Current student biographies

Current MD/PhD Students
A-D E-K L-M N-S T-Z

Abbasian, Aram
Abraham, Josh*
Ahmed, Sara
Asadi-Lari, Mohammad
Atkins, Michael
Azizi, Paymon
Behrouzi Homa, Bahar
Binesh Marvasti, Tina
Botts, Steven
Carr, Matthew*
D'Cruz, Robert
De Snoo, Mitchell
Dhaliwal, Alexander
Drupals, Megan
 

Elias, Gavin
Erickson, Anders
Figueiredo, Carlyn
Florescu, Alexandra
Friesen, Erik
Giovino, Camilla
Grabke, Emerson
Harish, Vinyas
Harmsen, Irene
Howell, Nicholas
Huo, Lia
Jamal, Alainna
Jeong, Danielle
Kao, Jennifer
Kim, Yun
Kozlowski, Hannah
Kumar, Sachin

Landon-Brace, Natalie
Lao, Robert
Lane, Natasha
Lia, Hillary
Light, Nicholas*
Macklin, Jillian*
Mahendralingam, Mathepan
Majeed, Safa
Malkin, Ethan
Mazzanti, Andrew*
Mazzoli, Vienna
McFaul, Christopher*
McQueen, Sydney
Mirali, Sara
Morgado, Felipe
Mylabathula, Swapna*
Mylvaganam, Sivakami





 

Nagaraj, Sujay
Oh, Robin (Hyun Seo)*
Ouyang, Ben
Parker, Jennifer
Patel, Kramay
Psarianos, Pamela*
Rahman, Anum
Rajora, Maneesha*
Rappon, Tim
Sabongui, Sandra
Seneviratne, Ayesh
Shah, Prajay
Shi, Runjie (Bill)
Sindhwani, Shrey
Soleas, John
Steadman, Patrick







 

Tsang, Brian
Vachhani, Kathak*
Walpole, Glenn
Wan, Ho Yee
Ware, Matthaeus*
Woodford, Curtis
Wu, You (Richard)
Zahr, Siraj
Zeng, Andy








 

*indicates 2020 McLaughlin Scholars. Visit our McLaughlin Scholars for a comprehensive list of students supported by the McLaughlin Centre

Aram Abbasian

Supervisor: Dr. Graham Collingridge
Graduate unit: Department of Physiology 

Personal background
I grew up partially in Nova Scotia and completed my undergraduate and master's degrees, both in neuroscience, at Dalhousie University. While at Dalhousie, I became captivated by research on synaptic plasticity – the wiring and rewiring that takes place in the brain to store memories. A few years later in my first year of medical school here at the University of Toronto, I learned about the widespread implications for plasticity in my clinical interest of functional neurosurgery, ultimately deciding to pursue this line of work and transfer into the MD/PhD program as a result. Beyond research and medicine and in addition to time with family and friends, I try to make room for exercise and reading, as well as an on-again off-again relationship with meditation. 

Research interests
My research is aimed at uncovering the changes that occur at the connections between brain cells when a memory is formed. Using a combination of optical and electrophysiological techniques, I am trying to elucidate the role of several key mechanisms in this process, and determine which are impaired in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease when therapeutic intervention holds the most promise.  
 

Abraham, Josh

Supervisor: Dr. Karim Mekhail
Graduate unit: Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology

Personal background

My decision to pursue a career in medicine was really a culmination of some diverse and rewarding experiences, some of which trace back to my childhood in India, where I was born and brought up in a circle of family and friends composed of several ethnicities. I was also incredibly fortunate to be educated in a school that emphasized the value of learning, ethics and civic responsibility, and character building, while encouraging me to seek out excellence for its own merits rather than focusing on accomplishment as measured only by grades. It wasn’t until after high school that I made the move to Canada, where I embarked on an undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto majoring in human, cellular and molecular biology. Here, I was very fortunate to be mentored by some truly remarkable physician-scientists, under whose guidance I became involved in basic research on cellular signaling in tissue regeneration, cancer stem cells in brain tumours, and retinal neurogenesis. Pursuing a combined doctorate and ultimately a career in academic medicine is therefore the logical route to merge my interests in patient care, fundamental research, and medical education. Outside science/medicine, I enjoy cooking, spending time with my family and friends, I love animals, and I am quite literally mad about soccer! I maintain an avid interest in physical conditioning and organized training in sport – hobbies that I would probably pursue more seriously given time off.

Research interests

Some of the most exciting work in Dr. Mekhail’s lab relates to the discovery of genes that eliminate aberrant nucleic acid structures in order to preserve overall genome stability. Mutations affecting such genes are linked to a number of neurodegenerative diseases including Lou-Gehrig’s disease (ALS) as well as spinocerebellar ataxia. Using powerful yeast genetic tools in combination with several mammalian cell systems including neural stem cells, I will directly test how the dysfunction in these fundamental cellular processes promotes disease. We also seek to identify genetic, environmental, and chemical interventions that can rescue the dysfunctional cellular pathways and restore normal neurogenesis. In addition, we anticipate that the fundamental molecular pathways identified will also further our understanding of certain types of cancers that are specifically linked to defects in the same pathways we are studying.

Publications

Ahmed, Sara

Supervisor: Dr. Michael Taylor
Graduate unit: Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology

Personal Background:

I was born in Egypt, grew up in the UAE, and immigrated to Canada when I was eight years old. Growing up, I was always the person asking 'why? why? why?'. Naturally, I found myself gravitating towards the sciences. This drive to learn more about how things work along with a few life experiences drew me to medicine and medical research. I pursued an undergraduate degree in life sciences, and specialized in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour at McMaster University. I was fortunate to gain incredible mentors during my undergraduate degree who supported me on my pursuit towards becoming a clinician-scientist. Through my experiences, I learned about the unique position of clinician-scientists. As a medical doctor you are poised in an optimal position to see patient problems first hand and the applications of available science to help address their issues. As a scientist, you can take these problems to the lab and use science to work towards a solution. I resonated with the position of a clinician-scientist. It provided an avenue for me to ask 'why?' about problems I find fascinating, and to use this curiosity to advocate for patients and find solutions for them. There is also immense privilege in taking your knowledge and ability, and using it to help others as they put their trust in you. When I came to this realization, I decided I wanted to become an MD/PhD. In the future, I hope to take my work internationally to benefit underprivileged populations.

Outside of my career and academic aspirations, I love to travel and meet locals, as well as exploring their languages, cultures, and foods! Social injustice, inequity, and education make me tick, therefore, my extracurriculars tend to revolve around these themes.

Research:

I am interested in learning how to apply current technologies to medical problems. I am pursuing a PhD at the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering. My project aims to apply nanotechnology principles to problems in neuro-oncology.

 

Asadi-Lari, Mohammad (in memoriam)

Personal background

I was born in Iran, spent my childhood in the UK, my teens in Iran and then moved to Vancouver for my last year of high school. After completing my undergrad in honours cellular, anatomical and physiological sciences (CAPS) at UBC, I couldn’t be more thrilled to enter the MD/PhD program in a global institution like U of T. I often find myself having trouble bringing together my interests in health, science, innovation, education, youth civic engagement and public policy. However, Toronto is a phenomenal place (arguable one of the best) for those interests to converge - it's literally a place where economic, academic and political centres come together. As a big believer in the importance of communities and ecosystems, I am currently working on establishing a Pan-Canadian physician innovator/entrepreneur organization, and I’m also part of the Global Shapers Hub in Toronto, which is an initiative by the World Economic Forum (WEF). In my spare time, I love to spend time with my loved ones and friends, as well as travel, hit the gym, play ball and binge-stream. 

Research interests

After previous research experiences in organic chemistry, nano chemistry, cancer immunology, clinical neurosurgery and neuroscience, I’m currently exploring potential avenues in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) or in the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluations (IHPME) to find a balance between my interests, and a good combination of supervisor, group and project. Aside from being applicable to my likely clinical interests in surgery, I’m hoping that my PhD will help ground me in an area of research/innovation that can then translate into productive avenues in entrepreneurship, policy, consulting and global impact delivery. 

Atkins, Michael

Supervisor: Gordon Keller
Graduate unit: Medical Biophysics

Personal background

I was raised in Ottawa and completed my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at Carleton University in 2014. I had the opportunity to participate in different research programs during my undergraduate studies and thoroughly enjoyed my experiences. Initially, I examined the molecular mechanisms that regulate cell fate in the developing retina with Dr. Valerie Wallace (Ottawa Hospital Research Institute). Later, I investigated the response of the cancer cell lipidome to oncolytic virotherapy by mass spectrometry with Dr. Jeff Smith (Carleton University). During this time, I became interested in the translation of basic science knowledge to improve patient care. Outside of my studies, I enjoy playing intramural sports, spending time with family and friends and exploring all that Toronto has to offer.

Research interests

During my PhD studies, I am working in Dr. Gordon Keller’s group (Medical Biophysics). Dr. Keller’s exciting research program examines the lineage-specific differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells. I am particularly interested understanding the regulation of hematopoietic development and using patient-derived cells to model human hematologic disease. I am confident that the MD/PhD program will help me determine where my interests lie within medicine and science as I move forward in my career.

Publications

Photo credit: Ben Ouyang

Azizi, Paymon

Supervisor: Dr. Dennis Ko
Graduate Unit: Institute of Health Policy, Management & Evaluation

Personal background

I completed my undergraduate degree at McMaster University in the Life Sciences. Over the course of my degree, I became interested in research after working in multiple labs. Following that, I moved to the University of Toronto where I completed my Master’s degree with the Institute of Medical Science. I chose the MD/PhD program at the University Toronto as it provides world class medical education as well as being one of the major research hubs in the world.

Research interests

My past research focused on metabolism and chronic disease. For my Master’s, I worked in a cell biology lab with a focus on diabetes. I studied insulin transcytosis--the mechanism by which insulin taken up and transported across endothelial cells. My current research interests focus on the molecular bases of cardiovascular disease. I am interested in developing novel techniques and assays to better understand cardiovascular physiology and pathophysiology.


 

Behrouzi, Bahar

Supervisor: Dr. Jacob Udell
Graduate Unit: Institute of Health Policy, Management & Evaluation

Personal background

My foray into research began as a fertility scientist, while I was an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, pursuing a BSc (Hons) degree, specialising in Biochemistry. I spent four years working in the research lab of a fertility centre profiling and developing andrology and ovarian biology biomarkers (spanning from proteins to small non-coding RNAs, both intra- and extra-vesicular) under Dr. Shlomit Kenigsberg and Dr. Clifford Librach. Researching fertility in a commercial clinical setting exposed me first-hand to the nuanced intersections of health technology, socioeconomic status, gender, enterprise, and government policy. It allowed for me to witness the socioeconomic divide that shapes and limits access to healthcare and innovative technologies in a high-resource setting.

This observation eventually catapulted me out of my basic science comfort zone towards pursuing an MSc in Global Health Management at McMaster University. Through that program, I became introduced to the concept of innovative clinical trial design, particularly randomized pragmatic trials (RPTs) and adaptive licensing. I became fascinated with the global advances being made in conducting randomized trials using big data (e.g. registries, administrative datasets, national surveys, lab datasets, etc.) to answer important questions around the effectiveness (versus efficacy) and value (versus cost) of interventions in the real world. 

This new passion has led me to my current position as an MD/PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, where I intend to pursue projects and answer questions that will enable me to serve as a physician and clinical trial methodologist by the end of the dual degree. Outside of science and medicine, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, music, art, engaging in any water sport, and practicing Dutch Kickboxing.

Research interests

Through the doctoral program in Clinical Epidemiology, offered through the Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation, I will be working with Dr. Jacob Udell on the INVESTED (INfluenza Vaccine to Effectively Stop cardioThoracic Events and Decompensated heart failure) and ECAD (Eliminate Coronary Artery Disease) prospective clinical trials, to develop novel methods for measuring clinical outcomes in clinical trials using big data.

Photo credit: Ben Ouyang

Binesh Marvasti, Tina

Supervisor: Dr. Ren-Ke Li
Graduate unit: Institute of Medical Science

Personal background

I completed my undergraduate degree in Physiology and Biochemistry and my Masters training in Medical Sciences at the University of Toronto. Both as an undergraduate and a graduate student, I worked with many clinician-scientists whose work inspired me to pursue the MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto.

I am driven by the curiosity of finding new scientific discoveries and translating them into improved patient care. The MD/PhD program provides me with the training to become a compassionate physician to individual patients and a skilled medical researcher pushing the boundaries of knowledge. Outside of academics, I enjoy traveling and water sports such as dragon boat racing. 

Research interests

My research interests revolve around understanding the causes of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis and heart failure using novel techniques. As a clinician-scientist in training, I aim to translate basic science research into clinical medicine to improve patient outcome and quality of life. 

Photo credit: Ben Ouyang

Botts, Steven

Supervisors: Dr. Kathryn Howe (Division of Vascular Surgery, University Health Network) and Dr. Jason Fish (Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network)
Graduate unit: Institute of Medical Science

Personal background

I completed my HBSc in Biology and Psychology and MSc in Biology at McMaster University, where I investigated water pathogens and microbial signatures for water pollution in the Niagara Region. My interest in microbiology and public health led me to The Hospital for Sick Children in 2016, where I used omics-based methods to characterize the gut microbiome during the onset and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases and examined the impact of diet on intestinal health. During this time, I worked closely with physician-scientists who underscored the importance of translational medicine and inspired me to follow in their wake. I was drawn to the University of Toronto because it is at the forefront of translational research and excellence in medical training. Outside of research, I enjoy competitive powerlifting, cooking, and podcasts discussing fitness, philosophy, and everything in between.

Research interests

I am currently interested in the endothelial cell dysfunction underlying aortic aneurysm pathogenesis, with a specific focus on extracellular vesicle-derived microRNAs as novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets. I am enthusiastic about leveraging these findings within the areas of screening, risk assessment, and intervention to develop innovative strategies for improving health outcomes.

Publications

Carr, Matthew

Supervisor:Dr. Freda Miller at Sick Kids Hospital (Department of Neurosciences & Mental Health)
Graduate Unit: Institute of Medical Science

Personal Background

Born and raised in Vancouver, I completed my Bachelor of Science at UBC followed by a Masters of Science in Experimental Medicine. Under the supervision of Dr. Aziz Ghahary in the BC Firefighters’ Burn & Wound Healing Research Lab, I studied the role of skin cell signalling during fibrotic scar formation and wound healing. An appreciation for the importance and potential impact of integrating basic science research and clinical medicine led me to the MD/PhD Program at U of T. The impressive breadth and quality of medical research conducted at U of T, coupled with the program’s outstanding reputation, make for an ideal environment in which to pursue my training as a clinician-scientist. Outside of my academic interests, I am an avid cyclist, photographer, outdoorsman, and foodie.

Research Interests

My doctoral research focuses on exploring the role of endogenous neural crest stem cells in tissue regeneration. I am investigating their involvement in mammalian digit tip regeneration by utilizing in vivo transgenic mouse models coupled with in vitro cell culture and biochemical analyses. I hope that my MD/PhD training will allow me to identify medical problems from a unique perspective and develop novel research strategies to target them.

Publications

D'Cruz, Robert

Supervisor: Dr. Norman Rosenblum
Graduate Unit: LMP

Personal background

I completed my undergraduate degree in biology at a small school in the United States called St. Bonaventure University, where I attended on a soccer scholarship and competed as an NCAA Division 1 student-athlete. In my later years of my undergraduate degree, I began to get involved and interested in research through working with some of my professors. After graduating in 2014, I came back home to Canada. I elected to continue doing research at the University of Toronto, where I completed a Master’s degree with the Institute of Medical Science. Working and learning from clinician-scientists throughout my Master’s experience drove me to pursue the MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto.

Research Interests

My past research focused on the molecular mechanisms of skeletal muscle atrophy. Moving forward, I am interested in understanding cellular signaling networks involved in renal development. As I continue in my academic and medical training, I look forward to working in the University of Toronto network. I am confident that the MD/PhD program here will nurture my interests and help prepare me as I move forward in my career.

Publications

PHOTO CREDIT: BEN OUYANG

De Snoo, Mitch

Supervisor: Dr. Paul Frankland
Graduate Unit: Institute of Medical Science

Personal Background

I completed my Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA and my Master of Science in Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto. My MSc was in the lab of Dr. Suneil Kalia where I studied the role of co-chaperone proteins in the regulation of a mitochondrial quality pathway that is known to be dysfunctional in familial, early-onset forms of Parkinson’s disease. Studying under Dr. Kalia, a clinician-scientist, exposed me to the possibility of practicing clinical medicine while also researching fundamental disease processes and potential future treatments which inspired me to pursue the MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto. Outside of research I play lacrosse professionally for the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League.

Research Interests

My research interests are in neuroscience and neurodegenerative disease. I will be pursuing my PhD with Dr. Paul Frankland where I will investigate the biological mechanisms underpinning memory formation, maintenance, retrieval, and transience.

PHOTO CREDIT: BEN OUYANG

Dhaliwal, Alex

Supervisor: Dr. Gang Zheng
Graduate unit: Department of Medical Biophysics

Personal background

I was raised in St. Catharines and completed by undergraduate degree at McMaster University in Integrated Sciences. Over the course of this training, I developed an active interest in research, working in labs dedicated to basic neuroscience and biophysics. I completed my degree with a triple minor in Biochemistry, Physics, and Mathematics. I chose the MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto as it provides me with an opportunity to work at the interface of medicine and research at an institution that prioritizes rigourous science and medical innovation.

Research interests

The majority of my past research focused on elucidating membrane-mediated drug interactions using X-ray diffraction and Molecular Dynamics simulations. My current research extends these principles of using physical modalities as a probe for drug design and development – I am working to overcome obstacles in cancer nanomedicine delivery using an in situ ultrasound-triggered microbubble-to-nanoparticle conversion platform. I am passionate about developing novel techniques to better understand and tackle problems at the frontier of oncology, and I am confident that the MD/PhD program will help me cultivate my interests and contextualize my work.

Drupals, Megan

Supervisor: Dr. Michael Salter
Graduate Unit: Department of Physiology

Personal background

I completed my BSc in Biology at the University of British Columbia, a few (thousand) kilometers away from my hometown of Montreal. Through the co-operative education program at UBC, I discovered a love for exploring pain pathways using molecular and genetic approaches. The MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto seemed like an ideal fit for my goal of strengthening our understanding of pain and translating these scientific discoveries into improved therapeutics for people suffering from chronic pain. Outside the lab, I love making time to bury my nose in a good book and spending time with friends and family.

Research interests

My research focuses on understanding the physiological impact that early-life pain exposure has on infants. Using a combination of genetic, molecular and electrophysiological tools, we are attempting to unearth where the “memory” of this pain is being stored, and how that may be changing future pain responses and affecting nervous system development.

Photo credit: Ben Ouyang

Elias, Gavin

Supervisor: Dr. Andres Lozano (Toronto Western Hospital, Neurosurgery)
Graduate unit: Institute of Medical Science

Personal background

A citizen of the transatlantic, I was born in Canada but spent much of my childhood in the UK.  After returning to Canada for high school, I completed my undergraduate in psychology and neuroscience at University of Oxford.  Outside of academia, my interests include arresting film and television, good food, and long dog walks.

Research interests

I have been involved in neurosurgery research at Toronto Western Hospital since 2012.  My research pursuits have predominantly centered on deep brain stimulation (DBS) and its exciting applications to circuit-based neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders.  Currently I am focused on a variety of neuroimaging approaches to DBS in an effort to refine patient selection, surgical targeting, and programming and to further elucidate the treatment’s mechanism of action.  I am also involved in a novel clinical trial that will hopefully identify new conditions that may benefit from DBS.

 

Erickson, Anders

Figueiredo, Carlyn

Supervisor: Dr. James Rutka
Graduate Unit: LMP

Personal background

As a big fan of city life, I am proud to say that Toronto has been my home for the past 7 years. The University of Toronto Scarborough is where it all began with my undergraduate studies in Cell and Molecular Biology, where I was mentored by numerous outstanding scientists who helped shape my future in research. My passion for research lead me to a Masters degree in laboratory medicine and pathobiology, where my studies in multiple sclerosis first sparked my interest in the bridge between basic science and clinical application. I chose the UofT MD/PhD program owing to the amazing opportunities available to immerse oneself in cutting edge research and liaise with world renowned leaders in the scientific and medical community. I am truly excited to be a part of this program at UofT, which has emerged as one of the leading institutions to train physician scientists. Outside the classroom/lab, I do enjoy singing, comedy movies, and trying out the various eats Toronto has to offer!

Research interests

While I haven't formally picked a research project yet, my interests lie in autoimmunity. Knowing first hand the patient experience of dealing with an autoimmune disorder has encouraged me to seek out projects which examine onset, immunological pathways and treatment options. The MD/PhD program will be instrumental in my training by challenging me to continuously seek out new ideas and research interests while prioritizing patient care and the advancement of the medical field.

Florescu, Alex

Supervisor: Dr. Jennifer Gommerman
Graduate Unit: Immunology

Personal Background:

Alex spends most of her time asking to pet other people's dogs and breaking her pinky finger playing basketball. Otherwise, you can find her in the lab talking about her favourite cells, B cells. Alex first fell in love with immunology during her Bachelor of Health Sciences at McMaster University, during which time she studied the role of germinal centres in the generation of immune memory to peanut allergens.
 

Research Interests:

For her PhD, Alex will be studying the role of gut-derived IgA plasma cells in neuroinflammation, with a particular interest in looking at immune populations in the meninges of the brain.

Friesen, Erik

Supervisor: Paul Kurdyak (CAMH)
Graduate Unit: Institute of Health Policy, Management & Evaluation

Personal Background

I was born and raised in Winnipeg, MB before moving to Toronto to pursue a BSc in Neuroscience (’16) and MSc in Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology (’18) at the University of Toronto. Throughout my time in Toronto I have had the privilege of working with a number of physician-scientists who have facilitated my exploration of a broad range of research topics and methodologies, ranging from epidemiological research in the realm of heart transplantation to basic laboratory research on the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease. These experiences, and the excellent mentorship I received within them, allowed me to realize the value of combining medical research with clinical practice and ultimately inspired me to join the MD/PhD program. Outside of school and research I enjoy travelling, hanging out in parks with my dog and experiencing remote parts of Canada through canoeing and cycling.

Research Interests

For my PhD research I am transitioning into a project that focuses on the spatial epidemiology of addiction across urban, rural and remote Ontario, with a particular focus on the harms associated with alcohol use disorder. While this is a new field of research for me, it combines my long-standing interest in neuroscience and psychiatry with a more recent interest in understanding the barriers that rural Canadians face when trying to access addictions and mental health services. Through this research, I hope to uncover the factors that predispose rural and remote communities to an increased incidence of substance-use-related morbidity and mortality with the ultimate goal of informing public health measures to reduce this burden.
 

Photo Credit: Ben Ouyang

Giovino, Camillia

Supervisors: Dr. David Malkin and Dr. Ran Kafri
Graduate Unit: Department of Medical Biophysics

Personal Background:

I completed my undergraduate degree in Life Sciences at the University of Toronto. I became involved in research following my second year of undergraduate studies; I studied chemoresistance in head and neck cancer in the laboratory of Dr. Fei-Fei Liu for two years through summer and course-based thesis projects. Upon completion of my undergraduate studies, I pursued Master’s studies in the Department of Medical Biophysics at U of T. I worked under the supervision of Dr. David Malkin and Dr. Ran Kafri, investigating the role of the tumour microenvironment in cancer onset in the context of Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. With a keen interest in both science and medicine, I decided to pursue MD/PhD training at U of T after completion of my Master’s degree.

Research Interests

Both my past and current research interests are in the areas of molecular and cellular biology of cancer, and more recently, with my Master’s work, in genetic predisposition to cancer. Moving forward, for my PhD studies, I will continue to work under the supervision of Dr. David Malkin and Dr. Ran Kafri on a related project where I will be investigating cancer chemoprevention in the context of Li-Fraumeni Syndrome.

 

 

Grabke, Emerson

Photo credit: Ben Ouyang

Harmsen, Irene

Supervisor: Dr. Andres Lozano (Toronto Western Hospital, Department of Neurosurgery)
Graduate unit: Institute of Medical Sciences, Collaborative Program in Neuroscience

Personal background

For my undergraduate studies, I completed a BSc in Biomedical Science at the University of Ottawa. I pursued training as an MD/PhD to combine the fields of medicine and research in order to make positive contributions to individual patients while having a larger impact on the medical community. Outside of my academic life, I am a triathlete and avid traveller.

Research interests

With an interest in neuroscience and genetics, I conducted extensive research on Parkinson’s disease during my BSc degree. I am now focusing on the neurosurgical treatment of movement disorders and use of micro-electrode recordings of the human brain to determine novel medical applications for use of deep-brain stimulation.

Harish, Vinyas

Supervisor: Dr. Laura Rosella (Population Health Analytics Laboratory, Dalla Lana School of Public Health)
Graduate unit: Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation (Clinical Epidemiology & Health Care Research)

Personal background

I grew up in Toronto, ON as a first-generation immigrant from India. As an undergraduate student in Biomedical Computing at Queen’s University, I credit two major experiences for inspiring me to undertake training as a clinician-scientist. My passion for translational clinical engineering was cultivated over three years of work in Dr. Gabor Fichtinger’s Laboratory for Percutaneous Surgery.  Equally so, my time living and working in Guyana as a peer health educator with Queen’s Health Outreach, a completely student-run registered charity, fostered a passion for global health. With a desire to connect patients around the world with the research and innovations they need most, I was drawn to joining the MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto. By coming home for this stage of my education, I have the distinct privilege of training in and serving the communities that I grew up in. Outside of my academic life, I am fond of travel, photography, political satire, and podcasts.

Research interests

I hope to stand at the confluence of knowledge and expertise between the fields of clinical medicine, artificial intelligence, and biosecurity. For my doctoral research, I am interested in the application of machine learning methodologies to the creation of a global early warning system that predicts the emergence and spread of infectious diseases. Given today’s social commentary on ethics around big data, I also plan to examine broadly the ethical implications of artificial intelligence as it's used in public health decision making systems.

Howell, Nicholas

Supervisor: Dr. Gillian Booth (St. Michael’s Hospital, Centre for Research on Inner City Health)
Graduate unit: Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation (Clinical Epidemiology & Health Care Research)

Personal background

While I’m originally from Ottawa, I’ve been in Toronto for some time now. I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Toronto before continuing to a master's degree at the Institute of Medical Science. During my training I researched the neural mechanisms of reward and impulsivity at the Toronto Western Hospital under Dr. William D. Hutchison and with Dr. Valerie Voon at the University of Cambridge's Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre. Having the opportunity to work in an environment supportive of research and with excellent clinician-scientist mentors, I decided to continue my studies as an MD/PhD student. 

Research interests

My PhD research focuses on the links between the urban environment and cardiovascular disease. While great strides have been made in reducing rates of heart disease, it continues to be one of the largest sources of illness and death in Canada. This has led researchers to address the root causes of these illness at the population level. As part of this push, there has been an increasing focus on how features such as city planning might affect cardiovascular risk factors. I aim to use large administrative databases to study how features of urban design and pollution may provoke or prevent conditions like acute myocardial infarction. 

Publications

 

Huo, Lia

Supervisor: Molly Shoichet
Graduate Unit: IMS

Personal background

I was born in Germany and grew up there until I immigrated to Canada at the age of 14. Having been exposed to different cultures, I grew to believe that the greatest gift of meeting new people are the stories, perspectives, and knowledge they can impart on me. It's this same curiosity that has led me to pursue an academic path. I kept asking why and how — so I was naturally drawn to the sciences and ended up studying neuroscience at McGill. While doing research on neurodegenerative diseases in a neurosurgeon’s lab, I discovered an interest in patient interactions and disease management. Through my PI’s mentorship, I realized what a unique lens clinician scientists have. Their research questions are guided by clinical perspectives, and their clinical decisions are informed by research. It is this realization that motivated me to pursue an MD/PhD training.

I couldn’t be more excited to pursue this dual degree at UofT, the largest research-based university in Canada. Besides immersing myself in its stimulating academic environment, I intend to keep forming connections that will challenge me intellectually and will join me in my spontaneous escapades, which have led me to trying a variety of cuisines, unicycling, cliff jumping, and painting. I have a particular interest in learning languages so anyone who can teach me something in another language is an automatic new friend!

Research:

I am doing my PhD in Dr. Molly Shoichet’s lab, where polymeric designs are developed for medical application. I’m interested in studying a hydrogel delivery system that would allow for targeted delivery of proteins or nucleic acids to the eye in order to rescue rod and cone degeneration. This research aims to generate therapeutic measures against blindness that develops as a consequence of many retinal dystrophies.

PHOTO CREDIT Dr. Justin Lam

Jamal, Alainna

Supervisor: Dr. Allison McGeer
Graduate unit: Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation (Clinical Epidemiology & Health Care Research)

Personal background

Toronto is the city I call home, having been born and raised here. As an undergraduate in Biochemistry and Cell/Molecular Biology at the University of Toronto, I was fortunate to have conducted research in the area of transplant infectious diseases with Dr. Shahid Husain and Dr. S. Joseph Kim at the University Health Network. This was where I gained exposure to and developed a passion for clinical medicine and research. 

Research interests

I am pursuing a PhD in Clinical Epidemiology at the Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation. I am interested in the prevention and control of carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae in hospitals.

Publications

Jeong, Danielle

Supervisor: Dr. Freda Miller at Sick Kids Hospital (Department of Neurosciences & Mental Health)
Graduate unit: Institute of Medical Science

Personal background

I grew up in a small suburban town of Langley, B.C., which a unique exposure to concepts of global health through my trips to Haiti and Swaziland. With medicine in mind, I attended Simon Fraser University for undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Biomedical Physiology. My passion for medical research sprouted while studying the functional and structural aspects of voltage-gated ion channels underlying cardiac arrythmias, under the supervision of Dr. Tom Claydon. The realization and appreciation of how research augments my goal to serve those who are ill as a physician has since led me to the MD/PhD program at University of Toronto.

Research interests

My research interest involves understanding neural stem cells in the context of neurogenesis during embryonic development as well as in the adult brain. I would like to examine the interplay of cell-intrinsic mechanisms and extrinsic factors that determine the biology of these cells, which can offer insights on normal and pathological development.

Kao, Jennifer

Supervisor: Dr. Paul Frankland (Sick Kids)
Graduate unit: Institute of Medical Science

Personal background:

I grew up north of Toronto but left the big city to pursue an undergraduate degree in a small town, at the University of Guelph. It was there I discovered a love for research, when I became involved in using small RNA technology in bovine in vitro fertilization and canine spinal cord disease (Dr. Jonathan LaMarre, Ontario Veterinary College). These wildly different research experiences left me with the desire to marry the two fields and pursue neurodevelopment in my Master’s Degree at the University of Toronto (Dr. Phedias Diamandis). My thesis used computational proteomics to profile fetal brains during neurogenesis and model human neurodevelopment using cerebral organoid technology. These experiences solidified my decision to commit to research for the long haul and apply to the MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto. I am currently in the first year of my MD, and am excited to begin the PhD portion of my double degree in the vast field of neuroscience! When I’m not in the lab/at school, I love to cook, travel alone (still trying to discover myself), and watch the Leafs (religiously).

Research interests:

I am excited to be working with Dr. Paul Frankland at PGCRL in the coming Fall! Though the details remain yet to be determined, we are specifically interested in using mouse models and cerebral organoid technology to study memory development and retrieval.

 

Kim, Yun

 

Kozlowski, Hannah

Supervisor: Dr. Warren Chan
Graduate unit: Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (Surgical Engineering

Personal background

I completed my HBSc in Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology with minors in Nanoscience and Immunology from the University of Toronto, Trinity College. During that time I was exposed to the power of the immune system and the complexity of our innate and adaptive responses to foreign microorganisms and our own dysfunctional cells. I began to explore this further by pursing clinical research in transplant infectious disease and basic science research in HIV and Ebola. Although the body fascinated me, I was also interested to learn more about other research fields, particularly Nanoscience. I spent several months at the National University of Singapore taking Nanoscience courses and learning from experts in the field.   Early on in my experiences I began to appreciate the relationship between medicine and research, and the unique role of a clinician-scientist. I believe the MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto is a great way for me to begin my career and has/will provide me with many opportunities to learn, develop and explore. Also, in the last few months I have realized and appreciated the power of mentorship even more than before.  Outside of my academic life, I have been able to spend time doing things I enjoy: long distance running, traveling and baking.

Research background

My research interests revolve around nanodiagnostics, where we can use small particles to detect genetic material, or other molecules, in human samples to identify disease onset or outcome. I believe nanodiagnostics can be used to detect diseases sooner and improve clinical outcomes. Moreover, I believe this can be very important to developing inexpensive diagnostics for use in limited resource setting, such as third world countries.

Photo credit: Ben Ouyang

Kumar, Sachin

Supervisor: Dr. Michael Taylor
Graduate unit: LMP

Personal background

I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto in Human Biology and Immunology, and my Masters training at the University of Toronto in the Department of Molecular Genetics. My focus was on high-throughput genetic screening to investigate and characterize the role of a poorly understood receptor on cellular signalling. I chose to pursue an MD/PhD degree at the University of Toronto as I felt it afforded me the opportunity to receive the best scientific and medical training. Toronto is a hub for cutting edge research, with talented faculty and mentors, and diverse social and cultural experiences. Although I’ve spent the entirety of my post-secondary education in Toronto, there isn’t a city with better food, people or sports I’d rather be in!

Research interests

The field of oncology has always captivated me. My previous research experiences have provided me a strong foundation in understanding the genetic and metabolic basis of cancer development. I’ve additionally had the opportunity to develop tools and technologies to investigate and characterize cancer cell signalling. Going forward, I hope to use this repertoire to study immune modulation and activation in cancer, and the role of tumour infiltrating lymphocytes on cancer cell detection and elimination.

Publications

Landon-Brace, Natalie

Supervisor: Dr. Alison McGuigan
Graduate Unit: Institute for Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering

Personal Background

I am a born-and-raised Torontonian and I graduated from the Engineering Science program (Biomedical Systems Engineering Major) at the University of Toronto in 2017. During the course of my undergraduate degree, I spent time working in a number of different research areas from vision science to cancer genetics to regenerative medicine. Fascinated with scientific discovery and its implications for medicine, I decided to pursue a career at the intersection of these two worlds, which led me to the MD/PhD program at U of T. Beyond academia, I can usually be found coaching swimming, walking my dog, or sampling one of Toronto’s many great restaurants.

Research Interests

My research interests lie in tissue engineering and cancer biology. My PhD work focuses on building 3D in vitro models to better recapitulate the tumor microenvironment and using these models to identify novel aspects of cancer biology. I am particularly interested in using these models to investigate tumor-immune interactions in the context of various microenvironmental factors.

photo credit ben ouyang

Lia, Hillary

Light, Nicholas

Supervisors: Dr. David Malkin and Dr. Adam Shlien
Graduate Unit: Institute of Medical Science

Personal background

Originally born in London, England, I moved frequently as a child, growing up primarily in the Western suburbs of Chicago. During high school, I developed an interest in science and in particular the rapidly evolving field of genomics, which led me to complete a BSc in Biology, and later an MSc in Human Genetics at McGill in Montreal. While genetics research is a major passion of mine, I have also long felt a calling towards  the care of today’s patients. It was the pursuit of these dual passions which propelled me towards the MD/PhD program at U of T. Outside of academics, I enjoy distance running, volleyball, supporting the Raptors and exploring Toronto, a city which has quickly become home.

Research interests

During my masters at McGill, I worked with Dr. Tomi Pastinen, investigating the role of cis-regulatory mechanisms in complex genetic disease through allele-specific genomic assays of gene regulation and chromatin state. For my PhD thesis research, I am focused on using state-of-the-art sequencing technologies to further our understanding of cancer biology. Working at SickKids I am interested in understanding the mechanisms underlying inherited cancer predisposition syndromes (e.g. constitutional mismatch repair deficiency and Li-Fraumeni syndrome). Specifically, I am interested in determining how inherited mutations affecting DNA repair fidelity shape mutational patterns and evolutionary trajectories in the resultant cancers, and what clinical opportunities this presents regarding genetic testing, tumour surveillance and treatment strategies for these patients.

Macklin, Jillian

Supervisors: Dr. Jennifer Gibson and Dr. Heather Ross
Graduate Unit: Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation (IHPME) - Health Services Research Stream

Personal background

I completed my undergraduate degree in clinical biochemistry at Western University and my Masters training in the department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at University of Toronto focusing on cardiovascular immunology. Toronto's inspiring and stimulating environment has led me to pursue both degrees. Outside of the program, I am a soccer player and a people-person - meeting new people is my favourite past time!

Research interests

I am interested in the role of patient engagement and the patient voice when developing artificial intelligence-based healthcare tools, including a remote telemonitoring system for heart failure patients to access care at home. 

Malkin, Ethan

Supervisor: Dr. Scott V. Bratman
Graduate Unit: Department of Medical Biophysics

Personal background

I grew up in Toronto and completed an Honours Bachelor of Medical Sciences at the University of Western Ontario, specializing in biochemistry and cell biology. At Western, under the supervision of Dr. David Litchfield, I completed my undergraduate thesis project, in which I developed a fluorescent biosensor for CK2, a protein kinase upregulated in several cancers. The University of Toronto comprises a diverse array of research areas and is home to world-class work being conducted by leading experts in their respective fields. As such, U of T’s MD/PhD program offers an excellent opportunity for me to pursue my research interests and begin my development into a physician scientist. Outside of academics, I enjoy playing and watching sports (especially hockey), cooking, and hanging out with family, friends, and my dog. 

Research interests

Cancer cells actively release many intracellular components via a variety of mechanisms. Unsurprisingly, these secreted components are thought to play major roles in tumourigenesis, metastasis, and host-tumour interaction. My PhD project is focused on characterizing DNA in various components of the cancer cell secretome, primarily small extracellular vesicles and particles. Moreover, I aim to elucidate the role of tumour-derived DNA in the anti-tumour immune response.

Mazzanti, Andrew

Supervisor: Dr. Miguel Ramlho-Santos
Academic Unit: Molecular Genetics

Personal Background: 
I was born and raised in Toronto in an Italian-Canadian family with three brothers. I earned my undergraduate degree from Harvard University, where I pursued a liberal arts degree while concentrating in Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology and completing further coursework in LGBTQ+ studies, Italian language/culture, and the plays of Shakespeare. I then completed my MSc in the University of Toronto’s Immunology Department. Throughout my previous studies, I often felt torn between my passion for healthcare work with marginalized communities (specifically the LGBTQ+ and PWA communities) and my desire to conduct basic science research. This tension resulted in my decision to simply do both, and apply to the combined MD/PhD program. Outside of medical and graduate school, I love to play piano and trombone, cook up a storm, keep up with Canadian and American politics and current events, and read (mostly fiction). 

Research interests: 
My undergraduate research work was in the lab of Dr. Jack Strominger, where we studied the regulation of immunological tolerance at the maternal-fetal interface. This basic question of tolerance first sparked my interest in immunology. During my MSc with Dr. Norman Iscove, I studied the maintenance of self-renewal in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Cancer is a stage on which both immune tolerance and stemness/self-renewal play leading roles. For my graduate work, I am hoping to study either or both of these ideas and their relation to the initiation of cancer. 

Publications

McFaul, Chris

Supervisors: Prof. Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez & Prof. Chris Yip

Academic Unit: IBBME

Project: An automated injection and high-content screening platform for Drosophila 

Personal background

I did my Bachelor of Sciences at McGill University in the Physiology and Physics program. Stemming from my joint program, some of my hobbies include building electronics projects with Arduinos, programming and 3D printing. I chose the MD/PhD program at U of T because of the breadth of research that is being done in the engineering/medical physics fields and so that I could apply my skills to the field of medicine.

Research interests

My research interests include developing and applying novel imaging/surgical assist technologies to improve patient outcomes. My PhD project will be focused on improving existing neurosurgery microscopy technology. The goals of the project will be to increase low light sensitivity during procedures like photodynamic therapy and to improve surgeon-microscope interactions.

McQueen, Sydney

Supervisor: Dr. Carol-Anne Moulton (Division of General Surgery, University Health Network)

Personal background

I completed my undergraduate training in Life Sciences and Neuroscience at Queen’s University. During my undergraduate studies, I also became involved with medical education research and went on to complete a Masters degree in Health Science Education at McMaster University. These experiences and inspiration from my mentors led me to pursue the next phase of my training at the University of Toronto in the MD/PhD program. Outside of academics, I enjoy running, hiking, and travelling.

Research interests

My research interests are focused in the field of medical education. My Masters work examined motor skill acquisition, assessment, and feedback, particularly in surgical training. For my Doctoral work, I am now exploring optimal performance, stress, and self-regulation in surgery.

Publications

Mirali, Sara

Supervisor: Dr. Aaron Schimmer
Graduate Unit: Institute of Medical Science

Personal background

I completed my Honours undergraduate degree at McGill University. I was fortunate to be mentored by several excellent scientists at McGill, who encouraged me to pursue research. I chose the University of Toronto’s MD/PhD program because of the amazing research opportunities and outstanding medical education.

Research interests

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) cells and stem cells have unique mitochondrial properties, which can be therapeutically targeted. My research uses genetic and chemical approaches to characterize novel mitochondrial vulnerabilities, with the aim of developing new therapeutic strategies that selectively target AML cells and stem cells. 

Morgado, Felipe

Supervisor: Dr. Jason Lerch
Graduate unit: Department of Medical Biophysics

Personal background

I attended the University of Toronto for my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in biophysics and medical physics. Before pursuing my PhD in neuroscience, my previous research areas included photodynamic therapy and pulmonary functional imaging. I decided to pursue MD/PhD training because I want to use insights from the forefront of neuroscience to help my patients in novel and impactful ways, while also leading clinical practice at an institutional level. Outside of school, you can find me spending most of my time playing piano, going to shows, or going for a swim.

Research interests

My PhD research, conducted at The Hospital for Sick Children, focusses on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is believed that through its motor and nonmotor regulation, the cerebellum is a crucial site for ASD development. While its connectivity to other regions of the brain is fairly well understood in a healthy population, how this differs in ASD is still relatively unknown. Through a combination of imaging-based network analysis and induced stimulation of target neural pathways using virally injected channels, I hope to characterize these connectivity differences within the cerebellum. This may potentially improve our mechanistic understanding of ASD and provide targets for local stimulation therapies in patients with severe symptoms.

Publications

Mylabathula_headshot

PHOTO CREDIT: NATHAN CHAN

Mylabathula, Swapna

Supervisor: Dr. Charles Tator
Graduate unit: Institute of Medical Science

Personal background

I completed my undergraduate degree at U of T in Human Biology and Nutritional Science, followed by a non-degree year in Kinesiology. Outside of academics, I enjoy sports [any and all, but hockey and lacrosse, primarily!], music [violin and sitar], and engaging in the U of T community through student groups!

Research interests

Currently, I am working on evaluation of concussion policies in schools, with the aim of understanding barriers and enablers in implementation and assisting knowledge users by providing information on elements for inclusion in development and implementation. I am also studying female concussion in hockey, and characterizing this injury using a mixed-methods approach in women’s hockey in Ontario.

Publications

Mylvaganam, Sivakami

Supervisor: Dr. Sergio Grinstein
Graduate unit: Biochemistry

Personal background

I grew up in Toronto and went to McGill University for an undergraduate degree in immunology. During my time there, I participated in a number of translational research projects in academic, pharmaceutical and public health settings. From these experiences, I developed an appreciation for how integrating basic science research and clinical medicine can have a positive impact. This inspired me to pursue an MD/PhD degree at the University of Toronto.

Research interests

I am pursuing my PhD in the department of Biochemistry. I am interested in how cells regulate the mobility of receptors or other molecules on their membranes in physiology and disease.

 

Nagaraj, Sujay

 

Oh, Robin

Ouyang, Ben

Supervisor: Dr. Warren Chan
Graduate unit: Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering

Personal background

I was born in China, and grew up in Scarborough and Mississauga. I graduated from the Engineering Science (Biomedical Option) program at U of T in 2013, and had been interested in healthcare throughout my undergrad. I ultimately chose the MD/PhD at UToronto to gain a solid foundation of medical knowledge for patient care, and an understanding of the problems and solutions within healthcare at the best research institution in Canada.

Research interests

My research interests are centred around the immune response to nanomaterials. By understanding these interactions within the body at the molecular and cellular level, the huge potential of these technologies can be translated more effectively.

Photo credit: Ben Ouyang

Parker, Jennifer

Personal background

I completed a bachelor of science with Honours in bioengineering at Stanford University. During those four years, I conducted research in Dr. Anthony Oro’s dermatology laboratory, where my research focused on understanding the transcriptional regulation of the differentiation of stem cells towards non-neural ectoderm. My research experience as well as my undergraduate major highlighted the intricate connections between engineering and medicine; through the mentorship and support I received, I decided to pursue a career as a clinician scientist in an effort to continue bridging the gap between these two fields. I chose to pursue my MD/PhD at the University of Toronto given its diverse, interdisciplinary research environment and its excellence as a medical school. Toronto is also my hometown! Outside of academics, I enjoy spending time with my dog and going running. As I was a competitive figure skater many years ago, I also love stepping back onto the ice.

Research Interest

Since I am only now beginning my MD/PhD program, I have not yet formally decided on the subject area of my PhD. However, my research interests surround stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. Specifically, I am intrigued by how we can create biological tools in order to correct or replace diseased tissues in the body.

 

Patel, Kramay

Supervisor: Dr. Milos R. Popovic (Toronto Rehab, UHN)
Graduate Unit: Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME)

Personal Background

I completed my undergraduate degree through the Engineering Science program at the University of Toronto, graduating with a Bachelors of Applied Sciences (BASc), with a major in Biomedical Systems Engineering and a minor in Robotics and Mechatronics in 2016. During my undergraduate degree, I undertook research projects with the overall theme of improving trunk stability in individuals with motor deficits caused by disease or traumatic injury. Through this experience, I had the opportunity to interact with both engineers and clinicians in a setting where the primary goal was to improve patient quality-of-life. I noticed that there was a stark difference in skillset and experience between the two professions and realized that there was a need for more individuals who could bridge the gap. I realized that there was a need for individuals who could not only identify clinical problems and frame them from a patient’s perspective, but also have the technical skillset necessary to effectively approach and tackle these problems. I believe that clinician scientists are best suited to fill this gap and improve healthcare and its delivery, which is why I chose to pursue MD/PhD training. I chose to do so at the University of Toronto because of the immense diversity of research offerings here and a rich network of academic hospitals.

Research Interests

My undergraduate research work specifically focused on (1) understanding the biomechanics and electrophysiology of the human trunk and its responses to dynamic environmental perturbations and (2) developing neuroprostheses to improve dynamic trunk stability using a technology called Functional Electrical Stimulation. In my fourth-year thesis project, I undertook the development of a novel, single neuron-based brain machine interface in a rodent model, which could be used to improve the efficacy with which individuals with neuro-motor deficits interact with their environments. Through my PhD, I hope to further explore this field of intracortical brain machine interfaces. I also hope to work on utilizing electrical stimulation techniques such as deep brain stimulation to augment memory function in both, healthy individuals and those suffering from cognitive deficits due to disease or injury.

Publications


Photo credit: Ben Ouyang

Psarianos, Pamela

Supervisor: Dr. David Malkin
Graduate Unit: Department of Medical Biophysics

Personal Background

 

Rahman, Anum

Supervisor: Dr. John Sled
Graduate Unit: Department of Medical Biophysics

Personal Background

I completed my undergraduate degree in Human Biology (specialist) and my Masters in Medical Biophysics (both at University of Toronto). Under the supervision of Dr. John Sled at the Mouse Imaging Centre, I studied how the pulse wave reflection in the mouse umbilical artery can be used to detect changes in placental vascular morphology. During my time here, the implications for translating this knowledge from mouse studies to human pregnancies led me to pursue the MD/PhD program. Apart from my research interests, I enjoy cooking numerous curries and playing volleyball.

Research Interests

I am interested in maternal/fetal health and find the relationship between the intrauterine environment and fetal development fascinating.

Publications

Rajora, Maneesha

Supervisor: Dr. Gang Zheng
Graduate Unit: Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering

Personal background

Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, I moved to Toronto to complete my M.A.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering, with a focus on developing biomaterials and drug-delivery systems. Prior to conducting graduate studies at the University of Toronto, I completed my undergraduate degree in Chemistry at Dalhousie University. I chose to pursue the MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto on the basis of its renowned excellence in biomedical research and medical education. During my training, I hope to build a foundation of skillsets pertinent in identifying clinical needs in biomaterials development, conducting materials-centred research to address these needs, and effectively delivering patient care as a clinician-scientist.

Research interests

My research interests lie in the engineering of clinically-relevant biomaterial platforms to enhance therapy delivery to the brain. Specifically, I am interested in developing non-invasive micro and nanotechnologies to address limitations in bypassing tumor vasculature to ultimately enhance the targeted delivery of therapeutics to brain tumors, and thereby improve cancer therapy. 

Photo credit: Lisa Renault Photographie

Rappon, Tim

Supervisors: Dr. Whitney Berta and Dr. Samir Sinha
Graduate Unit: Institute For Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (Health Services Research)

Personal background

I grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I studied cell biology at Western and conducted research into the links between metabolism in Alzheimer's disease under the supervision of Dr. Robert Cumming. With my involvement in research, I soon realized that discoveries in the lab take a very long time to bring benefits to patients. With that insight, I resolved to pursue a combined MD/PhD to try and bridge the gap between discovery and application. I chose the University of Toronto's MD/PhD program because of the depth and breadth of research that is conducted in the city. Pretty much any topic of inquiry related to health that you might be interested in is being pursued by someone, somewhere in Toronto. In addition to my research, I work part-time as an MCAT tutor. I enjoy cooking, playing board games and spending time with my wife, our dog, and our cat.

Research Interests

I'm interested in understanding individual, unit, and organizational factors which contribute to continued use and sustainability of improvements to the way we care for older Canadians. Currently, I’m studying the Acute Care for Elders Collaborative—a group of 17 hospitals across Canada which are receiving funding and coaching to implement one or more components of Mount Sinai Hospital’s Acute Care for Elders Strategy. The Strategy has had great success at Mount Sinai, saving the healthcare system an estimated $6.7 million in FY13 while producing near-perfect patient satisfaction scores. It's helped hundreds of patients maintain their independence and return home in a safe and timely manner. The insights from this project will inform efforts to accelerate the spread of healthcare improvements so that more Canadians can benefit from them.

Seneviratne, Ayesh

Supervisor: Dr. Aaron Schimmer at the Princess Margaret Hospital   
Graduate unit: Institute of Medical Science

Personal background

My path to the MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto has been an interesting one. I was born in Winnipeg, before moving to Sri Lanka after my father completed his PhD and my mother her Master’s at the University of Manitoba. In Sri Lanka I attended St. Thomas’ college, a school that placed heavy emphasis on the values of discipline, and perseverance. It was only after grade 10 of my studies that I came to Mississauga, to finish my last two years of high school before making my way to Western University, where I completed a Bachelor’s in physiology, followed by a Master’s in regenerative medicine, under the supervision of Dr. David Hess.

Research interests

The Schimmer lab has demonstrated that Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) cells, and stem cells have a unique reliance on mitochondrial metabolism. My work involves the use of chemical, and genetic approaches to investigate the the importance of mitochondrial lipid synthesis pathways, in AML cell growth. With the hope that an understanding of the biology of AML cells will highlight potential therapeutic strategies, that will improve the treatment outcomes in patients with AML.

Publications

Shah, Prajay

Supervisor: Dr. Taufik Valiante
Graduate unit: Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering

Personal background

I grew up in Calgary, and completed an Honors undergraduate BSc degree at the University of Calgary in 2017. Here I developed much of my interest in Neuroscience and Medicine, working with the neural stem cells under the supervision of Dr. Jo Stratton, Dr. Jeff Biernaskie, and Dr. Rajiv Midha. At the U of C, I was inspired by the scientific pursuit and drive of my mentors. I am now pursuing an MD/PhD at the University of Toronto to continue to develop my interest in neuroscience and medicine.

Research interests

Information flow and computation are two of the basic fundamental functions of the brain. The goal of my PhD research is to learn more about the mechanisms by which neural systems achieve and carry out these functions, and to use these insights to develop novel treatments for neural circuit disorders, such as epilepsy.

Publications

Photo Credit: Ben Ouyang

Shi, Runjie (Bill)

Supervisor: Professor Willy Wong and Professor Moshe Eizenman
Graduate unit: IBBME

Personal Background

I graduated from the Engineering Science program at the University of Toronto (B.A.Sc.), with a major in Biomedical Systems Engineering and a minor in Robotics and Mechatronics in 2019. During my undergraduate degree I had the opportunity to apply my engineering skill set to design innovative medical solutions during my summers and PEY internship program. I was fortunate to meet many mentors—clinicians, scientists and engineers—in the Toronto medical community who share the common goal of providing better patient care and inspired me to become a physician scientist. I am excited to join the MD/PhD program to become a multidisciplinary researcher who both understands clinical practice and draws knowledge from all scientific fields to improve medicine.

Research Interests

(1) Creating affordable, portable, and personal medical devices that improves patient experience and outcome. This includes my current effort in creating a VR-based smartphone visual field analyzer. (2) Medical signal processing and image analysis, particular in application towards imaged-guided therapy for cancer surgery. (3) Applications of computational technology, such as machine learning and finite element analysis, to provide more useful information to clinicians from a multitude of patient data.
Publications



 

Sindhwani, Shrey

Supervisor: Dr. Warren Chan
Graduate unit: Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME)

Personal background

I completed my undergraduate degree in Nanotechnology Engineering from University of Waterloo in 2011. During my undergraduate education, I was drawn towards the application of nanotechnology to medicine. UofT’s MD/PhD program brings together world class researchers, teachers and clinicians, which allows to further my pursuit in the area of cancer nanomedicine. Outside the class, I am an avid soccer and squash player.

Research interests

About 1% of the total nanoparticles injected into the blood stream end up in the tumour. My PhD work focuses on understanding the factors that govern nanoparticles interactions with blood and tumour components. This mechanistic understanding will provide avenues for developing nanomaterials that can overcome off target accumulation in liver and spleen and lead to enhanced accumulation and distribution in tumours.

Publications

Soleas, John

Supervisors: Dr. Thomas Waddell (Department of Thoracic Surgery) & Dr. Alison McGuigan (Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering)

Graduate unit: Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering

Personal background

My path to the MD/PhD programme begins with growing up in a small town outside of Hamilton called Waterdown.  I grew up with very supportive parents, who encouraged my love of science, in particular of human anatomy and physiology.  I completed my undergraduate degree in Physiology from The University of Western Ontario in 2010 (always will be Purple and Proud!) and a Masters of Science from Toronto in 2012.  Over that time I developed an appreciation for interdisciplinary research and cultivating a career that would allow me to be a part of two related, yet distinct worlds: medicine and basic science.

Research interests

My research interests lie within the budding domain of regenerative medicine with a particular focus on pluripotent stem cells, and tissue engineering.  Specifically, our work seeks to understand how the mechanical environment of the differentiating stem cell effects the fate choice of that cell population. Our work will add to a growing body of literature that suggests that the mechanical environment is another cue that, much like chemistry, can be altered and controlled for to alter and control for specific products of stem cell differentiation.  

Publications

Steadman, Patrick

Supervisor: Dr. Paul Frankland at the Hospital for Sick Children
Graduate unit: Institute of Medical Science 

Personal background

I grew up in Etobicoke and went to McMaster University for my BSc in Medical and Health Physics. My undergraduate program instilled a passion for research that brought me to Toronto for a MSc in the Department of Medical Biophysics. My work focused on genetic alterations associated with brain disorders and their effect on brain structure. I chose the MD/PhD program because it puts the focus on translating knowledge from the bench to the clinic and vice versa. In my spare time I am an avid reader, as it is a great way to explore interesting fields outside of my own, and I enjoy biking.

Research interests

I am fascinated by how dynamic our brains are, both during development and every day of our lives. I see great potential in brain research. I hope to better understand brain development and its integral functions through the use of neuroimaging, image analysis, cognitive behavioural tasks and genetics research. I also hope to spend some of my time in Toronto honing my advocacy skills while working on patient advocacy projects. Patient advocacy and policy work are two areas I would like to include in my career as a clinician-scientist.

Publications

Photo credit: Ben Ouyang

Tsang, Brian

Personal background

I completed an undergraduate Honours Biochemistry degree at the University of Waterloo. Through their cooperative education program, I had the chance to experience many different research opportunities. At the same time, I met many great mentors that encouraged me to pursue a clinician-scientist career. I decided to pursue my MD/PhD training at the University of Toronto because of the world-class research opportunities available here.

Research interest

I have not decided on a formal project yet, but I am interested in structural biochemistry and neurobiology. Specifically, I am fascinated by fundamental basic research relating to regulatory processes for neurological function. I am certain that understanding basic neurological function will be a critical first step in developing treatment options for many neurological disorders.

 

Vachhani, Kathak

Walpole, Glenn

Supervisors:  Dr. Sergio Grinstein and Dr. John Brumell (Cell Biology Program, SickKids)

Personal background

I was born and raised in a small farming community along the shores of Lake Huron in southwestern Ontario and completed my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry (Biomedical Research Specialization) at McMaster University. Outside school, I play bagpipes professionally and compete in solo bagpiping competitions throughout Ontario and North America. As well, I am currently Vice President of the Toronto Branch of the Piper’s and Pipe Band Society of Ontario (PPBSO), and assist the Guelph Pipe Band at summer competitions.  Outside of music, I am an avid golfer who can usually turn in a mid to low 70s score but also have the talent to turn in a mid 90s score without too much difficulty.  I am also not Scottish, although I am asked this question regularly! 

Research interests

I became interested in the way cells function at a molecular level during my time in the laboratory of Dr. Ray Truant at McMaster University where I realized that understanding the cell biology of a particular disease can provide important avenues for therapeutics.  I joined the MD/PhD program at the U of T in the fall of 2015 because it will allow me to understand and appreciate the mechanisms of a disease from the cellular level to the level of patients in the clinic.  My current focus lies under the umbrella of host-pathogen interactions where I have mainly worked to better understand disease caused by two human pathogens, Salmonella Typhimurium and Burkholderia cenocepacia.

Wan, Hoyee

Personal background

I completed my undergraduate degree in neuroscience from the University of Toronto. I chose the MD/PhD program at University of Toronto because of the breadth of research opportunities and the collaborative nature of the research being conducted.

Research interests

I am interested in cerebral vasculature, stroke, novel experimental imaging technologies/techniques and therapeutic delivery systems.

PHOTO CREDIT: BEN OUYANG

Ware, Matthaeus

Supervisor: Dr. Peter Dirks
Graduate unit: Department of Molecular Genetics

Personal background

Before coming to Toronto, I completed my Bachelor of Science in Honours Neuroscience at McGill University. During my undergraduate years, I was immersed in a community of peers and faculty genuinely fascinated by the brain. As for my own mind, it has developed to create, to dance, to play and enjoy music, and to admire God’s creation while exploring it through scientific research. Having the opportunity to pursue one’s vocational objective is an immense privilege; though I can never truly earn it, I am continually grateful to have it.

Research interests

For my doctoral research, I am exploring how the brain’s environment contributes to the genesis/development of a deadly brain cancer called glioblastoma (GBM). My desire to unite neuroscience and oncology is driven by the combination of my educational background, research experiences, and clinical interests.

Woodford, Curtis

Supervisor: Dr. Peter Zandstra

Personal background

I studied chemical engineering at the University of Waterloo, and I'm originally from Liverpool, Nova Scotia. In my spare time, I play on the varsity squash team, serve as a News and Views editor of the University of Toronto Medical Journal, or read fiction. I came to U of T for the collaborative, interdisciplinary research environment and the excellent medical education.

Research interests

I'm interested in regenerative medicine, stem cells, and bioengineering. I am currently choosing my research project. The MD/PhD program provides an extremely supportive environment in which to pursue these research directions. There is ample advice and guidance provided by more senior students and the program leadership.

Wu, Richard

Personal background

Prior to entering the MD/PhD program, I obtained my Bachelor of Health Sciences degree from McMaster University. It was during my various undergraduate projects that I became intrigued with the scientific process. For one, I like to take a simple, creative idea and then build on it, tweak it and use it to continuously ask new questions; and two, the unknowns in science simply excite me. Before I knew it, I was fixed to the idea of becoming a physician who can ask the “right” questions and push frontiers in medicine. The MD/PhD program at Toronto offered a way for me to explore these interests. Besides my love for science and medicine, I love eating sushi, playing badminton, computer gaming, and working out.

Research interests

My research in undergrad investigated the therapeutic effects of gut probiotics on intestinal motility via computer imaging techniques. I’m interested in building novel technologies to better understand disease pathology and physiology.

 

Zahr, Siraj

Supervisor: Dr. Freda Miller

Personal background

I completed my undergraduate degree in Honors Biochemistry at McGill before joining the MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto. As an undergraduate, I conducted research in a structural biology lab that studied large multimodular enzymes called non-ribosomal peptide synthetases via X-ray crystallography. I have also been involved in cancer biology research, investigating the molecular events that allow gastric cancer cells to proliferate and often circumvent targeted therapies. My research experience showed me that a mechanistic understanding of disease is not only important from a scientific perspective, but clinically, through the identification of drug targets. I believe the combined MD/PhD program at UofT will provide me with both the medical and scientific training to effectively tackle clinically relevant questions that emerge in the future. Outside of science and medicine, I enjoy watching movies, reading, and try to remain physically active (gym, soccer, kickboxing). Most importantly, I enjoy hanging out with friends and family.

Research interests

My research interests revolve around neural stem cells and neurogenesis during embryonic development and the adult brain. During my PhD under the supervision of Dr. Freda Miller, I would like to explore how intrinsic and environmental mechanisms interact to ensure appropriate genesis of neurons from neural precursors, and how disrupting such pathways may lead to pathological states.

Publications

Zeng, Andy

Supervisor: Dr. John Dick
Graduate Unit: Molecular Genetics

Personal Background

I grew up in Coquitlam BC and completed my undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology at Simon Fraser University. Throughout this time I worked at the BC Cancer Agency where I studied mitochondrial genetics in cancer in the lab of Dr Angela Brooks Wilson. I also spent some time in Montréal evaluating chemical inhibitors of cancer cell division in the lab of Dr Benjamin Kwok. The research I conducted, paired with my humanitarian work and personal experience, inspired me to pursue an MD/PhD to study and treat cancer. I chose UofT because of how intimately clinical medicine and basic science research are interwoven here. In my spare time, I like to go swimming, practice martial arts, and breakdance.

Research Interest

I want to understand how cancer develops and how it gains resistance to chemotherapy. In John Dick's lab, I am studying the transformation of normal hematopoeitic stem cells (HSCs) into leukemic stem cells, using a combination of single-cell omics and experimental approaches to understand how the cellular machinery of the HSC gets hijacked as it progresses to malignancy.

Publications