Don Moerman

Don Moerman

BSc, Biological Sciences (Honors) SFU, 1973

PhD, Biological Sciences, SFU, 1979


Professor, Department of Zoology, UBC


Donald Moerman is a Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia.  He received his BSc and PhD degrees in Biology from Simon Fraser University and then held a MRC Postdoctoral Fellowship in Genetics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.  Prior to joining UBC as an Assistant Professor in 1987, Dr. Moerman was a Research Associate and Research Assistant Professor at Washington University (1983-87).  From 1994-95, Dr. Moerman was a Killam Faculty Research Fellow and a Visiting Scientist at the Max-Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany. Since 2006 he has been a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

Dr. Moerman is currently part of an international consortium dedicated to identifying mutations in all 20,000 genes of the free-living nematode C. elegans. In the past he has utilized this model system to address fundamental questions in the process of transposon behavior and mobility as well as sarcomere assembly and muscle development. A recently initiated research effort in his laboratory focuses on using C. elegans as a surrogate for parasitic nematodes to discover new anthelmintics.  Using a high throughput screening method his group are identifying a range of new chemistries that affect nematode growth, development and fecundity.

On a personal note he is a husband, a father and a grandfather. When not running a lab, or being with family, he is a drummer in a “Bar” band. 


Why did you choose to go to SFU?   

I did my first year at Western Washington State College in Bellingham, Washington. I then went traveling in Europe, North Africa and Turkey for almost two years. When I came back I applied to SFU and UBC, and SFU gave me more transfer credits. End of story. 

Where did you spend the most amount of time on campus?

As an undergraduate it would be a tossup between the coffee shop and the library.
As a graduate student it would be a tossup between the lab and the library.

What is your favorite memory from your time at SFU?

As an undergraduate it would be playing drums in Stoner Haven’s band in the SFU pub.
As a graduate student it would be late night experiments in the Baillie lab with FM music blaring.

Who was your favorite SFU professor and why?

There are actually several but at a critical juncture in my development as a scientist it has to be Dr. Peter Oloffs. He offered me a technician’s position in his lab and was a wonderful early mentor and friend. 

How has your SFU degree impacted your career? 

I discovered the wonderful field of genetics while at SFU and this discipline has been at the root of my entire career as a research scientist.

What is your favorite SFU snow story?

When I was first a student in the early 70’s SFU did not have any snow equipment on the mountain (I think this changed quickly). If it snowed you were stuck, so I used to walk down through the park and along a creek through the woods to Duthie Avenue. While a beautiful and refreshing walk, it was also a bit treacherous along the dark trail.

If you could give advice to students today, what would you tell them?

Follow what interests you, dig deep into it, and ignore the academic silos. 

What is the one thing about SFU that must not change?

This may have already changed, but when I was at SFU the library was open 24 hours a day. This has to be one of the greatest gifts to any budding academic. Maybe now with the internet it is not so important, but I suspect open access all the time to literature, journals and just the freedom to browse the stacks is still very important.