given the opportunity to hire positions identified in our strategic hiring plan for several years, we suffer from a lack of teaching resources in key areas, especially in our Cells, Molecules and Physiology Stream, and in our successful Master in Environmental Toxicology professional program. This is compounded by the fact that a large proportion of our undergraduate majors are in this stream, while our faculty complement is more equally shared among that stream and Ecology, Evolution and Conservation part of the Department. There is also a seemingly unsustainable amount of overlap with other units that teach life sciences, which leads to confusion among students and difficulty in strategizing key hires.
The Department recently held a full-day retreat in preparation for our 7-year external review during the 2012-2013 academic year. At the retreat there was significant support for a change in the organization of the Department, in response to these challenges and to better position the Department to take advantage of research and teaching opportunities. This 5-year plan therefore presents a “way forward” for the Department in order to take advantage of short term opportunities and to examine the overall focus of the Department through the external review process during this coming year.
II. Self Assessment: Strengths
Undergraduate program including engagement activities. We are one of the largest departments in the Faculty of Science; over the last three years the number of declared or intended majors has ranged between 660 and 820. On average, we have 245 upper level students (i.e. students that have completed their lower division core requirements and declared a stream). The majority (67%) of these identify with the CMP stream (ca.165/yr), with the remainder evenly split between EEC and Open streams (ca. 40/yr each). Approximately 190 students graduate from our program each academic year. Research and practical experience remains an important component of undergraduate education in Biological Sciences; each year 60 of our majors complete a Co-op term, 60 complete a 3-credit research course, and about 18 complete our 15-credit Independent Study Semester (part of our Honours Degree requirements).
Courses taught by the Department contribute to many other undergraduate programs at SFU. Our first year courses BISC 101 and 102 are service courses for Faculty of Science (FoS), Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) and Faculty of the Environment (FENV). Several of our courses, such as Microbiology (BISC 303) and Evolution (BISC 300), support the FHS BSc program, among other programs. Departmental Faculty also collaborate in teaching upper level courses offered in Geography and Anthropology. Our new field course in Tropical Ecology has been developed with financial support from FENV and includes environmental content to enhance the relevance for their students. Finally, a large number of our upper level courses act as electives for the Applied Biology program within EVSC.
The Department is actively engaged with initiatives that promote innovative and effective undergraduate teaching. We are a participant in the Teaching Circles program developed by the Faculty of Science and the Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC) that showcases innovative pedagogy and technology in the classroom. In partnership with TLC we have also initiated an Open Classroom program that provides an opportunity for faculty to visit each other’s classrooms and then meet in informal groups, in order to demonstrate, discuss and improve their teaching. We have developed formal teaching objectives, learning outcomes and assessment procedures for BISC 102 that will provide a model for other courses in our curriculum.
Graduate program including engagement activities. We have a large graduate program, with 149 students, supervised by 35 faculty; of these 67 (45%) are in the PhD program, 60 MSc, 6 MPM (Master in Pest Management, an interdisciplinary applied program that has been offered since 1967) and 16 MET (Master in Environmental Toxicology, an interdisciplinary professional program started in 2000). Of the MSc and PhD students, approximately 1/4 are performing research in the broad area of Cells, Molecules, and Physiology (CMP), in which our faculty complement is 17, with the remainder in our Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation (EEC) research labs (18 faculty). Recent enhancements of our graduate program include greater Departmental commitment to regularized graduate stipend levels, clarification of student-supervisor expectations, streamlining of the MSc-PhD transfer process, and changes in regulations and aspects of the annual progress report that should lead to shorter completion times for MSc students. We have piloted a new course, which increases student engagement in our seminar series, by allowing them to earn course credit for attendance along with written summaries (often involving interviews) of the speakers’ research. We have also initiated a “core” set of courses for students in EEC, and have begun the process of streamlining and updating the course requirements in the MPM program. Students in Biological Sciences also participate in several interdisciplinary programs, including the graduate certificate in Neuroscience (FoS, FHS, and FASS), and the new Human Evolutionary Studies Program (HESP; FoS, FHS, FAS, and FASS).
At the graduate level, our two professional programs (MET and MPM) have strong connections with community organizations, and we plan to expand our connections with BC companies and governmental agencies as part of a restructuring of the MPM program. Biological Sciences will continue to foster our connections with the wider community that provide graduate training opportunities, such as the Canadian Wildlife Service, funding partners for existing chairs (e.g., Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Tom Buell BC Leadership Chair in Salmon Conservation and Management), and industrial sponsors (numerous industries support a large number of university-industry contracts and grants held by faculty members). In addition, we have a large number of adjunct faculty from government, industry and academia that teach in our graduate courses, sit on supervisory committees, and provide graduate student financial support.
The Department will continue to encourage participation of graduate student in outreach activities such as Let's Talk Science.
Engaged Research. Within the broad base of Biological Sciences, the Department has remained focused in several research areas, including some with strong graduate training: The Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology Research Group (eBERG) combines our strong tradition of behavioural ecology with a new emphasis on evolutionary theory and practice. This group maintains a strong graduate program including a set of graduate courses offered regularly to support the program. The Department has developed an internationally recognized group in aquatic conservation, Earth2Ocean, established with 4 aquatic ecologists hired several years ago, and J. Moore, who moved to SFU as the Liber Ero Chair in Coastal Science and Management in 2011. This initiative, along with the long-established Centre for Wildlife Ecology and other faculty in the Department, establish the Department as a leader in conservation biology. The Department also maintains a strong presence in Plant Molecular Biology, a unique and important niche in SFU, based on 4 research scientists. In addition, Hutter, Silverman, and Rintoul bring a major Neurobiological and Developmental focus to the Department. Together these groups cover several priority areas in the SFU Research Strategic plan, including Environment, Resources, and Conservation and Health and Biomedical Sciences, and provide multiple opportunities for faculty and students to engage communities outside of academics.
Biological Sciences faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students have often engaged with the media to explain their science to the broader community. For example, postdoctoral fellow Weir recently appeared on Quirks and Quarks. Members of the Earth2Ocean group, including a graduate student, published opinion pieces in Nature and Science on the changes in Canadian environmental legislation. Reynolds won the 2011 President’s Award for Service through Public Affairs and Media Relations, recognizing the impact his group has had on public understanding of conservation science. J. Moore will lead a Coast to Coast Seminar series through IRMACS in Fall Semester 2012 examining “Open Communication of Science.” Mooers and other Departmental conservation biologists helped organize the “Speaking for the Salmon” series through SFU Continuing Studies, which examined issues impacting the survival of wild salmon in British Columbia. In honour of the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and 100th anniversary of the publication of the origin of species, the Department hosted the highly successful series of public lectures at Harbour Centre, “Darwin and You.” In the coming year the Human Evolutionary Studies Program, with strong participation by Biological Sciences faculty, will present a new public forum, “7 Billion and You.” Our graduate students recently organized a meeting with local MP Fin Donnelly to discuss how to translate their science into environmental public policy, and have taken the lead in organizing a networking event called Coastal Connections Vancouver, bringing together graduate students, professors, and representatives from industry and NGOs who are working in aquatic science in the lower mainland.
The Department has been a strong supporter of the Aboriginal Bridging programs conducted at the Surrey Campus through SFU Life Long Learning. The Department subsequently developed a program called TAYBL (Training of Aboriginal Youth in Biomedical Laboratories) to support these Aboriginal students once they have graduated from the bridging programs and have entered science degree programs at the Burnaby Campus. TAYBL is supported by a $50K annual grant from Merck Canada, and provides Aboriginal students interested in biomedical sciences with a training assistantship in a science lab on campus, and the sense of community and support that such a relationship entails. We are also working with Life Long Learning to expand this approach to a bridging program in Environmental Stewardship.
We have also recently established a Departmental Outreach Committee, with plans to bring faculty and graduate students to visit local secondary schools to highlight our research, and to recruit the best and brightest undergraduates to SFU.
III. Self Assessment: Threats
The Department has not been allowed to hire a position identified in our strategic plan since the 2007/2008 academic year. A position in Molecular Toxicology was deferred in Fall Semester, 2006. Since then, a toxicologist position has been either the 1st or 2nd priority in our hiring plan, but we have not been able to hire to this position. Last year the Dean of Science approved an Environmental Toxicologist in the faculty renewal plan, but the VPA’s office did not support it. This has made it impossible to strengthen the Department in this important field, and to build on the strength that exists in environmental toxicology and pharmacology in Faculties of Health Sciences and Environment. Most seriously this has made it difficult to offer undergraduate courses in environmental toxicology, and threatens our ability to mount our successful professional program, Master in Environmental Toxicology (MET). This threat is compounded by the retirement of yet another toxicologist in August 2012. We find ourselves in the desperate position that if we are not given hires in this field we will have to abandon this professional program, which trains students in a field with a high rate of employment and answers a strong societal need.
Although a position in Neurobiology has been the other 1st or 2nd priority in our hiring plan since the 2008/2009 academic year, we have not been allowed to hire this position either. Our inability to hire in the neurobiology area and other areas supporting Cell Biology and Molecular Biology has further exacerbated a trend that has been developing in our broad-based Department for some time (see next section on overlap with other units). As documented previously, many of our undergraduate majors are in the Cells, Molecules and Physiology stream, while our faculty are more evenly split between this stream and Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology.
Overlap with other Units Teaching Biology. The creation of other units involved in research and training in life sciences has created unsustainable overlap with the Department of Biological Sciences. In 2000, the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (IMBB), since 1987 a joint institute between Chemistry and Biological Sciences, officially became a Department in the Faculty of Science. Over the ensuing 12 years, both Biological Sciences and MBB have grown, and if anything the amount of overlap between them (especially in the area of cell and developmental biology, now one of five main research areas in MBB and an area of recent growth in Biological Sciences) has increased. In 2004, the Faculty of Health Sciences was formed, again with overlap in areas of research focus with Biological Sciences. In 2009, Faculties at SFU were reorganized, and the School of Kinesiology became a Department (Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology) within the Faculty of Science—with further overlap with Biological Sciences in the areas of cell biology and physiology.
The Faculty of Environment was created in 2009. This Faculty houses the Environmental Science program, formerly in the Faculty of Science and still greatly reliant on courses from our Department. The use of Biological Sciences courses in the program suggests that although we compete for majors with EVSC, curriculum overlap in the currency of courses is not (yet) an issue. Also included in FENV is the Resource and Environmental Management Department; recent hires in both BISC and REM (one shared) in the general area of aquatic conservation and fisheries management have increased overlap in research interests with FENV.
This overlap has some advantages in terms of creating informal groups of researchers, and sometimes shared teaching responsibilities between units, such as BISC 202 and MBB 231. However, it also can weaken arguments for hires that we need to maintain our courses, as by definition our department must cover a broader range of biological subjects than other units. Competing interests are often difficult to satisfy; “why does Biological Sciences need to hire a Neurobiologist when MBB and BPK also have neurobiologists and hiring needs in this field?”
Reduced Faculty Complement and Reduced Teaching Capacity in the Department.
The number of tenure-track faculty within the Department has fallen from 38 in 2006, to 36 in 2009, to 35 in 2012. Over half (18) of the remaining faculty continue to have reduced teaching loads due to admininistrative relief (Breden, Hart, Haunerland, Mathewes), secondment to FENV (Bendell) or Semester for Dialogue (Winston), cross-appointments (Lesack, J. Moore), funding through CIHR (Guttman, Rintoul), HESP (Crespi, Mooers), Michael Smith (Kermode), appointment as NSERC, CRC or other Research Chairs (Dulvy, Gries, J. Moore, Reynolds, Ydenberg), and one modified contract due to a medical condition. Undergraduate AFTE enrollment over the same time period increased from 514 (2004/5) to 677 (2008/9), to 688 in 2010/11. Thus we have suffered a decrease in teaching capacity coupled with a 34% increase in load. The continued growth of undergraduate programs in FENV and FHS that list many of our upper level courses as possible electives (e.g., FENV: BISC 304, 309, 404, FHS: BISC 303, 418, 441) is likely to further increase enrollments and decrease our ability to offer small discussion-based upper level courses to our majors. These reduced teaching loads are a result of our faculty’s research excellence and dedication to administration; however these reductions must be taken into account when ratios, such as number of students taught per full time faculty in the Department, are used to set hiring priorities at the Faculty and VPA level.
IV. Self Assessment: Weaknesses
Lack of Small-Classroom Experiential Learning Opportunities at theUndergraduate Level. We are not able to provide experiential learning opportunities for our Upper Division majors, and this is especially true for majors in the Cells, Molecules and Physiology area. Reductions in our teaching capacity are compounded by the disparity between the relative proportion of tenure-track faculty and undergraduate students within our two streams. After adjusting for teaching load reductions, there are the equivalent of 13.25 faculty whose research and teaching interests align with the CMP stream and 10 faculty whose research and teaching support the EEC stream. In contrast, 78% of our students identify as belonging to the CMP stream. Our reduced teaching capacity combined with increasing undergraduate enrolment and disproportionate enrolment in the EEC versus CMP streams have negative consequences on classroom size (average upper division class size in 1127 was 52), and hence teaching effectiveness, particularly in popular electives within the CMP stream. During the last 2 years, we have only three courses in our rotation at the 400 level that are designed for CMP: BISC 403 Current topics in Cell Biology, BISC 455 Encocrinology, and BISC 405 Neurobiology. Neurobiology is offered only every other year and had an enrollment of 115 in 1121. Thus, while we currently provide our students with a diversity of learning experiences, the opportunities to participate in small courses that promote critical and creative thinking, or lab and field-courses that provide research-focused experiential learning, are severely constrained.
Lack of Graduate Courses Serving Cell and Molecular Biology Students. A recent challenge for students studying aspects of Cells, Molecules, and Physiology has been access to appropriate coursework at the graduate level. Within this broad umbrella, we have research strength specifically in Neurobiology, Microbiology, and Plant Molecular Biology. Any changes will require us to balance the needs of our graduate program against that of our undergraduate program, where the majority of students are in CMP.
Insufficient Faculty Resources to Support Professional Programs. There is strong support at the Departmental level for our two professional programs, Master in Pest Management and Master in Environmental Toxicology. Both of these build on research areas that have historically been strong in the Department, and they provide graduate training in areas that answer a strong societal need. However, unless the University provides the resources sufficient to mount successful programs, we will have to discontinue these programs. The MPM has benefitted from the new Thelma Finlayson Chair in Biocontrol, but the faculty complement associated with this research area has shrunk in recent years, and over the next five years we may lose an additional faculty member to retirement (Roitberg), leaving just three active supervisors in the program (Cory, Gries, and Punja). If the program is to grow and continue it will need increased participation by other Departmental and SFU faculty, and future research faculty renewal.
More of an immediate concern is our MET program. This interdisciplinary professional program has been highly successful, providing an important service to Canada. However, faculty losses in this area have not been replaced. We lost one faculty member to another university (Farrell), and the search for his replacement was deferred in 2006 and has not gone forward since. Another faculty member (Nicholson) retired in summer 2012. Although originally part of the program, Bendell has not taught MET courses for several years; M. Moore teaches one elective course. Discussions with individuals in FHS have not yet resulted in course offerings for MET students. Taken together, this means that this exemplary program must rely on two faculty members from Biology, Kennedy and Law, to offer the majority of the 18 credits of required courses in BISC, although several individuals from other units offer electives (Gobas-REM, Rosin-BPK, various faculty-Statistics and Actuarial Sciences). Our capacity to supervise required graduate projects in the MET is also constrained; supervision has largely been done by Kennedy and Gobas (REM) with some (currently one student each) by Law, Bendell, and Beischlag (FHS). Although a recent request by Biological Sciences for faculty renewal in the area of toxicology was supported by the Dean of Science, it was not supported by the Vice-President, Academic. Without some indication of support for the MET, our Department will be forced to discontinue it. It would be very unfortunate to abandon this viable program that provides an important training service, and this would be contrary to the University's stated goals of interdisciplinarity, knowledge mobilization, and support of professional programs.
Outdated Teaching Laboratories. In Fall Semester 2011 we began teaching our introductory courses, BISC 101 and 102, in new lab space in Surrey; this has greatly relieved the wait lists for these courses, and helps SFU service the growing student population in Surrey. However, this excellent laboratory space in Surrey helps illustrate how inadequate is the lab space for teaching introductory biology courses on the Burnaby campus. This inadequacy was previously highlighted in our planning document for our 2006 external review and the Departmental 2007-2010 Academic plan. The benches, seating, cabinets and prep areas for first-year labs need to be upgraded; basically we are teaching these labs in spaces furnished almost 50 years ago, while enrolments and the sophistication of introductory biology labs has greatly increased. Areas of strategic growth on the Burnaby campus (e.g., FHS and FENV) rely heavily on Biological Sciences lab courses that are currently offered in this inadequate space.
Most of the other teaching lab spaces in the Shrum Building also have problems. For example, the lab used for BISC 306/317 and 404 also needs renovated benches and prep areas, and seawater access at the student benches. This lab is also much too small for our current needs. One particularly critical need is for larger teaching lab space for BISC 303 Microbiology. This would allow us to increase enrolments in each semester and decrease wait lists. Any expansion of our lab course offerings, such as development of a modern cell biology lab course, would require access to further teaching lab space, basic molecular facilities and an epiflourescent microscope interfaced with a computer with imaging software (~$150-200K). Such a microscope would service both the proposed Cell Biology lab course (at present, a serious deficiency in our curriculum) and the Histology Lab (BISC 449 Histological Techniques).
VI. Planning Assumptions for Future Growth
Biology Building: The Capital Plan from SFU Campus Planning Department lists renovation of the Shrum Science Building – Biology as one of the highest priorities in their renewal category. Quoting from the SFU Capital Plan, “The Biology building has the worst Facility Condition Index of all buildings on campus.” However, the Chief Facilities Officer at SFU, Larry Waddell, recently stated that the large amount of money necessary for a full-scale renovation won’t be available in the near future. Therefore, significant upgrades to the teaching laboratories must be initiated immediately.
Faculty Renewal: Including the Nicholson retirement, we may expect 3-4 total retirements during the next 5 years. Even though the Department cannot count on replacement hires, this teaching capacity will have to be replaced, and our research capacity would suffer tremendously without faculty renewal at least at this level. One lecturer will also retire in 2 years, and should be replaced with an instructor who can support the CMP stream of courses.
Bridge Funding: NSERC Discovery Grant funding has become less certain in the past few years, and funding rates will presumably stay low. Reliance on CIHR and other biomedical grant programs will be increasing in the Department. The Department will have to reserve some discretionary funds (FIC, return on overhead, development funds from Campus Campaign, etc.) to fund bridging programs. Faculty members in the Department have in the past greatly benefited from NSERC RTI program for small equipment purchases, and the future of this program is grim. The Department will most likely have to reserve discretionary funds to cover some small equipment purchases in the future.
Genomic Infrastructure: Support for obtaining and analyzing next generation sequencing will become critical to research and training in all areas of Biology
Discretionary Funds: The money that the Department receives for facilitating and overseeing the offering of BISC 100 by the Fraser International College (FIC) will continue, as will return on overhead and return from Michael Smith and CIHR Faculty Awards. These discretionary funds can be used for strategic initiatives.
The self-study document that will be prepared this semester for the external review provides an opportunity for further self-analysis within the Department. The actual review by an expert panel will lead to an action plan agreed to by the Department and SFU. This action plan will be an opportunity to build on the Departmental strengths and respond to the threats as characterized by the self-analysis in this 5-year plan.
Several units on campus both within and outside of the Faculty of Science have discussed various plans to coordinate the 1st and 2nd year biology courses taught within
Science and across campus. The INSPIRE program as developed by the Dean of Science presents one opportunity to move forward with such an initiative. The strength in Genetics, Development and Cell Biology in MBB and BPK represent an opportunity to further coordinate teaching and research across units at SFU.
We have the opportunity to build on campus-wide strength in Environmental Toxicology and promote innovative research and training. Frank Gobas of REM in FENV is interested in developing a proposal for a Pacific Institute for Human & Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry.
The MPM program recently revised the graduate course requirements in order to present a more modern program and to reflect faculty strength and course availability. Dean Cupples and Faculty of Science Advancement Office have pledged strong support for the MPM program.
Faculty member Hart from Biological Sciences was the PI on a successful NSERC RTI to purchase a MiSeq Sequencer from Ilumina, and MBB has led the effort to purchase an Agilent Bioanalzyer and other ancillary equipment for this facility.
VIII. Departmental Objectives 2013-2018:
Examine Departmental Restructuring. During the Departmental Retreat conducted September, 2012 the faculty expressed a strong desire to change the Department’s situation regarding lack of strategic hires and overlap with other units. This was seen as a necessary response to the threats presented previously in this 5-year plan. We will use the external review process to explore this more fully and arrive at an action plan in conjunction with Dean of Science and VPA office. Two primary models came out of the retreat:
1. Address these issues while remaining a broad-based Biology department.
2. Undertake more radical change which would include a) “internal” changes that we control, e.g. division of Biology into two semi-autonomous units (cell/development and EEOB, or Ecology Evolution and Organismal Biology) each of which has clearer, unique identity, and more control over their own undergraduate and graduate curriculum, and b) some “external” change which requires buy-in from other units.
Establish Centre for Cell Biology. Under both of the models listed above, the Department of Biological Sciences would benefit from joining with faculty from MBB and BPK in the formation of a Center for Cell Biology. Advantages would include rationalising cell course offerings, reducing overlap among departments, and presumably ensuring equal access to all courses for all cell students. By reducing overlap, there may be resources freed to allow for new course development. Improved “identity” for this group of researchers would improve competiveness in a) recruiting undergraduate and graduate students, b) grant funding, and c) more effective lobbying and less overlap in arguing for new cell hires. The Department would re-examine the hiring priority plan with the goal of strengthening this group further, but this could include hires supporting the environmental toxicology program.
Promote Centre for Life Sciences Education. At present 3 departments within Faculty of Sciences utilize the 1st year courses in Biological Sciences, and all three offer courses in 2nd year life sciences. We will work with other units to establish a Division of Life Sciences that could coordinate and oversee the teaching of 1st and 2nd year courses at least within Faculty of Sciences, with the intention of future collaboration on the upper division.
Examine Role of Professional Programs. The external review is an ideal opportunity to examine role of professional programs in Biological Sciences. We plan to continue support for the MPM program, although near-term retirements could strain the program to its limit. One possible long-term solution for environmental toxicology would be to establish an undergraduate environmental toxicology stream that linked to the MET as a “4 + 1” concurrent Bachelor’s-Master’s Program, with the understanding that more university resources would be warranted by a program with a strong undergraduate component. The teaching capacity at the University would have to increase by at least 2 faculty to support this initiative. The Department will have to examine possibly dissolving MET if no faculty renewal is provided by the VPA’s office.
Support Bridge Funding Programs. The Department will continue to use a significant proportion of its discretionary funds to support bridging programs for NSERC and CIHR grants, and plan for future equipment purchases to supplement or replace a radically reduced NSERC RTI program.
Establish Next Generation Sequencing and Bioinformatics Centre. We will work with MBB, Dean Cupples and IRMACS to establish facility for library generation, next generation sequencing and bioinformatics, partially based on new MiSeq Genome Sequencer.
Strengthen Experiential Learning. We are committed to providing students with hands-on lab and field experiences in Biology that provide an opportunity to learn technical skills, design experiments, collect and interpret data, and develop communication skills. We plan to improve this component of the undergraduate learning experience by: i) streamlining our third year lab-based course offerings allowing us to offer method courses for both the EEC and CMP streams to develop stream-specific technical skills and the critical thinking necessary for fourth-year electives. ii) offering a new limited enrollment course in advanced methods and techniques in cell biology. iii) promoting the new field-based course in Tropical Ecology that will be offered for the first time in 1134, and increasing participation in field courses at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.
iv) maintaining the number of students that pursue 3-credit research courses and NSERC USRA opportunities with faculty and increasing participation in our 15-credit Independent Study Semester. v) Continuing and increasing our support of Co-Op and Work-Integrated Learning.
Pursue Immediate Faculty Renewal. Our hiring priorities for research faculty positions reflect a balance between critical curricular needs and strengthening and expanding our research foci. We have expanded our strength in ecology and evolution, especially conservation biology and aquatic ecology, by taking advantage of chair opportunities in this area. However, the growth in our undergraduate majors continues to be in the Cells, Molecules and Physiology stream, and this is where our need is largest. This trend and a need to support our Master in Environmental Toxicology professional program is reflected in the following hiring priorities. These priorities will be re-examined as part of our upcoming external review:
Hiring Priority #1: We propose a hire in toxicology to strengthen the interdisciplinary research focus at SFU in environmental toxicology, with members in BISC, REM, and FHS. This hire would support our internationally renowned professional graduate program in environmental toxicology (MET) and would align growth in the Department with the identified SFU strategic area of environment.
Hiring Priority #2: The Department of Biological Sciences recognizes that neurobiology will continue to be an important area of basic and applied research, and the Department has a strong research group in this field. This group would benefit from the addition of a scientist who works in the fundamental area of genetics, i.e. neurogenetics or neurogenomics, and such a hire would generally strengthen research and teaching in the cell and molecular group in the Department. This position would complement a growing cross-disciplinary group in neurosciences (including scientists in Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Psychology and Faculty of Health Sciences), and would align growth in the Department with health research, one of the areas emphasized in strategic plans outlined by both the VP Research and VP Academic.
Hiring Priority #3: We propose that a future hire should be in microbiology, with a scientist that focuses on the basic biology of infectious diseases. This is an important area of focus shared between MBB, Biological Sciences and FHS; in FHS their strength lies in the social aspects of infectious disease, while MBB and BISC concentrate on the genetic and molecular bases of these diseases. The existing Biology faculty plus an additional hire in the basic science of infectious diseases would strengthen the Biology research group as well as support the Infectious Diseases initiative at SFU. In addition, it would align the Department with the SFU strategic plan in the area of Health.
Hiring Priority #4 (adapted from 2010 3-year plan): Conservation Biology is an emerging area of strength within the Department. The scientists in this area predominately study aquatic ecology. Hiring in the area of terrestrial community ecology (especially plant ecology) would balance this group and increase the Department’s connections with Faculty of Environment.