IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
DENNIS: In the Canadian Forces, Bioscience Officers are the interface between the scientific and operational community. We apply scientific research and development to protect and enhance the operational health of Forces personnel.
We’re scientists… but don’t expect to see us wearing white lab coats.
JOHNSON: Our role is so unique and varied that it’s hard to predict exactly what we’ll be doing six months down the road. It could be anything from researching new ballistic eye protection… to testing air quality in a hangar… or modifying vehicles to be more ergonomic.
DENNIS: We’re applied human scientists, whose ultimate goal is to make it easier and safer for the men and women of the Canadian Forces to do their jobs.
I am Captain Monica Dennis from Prince Edward Island. I wanted to become a Bioscience Officer because I love science and I wanted to instruct Canadian Forces aircrew about aeromedical training. I also wanted to be a member of the Air Force, and the military gave me a scholarship to do both.
JOHNSON: And I am Captain Gary Johnson from Victoria, British Columbia. The task and the roles of a Bioscience Officer are not something that you commonly see in the civilian sector. Whether it be aerospace physiology or occupational health and safety, we do it in an environment and in situations that most people never get to see or do.
A big part of our job is to ensure that the tools, the equipment, the machinery – it all works optimally for the people that are in the field. It can be simple as setting up a routine sample for dust, or something more complex, like going into an
abandoned compound and building a sampling plan for asbestos and silica and other environmental compounds.
DENNIS: An ongoing focus for us is Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE… because personnel from all elements - Air Force, Army, and Navy - depend on their PPE every day.
A few years ago, the Forces did some research on a fragmentation vest. It was found that when a soldier was lying in the field trying to shoot their rifle, that the vest actually pushed their helmet down over their eyes. As Bioscience Officers, we made adjustments to this vest, to ensure that this type of problem wouldn’t happen again.
JOHNSON: We helped develop the life support equipment used by the Air Force… as well as the new Army uniforms specific for the climate in Afghanistan. In fact, Bioscience Officers were instrumental in the Clothe the Soldier project, designing protective clothing for every part of a soldier’s body for whatever environment they might encounter in the course of their duties.
DENNIS: No matter what the project, we interpret the problem and apply current and proven scientific methods to solve it. We’re also involved in training CF members to function safely under the most extreme circumstances and in the most hostile environments.
JOHNSON: When Bioscience Officers are deployed with the troops, we go outside the wire to test air and water quality and assess other potential health hazards.
DENNIS: Bioscience Officer candidates are expected to be physically fit, ready for the unexpected… adaptable and capable of providing leadership in a variety of environments.
JOHNSON: Preference is given to applicants who have degrees in the human sciences, although other degrees may be considered, if the applicant has specific or unique work experience. Competition is high. A Master’s degree helps, but it’s not the only criteria looked at for selection - your attitude and your character really count.
DENNIS: Successful candidates will attend the Basic Officer Training Course, or BOTC, at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur- Richelieu, Quebec. Here you’ll learn the principles of leadership, regulations, and customs of the service.
JOHNSON: If you’re not already bilingual, you’ll also be expected to take second language training.
DENNIS: Upon completion of BOTC and linguistic training, you’ll spend eighteen months under the supervision of a senior Bioscience Officer, gaining valuable work experience and competing a variety of military and civilian courses. This mentorship program is designed to fast-track you towards working independently.
We work independent of other Bioscience Officer teams. That’s because our jobs are so specialized… but when you’re working on a project, you’ll be part of a multidisciplinary team.
I love the independence. With every new assignment, I get to work with new people, share ideas, try new things… and I’ve been part of some really great teams.
JOHNSON: As a Bioscience Officer, you’ll have a lot of opportunities to expand your professional knowledge through continuing education and training. After gaining experience as a Bioscience Officer, I was selected to attend Post-Graduate Training. I went to the University of Toronto for two years and completed a Masters of Health Sciences and Occupational and Environmental Health. While I was going to school, the military paid for my salary, my books and tuitions. All in all, it was a great experience.
DENNIS: It’s rewarding to know I’m helping to ensure the health and safety of my military family.
JOHNSON: I could be on a submarine one week, or at a conference the next. I’ve recently been to Afghanistan. I could be called upon to work on the C-17 project to do noise sampling, or I could be teaching in a class on biohazards.
DENNIS: If you’re interested in applying scientific solutions to improve the quality of life, well-being and working conditions of your fellow Canadians… then you should seriously consider becoming a Bioscience Officer.