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Biochemistry Co-op Program

Mission and Vision

The co-operative education option in the Biochemistry program at Queen’s offers students an experience that integrates on-campus academic study with relevant work experience in industry, - government, or a research institute. The work experience enhances the students' intellectual, professional and personal development by providing opportunities for applying academic theories and knowledge, evaluating and adjusting career directions, and developing skills in working with people. The co-operative education program opens doors to a diverse set of employers throughout Canada and the United States, which allows students to build professional networks outside of Queen’s University.

The vision of the co-operative education program is to:

  • Provide students with relevant work experience
  • Challenge students to develop skills and techniques necessary for success in the workplace
  • Allow students to contribute their ideas and knowledge to different employers

History of the Program

The Biochemistry Co-op Program was founded in 1991 by Dr. Geoff Flynn, who was Head of the Department of Biochemistry at the time, with support from the Dean (Dr. Duncan Sinclair) and Vice-dean (Dr. Bob Maudsley) of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Examples of Past Placements

The Biochemistry co-op program offers a variety of different positions both in the government and in private sectors. Below are some examples of recent positions held by the biochemistry co-op students.

  • Agriculture and Agri Food Canada – Lethbridge, AB
  • Cancer Research Center State University of New York at Albany – Albany, NY
  • Sanofi Pasteur – Toronto, ON
  • Health Canada – Ottawa, ON
  • Highland Therapeutics – Toronto, ON
  • National Research Council – Ottawa, ON
  • Performance Plants – Kingston, ON

Advisors

  • Director, Biochemistry Co-op Program
    • Dr. Peter Davies
  • Department Student Council representative
    • Hanna Schimjawicz (2016-2017)
  • Administrative assistant
    • Denise Cameron

How co-op works - a typical schedule

Co-op students must complete at least 12 months of relevant work experience to obtain a B.Sc. (Honours) Specialization Biochemistry degree with the co-op designation. A typical schedule consists of one eight-month work term (May - December) upon completion of third year, return to campus to complete the winter semester of 4th year, a four-month work term during the following summer (May - August), and return to campus to complete the fall semester of 4th year. Work terms may vary as opportunities arise. For example, the 8-month work term could be split into two 4-month work terms. Also, some employers require students be placed with them for a 12-month term, in which case 4th year is delayed by one calendar.

The typical co-op schedule commencing with an 8-month placement looks as follows:

Year

Fall Semester
(Sept. - Dec.)

Winter Semester
(Jan. - Apr.)

Spring Semester
(May - Aug.)

1

On campus academic term

On campus academic term

 

2

On campus academic term

On campus academic term

 

3

On campus academic term

On campus academic term

Work term 1

4

Work term 1 (cont)

On campus academic term

Work term 2

5

On campus academic term

 

Graduation

* Co-op students can obtain a letter after the fall semester in 5th year to say they have completed all their degree requirements and are able to apply for jobs that require a BSc qualification.

Benefits of the co-op program

This co-op curriculum is unique to the Biochemistry Teaching Program, and has many benefits including:

  • Twelve months of paid work experience
  • Opportunities to work in front-line research laboratories using the most up-to-date techniques and scientific equipment
  • Opportunities to apply the knowledge gained in class and gain hands-on experience in field of study
  • Experience in writing CVs, job applications, attending job interviews, and presenting work reports and seminars
  • Work term employers become valuable sources of references and contacts
  • Opportunities to develop the quality of work experiences in your resume
  • Help identify the type of career you want to pursue after graduation
  • Students directly improve their employment opportunities upon graduation
  • Flexibility in arranging your own co-op placement for the work terms, as long as the placement is relevant to biochemistry and receives approval by the Program

Earnings

Co-op rates of pay vary depending on your employer, the type of job, and work term level/experience. They are typically equivalent to what 3rd and 4th year summer students receive within the department.

Admission Requirements

Entry into the co-op program is competitive and the preliminary selection is based on marks, lab course assessments, references, and interviews. The final selection is made by the Biochemistry Co-op Program and work term employers.

Students currently enrolled in their third year at Queen’s should apply by the end of the second week in October. Information sessions are held early in the third academic year providing application forms and other information.

To qualify for entry into the co-op program, a student must:

  • Be enrolled full-time at Queen’s University
  • Be proceeding towards a B.Sc. (Hons.) Specialization Biochemistry degree. Course requirements are stated in the Arts and Science Calendar.
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0
  • Be prepared to travel for the work term placements

Important Dates

  • Mid-September: Biochemistry information session
  • Late September: Applications for the co-op open
  • Mid-October: Applications submitted
  • Early November: In-house interviews
  • Late November: Final decisions made. Students will receive an email with the status of their application.
  • Mid-January: Co-op information session/resume writing workshop
  • February: Interviews with prospective employers
  • March: Work offer made
  • May 1st: First day of co-op placement

Applications

Current Application. Along with the application form, students should attach a copy of their updated resume including names, addresses, and phone numbers of TWO referees.

To be considered for a placement in 2018, submit the application form and resume in-person to Denise Cameron in the Life Sciences and Biochemistry office (room 650) by 3 PM on Thursday, October 12, 2017.

In-house Interview

A few weeks after the student submits the application form, they will be contacted with an interview date and time, (typically in early November). The in-house interview will be held by the Co-op Program Director, and/or another faculty member. This interview follows a typical panel interview style, and serves to get to know the student better.

Job Search and Preparation

From January onwards, as co-op placements become available for application, details of the placement are sent to all the accepted co-op students. Some placements are not announced until late in the winter semester because of approval requirements at the company. It is the responsibility of the student to promptly decide if they want to apply for the placement. The Program will contact the companies with a list of prospective co-op students interested in the placement, send out their resumes and transcripts, and set up interviews. Students may arrange their own co-op placements if these are vetted and approved by the Program.

To prepare for placement applications, the Co-op Program Director or other faculty advisors are available to check resumes and offer suggestions for improvement. Also, there will be a Resume and Cover Letter Writing session held by the Biochemistry Student Council in mid-January that the students are encouraged to attend.

Interviews by co-op employers

Once the prospective employer receives the student’s resume, they may contact the faculty advisor or the student directly to set up a 15- to 20-minute interview, usually over Skype. This will typically take place in February or March. The interview serves to connect the student and the employer, to see if there is a suitable fit, and it is good to note that although the student is being interviewed by the employer, the employer is also being interviewed by the student. Students are encouraged to ask the employer any questions that they may have.

It is typical that the student will interview for several placements since many companies have multiple students applying for one open position.

Responsibilities during placement

Students are expected to record their work tasks, assignments, and goals throughout the work term. They are encouraged to keep an organized workbook with progress reports of their term. Students should apply their learning objective and set out to complete the goals they have set for themselves, and those set by the employer. The student must comply with the employer’s set guidelines, safety procedures, responsibilities, confidentiality and ethics. Upon return to Queen’s, the students will submit a written report and give a presentation about their placement, and the progress they made.

Evaluation

Students are expected to give a 15-minute-long presentation and submit a 10 page report about their placement upon return to Queen’s (upon the completion of your first eight months of co-op). The mark breakdown is as follows:

  • Work performance (evaluated by placement supervisor): 50 %
  • Presentation (evaluated by Queen’s faculty): 25 %
  • Written report (evaluated by Queen’s faculty): 25 %

                      Note: Upon the completion of your final 4 months you will be expected to present a poster.

Student Testimonials

                     Under construction

Frequently asked questions

  • What is the difference between the co-op program and QUIP? The co-operative education program is an experience unique to biochemistry students, while the QUIP program is offered to all undergraduate students. The main difference between the two programs is that the co-op offers students several different placements in relevant positions over the span of 12 months, while the QUIP program provides students with 12-16 months of work experience at one company.
  • Will I find employment more easily by completing the CO-OP Program? The co-operative education program offers students working experience outside of the university setting. It opens doors to a diverse set of employers throughout Canada and the United States, which allows students to build professional networks outside of Queen’s University.
  • How many people are admitted to CO-OP each year? The number of students admitted to the co-operative education program fluctuates every year, but is typically around 5 to 10 students.
  • Do I have to submit a report after each co-op placement? Once you completed 8 months of co-op you will be required to do an oral presentation and written report.  When your final 4 months are completed you will do a poster presentation.
  • Do I have to be in the Specialization stream to be in co-op? Yes. All students interested in the co-operative program must be in the Specialization stream, which involves taking an extra 300-level laboratory course. This allows students to get more on-hands laboratory experience before begining sent out to their placements.
  • How does the co-op affect my 4th year honours thesis? The co-operative placements count as the BCHM 421 credit, and when you return from your placement, you will be placed in a laboratory to complete the BCHM 422 credit. The students will have one semester to complete their thesis report and present a poster to obtain this credit.
  • I want to find my own placement. What are the requirements for my placement? The co-operative education placement must be relevant to the biochemistry field and must allow you to be engaged in productive work. The placement must be a paid position and at least 4-months in length.