People

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

(Left to Right) Adam, Simon, Loïc, Sahil, Abdullah, Malina, Sarah, Linda
Not pictured: Sofía, Sam, Angela

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
Email: adam.hendricks@mcgill.ca
Tel: (514) 893 2343 – ext: 383
Macdonald 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.

SAHIL NAGPAL, Ph.D. student in Biological and Biomedical Engineering
About: Sahil is a new Ph.D. student in the lab. He is from India and he earned his Master’s degree in Molecular Bioengineering from the Technische Universität Dresden, Germany. He went to the University of Helsinki, Finland for his Master’s thesis in the field of cell biology and bio-imaging. He is intrigued by how nature works, right from the atomic scale to the cosmic level. This Ph.D. study is his contribution to science in understanding how life works at the molecular level and how we can probe it further using engineering tools. Apart from science, he is interested in philosophy, inner engineering with spirituality and yoga. The first thing he bought when he arrived in Montreal was his lovely singing bowl.
Research: During his long lecture hours in the Master’s course ‘Cellular Machines’, he got interested in motor proteins and their bioengineering. His work will be focused on establishing an optogenetic system and chemical inhibition to study the role of motor proteins in cargo transport. In particular, he is interested in studying the role of motor proteins in different stages of phagocytosis. Once a system for controlling motor proteins is established, he would like to extend it to develop nanotechnological applications of the cytoskeleton and motor proteins.

MALINA IWANSKI, Master’s student in Biological and Biomedical Engineering, jointly advised by Gary Brouhard
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.

LOÏC 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.

SOFÍA TETLALMATZI, Master’s student in Biological and Biomedical Engineering, jointly advised by Gary Brouhard
About: Sofía was born and raised in different parts of Mexico, but calls Mexico City home. She did her undergrad in Physics at UNAM to use physics as a tool to solve biological problems. Sofía enjoys microscopes and staring at data while listening to music. She also likes experimenting in the kitchen, 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.

SIMON WIELAND, visiting Master’s student from the Kress Lab
About: Simon completed his B. Sc. in Physics at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. He is currently a Master’s student in Bayreuth. Because of his interest in biophysics, he joined the study programme “Biological Physics” by the Elite Network of Bavaria at his university. Since the techniques, people in Adam’s lab use will be very beneficial for his work, Simon joined the lab for three months as a Graduate Research Trainee.
Research: I am interested in how cells transport cargoes of different size. Therefore, I am investigating the transport forces during phagocytosis of particles with a size between 1µm and 5µm. The force measurements are done in the Kress lab with magnetic tweezers, which allows non-invasive measurements in a relatively simple way. In Adam’s lab I am learning how to isolate phagosomes and count the motors on them via stepwise photobleaching. A correlation of motor numbers with transport forces may lead to deeper insights about the molecular causes of the size dependence of phagosomal transport.

SARAH FORD, undergraduate researcher in Mechanical Engineering

SAMUEL WANG, undergraduate researcher in Biochemistry
About: Samuel is a 3e year undergraduate student-athlete at McGill University, studying in Biochemistry and being part of the Varsity Swimming Team. Born and raised in Sherbrooke, Quebec, he is particularly fond of anything that is edible. Some say he trains to counterbalance his gluttonous tendencies. In any case, if he isn’t in the pool or in the kitchen making himself some food, he’s probably taking his third nap of the day.
Research: Optical tweezers (also called optical traps) are instruments that can non-invasively trap and manipulate small particles of nanometer and micron scale by using a highly focused laser beam. Optical trapping has enabled, among many other things, the quantification of several biomechanical properties of motor proteins involved in cargo transport. As motor proteins attempt to move trapped particles away from the laser center, they experience forces towards the center proportional to the distance. The goal of the project is to develop a system that constantly repositions the laser beam in response to movement of the trapped particles. This system enables some interesting functions such as live tracking of transported cargo in the cell and the application of constant force on particles (tracking at a fixed distance). This project seeks to provide a tool used to elucidate poorly understood cell behaviours and mechanics.

ANGELA WONG, undergraduate researcher in Bioengineering
About: Angela was born and raised in Victoria, BC and loves to swim and hike when she is not hibernating during Montreal winters. Her stream of choice in bioengineering is biomedical, diagnostics and high throughput screening engineering and is pursuing a minor in computer science on the side.
Research: To ease the elaborate workflow required in understanding cellular events, I am building an automated, open-source NanoJ-Fluidics system. This consists of an array of syringe pumps which are computer controlled and can be directly adapted to the microscopes in the lab. The hardware for this system is based on LEGO pieces providing an easy-to-implement, low cost system for high-content, multimodal imaging with high reproducibility.

Alumni

Yuxuan (Roger) Liu, MITACS undergraduate researcher
Laura Eiben, SURE undergraduate researcher
Sarah Adams-Kruze, undergraduate researcher (Biology)
Jeffrey Hamilton, undergraduate researcher (Quantitative Biology)
Giancarlo Szymborski, SURE undergraduate researchers (Mechanical Engineering)
Shicheng Xu, undergraduate researcher (Electrical Engineering), currently a graduate student in Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
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), currently a graduate student in Physics at McGill University
Milind Singh, undergraduate researcher, MITACS Globalink (Summer 2016), currently a graduate student at Yale University.
Surath Gomis, SURE undergraduate researcher (Summer 2015), currently a graduate student at University of Toronto

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