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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Andrew Doxey

The Doxey Lab develops computational methods to predict novel molecular or systems-level functions from genomes and other “omics” datasets. Current efforts are focused largely on uncharacterized proteins from newly sequenced microbial genomes and metagenomes.

The Doxey Lab combines both “dry” (computational) and “wet” (biochemical/molecular) approaches, and works closely with a diverse range of local and international collaborators.

For more information visit the Doxey Lab website.

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.

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)
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.

Laura Hug

We examine microbial diversity and distribution at contaminated sites, looking for novel organisms and activities that may be relevant for bioremediation.

For more information visit the Hug Research Group website.

Barb Katzenback For more information visit the Katzenback Research Group website.

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.

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.
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.
Brendan McConkey For more information visit B. McConkey's profile.

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.

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.

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.

Michael Power

Research activities focus on the conduct of inter-disciplinary programs in freshwater fisheries ecology with a special emphasis on the application of stable isotope techniques to the study of fisheries ecology. Current projects include: [1] collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the analysis of vital rates of SARA listed fish species; [2] study of the feeding ecology of anadromous Arctic char stocks in northern Quebec and Labrador; [3] application of oxygen stable isotope methods to the estimation of individual fish thermal reconstructions; [4] trophic studies of marine feeding in West Greenland Atlantic salmon; and [5] numerous collaborative studies of the impacts of hydro-electric facilities of fish populations and their trophic relationships (e.g., Norway, B.C).

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.

Rebecca Rooney

As wetland ecologists, we study plants, macroinvertebrates and wetland dependent birds. We are interested in how these different biological groups respond to natural and human-caused disturbances and how this can inform the development of monitoring tools and restoration plans.  Our research is policy-relevant, conservation-focused, and strategic in nature. Students look at a broad range of ecological questions. Recent examples include quantifying competition between invasive and native plant species, determining how agriculture affects bird and vegetation communities, measuring how important ecological processes like primary production and decomposition respond to restoration efforts, and looking at relationships between pesticide residues and land use, vascular plants or algae. Undergraduate thesis students work closely with graduate students and participate fully in our collaborative lab environment.  They learn sophisticated statistical analysis techniques and work with real, field-collected data. Students interested in gaining field experience are given the opportunity to collect their own data, time permitting.

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.