People

(Left to Right) Piper, Adam, Emily, Daniel, Sahil, Karthikeyan, Mahmoud, Linda, Zhu, Sam, Muriel, 
Not pictured: Ora, Sofía

ADAM HENDRICKS, Principal Investigator

Associate Professor, Dept. of Bioengineering

Associate Member, Dept. of Biology

Affiliate Member, Quantitative Biology Initiative

Board member, Molecular and Cellular Biophysics Center

Member, Centre for Structural Biology

Member, Integrated Program in Neuroscience

Email: adam.hendricks@mcgill.ca

Tel: (514) 893 2343

356 McConnell Engineering Building

3480 University St., Montreal, QC H3A 0E9

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.

SAHIL NAGPAL, Ph.D. student in Biological and Biomedical Engineering

About: Sahil is a third year Ph.D. student in the lab. He is from India and he earned his Master’s degree in Molecular Bioengineering from TU Dresden, Germany. He further went on to University of Helsinki, Finland for his master’s thesis work in the field of cell biology and bio-imaging. During his long lecture hours in the master’s course ‘Cellular Machines’, he got interested in motor proteins and their bioengineering. Apart from science, he is interested in philosophy, inner engineering with spirituality and yoga.

Research: His work is focused on establishing an optogenetic system to study the role of motor proteins in cargo transport. Conventional approaches to inhibit motor proteins, such as siRNA, chemical-genetic inhibition, and dominant-negative expression, lack temporal control over regulation and are often irreversible. To overcome these limitations, he developed an optogenetic tool to control the activity of motor proteins with precise temporal control and with minimal perturbation to cells. In particular, he is interested in studying the role of motor proteins at different stages of endocytosis.

SOFÍA TETLALMATZI, Ph.D. 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.

EMILY PROWSE Ph.D. student in Biological and Biomedical Engineering

About: Emily completed her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at UBC. During her co-op at University de Montreal she realized her passion for research and microscopy.  In her free time, she likes to crochet, work out, and watch Netflix.

Research: Huntington’s Disease is a neurodegenerative disease that is caused by a dominant mutation in the huntingtin protein. The pathology of the disease is well-researched; however, the function of the wild-type protein is not well understood. Emily is studying how huntingtin functions as both a scaffold and a regulator of motor protein activity. This project involves investigating the mechanism of huntingtin phosphorylation states regulating cargo motility. In addition, she will study how the forces and movement of signalling and degradative cargoes in human pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons change upon Huntington’s Disease-causing mutations. Her project observes the effects of the mutant huntingtin on bidirectional transport to further our understanding of how the mutation interrupts huntingtin’s normal function and ultimately causes disease.

SAMUEL WANG, Master’s Student in Biological and Biomedical Engineering

About:  Samuel completed his undergrad in Biochemistry at McGill. He’s also a student-athlete, 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 raiding his fridge, he’s probably taking his third nap of the day.Research:  Tau is a neuronal microtubule-associated protein that is shown to regulate microtubule dynamics and interact with different motor proteins. It is involved in neuronal morphogenesis and, when dysregulated, causes many different neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, termed taupathies. Using CRISPR gene editing inside human-induced pluripotent stem cells, a fluorescent tag will be added to the tau gene. These stem cells will then be differentiated into neurons. His project focuses on providing a powerful tool to study and characterize the tau protein in its most physiologically relevant environment.

DANIEL BEAUDET, Postdoctoral Researcher

About: Daniel earned his PhD in Biology from Concordia University, Montreal, QC, Canada. During his PhD, he became fascinated by the intricacies of the cytoskeleton and decided to broaden his skills and take on new challenges within the world of microtubules, motors, and intracellular transport. In 2019, he joined the Hendricks lab as a PDF and has since been studying multi-motor cargo transport using in vitro reconstitution and single molecule biophysics. When he is not watching cargoes move along microtubules under a microscope, he enjoys spending as much time as possible outside. Some of his favorite pastimes include cooking, fishing, and working on cars.

Research: Daniel’s project explores the mechanisms by which Tau regulates axonal transport of organelles and vesicular cargoes using in vitro reconstitution and cell-based model systems.  Dysregulation of Tau causes defective axonal transport and is implicated in numerous neurodegenerative diseases collectively known as Tauopathies. However, the native function of Tau is not well understood, and it is less clear how pathological alterations of Tau perturb axonal transport. Using single-molecule biophysical approaches including immunofluorescence and stepwise photobleaching analysis, TIRF motility assays, and optical tweezers as a force sensing method; he aims to identify and count the motors and adaptor proteins on different endocytic organelles, as well as measure properties of their motility and the forces exerted by teams of motors to test how Tau impacts their trafficking along microtubules. His work will show how Tau acts to regulate intracellular transport and shed light on the molecular mechanisms driving Tauopathies.

MAHMOUD NOUR, undergraduate researcher in Quantitative Biology 

About: Mahmoud is a Quantitative Biology major currently completing the last year of his undergraduate degree. He was born in Egypt and grew up in the suburbs of Toronto. His passion for both the physical and biological sciences gave rise to his interest in motor protein dynamics. Mahmoud enjoys cooking, solving puzzles, R&B/rap music, and soccer. As an Egyptian-Torontonian, he is an avid fan of The Weeknd, Drake, and, of course, Mohamed Salah.Research: Mahmoud’s research encompasses two main focuses. Primarily, his work aims to study the inhibitory role of tau on motor proteins in cargo transportation. In particular, he aims to identify the effects of the Y18 phosphomimetic tau on the motility of kinesin- and dynein-bound early phagosomes. In addition, Mahmoud also seeks to enhance the analysis process of cargo motility, increasing its precision and accuracy.

PIPER STEVENS SURE undergraduate researcher 

About: Piper is a 4th year Chemical Engineering student from Tulane University. Originally from Utah, she enjoys skiing and backpacking whenever she has the chance to travel home. Piper is interested in biotechnology and drug development. 

Research: Primarily focused on Spaciotemporal Image Correlation Technology (STICS) analysis of early endosome and lysosome transport movies. This data analyzes the role of tau on motor protein activity in different cellular regions. 

KARTHIKEYAN SWAMINATHAN, SURE Undergraduate Researcher (Summer 2021) and upcoming Master’s student in the Integrated Program in Neuroscience (IPN)

About: If you can’t follow his full name, you can call him Karthik. He is from Chennai, which is located in Southern India. He had finished his undergraduate degree in Biotechnology at PSG College of Technology.  During his undergraduate degree, he visited Montreal for a research internship in the summer of 2019, and he worked on understanding the physiology of cells under stress conditions. His visit to Montreal inspired him to do graduate studies, and follow his interest in understanding the mysteries of Neurodegeneration. He had also taken up several Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) during his school and undergraduate life through which he developed a unique passion for Neurobiology. Apart from his studies, he loves to watch movies (Marvel mainly but also other action movies) and also TV Series (Impractical Jokers). He also loves to cook Indian food, do photography, and also watch scientific and historical documentaries.

Research: Karthik’s current work focuses on understanding the changes in the motor protein motility through optogenetic inhibition. So he works on developing codes to perform data analysis and also quantify those changes. In his master’s program, he will study the disruption in axonal transport on iPSC cells, and how it contributes to the pathophysiology of Neurodegenerative diseases.

ZHU LIU

About: Zhu (pronounce like ‘drew’) did yeast work in a plant molecular biology lab as an undergrad student, did basic research in a medical university as a master student, and now is doing biochemistry in a biophysics lab. He always wants to be creative, which sometimes leads to bizarrerie but kind of reasonable ideas, though maybe not very feasible all the time. Beyond research, he also enjoys badminton and cycling; he is also a fan of sci-fi. He is fond of some old episodes (older than most members of the team…): Growing Pain and Yes, (Prime) Minister. Arguments in science popularization also made him a follower of FSM, in FSM he trusts. Live long and prosper.

Research: Intracellular transport is tightly regulated due to its critical role for the proper function of the cell and the organism. Defects in transport can lead to various diseases including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Huntington’s disease (HD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Thus, it is important to explore the mechanisms related to the regulation of the transport inside the cells. Recent studies have shown that the signal transduction and regulation of biological processes are not in a simple linear point-point manner, but a highly complicated network. Specific to intracellular transport, the community’s long-term goal is to decipher the codes of different regulatory factors (e.g. microtubule associated proteins, adaptors) to develop a model to predict the biological functions or results of them. Zhu aims to provide partial answers to this goal. Now, Zhu is trying to determine the adaptors localized on phagosomes. Based on this, Zhu will try to relate the adaptors with the motors recruited to phagosomes. This will provide us deeper view to see the mechanisms beneath the phagosomes’ motility. The decoration of MAPs on the MT track will also be considered to see the interaction between theses factors that regulate the vesicular transport.

MURIEL SEBASTIEN, Post-doctoral researcher

About: Muriel was born and raised in the mountains of Grenoble, France. She did her PhD on the physiology and pathologies of muscle cells, where the cytoskeleton is of primary importance, and she got naturally interested in understanding how so many events could be coordinated through cells that can be meter long. The next step was to look at the microtubule cytoskeleton organization and regulation mechanisms in other “strange” cells like neurons. Otherwise, Muriel likes to draw and paint, eat anything that has melted cheese in it! She occasionally plays piano and enjoys skiing and hiking, especially during autumns in Quebec.

Research: Muriel is a shared post-doctoral researcher between the Hendricks and Brouhard labs. At both labs, she is developing iPSCs and CRISPR-Cas9 methods to model neurological disorders like lissencephaly and Huntington’s disease. Using genetically modified human neurons she is tackling the molecular mechanisms of these diseases by looking at neuronal migration, cargo transport, microtubule plus-tip dynamics, microtubule-associated proteins and post-translational modifications status, as well as growth cone morphology.

Alumni

POSTDOCS:

Hossein Khadivi-Heris, postdoctoral researcher (joint with the Ehlicher lab), now Senior applied AI software engineer at Microsoft

GRADUATE STUDENTS:

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.

Current: Dirac-RTG Postdoctoral Researcher, UC Merced

PAMELA YANINSKA, Master’s student in Physics, jointly advised by Paul Wiseman, currently a graduate student in the Chiang lab, Physics, McGill U. 

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.

Current:  Ph.D. student, Kapitien lab, Utrecht University

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.

Current: Application Scientist, LUMICKS

Simon Wieland, visiting Master’s student from the Kress Lab

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHERS:

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.

Current: graduate student, Experimental Surgery, McGill U. 

Yuxuan (Roger) Liu, MITACS undergraduate researcher

Laura Eiben, SURE undergraduate researcher, currently a graduate student in Molecular Virology at Ulm U.

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.

Sarah Ford, undergraduate researcher (Mechanical Engineering)

Lavinia Lee, undergraduate researcher (Biology)

Gary Tom, undergraduate researcher (Physics), currently a graduate student in Computational Chemistry at U. of Toronto.

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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