Intern Skill Sets

There are three broad areas of study at Western Science: Life Sciences, Mathematical and Computational Sciences, and Physical Sciences, each of which is comprised of several departments and programs. The following describes Intern skill sets that will be of interest to employers.

Life Sciences

Basic Medical Sciences and Neuroscience

Modules offered jointly with the Faculty of Science and the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry include Biochemistry, Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Biochemistry of Infection and Immunity, Chemical Biology, Clinical Biochemistry, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Medical Biophysics, Medical Cell Biology, Health Informatics, Microbiology and Immunology, Pathology and Toxicology, Pharmacology, Physiology, and Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences.

Students learn integrated knowledge on the scientific basis of human health that can be put into practice in research and clinical settings. Laboratory and lecture courses introduce students to theoretical aspects of the Medical Sciences and instruct them on how to utilize these concepts in devising and assessing scientific hypotheses. Students are taught to understand the fundamentals of the structure and function of basic biomolecules (proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids). They are introduced to basic molecular biology techniques (DNA isolation and sequencing, protein purification, methodology utilized in determining protein structure). Scientific enquiry extends from the subcellular level all the way to determinants of population health. One example is from the Medical Cell Biology program:

The study of Medical Cell Biology aims to highlight the interrelationships of structure and function from the molecular level, to the cellular level, to tissues and gross anatomical structures, thereby focusing, in year 4, on cell biological discovery and disease processes. Students learn the gross anatomical features of all human body systems, learn to understand how cells in the human body interact when forming tissues, maintaining homeostasis and regulating behavior, and learn about the cellular mechanisms governing normal and pathological processes, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and mental disorders.

In these programs, emphasis is placed on a broad understanding of human health, from the level of cells and molecules to major body systems to populations, as well as mechanisms and prevention of clinical diseases. Throughout the program, students receive essential science skills including critical thinking, oral presentations, and written communication including writing laboratory reports in accepted scientific format. The broad scope of the Basic Medical Science and Neuroscience programs offers students a diverse set of career options.


Biology at Western is a versatile and exciting program that has gained an enviable reputation over many years. At Western, Biology is taught from a perspective that integrates the subcellular, cellular, organism, community and ecosystem levels. All students enrolled in our programs take a core of courses in their second year including biochemistry, organic chemistry, molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, and population ecology. In addition, students receive essential hands-on experiences in our innovative laboratory-only courses, which emphasize student input into experimental design, learning a variety of modern techniques and the basis of scientific communication.

In senior years, the knowledge gained from these core courses enables students to explore their interests in the many strengths of the department such as animal behaviour, biochemistry and molecular biology, systematics, biodiversity, ecology, evolution, comparative and environmental physiology, cell biology and development, and genetics. Many of the courses offer practical laboratory experience.

Mathematical and Computational Sciences

Applied Mathematics

The Department of Applied Mathematics cultivates a broad knowledge of basic and applied mathematics, while developing skills in the use of numerical and computational methods. The expertise acquired in Applied Mathematics is useful to solve complex problems in the natural, social and applied sciences. Areas of specialty include theoretical chemistry, quantum systems, bioinformatics, fluid mechanics, finance, computer science, environmental modeling and environmetrics. The Department is active in traditional areas of applied mathematics, including theoretical physics, and in new, rapidly developing fields. The tools that are used include computational & numerical methods, applications of massive parallel computers, or simply pen and paper.

Statistical & Actuarial Sciences

Students involved in these two areas possess computing skills in various statistical packages and have proficiency in data analysis, probability, elementary modelling, regression, and experimental design. Modules in this department include Statistics, Actuarial Science, and Financial Modelling. Students in Statistics deal with the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data using probability and other mathematical tools. Students in Actuarial Science study models and methods used in the analysis and management of financial risk. Students in Financial Modelling study statistics, mathematics, and math of finance combined with computing skills, with a focus towards financial markets and business. Optional courses for many students include economics and business.

  • Western has accreditation from the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA)
    (which allows students to apply to the CIA for exemptions from some of the actuarial exams)
  • Western has the prestigious Centers of Actuarial Excellence (CAE) designation from the Society of Actuaries (SOA)
  • Western has education accreditation from The Statistical Society of Canada
    (which allows students to use pre-approved Western courses towards the educational requirements of the Associate Statistician designation)

Computer Science

By the end of their third year, most internship students in Computer Science will have completed courses in data structures and algorithms, computer organization, software engineering, object-oriented design, operating systems, computer networks, database management, computer architecture, formal logic, theoretical computer science, software engineering, object-oriented design, and operating systems. Optional courses include computer graphics, artificial intelligence, project management, software law.

All students will have a great deal of experience working in Unix and Windows environments, and will have programmed extensively in languages such as Java, C, and C++. In addition, students will have participated as team members in at least two large group software projects, and had exposure to the latest tools and best practices in the software industry, including code repositories, integrated development environments, agile development, cloud computing, and web development.

Computer Science programs strive to foster both independent scholarship and the ability to work and communicate effectively in group settings.


Mathematics students have strong analytical and problem solving skills. They have the ability to learn new areas quickly, and have flexible and deeply inquiring mindsets. This is the result of a combination of native ability and rigorous training. Students in Mathematics learn skills in investigation including developing research models, analyzing data and evaluating ideas, and using logical processes. Our students develop communication skills through explaining and summarizing research findings.

Computation and Technical skills are strengths for Mathematical students including performing calculations, modeling, using formulas, analyzing probabilities, and designing computer simulations.

Physical Sciences


Chemistry undergraduates are introduced to statistics, word-processing, and spreadsheet programs while honing good report-writing skills as well as laboratory work habits.

During second year, students have hands-on access to standard instrumentation (e.g., UV/VIS and FTIR spectrometers) and develop their skills at report writing. Third year Honors students will have two levels of courses in inorganic, physical and organic chemistry. Also, they have hands-on access to more instrumentation (UV/VIS, FTIR, AA, IC, GC, NMR).

Students spend 9 hours per week in the lab conducting experiments in second year and 12 hours per week in third year. Instrumental Analytical Chemistry, a third year course, provides the theory and practical use of chemical instruments.

Earth Sciences

Earth Sciences (Geology, Geophysics, Environmental Geoscience) are the study of the history, structure and dynamics of planet Earth. Studies in Earth Sciences include: the origin of the Earth and its evolution; the nature of minerals and rocks; volcanoes and earthquakes; the origin of the oceans, atmosphere and changing climate; the origin and evolution of life; plate tectonics and the drift of the continents; the creation of mineral, oil and gas deposits and methods of exploration; the movement of groundwater and contaminants.

Geology encompasses mineralogy, petrology, geochemistry, mineral deposits, as well as sedimentology and stratigraphy, basin analysis, hydrology and hydrogeology, palaeontology and biostratigraphy, and structural geology. Both Geology and Geophysics students take courses in exploration seismology and other geophysical exploration methods. Furthermore, students in the Geophysics program have strong backgrounds in mathematics, computer data analysis, signal processing and applied physics, as well as solid training in many aspects of Geology. Environmental Geoscience students take courses that include earth, water, air cycles, pollution, remediation and sustainability, natural environments and disasters, chemistry, minerals, hydrology and hydrogeology.

Students have the option of completing programs that fulfill requirements for professional registration as set by the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario (APGO) and the Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists (CCPPG)

Physics & Astronomy

The Department offers programs in Physics, Astrophysics, Medical Physics, Materials Science, and Planetary Science.

All of our undergraduates have studied mechanics, waves, heat and thermodynamics, plus advanced courses in either electricity and magnetism or quantum mechanics. By the end of third year, students have completed two full laboratory courses, and are well prepared to take their places at the workbench. Students are well-versed in mathematics through courses in calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra. Students gain experience in giving and critiquing talks and seminars through the Seminar Course, in which students from all three years of the programs meet together once a week.

Environmental Science

The Environmental Science program is an interdepartmental program that combines the resources and interests of different departments to meet student needs. The modules all contain interdisciplinary components from Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Geography, and Environmental Science.  In addition, there are courses in topics from several different areas: Environmental Life Sciences; Environmental Physical Sciences; and Environmental Philosophy, Policy, Social and Political Science.

Emphasis is placed on understanding the scientific basis underlying environmental problems and their potential solutions. Students determine how physical, chemical, and biological processes at local to global scales interact with the influence and interests of humans in these processes. The interdisciplinary modules in Environmental Science combine biological, physical and social sciences perspectives in order to understand the importance of environmental research to science and society.