McMaster University

Medical Sciences
Graduate Program

Scope of Search

Current Students

MMSSAA Logo

As one of the largest graduate programs in the Faculty of Health Sciences, with students in diverse fields of research, the MMSSA aims to unite the Medical Science students through organized social and academic events.

Meet the 2019-2020 Executive Committee

Tamana Yousof, Co-President

Degree: PhD Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Richard Austin

An interesting fact about Tamana: She loves sky diving!

Ally Schweitzer, Co-President

Degree: MSc Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Thomas Hawke

An interesting fact about Ally: She bought a Fiat last year and drove it to Tofino and back.

Megan Vierhout, Co-President

Degree: PhD Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Kjetil Ask

An interesting fact about Megan: She really likes animals. She has a pet dog, two frogs,
and a hamster.

 

Nitika Sanger, Vice President

Degree: PhD Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Zena Samaan

An interesting fact about Nitika: She is a Mac and Cheese enthusiast and goes to the movies at
least twice a month!

 

Jessica Amin, VP Social Affairs

Degree: MSc Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Maggie Larché

An interesting fact about Jessica: She loves learning about different people, places, cultures and foods (ask her about the Hamilton food scene!)

 

Irfan Khan, VP Social Affairs

Degree: MSc Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Guillaume Paré

An interesting fact about Irfan: He loves to play the guitar and sing just as much as he loves
to write poetry!

 

Matt Fantauzzi, VP Finance

Degree: MSc Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Martin Stämpfli

An interesting fact about Matt: He really enjoys growing plants and cooking, but he is terrible at
both.

 

Sudeshna Dhar, VP Communications

Degree: PhD Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Mark Larché

An interesting fact about Sudeshna: She was born in Bangladesh, grew up in Fiji, and moved to
Canada on her own at 18 to come to Mac. She is loving making a new home in Canada and can offer some sweet solo travel advice!

John Vrbensky, VP Academic Affairs

Degree: PhD Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Ishac Nazy

An interesting fact about John: I used to be a MedSci grad student. He still is, but he used to
too.

 

Asfia Soomro, VP Academic Affairs

Degree: PhD Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Joan Krepinsky

An interesting fact about Asfia: She was a performer for Walt Disney World as a trumpetist and continues to play the trumpet for a concert band.

Kennedy Nmecha, Executive Member

Degree: MSc Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Joan Krepinsky

An interesting fact about Kennedy: He runs a charity organization back home with his
sister, focused on child education and women empowerment.

Michael Akan, Executive Member

Degree: MSc Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Thomas Hawke

An interesting fact about Michael: He thinks movie theatre popcorn beats home-made everytime.

 

Alex Noble, Executive Member

Degree: MSc Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Martin Kolb

An interesting fact about Alex: He has red-green deficiency! He can never be a pilot :’(

 

Aaron Hayat, Executive Member

Degree: MSc Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Kjetil Ask

An interesting fact about Aaron: He is a huge basketball fan and you can always find him
on the court… if he’s not in lab.

 

MSMG Logo

Graduate school can be a challenging experience, but it does not need to be a challenge that students face in isolation. Graduate students can be an invaluable resource for each other, and this initiative intends bring our student body closer together.

The Medical Sciences Mentorship Group (MSMG) runs the "Peer-2-Peer" program that matches mentees with volunteer upper-year graduate student peer mentors that are strategically chosen to promote relevance and anonymity (if wanted). MSMG also organizes events and newsletters open to all graduate students that focus directly on graduate student topics related to personal and professional development, mental health and wellness, and graduate program progression. This includes a lunch and learn speaker series called “Getting to Know”, which will feature professors discussing their experiences of graduate school.

Meet the 2020-2021 Mentorship Group

Eric Desjardins

Degree: PhD, Metabolism & Nutrition

Supervisor: Dr. Gregory Steinberg

Location: McMaster Hospital

My research investigates the roles that certain energy sensors play within adipose tissues and the liver. Furthermore, I am exploring how we can manipulate these enzymes through the development of novel compounds and the repurposing of other therapeutics to prevent/treat the development
of obesity and related diseases. Use of genetic mouse models in fasting, exercise, or feeding regimes and further characterization with ELISA, Western blotting, qPCR, and histological analyses are the basis of many studies in our lab.

I come from a typical bilingual French-Canadian household in Thornhill ON, with both of my parents, an older sister, and a dog. I completed my undergraduate degree at York University in Kinesiology and Health Sciences, my Master’s degree in the Medical Sciences at McMaster, and worked as a technician for two years before beginning my PhD in the Medical Sciences program at McMaster. I’ve played both hockey and lacrosse at the varsity level and consider myself a recreational player in squash, tennis, soccer, cycling, and definitely not basketball. I love sports and the outdoors, and am still discovering new trails/hikes in the Hamilton area. I have had a great experience at McMaster so far and am fortunate to have such great people support me. I would love to pay my success forward and help any of you with anything to the best of my ability. I am looking forward to meeting you.

John Vrbensky

Degree: PhD, Blood & Vasculature

Supervisor: Dr. Ishac Nazy

Location: McMaster Hospital

I study an autoimmune bleeding disorder called immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). I study the mechanisms of the disease, which include autoantibodies and CD8+ T cells. The main lab techniques I use are cell culture and flow cytometry.


Outside of the lab I enjoy playing hockey and baseball. I have played on the Mac men’s teams and now I play in recreational leagues. I also enjoy taking my dog for walks in the woods around Hamilton/Ancaster. I lived in Hamilton for 9 years and I just moved to Ancaster this year. After I finish my PhD, I’d like to get a job as a medical liaison at a pharmaceutical company. I’m on the executive committees for the MSMG and the MMSSA. I help organize the Med Sci Research Day, and I’m happy to share tips and advice on how to give a successful presentation. I’m also happy to talk about committee meetings, awards, and imposter syndrome. I can share resources on all of these topics (like a copy of previous committee reports/ award applications), and I’m happy to chat any time.

Tamana Yousof

Degree: PhD, Blood & Vasculature

Supervisor: Dr. Richard Austin

Location: St. Joe's

I am researching the topic of ER stress, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity and insulin resistance. The tools used are western-blotting, RTPCR, animal work i.e. metabolic cages, insulin and glucose tolerance tests.

I love interacting with new students. My goal as a mentor is to make students feel at home and at ease. I find that helping with applications, reports and presentations, I can make them feel like they are on-track and this alleviates additional stress of the unknown. In my earlier years, I had enormous support from my peers and I found that to be extremely effective when writing my first thesis report and committee meeting. Personally, I enjoy reading and running. Since I went to McMaster for undergrad, I would say I am quite the expert in cafes around Hamilton.

Sudeshna Dhar

Degree: PhD, Infection & Immunity

Supervisor: Dr. Mark Larché

Location: St. Joe's

I study peptide immunotherapy in the context of re-educating the immune system’s response to allergies. My projects revolve around cat and peanut allergy models and explore how allergic individuals can acquire tolerance against the allergen.


My journey at McMaster has been a multifaceted one – first as an Undergraduate student, then an employee, and now a Grad student! I started out as an international student all the way from Suva, Fiji Islands! I came to McMaster for my Undergrad and graduated from the BioPharm program and decided to stay on to work and pursue further education. I’ve been in Hamilton for more than 8 years now, so it’s pretty much my second home. Ask me anything about cooking, hiking, or solo travel. I also really got into houseplants recently, so I’d love to exchange plant tips as I slowly turn my apartment into the indoor jungle of my dreams.

Caroline Seiler

Degree: PhD, Physiology & Pharmacology

Supervisor: Dr. Premysl Bercik

Location: McMaster Hospital

I am doing a clinical crossover study investigating the role of different wheat components on irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. For this project, I had to develop my skills in research methodology (to help with the study design), I created an ethics application with the Hamilton Integrated Research Ethics Board (HiREB), registered the study on ClinicalTrials.gov, and send updates to these organizations as needed (i.e., annual renewals and amendments). I had to develop the study intervention (dietary intervention requiring cooking, so I know where to access food-safe lab facilities) and purify gluten. I also run the study visits and learned how to perform phlebotomy and had to develop systems to organize and store the samples.


I was born in Toronto, ON, and raised in Oakville, ON, so I am a local to the GTA. I didn’t spend a lot of time in Hamilton until I began attending McMaster, but I lived and worked in Hamilton for the past 3 years so I am reasonably knowledgeable about activities and amenities in the area. I’m very familiar with Burlington, since my family went there frequently when I was younger. I also am fairly familiar with the Niagara region for students who enjoy travelling in the area. I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, so I have many tips on activities students can do in Toronto. My interests outside of the lab include rock climbing, dancing (I go to a modern jive dance class in Toronto on a drop-in basis when I have the time), anime, and relaxing with friends. I’m not really the partying type, but I enjoy going to a pub with some friends on the weekends. My cultural background is that I’m half Ukrainian (immigrant parent) while my other side is European (been in Canada for a few generations).

Ahmed Ayyash

Degree: PhD, Physiology & Pharmacology

Supervisor: Dr. Alison Holloway

Location: McMaster Hospital

My research investigates how SSRI antidepressants may contribute to Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). I work with in vitro cell lines and a variety of techniques including PCR, western blotting and ELISAs.


I am a Palestinian Canadian that is passionate about soccer, photography, and philosophy. I live in Milton, but commute to Hamilton daily. I can speak both Arabic and English.

Mark Lychacz

Degree: MSc, Infection & Immunity

Supervisor: Dr. Mark Larché

Location: McMaster Hospital/MDCL

I am investigating the role that allergen-specific T cells play in the allergic response. I am interested in the role T cells play in the allergic response by looking at how they influence the function other cells involved in allergy, such as neutrophils and basophils. To do this, I use a combination of cell culture, flow cytometry to characterize allergen-specific T cells, and several different types of ELISAs to measure responses in neutrophils and basophils. We use cells derived from freshly isolated human blood for our assays, as well as a T cell lymphoma cell line.


When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy spending time with friends and family. I enjoy being outdoors and playing sports. I enjoy reading and always staying curious, and even outside the lab I like to learn about science. I grew up and spent most of my life in Mississauga and Toronto, so recently I have been exploring Hamilton on my bicycle looking for interesting biking routes and trails (and maybe even stumble upon an interesting café or bar!) My background is Ukrainian, but I am always interested in meeting people from different backgrounds learning about different cultures.

Ashmeet Hunjan

Degree: MSc, Cancer & Genetics

Supervisor: Dr. Darren Bridgewater

Location: McMaster Hospital

Kidney developmental defects are a leading cause of pediatric chronic kidney failure with no cure and limited treatment. My project aims to characterize the kidney phenotype in a mouse model of human kidney disease and investigate possible causes for the phenotype. For my research, I breed mice for embryo dissection, conduct histology and immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence to characterize changes in cell polarity, protein localization, and overall morphology of early kidney progenitor cells.


I obtained my degree in Bachelor of Sciences from McMaster university, class of 2019. As a graduate student I am constantly involved in writing grants for my supervisor, presenting my work to faculty members and being involved in online conferences to share my research with international audience. During my undergraduate I have been involved in many activities that required me to step up as a leader. I was Vice President of the Social team and events at McMaster’s Life Science Society and a mentor for international students for the MELD program (a course that taught leadership and mentorship). My interests outside of academia include dancing and volunteering! I have a great passion for learning and teaching which is why I was part of a competitive dance team at McMaster for 3 years. I volunteered at a nursing home in Hamilton, called the “Shalom village” where I learned how valuable my time can be for seniors living alone. I still enjoy volunteering for a senior home, so I send in letters and artwork for seniors in isolation through City Housing of Hamilton. That being said, Hamilton is like a second home for me, I have explored the falls, the malls, the restaurants all over the city. I would be happy to help incoming Master students with anything they need as I have found MSMG to be very beneficial to me in the past.

Oila Biziotis

Degree: PhD, Cancer Metabolism

Supervisor: Dr. Theos Tsakiridis

Location: JCC & McMaster Hospital

My research involves investigating the radiation enhancing effects of metabolic drugs to radiotherapy in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC). For my PhD studies, I will be taking on another project studying the efficacy of T cell antigen coupler (TAC) receptor T cell therapy in pre-clinical models of NSCLC. I perform experiments in various NSCLC cell lines and use mouse models to test my hypotheses.
After my second year in the medical sciences MSc program, I transferred to the PhD program simply because I enjoy what I study. The pandemic has impacted my research in many ways, but social distancing allowed me to pick up old hobbies and acquire new ones. For example, I got back into drawing with oil pastels and playing the piano. There have been some stressful times, so yoga and meditation have helped me cope. I am greatly looking forward to travelling again and visiting my family in Greece as soon as I can. I have lived in downtown Hamilton for two years, so I can recommend some nice coffee shops and restaurants as well as some scenic hiking trails and waterfalls.

Asfia Soomro

Degree: PhD, Blood & Vasculature

Location: St. Joe's

 

My thesis focuses on the process of renal scarring in chronic kidney disease (CKD) by using basic molecular biology techniques to understand the role of Activins contributing to TGFβ1-induced fibrosis in mouse mesangial cells and employing animal models for CKD including 5/6 nephrectomy and uniuretral obstruction prototype on overexpressing TGFβ1 mice. The profibrotic cytokine TGFβ1 is a central mediator of kidney fibrosis in CKD of diverse etiology. Directly blocking TGFβ1 is not feasible, giving associated adverse effects. It was recently identified that TGFβ1 requires the presence of Activins for its profibrotic effects. Activins are secreted cytokines which interestingly signal through the same canonical Smad pathway as TGFβ1. How they enable TGFβ1-induced fibrosis, is not yet known and is the question addressed by my project.


I have lived my entire life in Hamilton and have been grateful to be able to give back to the community by participating in fundraising concerts playing as a trumpetist for the city’s concert band. I am also a volunteer tutor for Hamilton Wentworth District Board which has given me a chance to understand the social economic imbalance negatively impacting the quality of students’ education as less resources become available to those living in penurious areas. Recently, I have also been bestowed the opportunity to be part of McMaster Medical Sciences Student Association in creating a propitious environment for graduate students by helping in walking students through the process of applying to CIHR and outlining some important points in making an application successful.

Zarwa Saqib

Degree: PhD, Infection & Immunity

Supervisor: Dr. Stephen Collins; Dr. Premysl Bercik

Location: McMaster Hospital

My research is based on finding the interactions between the microbiota and host immune system in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Specifically, I am investigating the causes of immune dysregularities in patients who have abnormal bowel habits without any apparent structural abnormalities in their guts. I use a lot of different tools and techniques including various types of mouse handling techniques, qPCR, ELISA, cell cultures, murine behavioural testing, immunohistochemistry and microbiota analysis. The different types of software’s used for statistical analysis for my research include Prism, SPSS, and R.


I am from a South Asian descent (Pakistan) and can communicate fluently in many different languages including English, Urdu, Punjabi, and Hindi. My academic journey started at McMaster University with an undergraduate in BSc Honours Life Sciences. I then enrolled in a Master’s degree in Medical Sciences in the Collins/ Bercik lab, which then led to my current doctoral studies, in the same lab. Although, I have never lived in Hamilton but being studying at McMaster for the past 7 years has given me numerous opportunities to explore various restaurants, stores, and many creative pursuits in Hamilton, and its neighbourhoods.


Beyond the lab, I am currently engaged with multiple science communication and student governance initiatives, including: Online writer for the Canadian graduate student-run journal (Health Science Inquiry); Reviewer for McMaster University Medical Journal; Faculty of Health Sciences representative on the council for Graduate Student Association (GSA); and Executive team member of the Farncombe Trainee Experience Association, an organization responsible for arranging academic and non-academic events for students engagement and opportunities. I also privately tutor multiple courses (Immunology, Math, etc.) to diverse student populations. Furthermore, throughout my graduate experience, I have been involved in various other activities that have strengthened my academic and non-academic writing and communication skills. These experiences put me in a good position to mentor students in hopes of helping them grow personally, professionally and academically.

Jackie Trink

Degree: PhD

Supervisor: Dr. Joan Krepinsky

Location: St. Joe's

My area of research concerns Diabetic Kidney Disease (DKD) where I have been investigating a novel molecule (alpha 2-macroglobulin or a2m) implicated in the pathogenesis of this disease. Throughout the last three years I have shown that this molecule is upregulated in a diabetic environment and that inhibiting this molecule is beneficial as it attenuates well known pro-fibrotic pathways in the kidney. We are now investigating two potential therapeutic options where we target a2m as a method of preventing development and progression of DKD. My research methods are mainly comprised of the following lab techniques: western blotting, qt-PCR, ELISAs, non-denatured western blots, IHC, IF, ISH, transfections (using siRNA, electroporation, and luciferase vectors), construction of promoter vectors, and cell culture.


I have grown up in Hamilton since I was a child and am very familiar with the area and different activities that are available year round. In my spare time I enjoy reading crime novels, watching Netflix, working out, spending time with my family, and sleeping.


I grew up on the Hamilton mountain. Much of my family also lives in Hamilton and I enjoy visiting them when I have the chance. I also work throughout the year to be able to live in my own home with my boyfriend; I currently am working at the wine rack to supplement my income and enjoy having the opportunity to talk to many people about another hobby of mine, wine! I have bartended in the past as well and always enjoy trying new wines and growing my palette. I would really like to help someone who is just starting their graduate studies to make them feel more welcome and situated in what will already be a stressful time for them starting this new experience.

Sarah Medeiros

Degree:PhD, Blood & Vasculature

Supervisor: Dr. Patricia Liaw

Location: TaARI

The overall goal of my project is to study the role of extracellular DNA in modulating coagulation and the host response to sepsis. We will (a) identify and characterize the procoagulant properties of purified silica-free DNA; (b) determine if deoxyribonuclease I (DNase I) alone or in combination with either unfractionated heparin (UFH) or dalteparin (low molecular weight heparin; LMWH) reduces coagulation, improves organ histology, and survival in a mouse model of sepsis; (c) determine if pathological levels of CFDNA and DNA-histones complexes modulates coagulation, fibrinolysis, and inflammation in vitro and in vivo. The main techniques I use are clotting assays, fibrinolysis assays, SDS page, ELISAs, cell culture, sepsis mouse models, animal work, histology, and statistical analysis (SPSS and GraphPad Prism).


I am a 3rd year PhD student in the Blood and Vasculature specialty. I transferred to my PhD from my MSc 2 years ago. I am a life-long Hamiltonian, which means I have a long list of fun unique experiences such as waterfall trails, the best craft beer, ax-throwing, rock climbing, the best coffee shops to study, and the best restaurants—Mexcal has amazing tacos.


In terms of academia, I am a great resource of academic deadlines and prepping. I can provide advice on committee meetings and transfer meetings. As the recipient of multiple scholarships—including the Vanier Scholarship—I can help advise and direct students on scholarship writing and resources.


Outside of the lab, I am heavily involved in school associations such as the HSGSF and academic affairs. I encourage all students to get involved in student government or clubs. As the co-president of the HSGSF, I represent FHS on multiple councils around campus that regulate FHS policy, curriculum, and social issues. We also plan monthly meetings that helps students with taxes, mental health workshops, writing workshops, and career networking.


As a MSMG mentor, I can provide resources for academic success, extracurricular activity, Hamilton activities, or I can just be someone to bounce ideas off of. I am a good listener, and I am always up to talking!


Fun fact: I would trade my soul for Sweet Chili Heat Chips.

Dominique Brown

Degree: MSc, Infection & Immunity

Supervisor: Dr. Yonghong Wan

Location: MDCL

My research focuses on the development of cancer immunotherapies with a specific emphasis on adoptive T cell therapy (ACT) in combination with oncolytic virus vaccines (OVV). I study the effect of tumor burden on the effectiveness of these therapies, and how epigenetic modification can be used to potentiate ACT+OVV in advance stage tumors.


I grew up in Brampton and completed my undergrad in biochemistry from the University of Ottawa. Outside of the lab, I love exploring, learning new languages, reading and watching a good Nollywood movie. My cultural background is Ghanaian, so I love all things West African, and I am always curious about the various cultures throughout the continent. I am still quite new to Hamilton, but the places I have visited such as Dundas Peak in the fall and Confederation Beach Park are a must-see! I am always happy to answer any questions you may have, or if you just need someone to talk to!


Welcome to MedSci, and hope speak with you soon :)

Haydn Walker

Degree: MSc, Cancer & Genetics

Supervisor: Dr. Judy West-Mays

Location: McMaster Hospital

I research ocular development and specifically the role that AP-2B plays in the development and maintenance of the cornea. I study this protein in the relation to numerous other pathways and genes that are involved with cornea formation. The main method I’ve used so far is immunohistochemistry, working with samples from mutant mice and staining with specific antibodies of interest.


This will be my 6th year as a McMaster student as I also completed my undergraduate degree here, and I am now entering the second year of my MSc. I know the city really well at this point and I’m always prepared with restaurant/bar/cafe suggestions or generally just tips on fun stuff that you can get up to. I’m a big McMaster sports fan going back to my undergrad days, and highly recommend getting out and seeing school teams play (though this is going to be a weird year). In my spare time, I love playing squash, tennis and hockey, as well as watching these pro sports. I recently got a puppy and so training him has been a big-time filler. Based on my familiarity with McMaster and Hamilton, I would be happy to help any students looking to get better acquainted with the area!

Marisa Morrow

Degree: PhD, Metabolism & Nutrition

Supervisor: Dr. Gregory Steinberg

Location: McMaster Hospital

My research focuses on testing therapeutics for Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). I have been working on developing a novel mouse model of Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) to test genetic deletions and therapeutics for NAFLD. Tools I use to test my hypotheses include, a variety
of in vivo metabolic tests as well as molecular biology techniques such as qRT-PCR, immunoblotting, histology, imaging, and ELISAs.


My passions outside of the lab include nutrition, physical activity, and human connection! I grew up playing many sports and continue to enjoy staying active through several different means. I majored in a program called Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences at the University of Guelph. Here I gained a huge interest in nutrition and how it effects human health and disease. I became fascinated with the power of diet in both preventing and reversing disease states. I also love using nutrition knowledge to cook both healthy and tasty meals. My other interests include backpacking and traveling the world. My favourite part about traveling is the hundreds of people I meet along the way and the new perspectives I gain. I love to be around people and learn from others. On top of everything, spending time with friends and family is what makes me happiest in life!

Evelyn Tsakiridis

Degree: PhD, Metabolism & Nutrition

Supervisor: Dr. Gregory Steinberg

Location: McMaster Hospital

My research is focused on how compounds in our environment such as pesticides impact our metabolism. More specifically, we investigate how everyday exposure such as that through our diet, may contribute to metabolic disturbances using both in vitro and in vivo models. Techniques
utilized include; plate assays, protein immunoblotting and RT-qPCR. Past research experience in cancer and protein metabolism.


I grew up in small town called Grimsby Ontario and have been living in Hamilton the last 6 years. Over time I have come to love the city, always in search for new café’s and hiking trails! Although I may be guilty of being a workaholic, when I’m not in the lab I love being active! Skiing and biking to name a few. I also volunteer in my community when I have a chance J. I believe collaboration and exchange of knowledge is a key to successful research, I am a part of the MODR (metabolism obesity and diabetes research) student committee that organizes weekly seminars and events for all med sci students. I completed my undergrad in Kinesiology here at McMaster after which I took a year off to travel and work as a laboratory technician. Having experienced different lab environments, I feel, I have a good insight on how to navigate the pressures of beginning/pursuing graduate studies.