Current MD/PhD Students 

The UBC MD/PhD Program currently has an enrollment of 31 students. Our current student liaison is Shayda Swann, and our current alternate student liaison is Saif Dababneh.  Rohit Singla is our student liaison in the Island Medical Program. Prospective applicants are welcome to contact any of the students via email to obtain more information on the program.

Class of 2024


Wissam Nassrallah     Class of 2024
Education: BSc (Biomedical Science), MSc (Neuroscience), University of Ottawa
Field of study: Neuroscience
Supervisor: Dr. Lynn Raymond
Hosting department and work location: Neuroscience, Centre for Brain Health

Wissam completed his BSc in Biomedical Science and his MSc in Neuroscience both at the University of Ottawa. During his graduate studies, he developed an interest in the field of electrophysiology and the rules governing synaptic plasticity. Specifically, he studied the implication of the endoplasmic reticulum in the homeostatic synaptic response. His thesis, “Store-Operated Response in CA1 Pyramidal Neurons Exhibits Features of Homeostatic Synaptic Plasticity”, explored novel traits of homeostatic synaptic plasticity. Wissam will be working in Dr. Lynn Raymond’s laboratory during the MD/PhD Program, exploring the alteration of these synaptic rules in a mouse model of Huntington disease (HD). Wissam hopes that discovering key traits of the pathophysiology of HD would reveal new therapeutic targets of this terrible brain disorder.  For leisure, Wissam enjoys composing musical pieces, going to the gym as well as spending quality time with family and friends.

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Alvin Qiu     Class of 2024
Education: BSc (Anatomy & Cell biology), McGill University
Field of study: Oncology
Co-supervisors: Dr. Martin Hirst and Dr. Torsten Nielsen
Hosting department and work location: Interdisciplinary Oncology Program, Michael Smith Laboratories

Alvin was born in Shanghai, China and grew up in Toronto, ON. Throughout his undergraduate degree, he was involved in projects ranging from studying cancer-related signal transduction at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre to investigating molecular memory traces that underlie behavioural memory at the Montreal Neurological Institute. Alvin completed his BSc in Honours Anatomy and Cell Biology at McGill University. For his PhD, Alvin is interested in cancer research and is beginning a project on synovial sarcoma epigenomics with Drs. Martin Hirst and Torsten Nielsen. Synovial sarcoma is a highly aggressive soft-tissue cancer that predominantly affects adolescents and young adults. This malignancy is characterized by a unique chromosomal abnormality, a balanced chromosomal translocation t(X,18; p11,q11), that ultimately dysregulates critical genes via epigenetic modifications. The exact mechanisms of how these aberrant processes drive this cancer are poorly defined and controversial. By understanding the epigenomics of synovial sarcomas, Alvin hopes to guide the use of emerging epigenetic therapeutic agents in the treatment of this deadly disease. At UBC, Alvin is also involved with the UBC Medical Journal (UBCMJ) and the Medical Education Committee (MEC). Outside of school, Alvin enjoys hiking, swimming, biking, snowboarding, music and watching reality TV.

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Class of 2025


Andy An     Class of 2025
Education: BSc (Pharmacology), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Immunology, Infectious Disease
Supervisor: Dr. Robert Hancock
Hosting department and work location: Microbiology and Immunology, Centre for Microbial Diseases and Immunity Research

Andy’s research will focus on understanding the mechanisms of endotoxin tolerance in sepsis. Bacterial sepsis is best known for its hyperinflammatory phase – the “cytokine storm” – but new research has shown that immediately after or even concurrently with hyperinflammation, there is an immunosuppressive phase which persists long after the patient recovers from sepsis. This immunosuppression is suggested to be responsible for a higher risk of secondary infections, hospital readmissions, and mortality. One explanation for this immunosuppression is endotoxin tolerance, a phenomenon where monocytes and macrophages in septic patients no longer properly respond to infectious stimuli after repeated exposure to endotoxins such as LPS, resulting in a defective innate immune response. Andy is interested in the biological pathways involved in endotoxin tolerance, which may pave the way for determining new biomarkers to rapidly diagnose sepsis, as well as the epigenetic regulation of this process to determine why immunosuppression persists after recovery. Outside of school, Andy enjoys photography, pottery, playing volleyball, and creating educational medical videos on YouTube.

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Luke MacLean     Class of 2025
Education: BEng (Mechanical Engineering), McGill University; MHSc (Clinical Engineering), University of Toronto
Field of study: Surgical Navigation and Robotics in Orthopaedic (Spine) Surgery
Co-Supervisors: Dr. Antony Hodgson and Dr. John Street
Hosting department and work location: Biomedical Engineering, Surgical Technologies Laboratory

Luke completed his undergraduate degree in honours mechanical engineering with a minor in biomedical engineering at McGill University. At that time, he worked amongst three lab groups involved in carbon nanotube nanocarrier design, control systems for automated 3D cell culturing and motion-capture for biomechanical posture modelling. He then completed an MHSc degree in clinical engineering at the University of Toronto where his research was focused in surgical tool design and surgical robotics. He designed and built a prototype for supporting the open-chest of newborn patients in critical care post-unsuccessful sternal closures. He also supported the development of a custom neuro-bipolar for the da Vinci Surgical system, a sound coordinating unit for anesthesia equipment, and a stand-alone mechatronic platform for endoscopic ear surgery. At the same time, he worked as a clinical engineer at Toronto General Hospital where he wrote the laser safety manual for the UHN, and developed a software tool for tracking medical equipment. Now beginning the MD/PhD at UBC, he will be joining the Surgical Technologies Lab under Dr. Antony Hodgson where he will continue to focus on translating mechanical engineering into the surgical sphere. In particular, he will be developing computer-navigation and robotic-guidance to support orthopaedic surgery procedures. In his free time, Luke enjoys running, playing intramurals, skiing, playing guitar and any opportunity for travel.

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Dhiraj Mannar     Class of 2025
Education: BSc (Biochemistry), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Structure Guided Drug Design
Supervisor: Dr. Sriram Subramaniam
Hosting department and work location: Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Centre for Brain Health

Dhiraj completed his BSc in Honours Biochemistry in 2019. During his co-op experience, Dhiraj worked on various research projects from the development and production of phosphorylation state specific antibody microarrays at Kinexus Bioinformatics Corporation to evaluating the neutralization capabilities of single chain fragment antibodies engineered against toxins secreted by the opportunistic pathogen Clostridium Difficile, under the supervision of Dr. Ted Steiner. For his honours thesis, Dhiraj worked in the lab of Dr. Calvin Yip, where he characterized the molecular assembly of Elongator, a 12 subunit protein complex responsible for tRNA modification. His thesis “Structural and Functional Characterization of Human Elongator” was awarded the Violet and Blythe Eagles undergraduate prize in biochemistry. For his PhD, Dhiraj will be working in Dr. Subramaniam’s lab where he will focus on utilizing cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to visualize molecules, viruses and cells with the central goal of accelerating the development of effective therapeutic agents to treat cancer, disorders of the brain and infectious diseases. Outside of research, Dhiraj is an avid musician and enjoys skateboarding.

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Personal webpage

Rohit Singla     Class of 2025
Education: BASc (Computer Engineering), MASc (Biomedical Engineering), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Ultrasound, Artificial Intelligence, Kidney Disease, Transplantation
Co-Supervisors: Dr. Robert Rohling and Dr. Christopher Nguan
Hosting department and work location: Biomedical Engineering, Robotics & Control Laboratory

Rohit is an engineer turned double doctor.

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Class of 2026

Katrina Besler     Class of 2026
Education: BSc (Molecular Biology & Biochemistry), Simon Fraser University
Field of study: Atherosclerosis
Supervisor: Dr. Gordon Francis
Hosting department and work location: Experimental Medicine, Centre for Heart Lung Innovation

Katrina grew up in Port Coquitlam, BC, and completed her BSc. Honours in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University in 2018. Her undergraduate thesis examined inflammatory signaling in endothelial cells as a mechanism in transplant vasculopathy. Katrina continues to study arteries at the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation, where her PhD project focuses on atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of death in Canada and the world, in the form of heart disease and stroke, and involves the formation of cholesterol-rich plaque in the arteries. The Francis lab recently discovered that the majority of cells making up these plaques are derived from smooth muscle cells (SMCs). Cholesterol-loaded SMCs are deficient in a key enzyme, lysosomal acid lipase (LAL), which results in a reduced ability of these cells to export cholesterol. Katrina will investigate the effect of increasing LAL activity in SMCs on the progression and regression of atherosclerosis in mice. She hopes that research in this field will lead to new and better treatments and outcomes for patients with atherosclerosis and other conditions. Outside of academics, Katrina enjoys being with her family and friends, playing softball, attempting to play instruments, and admiring nature.

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Lianne Cho     Class of 2026
Education: BSc (Neuroscience), Brown University
Field of study: Neuroscience, Mental Health, & Addictions
Supervisor: Dr. William Honer
Hosting department and work location: Neuroscience, BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services

Lianne completed her undergraduate degree at Brown University (Providence, RI), where she studied affective processing in the Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Lab. She also did internships in Toronto and the Bronx (New York, NY), which led her to appreciate how the distinct characteristics of a population inform what is needed to build an effective healthcare system for a particular community. At UBC, Lianne is studying the relationships between early life experiences, trauma, substance use, and mental illness as part of the Hotel Study, which examines multimordidity in those who are precariously housed. Generally speaking, Lianne is interested in exploring different ways of knowing, and in investigating how life experiences, social environments, and cultural elements interact to inform well-being. Her objective is to contribute to the advancement of personalized mental healthcare. Outside of academics, Lianne enjoys dancing, running, writing poetry, and spending time with loved ones.

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Maryam Vaseghi-Shanjani     Class of 2026
Education: BSc (Biology & Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior), MSc (Medical Science), McMaster University
Field of study: Primary Immunodeficiencies & Primary Atopic Disorders
Supervisor: Dr. Stuart Turvey
Hosting department and work location: Experimental Medicine, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute (BCCHRI)

Maryam completed her B.Sc. in BioPsych and her M.Sc. in Medical Sciences both at McMaster University. During the summer of her first year in undergrad, she received a grant from Parkinson’s Foundation to conduct research at Toronto Western Hospital investigating the role of Subthalamic Nucleus in response inhibition. In her second year of undergrad, she worked as a summer work study student at McMaster University, studying the impact of wastewater on the physiology and behavior of fish. In her third and fourth year of undergrad, she worked as an undergraduate thesis student with Dr. Zhou Xing and continued her graduate studies in the same lab. During her master’s, she used a murine model of virulent tuberculosis infection and BCG vaccination to understand the role of memory alveolar macrophages in host defense against pulmonary TB in immunized animals. For her PhD, Maryam will be working in Dr. Stuart Turvey’s lab to study single-gene defects that result in primary immunodeficiencies (PIDs). Patients with PID often present early in life with varying degrees of chronic immune dysfunction, resulting in recurrent infections, auto-inflammatory disorders, and malignancies. Maryam’s project will focus on PIDs that result in severe atopic disorders. To date, only 32 monogenic causes of primary atopic disorders have been discovered and described. Many children born with debilitating atopic disorders still remain undiagnosed and thus, untreated. To address this, her project aims to screen for children born with PADs across Canada, find the molecular cause of their previously undiagnosed atopic condition, perform functional characterisation of their immune cells and potentially, repurpose existing therapeutics to help treat their condition. Outside of research and in her free time, Maryam enjoys baking, dancing, listening to audiobooks, learning taekwondo and going on long walks!

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Li Qing Wang     Class of 2026
Education: BSc (Cell, Anatomical & Physiological Sciences), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Maternal and Fetal Health
Co-Supervisors: Dr. Wendy Robinson and Dr. Sarka Lisonkova
Hosting department and work location: Reproductive and Developmental Sciences, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute (BCCHRI)

Li Qing is passionate about maternal and fetal health in both the basic science and the clinical aspects. During her undergraduate studies, Li Qing studied CCR5 polymorphisms and pre-eclampsia with Dr. Wendy Robinson. For her PhD research project, Li Qing is studying both genetic and epidemiologic risk factors of pre-eclampsia. Through studying immune-related methylation quantitative trait loci (mQTLs), which are SNPs associated with differential DNA methylation, in the context of placental insufficiency and pregnancy complications, Li Qing hopes to better understand the role of immune imbalance in the pathophysiology of pregnancy complications and develop predictive models for adverse pregnancy outcomes. Through investigating the association between pre-pregnancy body-mass-index (BMI) and HELLP syndrome in the BC population, Li Qing hopes to better understand obesity as a risk factor for pre-eclampsia. Outside of research and medical school, Li Qing plays the piano and earned her Licentiate Diploma in Piano Performance (LRCM) in 2015. She also loves travelling, going to concerts, reading, baking, cats and learning new things!

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Class of 2027

Katherine Baillie     Class of 2027
Education: BSc (Biochemistry), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Oncology
Supervisor: Dr. Peter Stirling
Hosting department and work location: Interdisciplinary Oncology Program, BC Cancer

Katie completed her BSc in Honours Biochemistry at UBC in 2019. She developed an interest in research doing a directed studies project under Dr. Douglas Allan investigating neurodevelopment in Drosophila. She also worked at the biotech company Innovative Targeting Solutions generating novel antibody therapeutics. For her honours thesis in Dr. Eric Jan’s lab, she studied the mechanism and function of the 2A peptide in Cricket Paralysis virus and developed a screening assay for potential anti-viral compounds. For her PhD, Katie will be working with Dr. Peter Stirling. The Stirling Lab is investigating the role of genome instability in the development and progression of cancer, with a particular interest in R loop structures. Outside of research, Katie enjoys spending time in the outdoors hiking and kayaking, and scuba diving.

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Chloe Gao     Class of 2027
Education: BHSc (Health Sciences), McMaster University
Field of study: Mental Health
Supervisor: Dr. Skye Barbic
Hosting department and work location: Experimental Medicine,

Chloe grew up in Aurora, Ontario, and completed her Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours) degree at McMaster University with a specialization in Child Health in May 2020. Her personal commitment to mental health advocacy, coupled with her specific interest in the study of health and social systems, drove her to seek out specific professional opportunities throughout her undergraduate studies to gain a better understanding of how systems-level research can be used to improve mental health services. Through her experiences working in mental health systems research with the McMaster Health Forum, Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, and St. Michael’s Hospital in Ontario, as well as the Sax Institute in Sydney, Australia as a Queen Elizabeth Scholar, she has developed a particular interest in eliciting the experiences of diverse communities and populations, and advocating for the integration of their perspectives into mental health service redesign. During her MD/PhD training, Chloe aims to improve programs, policies, and services in a way that reflects the values of people seeking mental health and substance use care. Outside of school and work, Chloe is an endurance sports enthusiast with a particular love for ultra-marathons and competitive rowing. She is excited to continue these pursuits through the Vancouver Rowing Club and local ultra-marathon running groups in this beautiful city!

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Shayda Swann     Class of 2027
Education: BSc (Health Sciences), Simon Fraser University
Field of study: HIV
Supervisor: Dr. Hélène Côté and Dr. Melanie Murray
Hosting department and work location: Experimental Medicine, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute (BCCHRI)

Shayda grew up in Montana and moved to Canada in 2007. She completed her BSc in Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University and during this time became interested in infectious disease research. Prior to medical school, Shayda worked on HIV cure research with Dr. Mark Brockman at SFU and Dr. Zabrina Brumme at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. During this time, she also developed an interest in community engagement and participatory health research. Shayda will continue to follow her passion for HIV research during her doctoral studies. She will work at Oak Tree Clinic with Dr. Hélène Côté and Dr. Melanie Murray to study healthy aging and endocrine changes in women living with HIV. In the age of antiretroviral medication, people living with HIV can reach life expectancies approaching that of the general population. While this is major accomplishment of medical science, it also brings about a new problem – the need to understand the long-term effects of HIV infection and antiretroviral use on healthy aging. Currently, more than half of people living with HIV are women, yet little is known about how HIV infection and antiretroviral treatments affect women’s reproductive, endocrine, and social health. Her project will compare the prevalence of hormonal dysregulation, associations of hormonal dysregulation and comorbidities, and longitudinal changes in markers of aging between women living with HIV and their HIV-negative counterparts. Shayda is excited to be part of this multi-disciplinary, community-engaged project, which will include biological, clinical, and socio-structural dimensions. She hopes that her research will help to improve the care of women living with HIV and encourage providers to see their patients from a more holistic lens. Outside of research, Shayda enjoys dancing, baking, and spending time with loved ones.

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Reid Vassallo     Class of 2027
Education: BMSc (Medical Biophysics), MESc (Biomedical Engineering), Western University
Field of study: Biomedical Engineering
Co-Supervisors: Dr. Tim Salcudean and Dr. Peter Black
Hosting department and work location: Biomedical Engineering,

Reid grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario and completed his BMSc in Medical Biophysics and MESc in Biomedical Engineering at Western University. During his undergraduate and graduate studies, his research included the development of novel solutions for image-guided interventions under the supervision of Dr. Terry Peters at the Robarts Research Institute, with applications in urology, cardiology, and neurosurgery. His PhD work will continue along this theme, striving to engineer solutions that make interventions easier for the clinician and better for the patient. Outside of research, Reid enjoys staying active through training for triathlons and watching comedies and is looking forward to exploring the natural beauty of BC.

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Joyce Zhang     Class of 2027
Education: BSc (Pharmcology), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Cancer
Supervisor: Dr. David Huntsman
Hosting department and work location: Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, BC Cancer

Joyce moved from Beijing to Vancouver when she was 15 years old. She completed a BSc at UBC with a major in Pharmacology and a minor in Biochemistry. During her undergraduate thesis research work in Dr. Thibault Mayor’s lab, she studied the assembly of stress granules in budding yeast and developed a keen interest in basic and translational research. After starting her Master’s at the BC Cancer Research Centre under the supervision of Dr. David Huntsman, Joyce studied how two gain of function mutations co-operate to drive the tumorigenesis of a rare, chemo-resistant subtype of ovarian cancer. Specifically, she utilized innovative 3D organoid cultures derived from normal human Fallopian tubes to model the early stages of low grade serous ovarian cancer development, and subsequently interrogated the transcriptomic changes with single-cell RNA-sequencing. During her PhD, Joyce will extend the work from her Master’s and explore how mRNA translation is altered to confer survival advantage for cells transitioning into malignancy with translatomic and proteomic approaches. Outside of research, Joyce is engaged in multiple science outreach activities, including programs at Let’s Talk Science and the Science World. In her free time, Joyce enjoys barre classes, hiking, concerts and playing the violin. ​

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Class of 2028

Maggie Chopra     Class of 2028
Education: BHSc (Health Sciences), McMaster University
Field of study: Chronic Immune Diseases
Supervisor: Dr. Kelly McNagny
Hosting department and work location: Experimental Medicine

​Maggie grew up in Calgary, Alberta and found her passion for research at a young age by participating in science fair competitions throughout grade school. Maggie completed her BHSc at McMaster University specializing in the Biomedical Sciences. During her undergraduate studies, Maggie investigated the mechanisms that maintain early allergic memory against food allergens in Dr. Manel Jordana’s laboratory. During her summer months in Calgary, Maggie worked under the supervision of Dr. Antoine Dufour at the University of Calgary where she applied discovery-based mass-spectrometry tools to characterize protein signatures of various healthy and disease tissues such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and ulcerative colitis. For her thesis project, she studied how acute aerobic exercise changes the spinal cord proteome in a mouse model of MS. During her doctoral studies, Maggie hopes to continue developing tools for predicting and treating chronic immune diseases under the supervision of Dr. Kelly McNagny. Outside of her studies, Maggie enjoys exploring new restaurants and cafe’s, doing paint-by-number kits, playing basketball and spending time outdoors with her friends and family.

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Saif Dababneh     Class of 2028
Education: BSc (Translational & Molecular Medicine), University of Ottawa
Field of study: Arrhythmia
Co-Supervisors: Dr. Glen Tibbits and Dr. Edwin Moore
Hosting department and work location: Cell and Development Biology, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute (BCCHRI)

Saif grew up in Jordan and moved to Ottawa, Canada in 2013. Saif completed his BSc in Translational & Molecular Medicine (TMM) at the University of Ottawa. During his undergraduate studies, Saif undertook several research projects investigating the development and function of the heart’s muscle and the heart’s electrical conduction system at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, under the supervision of Dr. Kyoung-Han Kim. His honours thesis focused on uncovering the role of the Irx1 transcription factor in the heart’s atrioventricular conduction system. Consistent with his research goals, Saif was also involved in advocacy work with the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada. Saif aims to pursue a PhD with the objective of uncovering the pathophysiology and genetic determinants of sudden cardiac death, particularly in patients with an electrical heart disorder known as catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT). Saif hopes this research can accelerate the development of personalized treatments for patients with electrical heart abnormalities. Outside of academics, Saif enjoys photography, soccer, and spending time with family and friends.​

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Elizabeth Gregory     Class of 2028
Education: BSc (Biology & Psychology), University of Victoria; MSc (Experimental Medicine), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
Supervisor: Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez
Hosting department and work location: Experimental Medicine

​Elizabeth grew up right here in Vancouver, BC. She completed her BSc in biopsychology at the University of Victoria in 2019. During undergrad, she spent her summers home in Vancouver, working as a research assistant in the Non-Invasive Neurostimulation Therapies (NINET) Lab, where she discovered her passion for clinical psychiatric research and studying new and innovative ways of treating psychiatric disorders. Following undergrad, Elizabeth went on to pursue a Master’s degree under the supervision of Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez. Her thesis investigated the cognitive benefits of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a well-tolerated and effective treatment, for patients with major depressive disorder. For her PhD, Elizabeth will continue to work with Dr. Vila-Rodriguez, with the goal of improving TMS delivery methods, by using patients’ functional brain activity to personalize their treatment parameters. In her spare time, Elizabeth enjoys any outdoor activity she can bring her dog along for, taking on DIY projects, and going for runs.

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Torin Halvorson     Class of 2028
Education: BSc (Biology), University of Victoria
Field of study: Immunology
Supervisor: Dr. Megan Levings
Hosting department and work location: Experimental Medicine, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute (BCCHRI)

Torin hails from rural Vancouver Island and graduated from the University of Victoria in honours Biology in 2021. Torin took a roundabout route to medical research, initially pursuing interests in plant biology and agricultural science during his undergraduate degree before discovering his love for immunology in his third year. For his undergraduate honours thesis under the supervision of Dr. Julian Lum, Torin’s research focused on engineering sugar metabolism in T cells to enhance the effectiveness of cancer immunotherapy. Subsequently, he completed an NSERC-funded summer research term in the laboratory of Dr. Marie-Ève Tremblay, focusing on the isolation and characterization of dark microglia, a subset of brain immune cells involved in neurodegenerative diseases. He continued this research part-time during his first year of medical school at UBC, then transferred into the MD/PhD program to pursue his PhD research in the laboratory of Dr. Megan Levings. Torin’s thesis research will focus on regulatory T cells (Tregs), a unique suppressive immune cell subset, in the context of autoimmunity and transplantation. In particular, his work will investigate Treg responses in solid organ-transplant patients and seek to engineer novel strategies to enhance the function of Treg-based cellular therapies to promote immune tolerance. Outside of science and medicine, Torin trains as a competitive cyclist with the UBC Cycling Team and volunteers with UBC’s Refugee Health Initiative. He also enjoys alpine and Nordic skiing, playing the piano, gardening and learning languages in his free time.

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Christopher Lee     Class of 2028
Education: BSc (Biology), University of Victoria; MSc (Neuroscience), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Alzheimer’s disease
Supervisor: Dr. Haakon Nygaard
Hosting department and work location: Neuroscience

​Chris was born and raised in Victoria, B.C. and completed his BSc at the University of Victoria with a major in Biology. During his undergraduate degree, Chris researched in the lab of Dr. Stephanie Willerth, and worked on the engineering of pluripotent stem cell and diseased cell neural tissue models. Specifically, he developed a 3D-printed, hydrogel-based model for glioblastoma multiforme. He then completed an MSc in Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia under the supervision of Dr. Haakon Nygaard, where his research focused on investigating the cellular aspects of progranulin-mutant frontotemporal dementia using patient-derived, reprogrammed stem cells that had been differentiated into a neural lineage. Chris’s PhD project will continue under the supervision of Dr. Nygaard, and will focus on developing 3D, patient-derived, pluripotent stem cell-based neural tissue models of Alzheimer’s disease for the investigation of disease pathophysiology and screening of potential therapeutic drugs. Outside of his research, Chris is an avid outdoorsy-type and enjoys hiking, backpacking, rock climbing and bouldering. He also spends much of his free time playing field hockey or chess, and training in Olympic weightlifting.

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Erica Qureshi     Class of 2028
Education: BSc (Health Studies), MSc (Public Health & Health Systems), University of Waterloo
Field of study: Pediatric Emergency Medicine
Supervisor: Dr. Quynh Doan
Hosting department and work location: Women+ and Children’s Health Sciences

Erica completed her BSc in Health Studies at the University of Waterloo. She was first exposed to clinical research while completing co-op work terms at Sunnybrook Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario. Through these experiences Erica discovered her keen interest in epidemiology and working with children and youth. In her final year of undergraduate studies, Erica led an investigation exploring community level marginalization and emergency department (ED) wait times. Interested in growing her research skills, Erica remained at the University of Waterloo where she spent her MSc exploring discrepancies on mental health assessments between parent proxy-report and youth self-report. With the desire to leverage these experiences, Erica will be completing her doctoral studies under the supervision of Dr. Quynh Doan at BC Children’s Hospital. Using simulation models, Erica’s PhD project will endeavour to design, and forecast the efficacy of, a program to reduce overcrowding in the pediatric emergency department. It is her hope this project will improve patient safety, satisfaction, and ED efficiency. Outside of her studies Erica enjoys yoga, running, and any adventure that includes ice cream.

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Kira Tosefsky     Class of 2028
Education: BSc (Cell, Anatomical & Physiological Sciences), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Parkinson’s disease
Supervisor: Dr. Silke Cresswell
Hosting department and work location: Experimental Medicine, Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health

​Kira was born and raised in Vancouver and completed her Honours B.Sc. in Cellular, Anatomical and Physiological Sciences (CAPS) at UBC. She began her research work under the supervision of Dr. Carolyn Brown, studying the epigenetic mechanisms of X-chromosome inactivation and escape from inactivation. She later developed an interest in the field of protein palmitoylation through her work in Dr. Elizabeth Conibear’s lab, and further pursued this interest as a summer and honours thesis student in Dr. Shernaz Bamji’s lab. Her honours thesis focused on the role of activity-dependent hippocampal protein palmitate turnover in synaptic plasticity. For her PhD project, Kira is continuing her research in the neuroscience field under the supervision of Dr. Silke Cresswell. Her thesis will focus on the role of the gut microbiome and gut inflammation in the pathogenesis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Outside of research, Kira enjoys running, biking, dancing and spending time with friends and family.

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Amy Wang     Class of 2028
Education: BSc (Cell, Anatomical & Physiological Sciences), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Oncology
Co-Supervisors: Dr. Michael Underhill and Dr. Torsten Nielsen
Hosting department and work location: Interdisciplinary Oncology Program, Biomedical Research Centre, Jack Bell Research Centre

​Amy has always been passionate about improving health outcomes through research. She immigrated to Canada in 2004 and completed an Honours BSc. at UBC. During her degree, Amy investigated bone and brain cancers in a 16-month Co-op with Dr. Poul Sorensen at the BC Cancer Research Institute . She then helped develop a diagnostic test for soft tissue sarcomas in her undergraduate thesis, in addition to presenting at conferences at Harvard, Stanford, and EMBL. Amy will continue her research on sarcomas during her PhD, with a focus on characterizing oncogenesis and investigating drug treatments in synovial sarcoma. She is also involved with the Canadian Cancer Society and Vancouver Coastal Health, in addition to her hobbies of photography, hiking, and badminton.

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Peipei Wang     Class of 2028
Education: BSc (Integrated Science, Biochemistry), McMaster University
Field of study: Oncology
Supervisor: Dr. Will Lockwood
Hosting department and work location: Pathology and Laboratory MedicineBC Cancer

Peipei grew up in Hamilton, Ontario and completed a BSc in Integrated Science at McMaster University with a concentration in biochemistry and a minor in statistics. In her third-year project and honours thesis, she investigated the effects of acute cannabis smoke exposure on in vivo lung immune response under the supervision of Dr. Martin Stampfli and Dr. Jeremy Hirota at the McMaster Immunology Research Centre. Throughout her undergraduate studies, Peipei also worked on a research project to statistically determine clinical factors that identify children with a higher risk of vertebral fracture from a dataset of children with bone-related disorders across Canada. This work was conducted under the guidance of Dr. Jinhui Ma in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact at McMaster. In her PhD, she hopes to combine her interests in immunology, statistics, and bioinformatics in a manner that applies to both wet lab and clinical research contexts. Outside of school, Peipei spends her time running, playing piano, playing ultimate frisbee, or reading a good sci-fi book.

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Class of 2029

Nikolay Alabi     Class of 2029
Education: BSc (Life Sciences), Queen’s University
Field of study: Oncological Bioinformatics
Supervisor: Dr. Ali Bashashati
Hosting department and work location: Biomedical Engineering

Nikolay was born in Moscow, Russia and raised in Calgary, AB. He completed his BSc at Queen’s university with a specialization in life sciences as well as a certificate in data analytics. During undergrad, he spent his summers in Calgary working as a bioinformatics analyst for Qualisure Diagnostics Inc., a cancer diagnostics company developing new precision medicine tools. These experiences inspired him to further pursue bioinformatics research and potential applications to the field of oncology under the supervision of Dr. Simpson. His thesis investigated the ability of a gene-expression based machine learning algorithm to predict prognostic outcomes in head and neck cancer patients to identify patients for future treatment de-escalation. For his PhD, Nikolay will continue to work in the field of oncological bioinformatics, with the goal of developing new approaches and tools for personalized medicine. In his spare time, Nikolay enjoys basketball, skateboarding, and most outdoor activities. He is also a food fanatic and avid chess enthusiast.
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Catie Futhey     Class of 2029
Education: BSc (Neuroscience), McGill University
Field of study: Neuropathology of Cognitive Impairment in Chronic Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease
Supervisors: Dr. Veronica Hirsch-Reinshagen & Dr. Mark Cembrowski
Hosting department and work location: Neuroscience

Catie grew up in Uxbridge, Ontario and completed her BSc in Neuroscience at McGill University. Here, her research with Dr. Jack Antel and Dr. Luke Healy investigated the roles of Vitamin D and sex differences in Multiple Sclerosis pathophysiology, sparking a passion for the neuro-immune crosstalk in the human brain. She then worked under the supervision of Dr. Manish Sadarangani in COVID-19 clinical research at BC Children’s Hospital. Catie’s PhD will be co-supervised by Dr. Veronica Hirsch-Reinshagen and Dr. Mark Cembrowski and will focus on the neuropathological underpinnings of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and schizophrenia. She will explore potential novel biomarkers for subtypes of astrocytes, aiming to elucidate distinct roles for subpopulations of this critical glial cell. Using an innovative approach which allows for protein expression analysis while maintaining the brain’s spatial anatomical integrity, she will compare the distribution of various markers of neuroinflammation, synaptic loss, and glial cell subtypes. Outside of research, Catie loves playing and writing music as a singer/songwriter, some of which she has recorded and released onto streaming platforms. She also enjoys running and hiking.

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Curtis Leclerc     Class of 2029
Education: BSc (Kinesiology), MSc (Kinesiology), University of  Manitoba
Field of study: Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy (SABR)
Supervisor: Dr. Robert Olson
Hosting department and work location: Interdisciplinary Oncology Program

Curtis grew up in a small community in Northern Manitoba called The Pas. He completed his BKin at the University of Manitoba in 2020. During his undergraduate degree, Curtis worked in the Chronic Disease Prevention and Physical Activity Lab with Dr. Todd Duhamel where he found an interest in research investigating how lifestyle factors such as physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and frailty can shape one’s health. Following his undergrad, Curtis went on to complete a Master’s of Science degree under the supervision of Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht. Curtis’ graduate research focused on human responses to work in extreme environments. His thesis investigated the use of external cooling devices in preserving brain tissue after cardiac events such as a heart attack or stroke (a technique termed “Therapeutic Hypothermia”). Under the supervision of Dr. Robert Olson, Curtis is entering a new field where his PhD project will focus on a form of cancer treatment termed Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy (SABR). Curtis will be involved in the implementation of international clinical trials investigating the outcomes of patients receiving specialized radiotherapy treatments, with a particular emphasis on factors such as quality of life after treatment and the utility of using biomarkers to predict outcomes post SABR. He hopes that his research will lead to practical improvements in cancer care and make a real difference in patients’ lives. Outside of research, Curtis loves the outdoors and enjoys staying active while fishing, golfing, and hiking. Curtis is also an avid sports fan with a love for hockey.

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Monica Luo      Class of 2029
Education: BSc (Physics), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Medical Imaging
Supervisor: Dr. Arman Rahmim
Hosting department and work location: Biomedical Engineering, BC Cancer

Monica grew up in BC after immigrating from China. She completed a BSc in Honours Physics at UBC. During her undergraduate studies, Monica worked with Dr. Piotr Kozlowski at the UBC MRI Research Centre on research relating to MRI imaging methods, particularly luminal water imaging and inhomogeneous magnetization transfer (ihMT). Her honours thesis investigated the angular dependence of ihMT using rat spinal cords with dorsal column transection injury. In her graduate studies, she focuses on human-centred artificial intelligence for lymphoma PET/CT imaging under the supervision of Dr. Arman Rahmim. Outside of academics, Monica enjoys reading, playing the piano, travelling, and spending time with her family and friends.

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Amar Sekhon     Class of 2029
Education: BSc (Pharmacology), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Spinal cord injury
Supervisor: Dr. Brian Kwon
Hosting department and work location: Neuroscience, International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD)

Amar was born and raised in East Vancouver and completed his BSc in Pharmacology at UBC in 2022. Motivated by an immediate family member’s lived experience with a high-level spinal cord injury (SCI), Amar is pursuing his PhD studies under the supervision of surgeon-scientist Dr. Brian Kwon. With animal and human studies in parallel, Amar will study how mean arterial pressure augmentation and chemoprophylaxis against thromboembolic disease influences the extent of intraparenchymal hemorrhage within the spinal cord after acute traumatic SCI, which is associated poorer neurological outcomes. Data from both studies will inform how clinical practices can be tailored to reduce the risk of exacerbating bleeding within the injured spinal cord, and improve the potential for recovery after acute traumatic SCI.

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Adam Sunavsky     Class of 2029
Education: BSc (Psychology), Queen’s University; MSc (Medical Neuroscience), Dalhousie University
Field of study: Neuroscience of mood disorders
Supervisor: Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez
Hosting department and work location: Neuroscience

Adam was born in Slovakia and immigrated to Hamilton, Ontario when he was five. He completed his BSc in Psychology at Queen’s University in Kingston, where he worked in the labs of Dr. Jordan Poppenk and Dr. Dean Tripp. Neuroscience research piqued his interest early on, when Adam completed his first independent project on the neural correlates of creativity in Dr. Poppenk’s lab. For his thesis, Adam researched the psychosocial impacts of Inflammatory Bowel Disease on adolescents in Dr. Dean Tripp’s lab. At Dalhousie University under Dr. Javeria Hashmi’s supervision, Adam studied the role of the nucleus accumbens, a region involved in both reward and pain processing, in chronic back pain patients for his MSc thesis. Adam’s PhD research will focus on researching non-invasive electrical stimulation techniques for treating mood disorders using fMRI under the supervision of Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez. Studying at UBC provides the perfect environment for Adam, as he loves outdoor activities, including soccer, rowing, hiking, bouldering, snowboarding, and camping. During rainy days, Adam spends his free time playing chess or making YouTube videos.

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Class of 2030

Andrew Dissanayake      Class of 2030
Education: BSc (Arts and Science), McMaster University
Field of study: Epidemiology
Supervisor: Prof. Anne Gadermann
Hosting department and work location:

Andrew completed his undergraduate degree in the Arts and Science program at McMaster University. During his studies, he actively engaged in research work at prestigious institutions, including the Hospital for Sick Children, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science. Throughout his academic journey, Andrew explored a diverse range of research topics, covering areas such as physician retention in rural communities, genetic correlates of neuropsychiatric burden in Alzheimer’s disease, psychometric measurement, polygenic architecture of irritability, and most recently, the examination of ethnic and racial disparities in access to mental health care within Canada. His primary passion lies in understanding and addressing barriers to providing timely and culturally competent care for racial and ethnically minoritized youth. Apart from his academic pursuits, Andrew enjoys both playing and watching various sports like tennis, basketball, and swimming. Additionally, he finds relaxation and fulfillment in activities such as skiing, reading, and cooking.

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Kiera Lee    Class of 2030
Education: BSc (Life Science), Queen’s University
Field of study: The epigenetics of synovial sarcoma
Supervisor: Dr Martin Hirst 
Hosting department and work location: Interdisciplinary Oncology, Michael Smith Laboratories

Kiera was born and raised in Toronto, ON. Kiera completed her BSc Honours at Queen’s University, where she worked in the lab of Dr Katrina Gee. During her undergrad, she spent her summers working as a lifeguard on Toronto Island or doing research at Mount Sinai Hospital in the Lab of Dr Carol Swallow. In her summer research, Kiera discovered her passion for cancer research and began to see the unique interplay between clinical practice and research that can improve the lives of patients. Following her undergraduate degree, Kiera began her MSc at UBC under the supervision of Dr Torsten Nielsen and Dr Martin Hirst, investigating the epigenomics of synovial sarcoma. Kiera rolled her MSc into her PhD for the MDPhD program to continue to uncover the epigenetic mechanisms of pathogenesis in synovial sarcoma and reveal therapeutic avenues for patients. Kiera enjoys travelling, biking, skiing, hiking, and any opportunity to lie outside in the sun.

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Past Student Representatives
2022-2023 Maryam Vaseghi-Shanjani
2021-2022 Andy An
2020-2021 Wissam Nassrallah
2019-2020 Daniel Kwon
2018-2019 Alvin Qiu
2017-2018 Paulina Piesik
2016-2017 Parker Jobin
2015-2016 Amanda Dancosk
2014-2015 Cynthia Min
2013-2014 Farzad Jamshidi
2012-2013 Long Nguyen
2011-2012 Michael Copley
2010-2011 Clara Westwell-Roper
2009-2010 David McVea
2008-2009 Arezoo Astanehe
2007-2008 Fiona Young
2006-2007 Inna Sekirov
2005-2006 Bryan Coburn
2004-2005 Liam Brunham
2003-2004 Clara Tan
2002-2003 Claire Sheldon
2001-2002 Chenghan Lee
2000-2001 Jimmy Lee
1998-2000 Ryan Hung
1997-1998 Stephen Yip
1996-1997 Patrick Tang

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2023 – Jennifer Ji, Daniel Kwon, Michael Skinnider, Jordan Squair, Mark Trinder
2022 – Rozlyn Boutin, Frank Lee
2021 – Amanda Dancsok, Parker Jobin, Adam Ramzy, David Twa, Cynthia Ye, Allen Zhang
2020 – Victoria Baronas, Philip Edgcumbe, Andrea Jones, Cynthia Min, Eric Zhao
2019 – Victor Li, Daniel Woodsworth, Alexander Wright
2017 – Alexis Crabtree, Farzad Jamshidi, Gareth Mercer, Julia Pon
2016 – Long Nguyen, Clara Westwell-Roper
2015 – Michael Copley
2014 – David McVea
2013 – William Guest, Heather Heine, Kathryn Potter, Fiona Young
2012 – Arezoo Astanehe, Susan Berkhout, Brennan Eadie, Michael Kozoriz
2011 – Claire Heslop, Aaron Joe, Inna Sekirov
2008 – Liam Brunham, Bryan Coburn
2007 – Michael Rauh
2006 – Jimmy Lee, Claire Sheldon, Clara Tan, Paul Yong
2005 – Ryan Hung
2004 – Cheng-han Lee
1999 – Patrick Tang, Stephen Yip
1998 – Leone Atkinson
1997 – Zeid Mohamedali
1996 – Ruth Lanius

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