Biology Graduate Student Association

Biology Graduate Student Association (BGSA)

BGSA Executive for 2023-2024:

President - Sarah Kowalczyk

Hello, I am Sarah and I am your BGSA president for the 2023-2024 year. I am a second-year master’s student in the Servos lab, and I am studying the differential accumulation of chiral pharmaceuticals in fish found in the Grand River. In my free time, I enjoy crocheting, baking, and reading.

As president, I will be leading the executive committee and will facilitate communication between the BGSA and the Biology Department. I hope to continue building the BGSA as a fun support network for Biology grads, and help plan and run some fun events in the upcoming year! You can always reach out to me at the email above with any questions, comments, and suggestions (we would love to hear from you!).

Image of BGSA president Sarah Kowalczyk

Vice President - Michael Hamel

I'm Michael, a 2nd year master's student in Dr. Paul Craig's lab. My research focuses on the seasonal temperature effects on the Rainbow Darter species native to the Grand River, and I am exploring how they use collagen to restructure their hearts in response to these temperature changes across the year. When I'm not in the lab looking at fish, I enjoy swimming, playing videogames with friends, and hanging out with my pet cockatiel, Grayson.

As this year's Vice President of the BGSA, I aim to increase advocacy for our graduate student body and build more robust lines of communication with the department about our needs and concerns. In addition, we hope to bring a diversity of social events to help keep our department connected amid the busy school terms!

Secretary - Emily McKenzie

Hi folks! My name is Emily McKenzie, and I am a master's candidate in the Dixon lab. My research focuses on the effect of warm water temperatures on the disease susceptibility and mucosal tissues of salmonids. Outside of the lab I spend time crocheting, listening to audiobooks, and watching my cat knock all of my possessions off of ledges.

As Secretary and one of the Seminar Coordinators, I hope to support graduate students present their research to their colleagues and help with organizing BGSA events throughout the year. If you have any questions about the upcoming seminars or preparations for your own, feel free to reach out!

Graduate TA Representative - Nicole LeBlanc

Hello! I am a PhD student in the Charles lab here. My research is focused on improving the production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (used to make bioplastics) by bacteria. Outside of the lab I enjoy spending time outdoors!

As TA representative I am excited to continue building on the work of the previous BGSA in supporting TAs and working with the department to help facilitate TA workshops and implement feedback from graduate students about their TA positions. I am available through email to answer any questions about your role and responsibilities as a TA.

Editor in Chief - Erin Griffiths

I'm a second-year master's student in the ecohydrology lab, with Philippe Van Cappellen. My research involves the degradation of microplastics in stormwater ponds in the GR area and enzymatic degradation of PET plastic under various conditions in the lab.

As the Editor in Chief, I help manage social media, and communication between graduate students and the BGSA. Let me know if you have any suggestions about how we can improve our outreach!

GSA Representative - Rachel Beaver

Hello! I am a PhD student in the Neufeld lab researching the microbiology of bentonite clays relevant to the long-term storage of used nuclear fuel. Outside of school, I enjoy crafting, gardening, and being outside. As the GSA rep and seminar coordinator for the 2023-2024 year, I look forward to representing biology grad students at graduate student association meetings and seeing everyone at grad student seminars.

Athletics Coordinator - Chenelle Caron-Godon

Hello Bio Grads! My name is Chenelle, and I am the Athletics Coordinator for the BGSA during the 2023-2024 academic year. Currently, I am in my 2nd year as a master’s student in the Glerum Lab where we use Saccharomyces cerevisiae to study complex IV of the mitochondrial electron transport chain. Specifically, I am working to uncover an assembly factor’s secondary role in redox metabolism by using various approaches such as cell biology, biochemistry and bioinformatics. When I am not in the lab, I enjoy cooking new foods from scratch, playing sports with friends and lifting weights. 

As the athletics coordinator this year, my goal is to help you find ways to stay active and meet some fellow biology graduate students in the process. We all know physical activity is vital to our mental health, and being a Graduate student isn’t easy! I hope to expose students to new, fun ways to exercise and make some friends along the way.

Garden Coordinator - Lucia Liao

 Hello, I am a PhD student in the Martin (NeurdyPhagy) Lab studying protein palmitoylation as well as how it regulates localization and proteostasis. My research, in connection with ALS Canada, focuses on the novel characterization of TDP-43 palmitoylation as well as its contribution to ALS pathogenesis. Outside of the lab, I love video games, outdoor activities, cooking, and I am a huge fan of audiobooks.

Garden Coordinator - Nooran Abu Mazen

Hi there, I am a second-year master's student in Dr. Doxey’s lab. My field of research is bioinformatics, and my research involves the detection and analysis of viral and bacterial pathogens in metagenomic data generated from patient samples.

During my free time I like to play video games, cook different international dishes, tend to my backyard veggie garden, read, and watch anime.

As one of the garden coordinators this year I look forward to planning and tending to the BGSA community garden plot this coming summer. We hope to grow a variety of vegetables including several types of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, beans, herbs and more! Please reach out to me if you would be interested in volunteering or have any ideas for the community garden.

Sustainability Coordinator - Yubing Chen

Hello Bio Grads! My name is Yubing, the Environment and Sustainability Coordinator for the current academic year. I’m from Dr. Katzenback’s lab group, investigating the antiviral immune responses and infection dynamics in wood frog exposed to frog virus 3. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, reading, and spending time with my two cats, Milk and May. As the environment & sustainability coordinator, I am committed to synergizing our passions for biology with our responsibility to the environment. I hope that we together could craft some eco-conscious strategies while infusing excitement into BGSA events. If you have any insights or queries concerning sustainability within our department, don't hesitate to connect with me!

Social Convenor - Alex Umbach

Hello! I’m a 3rd year PhD student and my area of study is freshwater microbiology, aquaria, and wastewater.

I’m happy to be returning to the BGSA (Biology Graduate Student Association), this time as your Social Convenor. This year I will be striving to increase student turnout and engagement for our BGSA events in hopes of showing all of you that we are a fun and friendly graduate student (and post-doc) community. But for that I will need your help: to attend our events! We have many events planned for the upcoming year, including the classic “Coffee Hours”, but also campfires, hikes, trivia and board game nights, and a few other off-campus events in the works. If you have never attended a BGSA event before, this year is a good year to start. They are excellent opportunities to relax, meet new people, and find out what is going on in the department. If you see an email from me advertising a social event, promise me you’ll at least think about it. Hope to see you all at some point!

First Year Representative - Sepidar Golestaneh

Howdy! I am a first year master's student in the Broders lab. My research aims to determine the motivations for pre-hibernation aggregations in bats in eastern Canada, as well as assessing the current population status of bats who were listed as endangered following White Nose Syndrome. I’m not shy to say that my love for bats partly stems from my obsession with Halloween and all things spooky & kooky! When I’m not studying, you can find me jamming out to 80s tunes, watching Scooby Doo, and being an absolute hooligan with my friends. 

I look forward to being involved with the UW community and the biology department as the 1st year rep for the BGSA.


For more information, please contact us:

Upcoming events

Check out the BGSA Google calendar for upcoming events.