School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Wayne Snedden


photo of Wayne Snedden

Professor Wayne Snedden: Success as Graduate Chair

by Anthony Pugh, November  2015


Prof. Wayne Snedden has been the Graduate Chair for the Biology Department since December 2013. He took this position both because he knows how crucial administrative work is to the functionality of a department and because he wanted to continue the process of improving Biology’s graduate programs.  In his role Prof. Snedden works with his team of colleagues on the Biology Department Graduate Committee to develop new cutting-edge programs and courses. Prof. Snedden also shows sensitivity for the learning environment and welfare of graduate students. It is this combination of program development and attention for students that has made Prof. Snedden so successful.

The Biology Department is currently developing a combined Bachelor of Science (Honours) and Master of Science. This program is aimed at undergraduate students in biology who wish to complete a Master’s degree at Queen’s in two fewer terms. Students will do this by getting a head start on their Master’s course work and research during their Honour’s year. Similar programs are popular options at other Queen’s departments. The implementation of this program is thus responsive to student desire for faster completion times.

In addition, Biology has been participating in the development of a new multi-departmental Master’s program in biotechnology. This is in the early stages of planning but has already captured the interest of a wide variety of departments at Queen’s. Biotechnology is an innovative and growing area of research that encompasses a wide range of technologies: from biofuels to pharmaceuticals. Prof. Snedden knows that programs like this cannot be created overnight and views improvement as a lengthy ongoing process. The patience needed for this long-term perspective allows complicated new ideas to come to fruition.

Prof. Snedden and his colleagues have also established a new graduate orientation course for Master’s students in biology. This course has the dual purpose of building camaraderie among new graduate students and developing skills in a number of key areas for success as scientists. These skills include written and oral communication, basic statistics, scientific ethics and hypothesis design and testing. Students get to know their colleagues through a series of initial workshops held over a weekend at the Queen’s University Biology Station on Lake Opinicon. Prof. Fran Bonier has led the course development and it will see different faculty members giving specialized presentations and workshops.

Prof. Snedden’s role is not only about new programs and courses. He also wants to help graduate students during their time at Queen’s. Consequently, he is taking an active role in ensuring that all of the graduate students at the department have a least one supervisory committee meeting each year. He believes that this is one of the most important roles for a graduate chair. Furthermore, Prof. Snedden aims to be a person who students can come to if they are struggling personally or with their project. Consequently, he strives to create an environment where students feel comfortable talking to him about sensitive matters where confidentially is important. Finally, Prof. Snedden has had a role overseeing the development of Biology’s graduate student webpages. The increase in functionality makes it easier for students to find information independently and stay abreast of new opportunities.

A good graduate chair should care for students, work closely with colleagues and have a drive to improve graduate programs. Prof. Robert Montgomerie, the previous Graduate Chair in Biology, set a high standard for the position. Prof. Snedden is determined to keep that momentum and to continue building upon the strengths of Biology’s program. His dedication ensures a bright future for graduate studies in biology at Queen’s.