CBS Summer Research Assistantships Faculty Sponsors List - Summer 2023

The faculty listed below are actively looking for summer research students. Below each name you will see what assistantship that they could sponsor a student for. 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. Additional names will be added daily so please check back regularly. 

Human Health and Nutritional Sciences

Dr. Geoffrey 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. Please see lab website on my faculty profile page for more information. 

Eligible Assistantships: CBS, Anne Dagg, Indigenous Summer Research Assistantships

Lori Ann Vallis

Every day we complete complex tasks that require use to quickly adapt ongoing locomotor patterns to changes in our environment. Consider how you might cross a busy street with a friend. While conversing with your friend, you must also integrate changing visual and auditory information about your proximity to other pedestrians, vehicles and adjust your steps to make sure that you cross safely to the other side. Despite the fact that this is an everyday occurrence, there is controversy in the scientific literature over how our cognitive networks integrate attentional and sensory resources to complete these challenging tasks. My lab group is particularly interested in how brain networks integrate the attentional requirements for two tasks to successfully accomplish both tasks  (e.g. step over an obstacle while responding accurately to a cognitive test). We are also curious about the effect of practice, and if motor patterns and cognitive task performance can be improved with training, across the lifespan. This fundamental research can further expand our knowledge in the biomechanics of obstacle avoidance and the neuroscience principle of multiple task integration in the brain. 

Eligible Assistantships: CBS

Integartive Biology

Dr. Josef 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, zooplankton) 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) rthe effect of turbulence on the swimming, feeding and growth of larval fish. 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 F23– W24 semester. Please contact Dr. Joe Ackerman ( if interested.

ligible Assistantships: CBS, Ann Dagg, Indigenous, Hart, Morwick

Dr. Brian Husband

My lab offers opportunities for students to participate in research on the sex lives of plants and their impacts on biodiversity.  The precise project will depend on the interests of the student but may include: 1) Impacts of hybridization between domesticated crops and native plants with a focus on apple; and 2) Formation of polyploid species via unreduced gamete production. These and other projects usually involve a combination of field work and lab work. Students will have an opportunity to learn technical skills such as flow cytometry, PCR and micro-satellite analysis, & pollination biology and professional skills such as teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving.

Eligible Assistantships: CBS, Anne Dagg, Indigenous

Dr. Elizabeth Mandeville

Hybridization and evolutionary diversification in freshwater fishes

Hybridization contributes extensively to evolutionary diversification. In freshwater fishes in North America, this has included formation of new species through hybridization events that have led to both evolution of unisexual hybrid lineages and diversification through genome doubling involving allo- or auto- polyploidy. Hybridization can also erode biodiversity by homogenizing existing species and populations. Loss of biodiversity through hybridization is often linked to anthropogenic disturbances such as habitat modification (including agriculture and urbanization) or species introductions. Projects in the lab in summer 2023 will focus on hybridization in one of several clades of freshwater fish currently under study in the Mandeville lab. Projects will feature the use of genomic, phenotypic, environmental, and ecological data to better understand how hybridization has shaped freshwater fish diversity. 

Eligible Assistantships: CBS, Ann Dagg, Indigenous, Hart, Morwick

Mason Lab

The Mason Lab is interested in designing good living conditions for animals kept in labs, zoos and farms. We investigate how to assess animal well-being objectively; and what happens to the brain and behaviour when animals are kept lifelong in confining, barren enclosures -- conditions that meet their physiological needs but are too small or monotonous to allow natural behaviour. More information about the Mason Lab is available here, and recent publications can be found here.  

We’re currently seeking enthusiastic students, ideally with research experience, to assist in behavioural research investigating whether small barren enclosures impair animals' abilities to attract mates, raise young, be cognitively flexible, and be sociable/socially competent. And if it does, how? This project will use laboratory mice as a model to understand how housing systems affect behavioural competence in other species (e.g. stabled horses, zoo animals, wild species bred for release back into nature). It will focus on the stereotypic behaviour common in such environments, like abnormal pacing or circling, by running affected animals through social and behavioural tests. It will also investigate why stereotypic behaviours become harder to cure with age. If you’re interested in applying for a summer research assistantship please send a brief CV, your GPA for the last 2 years, and copy of your unofficial transcript to 

Eligible Assistantships: CBS, Anne Dagg, Indigenous

Dr. Nicholas Bernier

The Bernier Lab is interested in identifying the physiological roles of stress hormones in fish, in part to gain basic insight into the biology of these animals, but also to assess the resilience of fish to cope with environmental and anthropogenic stressors. More information about our work can be found here

The aim of this laboratory project is to determine whether the stress hormone cortisol plays a physiological role in the development of the gastrointestinal tract and the initiation of feeding in larval fish. The work will involve breeding zebrafish, performing laboratory experiments, and quantifying hormones, mRNA levels, enzymatic activity, and feed intake. Enthusiastic students interested in gaining research experience in the fields of stress physiology and endocrinology are encouraged to apply.  

Eligible Assistantships: CBS, Anne Dagg, HART Aquatic Biodiversity Assistantship, Ted Morwick Aquatic Biology 

Dr. Ryan Norris

Research in the Norris Lab focuses on the conservation of wild animal populations, including threats faced by birds in urban ecosystems, long-term population dynamics, and movement ecology. We are seeking an enthusiastic summer research assistant to support two ongoing spring/summer research projects:

1) The effect of cats on urban wildlife (June-July): We are investigating outdoor cat predation on wild animals, including birds, by using animal-borne cameras. These ‘CatCams’ record where a cat goes, what it sees, and what it eats, allowing us to examine what they are hunting and what they kill. Field work involves deploying and retrieving CatCams and lab work involves video analysis of collected footage.

2) The ecology and conservation of a grassland songbird (Aug): We are studying the ecology and survival of juvenile songbirds during the post-fledging period as part of a long-term study on a population breeding of Savannah sparrows on Kent Island in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick. This is an exciting opportunity to do field work in a remote and beautiful location, and gain experience with a variety of field research techniques, including radio telemetry and bird banding.

The research assistant will support both projects and any interested students should contact Dr. Ryan Norris,

Eligible Assistantships: CBS, Anne Dagg, Indigenous, Morwick Global Environmental Change

Dr. Sarah (Sally) Adamowicz 

Our research group explores the evolution and distribution of biodiversity and develops new tools for efficient biomonitoring in light of environmental change. We especially focus on using DNA sequence data for studying Arctic, aquatic, and invertebrate biodiversity. Up to two undergraduate summer projects are available. The first involves literature review and data organization on interacting species, to provide insights on patterns of coevolution and to test a newly developed software tool and statistical methodology. The second involves literature review and data organization regarding the traits of biting flies, contributing to an aquatic biomonitoring project in Nunavut and responding to community requests for this research. Depending upon the interests of the summer assistants, there are also opportunities to contribute to other projects and gain some bench skills (e.g. digital photography and specimen databasing). These projects would be a valuable experience for students considering an Honours thesis or graduate studies in Integrative Biology or Bioinformatics.

Eligible Assistantships: CBS, Morwick Global Environmental Change, HART Aquatic Biodiversity Assistantship

Dr. Todd Gillis

My lab is interested in understanding how the vertebrate heart can maintain function under extreme conditions including low temperature, no oxygen and during oil exposure. The current project is trying to figure out how the zebrafish heart can work during hypoxia exposure. It is relevant because environmental hypoxia caused by eutrophication is an increasing concern in marine and freshwater habitats. One challenge for fish is that environmental hypoxia limits the generation of energy (ATP) via aerobic pathways. This affects heart function, blood delivery to the tissue and impairs brain function. Interestingly, zebrafish are hypoxia tolerant, able to survive prolonged periods of limited oxygen. This project is focused on characterizing the response of the zebrafish heart to hypoxia exposure and to identify how these animals are able to maintain cellular energy production in limited oxygen. To do this, we will chronically expose zebrafish to 100%, 70% or 30% dissolved oxygen (DO) for 10 weeks. During this time, we will utilize high frequency ultrasound to image the heart in live fish as well as examine the relative expression of key gene transcripts and proteins. These targets are relevant to protecting the heart during hypoxia exposure and the generation of ATP. Gene transcripts will be quantified using quantitative PCR and protein targets, by western blotting. Through this work we will gain fundamental insight into how the heart can maintain function when oxygen is limited. Such knowledge is relevant to understanding the impact of environmental hypoxia on animal survival as well as biomedical applications related to protecting the human heart during ischemia.  

Eligible Assistantships: CBS, Morwick Global Environmental Change, HART Aquatic Biodiversity Assistantship, Indigenous, Anne Dagg, Ted Morwick

Molecular and Cellular Biology

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.

Eligible Assistantships: CBS, Anne Dagg, Indigenous

Dr. Rebecca Shapiro

Fungal pathogens are microbial species that are emerging as a critical threat to human health. The Shapiro lab develops and applies functional genomic tools for the genetic manipulation of human fungal pathogens, and uses these tools to study biology, pathogenesis, and response to antifungal drugs. Projects include the development of novel CRISPR-based systems for genetic manipulation, and the study of genetic mutants (singly or large libraries) to identify the genetic factors that regulate the biology of fungal pathogens. With a focus on Candida yeasts, projects look at the genes and genetic interactions that underpin fungal infections, fungal interactions with hosts, and the evolution of resistance to antifungal drugs. Further research in the lab aims at identifying and characterizing novel drugs that inhibit the growth or perturb the virulence of these pathogens.

Eligible Assistantships: CBS, Anne Dagg, Indigenous

Dr. Jim Uniacke

The Uniacke Lab has three different projects available for students this summer. No specific experience is required for students to work on these projects. Students will be mentored by Dr. Uniacke and graduate students within the lab. They are looking for students with an interest in molecular biology, techniques, and human health. Dr. Uniacke will work with interested applicants to determine which project would be the best fit for the student. 

In 2019, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded for the discovery of how cells sense and adapt to low oxygen availability (hypoxia). These discoveries, first made about three decades prior, center around the essential transcription factors: the Hypoxia Inducible Factors (HIFs). Hypoxia and the HIFs are hallmarks of cancerous tumors and are linked to poor prognosis. We have recently implicate the RNA helicase DDX28 as a regulator of the HIF isoform HIF2-alpha. DDX28 acts as a tumor suppressor by sequestering HIF2-alpha away from its biochemical functions. We are looking for one student to further explore the mechanisms employed by DDX28 in its repression of the HIF gene expression program in cancer cells.

Area of Interest 1:Investigating the role of DDX28 in the regulation of HIF2-alpha in cancer

Area of Interest 2: The influence of oxygen on gene expression 

Area of Interest 3: Investigating the hypoxia-dependent alternative splicing of ribosomal protein S24 and its role as a marker of cancer progression

Eligible Assistantships: CBS, Anne Dagg, Indigenous

Dr. Siavash Vahidi 

The Vahidi Lab investigates the mechanism of action of AAA+ (ATPases associated with various cellular activities) motors, a superfamily of powerful ATP-dependent proteins that couple ATP binding and hydrolysis to drive conformational changes for the mechanical translocation of a variety of cellular substrates. Several competing models have been proposed for how AAA+ motors function. Our lab uses high resolution mass spectrometry and biochemical methods to delineate these ATP hydrolysis models and to discover inhibitor molecules with therapeutic potential. There is significant interest in understanding the molecular basis of AAA+ motor function because many of them have been linked to antibiotic resistance in bacteria and to cancer in human. Our research program will lead to scientific breakthroughs in our knowledge of fundamental mechanochemical enzymes in cells.

Eligible Assistantships: CBS, Anne Dagg, Indigenous