2018 Projects


Click the lab name to view their website.

University of Toronto Mississauga:
Our lab’s research focus is the relationship between sex, social behaviour, and adult neural plasticity. We use naked mole-rats to study this question because they exhibit the most rigidly organized social and reproductive hierarchy among mammals. Naked mole-rats are eusocial mammals, meaning they have one breeding female who breeds with one to three males; all other animals are subordinates responsible for colony protection and maintenance. Students will be working with two graduate students with complementary but distinct focuses, Mariela Faykoo-Martinez and Ilapreet Toor. Mariela is using a molecular approach to investigate how social environment can postpone puberty in adult naked mole-rats. Ilapreet investigates naked mole-rat social behavior, focusing on dispersal and reproductive strategies, as well as life history of the colony and individual. Students will spend time on both projects to broaden their knowledge on various experiments taking place within a single laboratory. Students will gain exposure to different molecular techniques and behavioural paradigms.
Our lab studies the molecules and brain areas that are responsible for activating the body’s pain response. All of our studies are conducted using non-human animals (i.e. mice) and the current project will explore the brain regions that become activated following the anticipation of pain relief.  We aim to understand the regulation of pain through brain processes and to achieve these aims we use a combination of behavioural, molecular and brain imaging techniques. The student will perform microscope analyses and learn about the various brain structures that become activated during pain and pain relief. This will serve as an introduction into standard practices in the neurosciences.
 The project is a study of how anabolic steroids interact with exercise to change body structure and muscle biochemistry. We are using rats that are genetically modified to make too many receptors for androgens in skeletal muscle to model anabolic steroid action. These rats are leaner and have a higher metabolic rate even when they are sedentary. This experiment will test whether exercise will interact with this exaggerated hormone action by putting these rats through an exercise regimen over the course of several weeks and then measuring body structure (muscle and fat mass and cell size) as well as biochemicals that regulate mitochondria in muscle.
During heat shock (hs) in Drosophila and almost all other organisms, a set of genes known as the hs genes have upregulated transcription. Heat shock factor (HSF) is the transcription factor that regulates hs gene transcription by binding to the promoters and/or other DNA elements leading to the recruitment and stimulation of RNA polymerase II. Drosophila that are missing HSF protein or function arrest during embryogenesis.  This result suggests that HSF has a role in normal development even under non-stress conditions.   More specifically, HSF may be regulating the transcription of genes that are required for progression through development. The objective of the study is to determine the stage(s) in embryogenesis that require HSF activity and to identify the transcriptional targets of HSF at these stages. The project will involve the following techniques:  raising wild type, mutant flies, and GFP reporter embryos; staining and microscopic examination of embryos to identify the stage(s) of arrest; possible assistance of graduate or 4th year students in chromatin immunoprecipitation of embryos at critical developmental times.

University of Toronto:
1. Mitophagy is a cellular process through which cells dispose of mitochondria that are dysfunctional or damaged. In this process, the mitochondria are progressively engulfed by a double membrane, thus forming an autophagosome. The autophagosome is then sent to lysosomes for degradation and recycling of its content. The student will use microscopy techniques to analyze the process of mitophagy in conditions of cellular stress.
2. TFEB is a transcription factor that normally resides in the cytosol. Upon induction of specific stress pathways, TFEB translocates to the nucleus where it interacts with DNA and induces the transcription of specific sets of genes implicated in the biogenesis of lysosomes that are important for allowing autophagy to take place. The student will use biochemical techniques (western blotting) and microscopy techniques to analyze the translocation of TFEB to the nucleus during infection with intracellular bacterial pathogens.

NOTE: Labs at Ryerson University will not be participating in this program this year as of January 18, 2018, due to availability of lab space. We apologize for the inconvenience.