Students

MD/PhD Students – 2021-2022


The UBC MD/PhD Program currently has an enrollment of 31 students. Our current student liaison is Andy An, and our current alternate student liaison is Maryam Vaseghi-Shanjani.  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 2022

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Rozlyn Boutin     Class of 2022
Education: BSc (Biology), Carleton University
Field of study: Infection & Immunity
Supervisor: Dr. Brett Finlay
Hosting department and work location: Microbiology and Immunology, Michael Smith Laboratories

Rozlyn is originally from Edmonton, Alberta. Through her interest in Darwinian medicine, Rozlyn was introduced to the “Hygiene Hypothesis” and how it relates specifically to the microbiome, the community of naturally occurring microbes that live symbiotically in and on the human body. As compared to developing countries, westernized countries have recently seen an alarming increase in the prevalence of allergic diseases such as asthma. The “Hygiene Hypothesis” essentially suggests that this trend may be in part due to the excessive use of hygienic practices in affluent countries and the over-prescription of antibiotics to young children early in life when their microbiomes and immune systems are still developing. These practices may be inadvertently having adverse effects on the delicate relationship humans have evolved over thousands of years with the microbes forming the human microbiome, thereby interfering with the normal development of the immune system and resulting in abnormal immune responses to common allergens. Using humanized mouse models, Rozlyn’s research focuses specifically on determining which microbes are associated with either protection or susceptibility to asthma and on understanding the mechanisms through which these microbes influence the development of the immune system early in life. When not in the lab or studying, Rozlyn enjoys playing team sports, running, hiking, and travelling. After having played varsity soccer while completing her BSc. Honours in Biology at Carleton University in Ottawa, she is joining various intramurals sports teams and other groups at UBC outside of class time. Rozlyn runs marathons as an elite athlete. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rozlyn took part in the 2020 Virtual Boston Marathon, and she was one of the top finishers. She has been top finishers in marathons and traveled to other countries in the competitions.

Title of thesis: Infant gut fungal dysbiosis drives asthma onset and severity

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Frank Lee     Class of 2022
Education: BHSc (Health Sciences), McMaster University
Field of study: Thrombosis/Haemostasis
Supervisor: Dr. Edward Pryzdial
Hosting department and work location: Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Centre for Blood Research

Frank
’s research focus is studying the mechanism of how blood clots are dissolved, a process known as fibrinolysis. Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), the physiological initiator of fibrinolysis, has been used as a vital “clot-busting” therapeutic for almost two decades to treat prevalent conditions such as pulmonary embolism, myocardial infarction and stroke. However, tPA may cause life-threatening hemorrhage, many patients’ clots are resistant to its action, and it is useful only within a few hours after the onset of symptoms. Frank’s lab has discovered that proteins not considered within the current fibrinolysis paradigm enhance tPA function in the vicinity of the clot. Frank’s research further elucidates this auxiliary cofactor mechanism and the role of these proteins in fibrinolysis. This knowledge will be used in the development of novel clot-busting agents with enhanced safety and efficacy in comparison with existing medicines.

Title of thesis: Functional regulation of anticoagulant protein C and clotting factor Va by fibrinolytic plasmin

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Paulina Piesik     Class of 2022
Education: BSc (Biology), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Immunological Disorders
Co-Supervisors: Dr. Jan Dutz and Dr. Laura Sly
Hosting department and work location: Experimental Medicine, BC Children’s Hospital

Paulina finished a BSc in Cell Biology with an honours thesis on cell stress-coping mechanisms. As a co-op student, she worked on several research projects involving viral pathogenesis and host anti-viral defenses. Currently, her passion lies in understanding skin immunology, particularly how it relates to systemic inflammation. Allergic and autoimmune disorders are on the rise, and her broad research focus will be on the pathogenesis and potential treatments for such diseases. By harnessing the immune system of the skin, Paulina will be exploring immunomodulatory therapeutics that can help reverse this alarming trend. Specifically, the skin is an important reservoir for immune cells, including antigen-specific regulatory T cells (Tregs). Her PhD thesis will focus on (1) understanding the role of Tregs and associated immune cells in inflammatory conditions of the skin and (2) harnessing the tolerogenic potential of skin Tregs to treat systemic inflammatory disease. Outside of research, Paulina translates her passion for skin health by acting as the co-chair of the UBC Skin Cancer Awareness Network, which provides educational workshops on skin cancers and sun safety to the general public. When not immersed in research, she enjoys comedy (particularly satire and improv), following current events, and immersing herself in the cultural experiences readily found both in Vancouver and around the world.

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Class of 2023

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Jennifer Ji     Class of 2023
Education: BSc (Biotechnology), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Cancer & Genetics
Supervisor: Dr. David Huntsman
Hosting department and work location: Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, BC Cancer

Jennifer completed her BSc Honours degree in the UBC-BCIT joint Biotechnology Program. She has always been passionate about translational oncology research and had conducted research at McGill, Harvard, and UBC during her undergrad. She completed her graduate studies under the supervision of Dr. David Huntsman. Her thesis research focused on the proteomic and metabolomic landscapes of clear cell ovarian cancer – an uncommon subtype of ovarian cancer. Late-stage clear cell ovarian cancer is resistant to conventional chemotherapy and effective targeted therapies are lacking. She hopes her thesis research will contribute to the understanding and therapeutic development of this disease. Outside of the lab, Jennifer enjoys illustration and visual arts. She volunteers at the reading bear society as an illustrator.

Title of thesis: The proteomic and metabolomic characterization of clear cell ovarian cancer: Towards better management strategies

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Daniel Kwon     Class of 2023
Education: BSc (Chemistry), University of British Columbia; MSc (Organic Chemistry), Simon Fraser University
Field of study: Molecular Oncology
Supervisor: Dr. François Bénard
Hosting department and work location: Interdisciplinary Oncology Program, BC Cancer

Daniel began his BSc at Simon Fraser University and transferred to the University of British Columbia in his second year to finish his BSc in Chemistry. During his undergraduate studies, he worked with Dr. David Perrin on the synthesis of a modified core of amanitin for cancer therapy, and with Dr. Marco Ciufolini on the synthesis of novel tanshinone analogues as a potential treatment of osteoporosis. Afterwards, he completed his MSc in Chemistry with Dr. Robert Britton at Simon Fraser University, completing the total syntheses of amphirionin-4 and biselide A, two tetrahydrofuranol-containing natural products with useful biological properties. With the desire to apply his synthetic skillset in the areas of biomedical research, Daniel began his doctoral studies under the supervision of Dr. François Bénard in the field of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging. For his thesis, Daniel is focused on firstly repurposing and chemically modifying established pharmacological agents for PET imaging and radionuclide therapy, leading to the development of a series of novel radiotheranostic agents targeting the C-X-C chemokine receptor 4 with imaging and therapeutic capabilities comparable to that of other clinically-validated agents These radiopharmaceuticals will undergo clinical trials soon for diagnostic imaging and radionuclide therapy in patients with metastatic cancers. Secondly, Daniel is interested in leveraging his understanding of synthetic chemistry and structural biology for the rational design of novel chemical scaffolds that target proteases overexpressed in cancers; these scaffolds will then be repurposed as imaging agents to visualize proteolytic activity in vivo. This has led to the development of a novel inhibitor of the transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2), which is an essential viral host factor of SARS-CoV-2. The current focus is to obtain structural binding information using X-ray crystallography to assist in other groups and pharmaceutical companies in developing their own inhibitors for future coronavirus outbreaks. This pharmacophore will be further adopted as a radiotracer, for targeting prostate and lung cancers for diagnostic imaging and radionuclide therapy. Outside research, Daniel enjoys reading, listening to music, exercising, spending time with friends and loved ones, and following competitive sports, including hockey and baseball.

Title of thesis: Radiotheranostic agents targeting the tumor microenvironment

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Michael Skinnider     Class of 2023
Education: BA&Sc (Arts & Science), McMaster University
Field of study: Genomics & Proteomics
Supervisor: Dr. Leonard Foster
Hosting department and work location: Genome Science and Technology, Michael Smith Laboratories

Dr. Foster’s group has recently developed a high-throughput method of monitoring the protein-protein interactome in response to cellular stimulation. Michael’s research aims to develop bioinformatic methods to interrogate the resulting highly multidimensional datasets. His previous research at McMaster University focused on bioinformatic and cheminformatic methods for natural product drug discovery. Outside the lab, he enjoys running, biking, and music production.

Title of thesis: Understanding mammalian biology and disease through tissue-specific protein-protein interaction networks

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Jordan Squair     Class of 2023
Education: BSc (Kinesiology), MSc (Kinesiology), University of British Columbia
Field of study: Neuroscience, Heart & Lung Health
Co-supervisors: Dr. Andrei Krassioukov and Dr. Christopher West
Hosting department and work location: Experimental Medicine, International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD)

Jordan’s research is focused on understanding the cardiovascular consequences of spinal cord injury. Recently, his research group has identified that individuals with spinal cord injury are 300-400% more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease (i.e. stroke, myocardial infarction, cardiac disease) than the general population. Thus, Jordan’s doctoral work will specifically focus on developing novel strategies (i.e. neuroprotection, plasticity manipulation) to restore and/or maintain descending control of crucial autonomic structures below the level of injury. Using these strategies, Jordan aims to reduce blood pressure lability, restore cardiac function, and thereby reduce this population’s dramatic cardiovascular disease risk burden.

Title of thesis: A translational approach to understanding and treating autonomic dysfunction after spinal cord injury

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Mark Trinder     Class of 2023
Education: BSc (Physiology & Pharmacology), MSc (Microbiology & Immunology), Western University
Field of study: Infection & Immunity
Supervisor: Dr. Liam Brunham
Hosting department and work location: Experimental Medicine, Centre for Heart Lung Innovation

Mark found his interest in research during his undergraduate studies that consisted of a thesis project which investigated the role of the beta cell insulin receptor on murine fetal pancreatic development. He subsequently switched fields to complete his MSc in Microbiology and Immunology at the Western University under the supervision of Dr. Gregor Reid. His thesis was entitled “Mitigation of pesticide toxicity by food-grade lactobacilli” and involved characterizing novel mechanisms of probiotic function. Mark’s research during the MD/PhD program will focus on the interplay between lipoproteins and sepsis. Sepsis is a systemic exaggerated host immune response to infection that has a high mortality rate, limited effective treatments, and is a considerable economic health care burden. The Brunham lab and collaborators at St. Paul’s Centre for Heart and Lung Innovation have observed that patients’ with low levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) have a poor sepsis prognosis. However, mechanistic understanding of why HDL levels are low in certain septic patients is unknown. Differences in sepsis pathogenesis and outcomes has the potential to be explained by variations in human genetics. Mark is hopeful that this work will provide insights into improved management and generation of better treatment options for sepsis. For fun outside academics, Mark attempts to run ultramarathons, brew beer (can’t escape microbiology), and drum.

Title of thesis: Plasma lipoproteins: Genetic influences and relevance to atherosclerotic and infectious diseases

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Class of 2024

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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

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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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Katrina Besler     Class of 2025
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 2025
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 aims to study the relationships between early life experiences, trauma, substance use, and mental illness as part of the Hotel Study, which examines multimorbidity in those who are precariously housed. Generally speaking, Lianne is interested in research that combats the idea that there is a universal approach to health. By 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, contemplating fashion, and spending time with loved ones.

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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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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. He has worked in industry (work terms at NetApp and Safe Software). Now, he aims to illuminate hidden kidney disease for Canadians using ultrasound. Envisioning ubiquitous ultrasound, Rohit is keen to see the utility of point of care ultrasound to enhance Canadian health care. For more comprehensive info, check out his website. He also wrote an essay on deciding if grad school is for you.

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Class of 2026

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Katherine Baillie     Class of 2026
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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Dhiraj Mannar     Class of 2026
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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Shayda Swann     Class of 2026
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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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

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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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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

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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:

​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. Filip Van Petegem
Hosting department and work location:

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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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 McDonald     Class of 2028
Education: BSc (Health Studies), MSc (Public Health & Health Systems), University of Waterloo
Field of study:
Supervisor: Dr. Quynh Doan
Hosting department and work location:

​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 machine learning methods, Erica’s PhD project will endeavour to predict, based on past healthcare encounters, patient workload in a pediatric ED. It is her hope this project will improve patient safety, satisfaction, and ED efficiency by supporting task allocation in the ED. 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: Neurodegenerative Diseases
Supervisor: Dr. Brian MacVicar
Hosting department and work location: Neuroscience

​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 pursued this interest further as a summer and honours thesis student in Dr. Shernaz Bamji’s lab. Her thesis focused on the role of activity-dependent hippocampal protein palmitate turnover in synaptic plasticity. She intends to continue working in the cellular neuroscience field for her PhD, examining the role of neuron-glia interactions in neurodegenerative diseases under the supervision of Dr. Brian MacVicar. 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:
Supervisor:
Hosting department and work location:

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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Past Student Representatives
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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Alumni

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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