On Jan 17, 2020 we celebrated the official opening of the Undergraduate Life Sciences Teaching Laboratories! Formally known as UBC’s Biological Sciences Centre, this renovated and expanded space brings together all of the undergraduate programs in life and biological sciences at the Vancouver campus into one complex - including Botany, Zoology, Physiological Sciences, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and of course the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
The new renovations feature study spaces for students on every floor of the building, modern teaching laboratories specified for each course, smart classrooms that encourage collaboration, conversation and group activities during active learning lectures, and a space for faculty offices and student societies such as the Biological Sciences Society and Microbiology and Immunology Students’ Association (MISA).
“This unique partnership between the Government of Canada, the Province of BC and the University of British Columbia will further enable UBC to attract leading life sciences researchers and ensure our students are inspired to innovate and discover in exceptional learning facilities” said UBC President Santa Ono at the opening.
Supporting the next generation of researchers
Among Ono’s speech were inspiring words from Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness, Dean of Science, Meigan Aronson, and 4th year BSc Microbiology and Immunology student, Mark Pitblado.
“I hope that this building stands at the vanguard for many more great things to come,” says Pitblado. “This new building continues the trend of the University of British Columbia, the province of BC, and the federal government of stepping up to the challenge of fostering an environment for minds from all around the world to gather.”
Pitblado is a firm believer that knowledge from multiple disciplines is needed to solve problems and has been part of an array of experiences himself. He has worked in the marketing department for STEMCELL Technologies, web development and admissions for UBC, and public health for the Ontario provincial government. And he is currently serving as Vice President Finance for MISA and on co-op placement at BC Children’s Research Institute as a Research Coordinator with the Mâsse Lab, focusing on better understanding childhood obesity.
Pitblado hopes to complete graduate studies related to health economics after he completes his BSc in order to tackle health inequality both domestically and around the world. Using the knowledge of microbiology and immunology gained from his first degree, he hopes to specifically address combating communicable diseases with more financially efficient and better distributed treatment in developing economies.
“Investing in education is more important now than ever,” said Pitblado, who also describes education as a gift that is meant to be passed forward through generations.
“When you stand in this building today, I hope you understand that our promise as students working towards solutions is intrinsic and forever unwavering.”
The future of Life Sciences
In an interview with CTV Vancouver, Senior Instructor David Oliver shared that the new Undergraduate Life Sciences Teaching Laboratories will allow students to understand both what authentic research is and what authentic research looks like in order to prepare them for a future career.
Students studying Microbiology and Immunology will not only participate in an authentic lab experience, but also have easier access to research opportunities such as CUREs and published journals like UJEMI.
CUREs (Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences) represent broadly accessible opportunities for students to do real science and engage in a laboratory experience that involves scientific practice, discovery, collaboration, iteration and meaningful research. CUREs also consist of several writing assignments which culminate in the online publication of original research articles and are used by future students to derive new projects.
The opportunity to write research articles can also lead to a published paper in UJEMI (the Undergraduate Journal of Experimental Microbiology and Immunology), which is dedicated to publishing original research projects from undergraduate students and can be used as a valuable reference for a future career in science.
With these opportunities from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology combined with the collaboration of undergraduate life science students all in one place; this new building will allow the continuous sharing of ideas, inspiration and life-changing research.
“This building supports the next generations of researchers finding ways to combat disease, protect agriculture, and create innovative medicines,” said Melanie Mark, who is the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training in British Columbia. “We expect thousands of careers in science and technology in the next decade, and this state-of-the-art building will empower students to get the hands-on experience they need to thrive and build the best BC.”