The Complex Traits Program currently regroups several investigators with diverse but complimentary interests and a strong focus in the study of host:pathogen interactions. Additional interests include cancer and development. Principal investigators use a number of genetic tools to study factors that predispose to infection, and microbe virulence determinants that together determine onset, progression and outcome of infections. There is a strong interest in the identification of cell types, molecular pathways, and individual genes and proteins that affect innate and acquired immunity to bacterial, viral and parasitic pathogens. Likewise, we study how early danger signals, including pathogen sensing and concomitant inflammatory response, modulate basic cellular response including programmed cell death. Similar approaches are used to decipher genetic mechanisms controlling pre-disposition to certain types of cancer, modulation by chronic inflammation, and response to treatment.
These diverse research activities provide an ideal multidisciplinary training in the fields of genetics, cell biology, microbiology, immunology, and biochemistry all of which permeate research programs of all investigators in the Complex Traits program. Trainees will be exposed and will become familiar with modern tools and techniques in mouse genetics, including inbred strains, ENU generated bank of mutants, linkage and association studies, germ-line modification (transgenic animals) and many others. Characterization of host response to pathogens involves the analysis of different immune cell types (macrophages, dendritic cells, lymphocytes, natural killer cells) that are studied using modern techniques such as fluorescence cell sorting, bone marrow transplantation, and functional assays in vitro and in vivo. The use of diverse mouse pathogens, including influenza virus, tuberculosis, malaria, enteropathogenic bacteria and many others provides a unique opportunity to learn how to manipulate and work with pathogens of significant relevance to human health. Finally, all laboratories use modern techniques in molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry that together provide a thorough and polyvalent technical training in modern biomedical research.
Training and research occurs in a dynamic and polyvalent physical environment. At the bench, individual laboratories of the principal investigators are physically linked (open concept) to facilitate interactions, enhance integration of research activities in the group, and maximize use of common equipment. Trainees additionally share study rooms where they can informally interact. The research labs and study areas are located in a brand new facility on the third floor of the Bellini Life Sciences Building inaugurated in the fall of 2008, and that will host up to 8 investigators. This new building offers not only state of the art laboratory facilities, but additional easy access to instrumentation rooms (tissue culture, centrifugation, microbiology, FACS etc…) and core facilities of the Life Sciences Complex that include a large animal care center, a constellation of imaging stations, transgenic core, and many others. The entire complex has a wireless (WiFi) environment to make optimal use of quiet areas and minimize use of paper.
Students and trainees can choose as their academic home (including diplomas), a number of basic sciences Departments of the Faculty of Medicine at McGill, where principal investigators have their primary appointments. These include the Departments of Biochemistry, Human Genetics, Microbiology and Immunology and Experimental Medicine. The Complex Traits program is welcoming students at the Masters (M. Sc), Doctorate (Ph. D.) level as well as Post-Doctoral fellows who are motivated, and have a keen interest in biomedical discovery research, and who are interested in working in highly competitive fields. We have also a number of available positions for undergraduate students who are interested in conducting rotations for session projects associated with second or third year courses offered by any of the above-mentioned academic Departments. Finally, we offer opportunities to summer students who are interested in getting a taste for research during the 3 months summer period. Applicants to the Complex Traits program will have access, on a competitive basis, to studentship programs and bursaries from the Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, and additional training grants to support their studies, and that are available to investigators in the program.
Additional components of the training program include access to a wide range of academic graduate-level courses offered by the four host Departments, a minimum of two having to be taken during the first two years of study. In addition to working at the bench, trainees will also be expected to participate in additional academic activities of the group, including weekly lab meetings, journal clubs, and floor meetings. These activities are aimed at facilitating knowledge translation, while providing a framework for students to hone their skills in presentation of scientific data to their fellow students and peers in an informal setting.