CBS and Dr. Anne Dagg Summer Research Assistantships Sponsors

The following is a list of CBS faculty who are looking for candidates to endorse for the CBS and Stobie summer research assistantships. Please read the faculty's research interests to see who may match with your personal and professional goals, prior to submitting your application to them. Students may approach other CBS faculty not listed on this page however please note not all faculty are looking for summer research assistants. 

Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences

Dr. Marica Bakovic

Globally, we are experiencing pandemic growth in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, dyslipidemia and type-2 diabetes, with over 39% of adults worldwide classified by WHO in the last three years as overweight. The quality and relative quantities of membrane phospholipids are perturbed in liver disease. Our lab has demonstrated that mice deficient in the Kennedy pathway that produces phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), a major membrane phospholipid, develop age-progressing dyslipidemia, liver disease and insulin resistance. We propose that reduced formation of membrane PE drives triglyceride accumulation while the pathway precursor phosphoethanolamine (PEtn) additionally inhibits mitochondria fatty acid oxidation and energy production in liver disease. We aim to elucidate strategies designed to restore membrane quality by elevating PE synthesis/reducing PE degradation and also characterize the regulation of PEtn within the Kennedy pathway via 3 novel phosphatases. A summer student would be responsible for maintaining cell culture lines with siRNA induced inhibition/cDNA transfected over expression of phosphatases and performing western blots with protein isolated from those lines. 

Dr. Andrea Clark

The Clark lab seeks to i) identify and characterize signal transduction mechanisms through which chondrocytes detect and respond to mechanical and chemical changes in cartilage and ii) advance our understanding of the molecular underpinnings of osteoarthritis. To this end we study chondrocytes, cartilage and osteoarthritis using genetic and surgical mouse models of osteoarthritis, confocal microscopy, histology and immunohistochemistry.

Dr. David Ma

My lab investigates the metabolism and biological role of fatty acids. Essential and long chain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are a primary focus and their involvement in cancer, brain health, fatty liver disease and exercise. Experimental model systems include knockout and transgenic mouse models and cell lines to examine mechanisms of action.  In addition, the role of fatty acids in human health are explored within the context of the Guelph Family Health Study, a cohort of 300+ families involving parents and young children to study and test interventions for the prevention of childhood obesity.

Dr. Geoff Power

The goal of my research program is to understand and gain intimate knowledge regarding mechanisms associated with age-related alterations to muscle contractility across multiple scales of organization.  We investigate the neural control of movement using various neuromuscular tools and techniques (e.g, brain, spinal cord, muscle stimulation, electromyography) and basic intrinsic muscle contractile properties at the cellular level.  This work has significant relevance, including understanding the neural control of voluntary movement across the lifespan and generating new insight into the active and passive muscular contributions to force production / transmission of skeletal muscle.  Utilizing the chronic adapted state of human senescence, we aim to identify mechanisms which regulate intrinsic contractile function and gain invaluable insight into the adaptive capacity of skeletal muscle and what limits function in the context of normal adult aging.

Dr. Lindsay Robinson

Obesity is associated with a state of chronic low-grade inflammation that contributes to whole-body metabolic problems, such as insulin resistance, a key feature of type 2 diabetes. Such chronic inflammation is partially driven by changes in adipose tissue and skeletal muscle immune cell populations, including macrophages and T cells. My lab is interested in understanding how such immune cells interact with adipocytes and myocytes in inflammatory processes. In particular, we are investigating the role of bioactive nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, and/or exercise in immune and inflammatory processes in adipose tissue and skeletal muscle. We use both animal models and cell lines to study mechanisms of action.

Department of Integrative Biology

Dr. Joe Ackerman

Environmental stressors of aquatic ecosystems including eutrophication, sedimentation, and climate change can impact biodiversity and ecosystem processes. Our lab examines links between the physical environment and the ecology of aquatic organisms (algae, plants, mussels) and ecosystems (rivers, lakes).  Student assistant opportunities exist to support projects investigating: (1) threats to/recovery of endangered mussel species in Southern Ontario; (2) nutrient/resource flux between the benthic plants and/or invertebrates and the water column, (3) the effect of turbulence on the zooplankton feeding/interactions; and (4) relationship between hypoxia (low O2) and fish in western lake Erie.  Student assistants will engage in both field and lab work throughout the summer with the opportunity to continue as an honours research project in the F20– W21 semester.  Please contact Dr. Joe Ackerman (ackerman@uoguelph.ca) if interested  (http://www.uoguelph.ca/~ackerman)

Dr. Sarah Alderman

My lab studies the physiological effects of environmental stressors on fish and other vertebrates, using integrative techniques that range from single gene to whole proteome quantification. A current area of focus is to understand how stress alters neurogenesis in zebrafish. Fish are unrivalled amongst vertebrates in their capacity for adding new functional neurons to the mature brain. Stress can impair this process, which may have lasting cognitive and behavioural effects. We are studying how common environmental stressors influence neurogenesis, the cellular mechanisms that regulate stress hormone signaling in the brain, and the physiological and behavioral outcomes of stress-induced changes to neurogenesis. Summer research assistants will gain hands-on experience in research, from whole animal experiments through to data analysis. Students with a strong interest in physiology and a desire to pursue an honours research project in F20/W21 are encouraged to contact Dr. Alderman.


Dr. Sarah (Sally) J. Adamowicz

Our research group explores the evolution and distribution of biodiversity and develops new tools for efficient biomonitoring and environmental protection. Two undergraduate projects are available for summer 2020. The first involves collaborating with others to develop and test new methods for surveying aquatic biodiversity using environmental DNA (eDNA). This project would be excellent experience for those interested in gaining hands-on experience in a molecular lab and as a precursor to pursuing an Honours thesis or graduate studies in Integrative Biology or Bioinformatics. The second involves assisting with the development and testing of software for biodiversity analysis using high-throughput DNA sequence data, which would be a valuable experience for students considering graduate studies in Bioinformatics or interested in a future analytics-focused project in Integrative Biology.

Dr. Nicholas Bernier

Research topic: Development of novel bioindiators of chronic stress for conservation physiology

Research description: Scales can provide an integrated measure of cortisol production and serve as a chronic stress indicator in fish (Laberge et al. 2019; Conserv. Physiol. 7:coz052).  In Atlantic salmon, previous studies have shown that the hatchery techniques used to breed fish can impart significant stress on the fish and reduce fitness.  The short term goal of this study is to determine whether scales can be used to determine whether captive breeding programs of Atlantic salmon are stressful.  Towards the conservation of wild Atlantic salmon populations, the longer term goal of this research is to determine whether scale cortisol content can predict survivorship. Interested applicants should contact Prof. Nick Bernier for more details.

Dr. Teresa Crease

The long-term goal of our research is to understand the mechanisms by which ribosomal DNA evolves and to determine the impact of sequence changes on the structure and function of ribosomal RNA. Crustaceans in the genus Daphnia are used as a model system for this research. We also study the population genetics and impact of transposons that specifically target ribosomal DNA. Summer students will have the opportunity to work on a project involving rDNA or transposons depending on their interests.  They will learn molecular lab skills such as DNA cloning and sequencing, and analysis of molecular genetic data. Please contact Dr. Teresa Crease (tcrease@uoguelph.ca) for more information.

Dr. John Fryxell

One of the most pressing environmental issues in southern Ontario is how to sustain biodiversity across rural landscapes dominated by intense agricultural production. Our lab is engaged in collaborative field experiments designed to compare arthropod diversity and abundance across 20 farms that are committed to sustaining biodiversity through restoration of native riparian, grassland, or woodland tracts. Field assistants will be engaged in measuring seasonal changes in the abundance and diversity of terrestrial arthropods using Malaise traps in relation to habitat heterogeneity and plant diversity. There is also ample opportunity to use this hands-on experience to develop independent research projects for the Fall and/or Winter semesters. Interested individuals should contact Prof. John Fryxell (jfryxell@uoguelph.ca) for further details.

Dr. Jinzhong Fu

My students and I are studying the adaptation process of a common toad (Bufo gargarizans) along an elevational gradient. We detect and document both phenotypic (e.g. morphological, physiological, behavioural, life history) and genetic variations (e.g. genomic, transcriptional) among populations at different elevations. We are also exploring adaptive convergence and parallelism between the toads and other high-elevation vertebrates. Successful candidate will work in the lab over the summer months collecting genetic data and performing data analysis.

Dr. Todd Gillis

Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii) can fully recover from 36 hours of anoxia exposure (Cox et al., 2010). During anoxia exposure, cardiac function is maintained and there is little change in metabolic capacity (Gillis et al., 2015; Gattrell et al., 2019). This project is examining the metabolic pathways that support cardiac function in hagfish during anoxia exposure as well as the cellular mechanisms that help protect the hagfish heart from ischemia reperfusion injury when these animals return to normoxic waters. Ischemia reperfusion injury is a cause of cardiac damage in humans following myocardial infarction. This work involves the use of isolated heart preparations, live animal studies, and the use of advanced analytic techniques (GC/MS) to study metabolic and cellular pathways

Dr. Andreas Heyland

My lab is interested in gaining insight into the mechanisms underlying life history trade-offs in the cladoceran Daphnia magna. Specifically, we are using functional genomics approaches to analyze the multi-generational response of D. magna to nutrient levels to better understand how reproductive, immunity and neuronal allocations are made.  This work is part of the CFREF Food From Thought project, an interdisciplinary research program focusing on sustainable agriculture production.

We interested in developing novel approaches for sustainable aquaculture practices using algae. We developed a novel photobioreactor that allows us to remove nutrients from recirculating waste water systems while growing algae. This system is being tested in the lab and field to assess its productivity and commercial viability

We are studying the evolution of metamorphosis in marine invertebrate groups with specific emphasis on echinoids (sea urchins and sand dollars). We are taking a molecular and cellular approach to analyze the mechanisms underlying this fundamental process.

Dr. Brian Husband 

Research area: evolutionary biology, plant sexual systems, polyploid speciation
Research description:  My lab explores the ecological and genetic attributes of plant populations and the evolution of traits that contribute to adaptation and speciation. Our primary focus is on plant reproductive systems, which include gamete quality and quantity, pollination, and mating patterns and their impact on genetic diversity, distribution and reproductive isolation.  We use a variety of wild and cultivated species for this work, and apply our knowledge to problems in conservation, restoration, and interactions between agricultural and natural ecosystems.

Dr. Elizabeth Mandeville

We study how evolutionary processes lead to variable outcomes in aquatic systems where anthropogenic modifications (e.g. dams, land use change, species introductions) have occurred. Evolutionary processes vary spatially and temporally, with direct consequences for the persistence and evolution of species. However, specific anthropogenic impacts are insufficiently understood in most ecosystems. We combine high resolution genomic data for fish species with spatial, environmental, and ecological datasets to better understand how evolutionary and ecological processes interact to shape a species’ response to disturbance. Particular areas of focus include genetic differentiation, genetic diversity, and hybridization outcomes. Please contact Dr. Liz Mandeville (emandevi@uoguelph.ca) for more information.

Dr. Amy Newman

The Newman Lab studies the ecophysiology of stress and wildlife.  We work on several wildlife populations to link early-life conditions to development, behaviour, stress physiology, reproduction and survival of animals throughout their lifetime.  We are recruiting research assistants for two projects that focus on ecophysiological effects of landscape modification, and potential recruits may be expected to assist on both.  One project focuses on the physiological and behavioural differences between urban and rural wildlife (e.g. grey squirrels in Guelph/Cambridge), and the other focuses on the impacts agricultural practices on stress physiology and behaviour in grassland songbirds (e.g. savannah sparrows in Norfolk County).  The position will involve long days outside in all conditions, and potential daily commuting between Guelph and Norfolk County or Cambridge. A valid drivers licence is required, field experience is an asset, and collaborative enthusiasm for the outdoors and wildlife is a must. Interested applicants should contact Amy Newman (newman01@uoguelph.ca) for more details.

Dr. Ryan Norris

An estimated 3 billion birds have been lost over the last half century. One of the most dramatic declines has occurred in the Wood Thrush, a long-distance migratory songbird that breeds in deciduous forests of eastern North American and overwinters in Central America. Our research aims to understand the role of urbanization in driving Wood Thrush population declines. We will compare historical data on abundance and nest success of this species from forest fragments located the Region of Waterloo with data that will be collected at the same sites in the spring/summer of 2020. In the intervening time, many of these forest fragments have been surrounded with housing developments while others have remained relatively untouched. Field work will involve conducting point counts through visual and auditory identification, searching for and monitoring nests, and taking vegetation measurements. Experience in the field, particularly on birds, is desired but students will be trained in all relevant skills. Applicants should have a strong work ethic, a willingness to work early morning hours, a valid driver’s licence, and a genuine interest in field ecology and conservation.

Dr. Beren Robinson

Our lab focuses on identifying the ecological factors that contribute to local adaptation in lake fishes that are in the process of evolving into different ecotypes. Some populations of lake fishes are composed of different forms that are living in different habitats and eating different types of prey. We use a variety of behavioural, morphological, ecological and evolutionary methods to study how these ecotypes function, persist and may be evolutionarily diverging from each other. Research occurs at our study site of Ashby Lake in eastern ON and in the lab. We have supported numerous prior undergraduate summer researchers for this project. We are especially interested in students interested in pursuing independent research projects in the terms following the summer research experience. Here students can get further experience at research while receiving academic credit.

Dr. Patricia Wright

We are interested in understanding the variety of strategies that amphibious fish use to cope with life out of water.  We study a diversity of fishes, some that are completely aquatic and others that tolerate terrestrial exposure.  The aim of this laboratory project is to link plasticity in physiological traits in multiple fishes with performance in water and/or on land to understand the characteristics that are most important in tolerance to air exposure.

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology

Dr. Marc Coppolino

Tumour cell invasion through extracellular matrix (ECM) is required for cancers to spread, and is dependent upon partial degradation of ECM components by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) secreted by tumour cells.  A semester project is proposed to examine how the transport and targeted release of MMPs are regulated during invasion of ECM by breast cancer cells.  The project will involve experimentation using cultured tumour cell lines, expression of GFP-tagged proteins, and cell-based assays to assess cell invasion. 

Dr. Georgina Cox 

Antibiotic resistant human pathogenic bacteria are emerging at an alarming rate. Indeed, it has been globally acknowledged that this phenomenon will be one of the biggest health threats to modern medicine. Understanding how bacteria resist antibiotics is integral to the development of approaches to combat this health threat. Furthermore, novel orthogonal approaches are required. The Cox lab performs research into many aspects of bacterial pathogenesis and resistance. In particular, we are interested in deciphering and subsequently inhibiting the mechanisms by which bacteria interact with and consequently infect host cells. If we could interfere with this process, we could negate the need to antibiotics in the first place. This project will involve a wide range of experimental techniques, including microbiology, molecular biology (gene deletion, PCR, cloning), genomic analysis, microscopy and protein purification. 

Dr. Jennifer Geddes-McAlister

The Geddes-McAlister lab investigates host-microbe interactions from a systems perspective. We are interested in understanding how a microbe adapts and survives within a host environment and in return, how the host defends itself from invasion and colonization. To accomplish this goal, we use state-of-the-art mass spectrometry-based quantitative proteomics combined with advanced bioinformatics to understand cellular regulation and secretion at the protein level. We use this knowledge to identify and characterize novel virulence factors, define mechanisms of interaction between a host and microbe, and identify unique targets for therapeutic intervention. The student will use a wide range of experimental techniques, including microbiology, tissue culture, the safe handling of pathogenic bacteria and/or fungi, protein extraction and quantification, quantitative proteomics techniques and bioinformatic platforms, molecular biology (gene deletion, PCR, cloning, gel electrophoresis, genomic analysis, and microscopy.

Dr. Nina Jones

Multicellular organisms rely on signal transduction cascades to control important biological responses such as cell growth, differentiation and survival. Understanding the biochemical basis of these protein-protein interactions is of key importance in defining how particular mutations can contribute to pathological conditions such as cancer. In this summer research project, the student will aid in determining the signalling pathways that are mediated by several phosphotyrosine adaptor proteins by identifying the molecular components and biological functions associated with these proteins.  Techniques such as DNA cloning, PCR, bacterial and mammalian cell culture, protein purification, electrophoresis, immunohistochemistry and microscopy will be employed by the student.

Dr. Rod Merrill 

Introduction: P. larvae is a Gram-negative, spore-forming bacterium that is the causative agent of American Foulbrood (AFB) in honeybees. P. larvae spores are the infectious form of the bacterial pathogen. Honeybee larva are most susceptible to infection during the first 36 h after egg hatching since a single spore can initiate infection. Shortly after ingestion, spores germinate in the larval midgut, where they proliferate for several days. Ultimately, P. larvae breaches the midgut epithelial barrier and invades the larval haemocoel. Breaching of the epithelium was shown to coincide with larval death. Adult bees can act as carriers for the spores, and then infect the larval food with the AFB-causing spores.  

The project will involve the development of inhibitory compounds against P. larvae toxins by employing molecular modelling, structural biology, and computational chemistry – framed into structure-based drug discovery approaches – combined with experimental validation for AFB-infected honeybee larvae. For this project the summer student with work with a graduate student and a postdoctoral researcher.

Dr. Melissa Perreault

Our preclinical research laboratory uses animal model systems to study sex differences in the pathogenesis and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders. Specifically, we combine behavioural, pharmacogenetic (viral vector mediated gene transfer), electrophysiological, and biochemical techniques to further our understanding of the mechanisms underlying these disorders to identify novel therapeutic targets. We also use in vitro systems electrophysiology techniques for drug discovery in these models. We are currently focusing on three main themes: elucidating a role for the protein GSK-3 in regulating systems function and behaviour in schizophrenia, autism, and depression; mechanisms of stress susceptibility and resilience and the relationship to depression risk; and the identification of biomarkers of drug efficacy. Students working in the lab will have the opportunity to develop an array of technical and bioinformatic skills to help advance our knowledge in various neuropathologies.

Dr. Stephen Seah

Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the causative agent of tuberculosis (TB), a bacterial infection that kills nearly 2 million people annually. M. tuberculosis primarily infects alveolar macrophages and its intracellular survival is dependent on its ability to utilize cholesterol as a carbon source. Our lab has been studying the structure and function of cholesterol degradation enzymes from M. tuberculosis and related bacteria that will facilitate the development of new antibiotics against drug-resistant strains of M. tuberculosis. The student involved in this research will receive broad training in a variety of molecular biology and biochemical techniques. These include gene cloning, expression and purification of  enzymes, site-specific mutagenesis to replace key residues, enzyme assays and protein 3D structure analysis by X-ray crystallography.

Dr. Rebecca Shapiro

The Shapiro lab is interested in microbial fungal pathogens, and developing and employing CRISPR-based functional genomic technologies to allow us to probe the biology and pathogenesis of these organisms. We are developing cutting-edge new CRISPR technologies for genetic mutation, deletion, repression, and over-expression in fungal pathogens. We are further exploiting these technologies to gain a better understanding of the genetic pathways regulating fungal pathogenesis and antifungal drug resistance

Dr. Jim Uniacke

Cancer is a complicated, multifactorial disease and the paths taken by cells en route to malignancy are highly variable. Yet, solid tumours share common features regardless of their tissue of origin or genetic makeup. These are referred to as the “tumour microenvironment” and include factors such as hypoxia (low oxygen availability), which has been linked to aggressive tumours and poor prognosis. My laboratory studies how cancer cells synthesize proteins in hypoxia, and how these unique protein synthesis machineries can be targeted in cancer therapy to selectively disable tumour cells, leaving normal oxygenated cells unharmed. The student will be using cultured tumour cell lines, biochemical techniques such as western blot and immunoprecipitation to measure protein-protein interactions, and 2D/3D cell-based assays to assess cell migration, invasion, and tumour formation.

Dr. Krassimir (Joseph) Yankulov

Chromatin plays a central role in the regulation of gene expression in eukaryotes. The transitions between heterochromatin and euchromatin structures (we call them epigenetic conversions) and their subsequent transmission is critical during cell differentiation and is related to many genetic disorders and cancer. However, these processes are poorly understood. In my lab we study epigenetic conversions using the simple budding yeast as a model organism. We focus on the mechanism of action of several histone chaperones that work at the DNA replication fork. Our research provides an in-depth understanding of a fundamental biological process and is relevant to developmental disorders, cancer and cell adaptation.