Eligible supervisors

Eligible NSERC USRA supervisor list

This list is accurate, but may not be complete. If you are interested in a professor not listed, you are welcome to contact them as well.


Area(s) of interest

Niels C. Bols

Animal cell cultures are being used for three purposes: basic research, in vitro toxicology, and biotechnology. Basic research is being done on the development of differentiated fish cell lines and culture systems. These are used to identify and study the roles of nutrition, hormones and polypeptide growth factors on the growth and differentiation of fish tissues and organs. A particular point of interest is hemopoiesis. In the future these factors may be useful in enhancing the growth and health of fish. Some of the cell lines are being used in ecotoxicology studies. In particular the toxicology of dioxin-like compounds and polycyclic aromatic (PAHs) is being investigated. Many of these projects use current recombinant DNA and immunological technologies.

For more information view the profile page of Bols.

Trevor C. Charles

We use molecular genetics to probe the interactions of bacteria with their host organisms, focusing on the model Sinorhizobium meliloti / alfalfa interaction. We study soil and human microbiomes using functional metagenomics.

For more information view the profile page of Charles.

Simon Chuong

Plant cell and molecular biology: Cellular and molecular characterization of mechanisms controlling the structure and function of single-cell C4 photosynthesis in terrestrial plants. Major interests include characterizing the role of the cytoskeleton and its regulatory proteins in the movement of organelles and localization of macromolecules resulting in the establishment of cellular polarity in plant cells. We use a combination of approaches such as biochemistry, molecular biology, physiology, and cell biology including standard immunofluorescence and immunogold electron microscopy as well as the latest imaging techniques involving fluorescent-tagged proteins of living cells to investigate the research questions.

For more information view the profile page of Chuong.

Kim Cuddington

Theoretical and terrestrial ecology: Current ecological theory does a poor job of linking the physical environment to community processes. As a result there is a gap between ecosystem ecology and population/community ecology. This linkage is investigated in various systems of interest for conservation and management, such non-native forest pests, using both mathematical models and experiments. Current projects include development of new theory to predict the effects of species which modify the physical environment (ecosystem engineers), and production of accurate models of climate variability to predict extinction risk.

For more information view the profile page of Cuddington.

Brian Dixon

Molecular and functional characterization of fish immune systems, particularly Major Histocompatibility (MH) receptors and chemokines. Studying MH gene evolution through the molecular characterization of various fish populations. Effects of toxic chemicals on immune systems of aquatic organisms.

For more information view the profile page of Brian Dixon.

Andrew Doxey

Research in the Doxey Lab seeks to understand how biological function is encoded by DNA sequences, proteins and ultimately entire genomes. 

We develop and apply computational methods to analyze, predict, and design molecular functions using genomic and bioinformatic data. Our work spans multiple disciplines including computational biology, molecular evolution, structural biology, protein design, and genomics.

For more information view the profile page of Doxey.

Bernard P. Duncker

Cancer-related cell cycle studies. My research is focused on characterizing protein factors that regulate the initiation of DNA replication, a key step in cell proliferation. The budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is being used as a model organism, as it is one of the few eukaryotes for which numerous origins of replication have been identified. Many origin-associated protein factors have now been isolated from budding yeast. Human homologues of replication proteins originally identified in yeast have recently shown great promise as markers for potentially cancerous cell proliferation. Current work in the lab includes studying the Dbf4/Cdc7 kinase, which helps to trigger DNA replication by associating with origins and phosphorylating other origin-bound proteins, characterizing ORC (the origin recognition complex), and identifying novel origin-associated replication factors.

For more information view the profile page of Duncker.

Roland I. Hall

Applied aquatic ecology, paleolimnology, diatom algae. My research combines fields of aquatic ecology, paleoecology, hydrology and multivariate statistics to assess effects of multiple stressors (periodic floods & droughts, acidification, climatic variability & change, nutrients, species invasions) on lakes, wetlands and reservoirs. A focus is to improve our understanding of factors that regulate aquatic ecosystems at a multi-annual, whole-system scale. An additional focus is to quantify and predict ecosystem responses during degradation and recovery phases due to human disturbances and natural phenomena. Ongoing research projects assess effects of:

  • climatic variability and river impoundment on hydro-ecological conditions of sensitive lakes and wetlands in the Mackenzie Basin Deltas (Peace-Athabasca Delta, Slave River Delta, MacKenzie River Delta) over the past 1,000 years. (Collaboration with Dr. Brent Wolfe [Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Northern Research Chair, Wilfrid Laurier University], Dr. Tom Edwards [Earth Sciences, University of  Waterloo], Dr. Peter Leavitt [U. Regina]; Dr. Bill Last [University of Manitoba] );
  • interactions among acid deposition, climatic variability (drought) and wetlands on recovery of Ontario lakes from effects of acid rain (collaboration with Dr. Peter Dillon [NSERC Industrial Research Chair, Trent University], Dr. Andrew Paterson [Ministry of the Environment (MOE), Dorset Environmental Science Centre] );
  • human land use and climate on Lakes in Africa during the past 200 years (collaboration with Dr. Bob Hecky, Biology, University of Waterloo)

For more information view the profile page of Hall.

John J. Heikkila Our research goals are to understand the function and developmental regulation of small heat shock proteins (shsps) during early development. Shsps are molecular chaperones that are involved in stress resistance and cellular differentiation. Their synthesis has been associated with various disease states such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and muscle myopathy. Recent studies in my lab using amphibian embryos have shown that members of the shsps are differentially expressed during development and that recombinant shsp can act as a molecular chaperone by inhibiting heat-induced protein aggregation. Examples of the methods used in our laboratory include gene cloning, Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), in situ hybridization, immunhistochemistry, microinjection of modified genes into embryos, molecular chaperone assays, site-specific mutagenesis, protein analysis etc.

For more information view the profile page of Heikkila.
Todd Holyoak

My laboratory’s research interests lie in the areas of enzyme structure, mechanism, inhibition and allostery. In light of these general interests our research currently focuses on the role that conformational plasticity plays in these areas of enzymology and how these dynamic aspects of enzyme structure can be exploited in the regulation of enzyme function. We are currently investigating these phenomena in two enzyme families:

1)    the GTP-dependent phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase and
2)    the IgA protease family of bacterial proteases

using primarily the tools of steady-state kinetics and x-ray crystallography.

For more information view the profile page of Holyoak.

Zoya Leonenko

Biophysics of lipids and lipid-protein interactions, the role of structural changes and physical properties of lipid monolayers and bilayers in controlling biological processes and diseases, and application of lipid films in biomedical nanotechnology. Methods: optical, fluorescence and scanning probe microscopy such as atomic force microscopy (AFM), Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM), AFM based force measurements, as well as Langmuir-Blodgett monolayer technique.

For more information view the profile page of Leonenko.

Kesen Ma Physiology and enzymology of hyperthermophilic archaea and bacteria: anaerobic and sulfur-dependent metabolism; function of dehydrogenases and flavoproteins; alcohol metabolism; relationship between structure and function of thermostable enzymes; protein engineering.

For more information view the profile page of Ma.
Mungo Marsden My research interests are centered around the molecular mechanisms that mediate changes in biological form. In particular I am interested in the modulation of cell adhesion states that allow for the complex three dimensional rearrangements that characterize early embryogenesis. These changes in adhesive state are under strict spatial and temporal control, and in many cases stem from extra-cellular signals that cells perceive in their immediate environment. My major line of research involve two families of cell adhesion molecules, the integrins, and the cadherins. Recent evidence indicates the regulation of adhesive states is through a direct cross-talk between these molecules, indicating a coordination between cell-matrix and cell-cell adhesion. This regulation of cell adhesion is not only found during early development but is also of fundamental significance to a wide variety of health related issues such as cancer and wound healing.

For more information view the profile page of Marsden.

Barbara A. Moffatt

Plant molecular biology: isolation and molecular genetic analysis of mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana that are deficient in adenosine/adenine recycling some of which lead to defects in methylation. The role of these enzymes in plant development is being examined by genetic and biochemical analysis, metabolic profiling, protein interaction studies, immunolocalization, in situ hybridization, light and electron microscopy and creation of transgenic plants.

For more information view the profile page of Moffatt.

Kirsten M. Müller

Biogeography, evolution and ecology of eukaryotic algae and the prediction of RNA secondary structure. My research is focused on the evolution, biogeography and ecology of marine and freshwater eukaryotic algae (primarily the Rhodophyta). These organisms play an important role in both freshwater and marine ecosystems. In particular, the rhodophyte subclass, Bangiophycidae, has been a primary focus in my laboratory. This subclass is believed to be the ancestral group from which the more morphologically complex red algal taxa have arisen and have played a pivotal role in the origin of plastids through secondary symbioses in the Cryptophyta, Haptophyta and Heterokonta. More recently we have been examining the invasion of eukaryotic algae (Bangia atropurpurea) and the distribution of green algae (Cladophora glomerata and Ulothrix zonata) within the Laurentian Great Lakes. My research program uses a combination of techniques to address biogeographic and taxonomic questions: analysis of conserved DNA sequences (nuclear and plastid SSU rRNA and rbcL genes), analysis of ultrastructural and morphological characteristics, karyology, seasonality studies, population genetics (Inter Simple Sequence Repeats ISSRs, RAPDs and Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism AFLPs). In addition, my research focuses on the use and prediction of rRNA structure from sequence (covariation analysis) and the use of structure in taxonomic delineation.

For more information view the profile page of Müller.

Josh D. Neufeld

Microbial communities are responsible for the biogeochemical cycling of trace gases, fertility of soils and aquatic environments, healthy function of the human body, metabolic production for the food industry, and countless applications in biotechnology. Despite a profound influence of microorganisms on human life and the global climate, very little is known about the distribution and diversity of microorganisms in natural communities, the vast resource of genes associated with the majority of uncultured microbial life, and the identities of most microbial species on earth: those adapted to life at low abundance.

My lab seeks to understand the causes of microbial diversity, the importance of diversity for ecosystem function, and the relationship between taxonomic and functional diversity. We discover new organisms and pathways involved in carbon and nitrogen cycling in soil and aquatic environments. We are developing new molecular methods to identify and characterise low-abundance organisms. Please contact me if you are interested in graduate work or postdoctoral opportunities in these areas.

For more information view the profile page of Neufeld.

Michael Power

Research activities focus on the conduct of inter-disciplinary programs in the areas of freshwater fisheries ecology and management and risk assessment. There is a special emphasis on the application of stable isotope techniques to the study of such issues. Current projects include collaboration with: [1] the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on an analysis of possible climate change effects on anadromous and lacustrine stocks of Arctic char, the analysis of trophic polymorphisms in Arctic char and comparative analysis of impacted lake foodwebs; [2] the University of Plymouth on the analysis of fish and invertebrate community structure change in British estuarine environments; [3] the Shannon regional Fisheries Board, Ireland, on a comparative trophic analysis sympatric Arctic char and brown trout populations; and [4] the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources on telemetry studies of brow trout in the Credit River. Graduate students are currently working on aspects of caribou ecology using stable isotopes, validation of defensible methods for determining habitat alteration impacts on fish populations, determination of the impacts of water abstraction from small headwater streams on resident brook trout populations and macro-invertebrate communities and the use of stable isotopes to track contaminant impacts in aquatic foodwebs in northern Alberta.

For more information view the profile page of Power.

Bruce Reed

Drosophila Genetics / Cell Biology / Developmental Biology

I) Programmed Cell Death

Our lab uses the model genetic organism, Drosophila, to study fundamental questions relating to cell and developmental biology.  In particular, we are interested in the regulation of programmed cell death (PCD).  The extra-embryonic tissue known as the amnioserosa, which dies following the completion of dorsal closure, is an excellent system for studying PCD and is also ideal for live-imaging.  Using the amnioserosa as a model system we study the following processes: 1) caspase activation; 2) autophagy; 3) contact dependent inhibition of PCD; 4) EGFR/Ras/MAPK dependent survival signaling.  We are presently interested in how caspase activation and autophagy undergo cross-activation during the programmed death of the amnioserosa.

During the process of dorsal closure the amnioserosa is internalized and undergoes programmed cell death.

II) The function of hindsight (homolog of RREB1)

Our lab also studies the regulation and function of the gene hindsight (hnt).  hnt encodes the Drosophila homolog of the human Ras Responsive Element Binding Protein-1 (RREB1), a zinc finger protein and putative transcription factor.  hnt loss-of-function mutants undergo premature amnioserosa death, and consequently fail in the morphogenetic processes of germ band retraction and dorsal closure.  hnt is expressed in numerous tissues throughout development, including the amnioserosa, neurons of the developing peripheral nervous system, the embryonic and larval tracheal system, the larval and adult midgut, the pupal sensory organ precursors, and the ovarian follicular epithelium.  Our most recent work has focused on understanding the function of hnt in terms of its target genes and associated signaling pathways.

For more information view the profile page of Reed.

Rebecca Rooney For more information view the profile page of Rooney.
David R. Rose

Structural Studies of Glycoside Hydrolases
This major area of research involves enzymes that recognize and act upon carbohydrates, including especially glycosidases involved in the protein glycosylation pathway and the process of starch digestion.
Current projects include:
- Human intestinal glucosidases involved in deriving glucose from starch. These are potential targets for controlling blood glucose  and insulin levels.
- Glycosidases from bacterial flora, for example from the mammalian gut microflora or from environmental samples
- Mannosidases and other enzymes involved in building the carbohydrate structures on glycoproteins. These are potential therapeutic targets for cancer and infection.

Additional projects are available in collaboration with Dr. Warren Wakarchuk (Adjunct Professor)
Glycobiology is central to many important biological and biochemical processes. In particular, the interaction of surface glycoconjugates of pathogens and their hosts. These interactions are the result of specific interactions with many different binding partners. Fundamental aspects of the function of these glycoconjugates are still not well understood. In order to determine the functions of these complex molecules we must be able to dissect the biosynthetic process, find the control points in these processes, and understand the interactions of glycoconjugates with their receptors. My research has been centred around the investigation of the structure and function of the enzymes involved in making various glycoconjugates. The determination of glycosyltransferase enzyme donor/acceptor specificity as well as contributing to the determination of the 3-dimensional structures has been the major area of research, and will continue to be the focus of my collaborative research program. My research interests also involve similar work on glycosylhydrolase enzymes which are of important to either metabolism of glycoconjugates, or generation of sugars for production of bio-products or of use in synthetic carbohydrate chemistry.

For more information view the profile page of Rose.
Mark R. Servos

The research in the Servos lab focuses on understanding how human activities alter the sustainability of aquatic ecosystems. We examine the mechanisms of how anthropogenic stressors, including trace contaminants, alter the performance of key organisms such as fish. We assess the fate of contaminants and effects on these organisms from gene expression through to changes in aquatic communities. Recognizing the importance of natural variability in aquatic ecosystems we explore how the characteristics of the environment modify the responses of sentinel species, populations and communities across watershed gradients. The studies support the assessment of risk and help stakeholders create and evaluate innovative risk management options. The lab has state-of-the-art instrumentation for trace analysis of organic contaminants, gene expression and physiology of fish as well as field equipment for sampling of biota, especially fish (including electrofishing, boats and sampling trailers).

The work of the lab currently includes development of frameworks for cumulative effects assessment in watersheds, assessing the environmental fate, exposure and effects of emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products, and endocrine disrupting substances in aquatic environments,  development and application of new approaches for risk assessment and risk management of priority substances and effluents (including municipal and industrial effluents), creating innovative technologies and approaches for remediation of water quality.

For more information view the profile page of Servos.

Ralph E.H. Smith

Freshwater ecology with emphasis on primary producers and their interactions with natural and anthropogenic environmental factors. Effects of climate change (especially concerning ultraviolet radiation, organic and inorganic contaminants, and invasive species in aquatic ecosystems. Plankton and environmental assessment.

For more information view the profile page of Smith.

J. David Spafford

Calcium channels participate in brain functions, such as synaptic transmission, neuronal plasticity, patterned nerve activity underlying rhythmic behaviours, outgrowth of neurons and synapse formation. Actively seeking graduate students.

For more information view the profile page of Spafford.

Jacob Sivak For more information view the profile page of Sivak
Heidi Swanson

Using advanced analytical techniques such as stable isotope ratios and otolith (i.e., ear bone) chemistry, I research ecology, life history, and contaminant bioaccumulation in Arctic fishes. My current program includes research on mercury concentrations in fish from the Deh Cho region of the Northwest Territories, trophic ecology of fishes in the Beaufort Sea, life history of Lake trout in Lake Superior, and effects of climate change on ecology and mercury concentrations in lakes on the North Slope of Alaska. I place great value in developing positive collaborative relationships with other academics, government researchers, Aboriginal communities, and industry, and projects in my lab typically involve both laboratory and field components. 

For more information view the profile page of Swanson

Matthijs van der Meer

A major research goal of my lab is to elucidate the neural mechanisms that support planning: the ability, shared by humans and many animals, to take the consequences of one's actions into account when making a decision.  How can brains do this? A key element of planning is the ability to predict the outcome of a particular course of action. What representations and computations in the brain support this prediction? How are these learned and used in specific situations? By studying planning in behaving rats, we can record neural and chemical signals from the brain, observing these processes "live" as rats learn and make decisions. Advancing our understanding of the brain in this way requires a confluence of ideas and tools from different disciplines, including psychology, neuroscience, computer science/machine learning, and engineering. Projects in the lab focus on experimental, theoretical/computational, and engineering goals; students interested in a combination of these are especially encouraged to apply.

For more information view the profile page of van der Meer.

Jonathan Witt

Application of molecular markers to address questions related to the ecology and evolution of aquatic organisms. A central theme that is currently being addressed in my lab concerns the reasons for, and consequences of disparities between rates of evolution at the molecular morphological and morphological levels. To address these issues, we employ both population and species level comparative approaches. The lab is also engaged in research related to conservation, and the use of molecular methods for the diagnosis of species boundaries.

For more information view the profile page of Witt.