Meet our new Graduate Students!
Rana Abdelhalim, Watt Lab 

My name is Rana, and I am a PhD student in Dr. Alanna Watt's lab. My deep fascination and interest in motor function and motor control brought me to McGill University, just two hours away from where I completed my BSc in Translational and Molecular Medicine and MSc in Neuroscience at the University of Ottawa. During my PhD, I aim to investigate therapies targeting signalling pathways induced by exercise for treating spinocerebellar ataxia type 6 (SCA6). SCA6 is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by cerebellar dysfunction and motor coordination deficits. In my free time, I love to watch comedy shows, horror movies (my all-time favourite is 'Get Out'), and trying out new cafés!

Aditee Ashar, Kassen Lab

I am Aditee, a Ph.D. student in the Kassen lab. My research centres on the investigation of antimicrobial resistance from an eco-evolutionary perspective. Additionally, I have a keen interest in exploring the intricate interactions between microbial communities and their environment, as well as comprehending how microbial distributions and activities adapt to prolonged environmental alterations. When I'm not in the lab, you'll often find me hiking through nature, camping under the stars, engrossed in a good book, or indulging my creative side with occasional painting.

Chiara Babinski, Guigueno Lab

Hi, I’m a MSc student that started in Winter 2023 in the Guigueno lab, studying the charismatic ring-billed gull (i.e., parking lot gull). Last April and May (2023), I used a mix of field work and mostly captive work to study the complexity of free-ranging movement and contaminant levels (Flame retardants and Heavy metals) in relation to spatial learning and memory performance of these urbanized gulls. This project coincides closely with my interest in studying animal behaviour and more specifically, in my interest in studying the effects of anthropogenic stressors on animal behaviour. Outside of science, I enjoy hiking and camping with my dog (Eduardo), training at the gym (I’m also a certified personal trainer), going to yoga and scuba diving. Although I like to keep an active life, I also often look forward to winding down with a good crochet project, book, or movie.

Megan Cyr, Reader Lab

I am a M.Sc. Biology student in Simon Reader’s lab. I am passionate about aquatic ecology and evolution, and I am especially interested in how human-impacted environments may affect fish cognition, behaviour, and fitness. I recently graduated from McMaster University’s B.Sc. program in Biology and PNB (Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour). I completed my undergraduate Honours thesis with Sigal Balshine at the Aquatic Behavioural Ecology Lab, and some of my past projects have included a comparison of different cognitive measures in wild vs. captive minnows; a literature review of fish trapping methods; an analysis of how wastewater effluent impacts zooplankton community structure; and coordinating a series of science outreach workshops for local elementary school students to learn about aquatic ecosystem conservation. Outside of school, I like knitting, going to art museums, and attempting to bake the perfect macaron!

Arghya Das, Moon Lab

I have been a PhD student in the Moon Lab since Winter 2023. I am from India, and I received my MSc in Biology at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Bhopal. Understanding how the presence of cytoplasmic DNA disrupts endoplasmic reticulum homeostasis is the primary focus of my PhD project. DNA is stored in the nucleus of all eukaryotic cells. However, in certain diseases, it can escape into the cytoplasm and cause pathologic conditions. Drosophila salivary glands (SGs) are specialized organs that produces numerous essential proteins. Drosophila SGs accomplish this through an unusual cell cycle called endoreplication, which increases the amount of DNA in each cell. This allows each cell to have several times as much DNA as a typical human cell, or more than a thousand copies of its genome. For this reason, Drosophila SGs are a highly useful in vivo model for investigating DNA biology. The time I don't spend in the lab is spent learning economics, physics, sketching, playing chess, watching sci-fi movies, and experimenting in the kitchen.

Grace Fedirchuk, Gregory-Eaves Lab and Iversen Lab

I am an MSc student in the Gregory-Eaves and Iversen labs. My project will investigate macrophyte community changes in southern Quebec lakes over time. To do this, we will use sedimentary DNA to study the community composition and determine when key invasive species can be detected. I recently completed my BSc (Hons) with a concentration in cellular, molecular, and developmental biology at the University of Manitoba in my hometown of Winnipeg. During my undergraduate degree, my thesis involved genetic research with honey bees and I was also heavily involved with sediment work in an oceanography lab. I am very excited to combine these interests in my current work! In my free time, I enjoy mushroom hunting, biking, and playing/coaching hockey.

Miguel Felismino, Gregory-Eaves Lab

I am a PhD student supervised by Irene Gregory-Eaves. I am co-supervised by Nathalie Tufenkji in the Chemical Engineering Department. I am interested in the breakdown of plastic pollution, where it ends up in the environment, and how it affects the organisms that are exposed to it. My PhD research is focused specifically on the impacts of the chemicals and micro- and nano- plastics that come from the degradation of agricultural plastic mulch. I am an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys rock climbing, running and a good cup of coffee.

Danny Gedig, Fussmann Lab

I am an MSc student in the Fussmann Lab researching the effects of anthropogenic change on the freshwater plankton community. To this end, we use both lab and field techniques, such as chemostats and experimental mesocosms, respectively. Before coming to McGill, I completed an honours thesis during my undergraduate degree (BEnvSc) at the University of Manitoba (UM) on mercury contamination of black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus). I continued at UM after graduation by studying carbon cycling in high latitude freshwater and coastal systems. My personal interests include camping, angling and snowboarding, as well as just about anything that gets me outdoors.

Justin Gupta, Kassen Lab

The process of evolution is what drove me to pursue science. Along the way, I encountered some microbial friends who have allowed me to witness evolution in real time. My current research revolves around microbial biochemical adaptation to novel resources, such as carbon sources, through the lens of evolutionary novelty and innovation using experimental evolution. I completed my BSc in biology at University of Ottawa in 2023 after doing research in the Kassen lab before joining McGill for an MSc in the same field, once again under the supervision of Rees Kassen. When I am not in the lab conducting cool experiments, I mostly spend my time reading, getting to know nature, and dabbling in the exploration of the culinary arts by subjecting my roommates, friends, and labmates to taste my creations as guinea pigs.

Bryan Hughes, Guigueno Lab

I am a Ph.D. student supervised by Melanie Guigueno and Debbie Kelly (University of Manitoba). I completed my MSc at Laurentian University, focusing on animal personality in rodents, and my BSc at Trent University, measuring fluorescence in North American Flying Squirrels. My broad interest includes researching animal behaviour, personality, pattern learning and spatial cognition. Currently, I am using a group of food-storing corvids in British Columbia as a study system to evaluate spatial cognitive behaviour, pattern memorization and problem-solving in animals. Corvids, such as the Clark's Nutcracker, are resident (non-migratory) species that cache hundreds, if not thousands, of individual food stores to prepare for winter. By investigating fine-scale movement and caching patterns, combined with spatial cognitive testing, I aim to understand the complex myriad of interactions and behaviours contributing to these birds' unique ability to store and locate food caches.

Ivana Komendic, Ricciardi Lab

I am a PhD student in the Ricciardi lab. I completed my MSc at the University of Manitoba where I studied the environmental factors influencing community structure of benthic macroinvertebrates and compared historical and contemporary biological and environmental data. During my MSc, I also had the opportunity to work on invasive species of marine crabs and became interested in what structures and limits invasive species populations as well as the impacts they may have on native communities. For my PhD, I will be studying the recent invasions of Quebec lakes (e.g., L. Témiscouata) by zebra mussels. More specifically, I will be researching population dynamics, and quantifying changes to communities (i.e., benthic invertebrates, zooplankton, and fish) as populations expand. Additionally, I will be examining the potential ecosystem effects of zebra mussel invasions in lakes (e.g., water clarity, trophic cascades, etc). In my free time I enjoy reading, staying active and being outdoors.

Annie Li, Moon Lab

My name is Annie, I am an MSc student in the Moon Lab. I did my undergraduate degree in Biology at McGill. During my last year of study, I completed an Honours project aimed at understanding the localization pattern of the microtubule associated protein Doublecortin on microtubules, in response to various microtubule stabilizing drugs. Joining the Moon Lab, I will take part in their research on the regulation of the cell cycle using Drosophila as a model organism. Specifically, we will be looking at how dysregulation of a family of transcription factors, E2F, affects DNA damage and the accumulation of cytoplasmic DNA. Apart from biology, I also love drawing, crafting little accessories, and musicals.

Marcus Lin, Nagissa Mahmoudi Lab (Earth and Planetary Sciences) and Barrett Lab 

I am an M.Sc. student in the Earth and Planetary Sciences department co-advised by Nagissa Mahmoudi (Earth and Planetary Sciences) and Rowan Barrett. I completed my BSc in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of California Los Angeles. Prior to McGill, I previously worked as Sergey Nuzhdin’s lab manager at the University of Southern California, researching giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) genetics and aquaculture. For my thesis, I am bringing some of my previous work with me and seek to further examine the host genetics and microbial associations of local seaweed species (Saccharina latissma) under changing environments. In my spare time, I am an avid skier (and used to be a ski instructor) who likes the outdoors, running, and random arts and crafts.

Samara Manzin, Pollock Lab and Gonzales Lab

I am an MSc student in the Pollock and Gonzalez Labs. I recently completed by BSc in Biology and Mathematics at Queen’s University. I am interested in understanding the effects of climate change on biodiversity and species distributions. My project will examine how ecosystem connectivity can be increased to best support biodiversity under climate change. I will combine species distribution models with connectivity models to map shifting spatial distributions of species against shifting habitat connectivity under current and future climatic conditions. This will highlight a series of areas to restore ecosystem connectivity in the St-Lawrence Lowlands and facilitate the understanding of the future of biodiversity in this region.

Simone Miklosi, Cristescu Lab

I am a PhD student in Melania Cristescu’s lab. I completed my BSc in Environmental Science (2020), and MSc in Biology at Western University (2023). I am interested in the exploration of environmental DNA (eDNA) and RNA (eRNA) as a tool to monitor species presence and health. My PhD research focuses on the early detection of invasive species using eDNA and eRNA recovered from air and water. I enjoy exploring coffee and thrift shops, watching reality tv, and crocheting.


Tanaka Mutsayi, Vogel Lab

I am a PhD student in the Vogel lab. My research focus is on investigating the protein-protein interactions and regulation of Kar9, a microtubule plus-end tracking protein (+TIP) in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, that is involved in spindle alignment during mitosis. I will also be looking at how Kar9 interacts with other +TIP and how they form a biomolecular condensate. I am originally from Zimbabwe but did my undergrad at Debrecen University in Hungary. I started my PhD in Winter 2023. I am interested in how cells function and how they are regulated through phosphorylation. In my spare time I enjoy playing rugby, running, tennis, hiking and any other sport or outdoor activity. I love learning about people’s cultures and being able to connect with others and nature.

Katie Nelson, Soper Lab

My name is Katie, I am a PhD student in the Soper lab. I’m from the mountains of Colorado, USA, where I did my undergraduate degree in geology. I went on to complete a MSc degree in geophysics, specifically volcanology, at Michigan Technological University. There, I investigated carbon outputs from active volcanoes to gain understanding of large-scale volcanic degassing dynamics and how abiotic carbon can impact tropical trees in Costa Rica and Ecuador. Now, entering the field of biogeochemistry in the Soper lab, I will be pursuing questions of how we numerically model the flow of nitrogen through natural systems, especially in tropical forests, where biodiversity and changing climate create complex interactions. I hope to use my career to bridge disciplines and borders to improve our understanding of the natural world and how we interact with it. When not outside for science, I love to go outside to hike, teach, draw, ski, take pictures, and look for cool rocks.

Nakiya Noorbhai, Iversen Lab and Bendixen Lab (Geography)

Hello! I am a PhD student in the Iversen and Bendixen (Geography) labs. I previously graduated with a BSc in Computer Science with a minor in Linguistics also at McGill. I am interested in using data science methods to gain insight into the complex relationships with sand mining that exist across sub-Saharan Africa. Through this, I aim to examine whether it is possible to mitigate the damage to local communities, biodiversity, and the physical environment caused by sand mining, while also accounting for the increasing urbanization and socio-economic instability that drives this activity in sub-Saharan Africa. Outside of the lab, I love cooking, baking, exploring, art (all kinds), and being outside in nature – especially in the fall or the winter (for someone who studies sub-Saharan Africa, or just in general, I really love the cold).

Nina Obiar, Pollock Lab

I am Nina (she/her/elle). I recently moved from the mountainous ranges of Treaty 7 territory (more specifically Calgary), with my roots deeply planted in the beautiful islands of the Philippines. After completing my undergraduate studies in Plant Biology at the University of Calgary, I am excited to embark on a new journey. Joining the Pollock lab, I am eager to explore how we can bridge biodiversity and ecosystem services through Indigenous plant-uses. I am driven by my passion for land-based learning and seeking ways to integrate diverse disciplines into my research; especially highlighting underrepresented voices in conservation management. In my spare time, you can find me trailing behind on a hike to take pictures of mushrooms and flowers.

Zoë Rabinovitch, Gregory-Eaves Lab

My name is Zoë (she/her) and I am an MSc student in the Gregory-Eaves lab! I recently completed my undergraduate degree at McGill, where I studied density dependent growth rates of toadlets in the Green Lab. My main interests include conservation, aquatic ecosystems and community ecology. For my MSc research, I will be investigating how the reintroduction of native stickleback in fishless lakes will alter community composition. By looking at the different layers of a sediment core, I can uncover snapshots of the lake’s history to predict future changes in the ecosystem. Outside of lab, I love to play and coach volleyball, hunt for toads and sew!

Ben Rogers, Watt Lab

I am originally from Newfoundland and Labrador and I am a PhD student in Alanna Watt’s lab exploring the cerebellar mechanisms contributing to spinocerebellar ataxia 6. I just completed my MSc at the Université de Montréal exploring sex-differences in hippocampal synaptic plasticity in response to acute stress. My research interests are synaptic transmission and plasticity and how aberrations in these processes contribute to the pathogenesis of neurological disorders. In the Watt lab, I will be exploring these processes in the cerebellum. Outside of the lab, I enjoy playing tennis, volleyball or spending time with friends while enjoying 40-degree humidity in Montreal.

John Rojas Pino, Gerhold Lab

My name is John Rojas Pino, and I am originally from Lima, Peru. I received my BSc at San Marcos University in Peru. My previous research experiences allowed me to explore different research topics in the fields of Cell and Developmental Biology, from characterizing cellular senescence in cell lines to characterizing the lateral line system in the African Killifish. As a PhD student in the Gerhold lab, I will explore the functional diversity of components of Spindle Assembly Checkpoint in vivo. Outside the lab, I am enjoying exploring the different multicultural activities in Montreal, as well as visiting the beautiful natural parks. I also love being home reading books and, of course, being with my family.

Caio Rosa, Kassen Lab

I am a PhD student in the Kassen lab, researching experimental evolution with microbes. Originally from Brazil, I earned my bachelor’s in biology degree at the University of São Paulo. Driven by my fascination with bacteria I started doing research in the genetics and molecular biology of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, contributing to the characterization of a new gene. Currently, I'm exploring the relationship between Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus and how they influence each other’s evolution. Overall, it has been great doing research here and being immersed in Canada's multicultural environment. I spend my free time enjoying every new activity I can find and getting to know new people. I like hiking, visiting museums, watching movies, and attending drag shows, but I also appreciate quiet evenings at home with video games.

Dylan Samson-McKenna, Millien Lab

I am a PhD student interested in spatial ecology, disease ecology, and epidemiology. I am currently working in the Millien lab studying the incidence and spatial distribution of human tick-bourne illness in Barbados with the goal of creating a disease-risk map for the country. My past research focused on how wildlife movements and behaviours changed with hunting rates in a Honduran cloud forest in a pre- and post-COVID-19 context. I have a BSc in Conservation Biology from the University of Vermont and a MSc in Ecology from Western Colorado University. Aside from fieldwork and research, I enjoy cooking, traveling, reading, singing, skiing, and CrossFit.

Emma Schubert, Ricciardi Lab

I am an MSc student in the Ricciardi Lab. I am passionate about studying aquatic invasive species in Canada and their impacts on the local environment. My focus is on the common goldfish (Carassius auratus), which is invasive in Canada, and its effects on turbidity in urban pond environments with varying sediments. I completed my BScH in Environmental Biology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. There, I studied largemouth bass behaviour in a laboratory setting for my Honours Thesis. Outside of the lab, I like to spend my time hiking, camping, travelling, and visiting my hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario. I am looking forward to continuing my studies in freshwater aquatic biology at McGill.

Tess Schwartz, Hayer Lab

My name is Tess Schwartz, and I completed my BSc in Biology with a minor in Chemical Biology from McMaster University located in Hamilton, Ontario. I chose to work towards an MSc at McGill University (despite Montréal’s freezing cold winters) because of my fascination with the research being conducted in Arnold Hayer’s lab. Specifically, my interest in the Hayer lab revolves around research on a phenomenon termed collective cell migration, defined as the ability of groups of cells to co-operate and migrate together. I hope to contribute to the Hayer lab’s understanding of collective cell migration by examining how two types of cells, namely, fibroblasts and carcinoma cells, can collectively migrate by establishing and maintaining their collective polarity through cell-cell interactions. Understanding these mechanisms may serve to identify novel therapeutics that inhibit collective migration, therefore inhibiting the invasion of carcinoma cells into the body. While I am excited to start research in the Hayer lab, I am also looking forward to exploring Quebec, brushing up on my French, and hitting the ski slopes in the Laurentians.

Taylor Shirtliff-Hinds, Hendricks Lab

My name is Taylor, and I am a PhD student in Michael Hendricks’ lab. I was born and raised in Toronto but have lived and studied in the US, Germany, and most recently the UK, where I finished a MSc in Neuroscience at Oxford University. At McGill, my PhD research explores the complexities of coordinated movement by modelling human ataxias in the nematode worm C. elegans. These microscopic worms are deceptively complex - while they only have around 300 neurons, they can still be used to model a wide array of human diseases and movement disorders. Through developing worm mutants, I hope to learn more about how individual neurons (and groups of neurons) guide animal behaviour. When I’m not looking at the brains of tiny animals, I like to sing, eat peanut butter, cook Mediterranean food, learn/practice languages, and try out new sports.

Daria-Salina Storch, Sakata Lab

I am Daria, an incoming MSc student in the Sakata Songbird lab. Songbirds and humans can both learn to recognize each other based on the sound of their vocalizations. Previously it has been shown that catecholaminergic neurons in the auditory areas respond differently to familiar versus novel sounds. My research will focus on how norepinephrine signaling influences social recognition in male zebra finches.


Kate Storey (She/her), Ricciardi Lab

Guess what group of animals I study based on my picture. If you guessed “fish” you’d be right! In my undergraduate degree at Acadia University, I researched Atlantic salmon smolt diet by examining macroinvertebrate communities in the Medway River. I’m currently a MSc student studying invasive species in the Ricciardi lab, focusing on the common goldfish Carassius auratus and its adaptions to urban and wild ponds. I hope to compare the cognitive ability of wild, urban, and aquarium-collected goldfish as well as perform stomach content analysis to examine their trophic impact. With this research, I aim to further understand the adaptations and impacts of different goldfish populations and use this information to improve the aquarium trade. When I’m not working in the lab I enjoy running, hiking, fantasy novels, and keeping far too many (non-goldfish) fish tanks at home!

Yifan Tai, Hekimi Lab

My name is Yifan Tai. I am from China and I am a first-year PhD student in the Hekimi Lab, where I will be studying aging and age-related diseases using C. elegans and mice. I am interested in understanding cell signaling pathways and gene expression patterns and how they determine the phenotype of organisms. I completed my BSc in Biochemistry at Purdue University and my MSc in Biotechnology at Columbia University. In my free time, I enjoy following current events, reading non-fiction books, and watching movies.

Adam-Emmanuel Tremblay, Hendry Lab

I am an MSc student in the Hendry Lab. My research focuses on studying the morphological differences between the stickleback populations that live in the various lake-stream pairs on the Haida Gwaii archipelago. I did my BA in biology at Université Laval, and it is my first time living in Montreal. I am interested in the different mechanisms that lead to the diversity of organisms that inhabit our planet. I want to work in conservation to have a role in saving that diversity. In my free time, I enjoy visiting museums, seeing art shows and listening to music. I am also a father of numerous plants and of a 2-year-old poodle named Taïzak.

Lindsay Trotter, Iversen Lab

I am a PhD student supervised by Lars Iversen. Broadly, I am interested in how humans impact and interact with freshwater ecosystems. My PhD research examines the functional biogeography of freshwater plants, that is, how freshwater plants are distributed and how the environment alters their form and function. I completed an MSc in Geography at Carleton University (2021) and a BSc (Hons) in Biology with a specialization in animal physiology at the University of Ottawa (2018). In my free time, I enjoy cross-country skiing and exploring Montreal; mainly searching for the best croissants and coffee in the city, and visiting art galleries. I've also been known to knit a mean sweater.

Augusto Urena Pichardo, Gerhold Lab

Hello! I am a student in the MSc in Biology program. I am interested in learning more about how cells function within their natural environments. For my thesis project in the Gerhold lab, I will investigate how environmental stressors can affect the mitotic progression of germline stem cells in C. elegans using live imaging techniques. Recently, I completed a BSc in Biology at Carleton University. During my time there, I took a wide variety of biology courses ranging from cell culturing to ecology. Most notably, I did an internship researching histone acetylation in the wood frog, and then did an undergraduate thesis exploring the flocking behaviour of finches. I spend my spare time reading, painting figurines, rewatching The Lord of the Rings, and exploring local parks.

Tianzi Yang, Reyes Lab

My name is Tianzi, I am a PhD student in the Reyes Lab. I completed my H.BSc at University of Toronto, where I studied physics and forensic science, with a focus on forensic chemistry and toxicology. During my undergraduate study, I was fascinated by biophysics and single molecule imaging, as this field of study combines the practical aspects of both quantum mechanics and microscopy. I am particularly interested in fluorescence microscopy, and I intend to incorporate my passion with the lab’s study on the replisome machinery, gaining a better understanding of how proteins interact with each other and why they are crucial to DNA replication. Outside the laboratory, you may also catch me geared up with scuba diving fins and BCD, ready to launch myself into the beautiful blue sea.

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