People

This could be you! We are looking for talented and motivated graduate students. See the Contact page for details.

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Summer 2017: (Left to Right) Abdullah, Lavinia, Malina, Jeff, Adam, Giancarlo, Löic, Sofia (Absent: Linda)

ADAM HENDRICKS, Principal Investigator, cv
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Bioengineering
Associate Member, Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
Affiliate Member, Quantitative Biology Initiative
Member, Integrated Program in Neuroscience
adam.hendricks@mcgill.ca, 514.893.2343 383
Mcdonald Engineering Building 817 Sherbrooke St. W., Montreal, QC H3A 0C3

Current

LINDA BALABANIAN, Ph.D. student in Biological and Biomedical Engineering

About: Linda completed her undergrad in Biology at McGill University, specializing in molecular and cellular biology. In appreciation of both the arts and sciences, she perceives the microtubule cytoskeleton and cellular features in general as works of art.

Research: From a molecular perspective, I am interested in studying the regulation of motor-based transport by the microtubule cytoskeleton, in an effort to further understand the mechanisms that are impaired in neurodegeneration. Microtubules do not only serve as passive tracks for intracellular transport, but also spatiotemporally fine-tune the targeting of cargoes and organelles, via network organization, post-translational modifications and associated proteins. My project consists of studying the cross-talk between these different factors and how they influence the binding dynamics of kinesin motors, as well as cargoes driven by teams of motors, on the isolated microtubule cytoskeleton. The project combines high-resolution imaging of single molecules using Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy and biophysical analysis.

ABDULLAH CHAUDHARY, Ph.D. student in Biological and Biomedical Engineering

About: Abdullah is currently a 3rd year PhD student in this awesome lab. He was born and (partially) raised in Pakistan, where he went to boarding school in the Himalayas. Working jobs from retail (selling appliances) to tech, and everything in between, made him quickly realize his one true love – science! Abdullah likes re-watching The Office (US series of course) for the umpteenth time, naps, and NASA and dislikes filling up the liquid nitrogen tank and selling appliances.

Research: Motors bound to a cargo compete and cooperate, bind and unbind to microtubules, encounter roadblocks such as tau, activate and deactivate via scaffolding molecules such as huntingtin, all the while functioning as enzymes to hydrolyze ATP and harness its energy to transport intracellular cargoes. To explain this collective functioning of multimotor complexes, I seek to understand the mechanisms by which scaffolding proteins and microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) regulate intracellular trafficking of cargoes. Specifically, I aim to look at how (1) tau serves as a roadblock to teams of kinesin and dynein motors, (2) huntingtin activates motor protein ensembles and (3) mutant huntingtin contributes to neurodegeneration.

 

SHICHENG XU, undergraduate researcher (Electrical Eng.)

About:

Research:

MALINA IWANSKI, Master’s student in Biological and Biomedical Engineering

About: Malina (or raspberry in Polish) was born in Germany and grew up in Hamburg and Calgary. She did her undergrad at McGill in Quantitative Biology and, having been raised by architects, she naturally became interested in the architecture of the cell. Malina enjoys hiking, yoga, and sitting in front of a microscope. Though afraid of elevators, she is quite fond of coffee, cooking, and (secretly) country music.

Research: When a cell divides it separates its genetic material using the spindle, a complicated machine made of microtubules and many proteins that regulate them, including motor proteins that exert forces to help establish and maintain the architecture of the spindle. Among these is kinesin-5, a protein that crosslinks and slides antiparallel microtubules in simple assays with purified components. However, kinesin-5’s roles during mitosis would be best studied in a system that incorporates aspects of mitosis important for its behaviour without the full complexity of the cellular environment. By micropatterning spindle-like arrays of microtubules on glass and deformable substrates and using single molecule imaging and traction force microscopy, we can examine the motor and how it interacts with other proteins within the “spindle”. What we learn will provide insights into mitosis and have important applications in the development of chemotherapies that stop cell division by inhibiting kinesin-5.

LÖIC CHAUBET, Master’s student in Biological and Biomedical Engineering

About: Half Taiwanese, half French but really mostly from Montreal, Loïc believes in waking up early and is particularly fond of climbing stairs. He was a student-athlete swimmer and did a Mechanical B. Eng. at McGill University. His interest in biology combined with his passion for physical activity sparked his interest in biomechanics, which eventually transferred to cell mechanics.

Research: By tuning its mechanical properties over different time and length scales, the cytoskeleton allows the cell to perform essential functions. This tuning is achieved through the various cross-linkers that bind and unbind actin filaments at different rates. As of now, little is known about how the mechanical properties of the cell change at different length scales. For example, how are mechanical signals transmitted from the cell surface to the nucleus? The goal of the project is to investigate the viscoelasticity of the actin cytoskeleton at different length scales using dual optical trapping. An oscillation will be applied to one bead while the perturbations will be recorded at the second bead, some distance away. This research will provide fundamental understanding on essential cellular functions, will be useful in the development of therapies that alter cell viscoelasticity and could provide insights into the origin or progression of diseases associated with abnormal cell mechanics.

JEFFREY HAMILTON, undergraduate researcher (Quantitative Biology)

About: Jeff was born and raised in London, Ontario and is competing his undergraduate degree at McGill in Quantitative Biology. In his spare time, he enjoys books, films, and music and his respective recommendations are Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Christopher Nolan’s Memento, and the album Moondance by Van Morrison. Early in the morning, you may find him rowing for McGill or the Montreal Rowing Club and his favourite animal is undoubtedly the American black bear.

Research: Microcontact printing (μCP) is a soft lithographic technique that is capable of patterning features on the sub-micron scale. These features can comfortably be larger than 500 nm. Once a silicon master mold has been fabricated, it is affordable, quick, and straightforward to pattern the desired solution onto the desired substrate. Jeff has recently done work with protein solutions of FITC-labeled streptavidin on a glass coverslip as the substrate. Recommended protocols for microcontact printing by hand (HμCP) and the early stages for a protocol for automated microcontact printing with the InnoStamp40 (IμCP) have been developed. The technique has many biological applications, with the motivating example being a simplified system of microtubules and motor proteins for the high throughput analysis of their roles in the cell cycle.

GIANCARLO SZYMBORSKI, SURE undergraduate researcher (Mech. Eng.)

About: Giancarlo was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec and is completing his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at McGill university. Giancarlo is a lifelong fan of the Montreal Canadiens and is optimistically awaiting the return of the Expos. In his free time, Giancarlo is always searching for the best coffee shops and record stores in town.

Research: Static Optical trapping experiments have been used to calculate forces exerted by motor proteins as they walk down microtubules and away from the center of the trap. In order to study these same motor proteins under controlled forces, a dynamic force-feedback optical must be used to keep the distance between the trap and motor protein attached bead constant as it walks down the microtubule. My project is to create and optimize a force-feedback controller which would allow for these constant force measurements to take place.

SOFIA TETLALMATZI, undergraduate researcher (MITACS Globalink)

About: Sofia was born and raised in different parts of Mexico, but calls Mexico City home. She’s been drawn to cell and molecular biology since before university. Thus, doing an undergrad in Physics at UNAM in hope to use physics as a tool to solve biological problems. Outside the lab, Sofia is an intrepid aerial dancer who also enjoys reading, music, drawing, hiking and, will never say no to watching a good movie.

Research: The purpose of superresolution microscopy is to unravel that which is both too small to distinguish with diffraction limited microscopy and too delicate to be preserved for electron microscopy. Such is the case of vesicle transporting motor proteins on microtubles. Our lab is currently implementing the STORM technique to study this. However, it’s no easy task. Having variables like cell staining, buffer solution, laser excitation, camera acquisition and data analysis, all influence the quality of the final image. The project looks to optimize this lab’s STORM protocol to subsequently image vesicles mid-transport. Superresolution will give us the capacity to locate the distribution of motor proteins on the surface of vesicles, which to date is not known. To shine light on it will give us important information on the collective dynamic of motor protein. Thus, making way to improve current models to describe this, a fundamental event in the inner life of a cell.

 

Alumni

Hossein Khadivi-Heris, postdoctoral researcher (joint with the Ehlicher lab), now Product and Application Specialist for Material Characterization at Anton Paar Canada

Lavinia Lee, undergraduate researcher (Biology)

Gary Tom, undergraduate researcher, Physics

Ksenia Kolosova, undergraduate researcher, (Quantitative Biology)

Milind Singh, undergraduate researcher, MITACS Globalink (Summer 2016)

Surath Gomis, SURE undergraduate researcher (Summer 2015)

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