RIOT is made up of a dedicated group of volunteers who are specialists in the fields of cancer research. Learn more about their work and how they became involved with RIOT by browsing the following pages.

Garrett Bullivant, HBSc, PhD Candidate, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto

garrett_bip_1969-2.jpgGarrett received his BSc from McMaster University with an honours specialization in Molecular Biology and Genetics. There, he began recognizing his keen interest in cancer research through an undergraduate thesis with Dr. Jon Draper. His project focused on the canonical and non-canonical roles of TP53 in breast cancer.

Currently, Garrett is pursuing his PhD in Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto, working in the lab of Dr. Peter Dirks. His project is focused on glioblastoma, which is the most common primary, malignant brain tumour. Specifically, he looks at how brain cancer cells are able to evade differentiation signals in order to sustain their uncontrolled cell division. Garrett is passionate about sharing his expertise in cancer biology and mentoring young people interested in science. As such, Garrett has taken on the role of High School Talks lead for the 2019-2020 academic year. Outside of the lab Garrett enjoys hiking, hockey, and following the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Dr. Isabela Gonzaga, PhD.


Isabela received her Doctorate in Oncology from Brazilian National Cancer Institute in 2018. Her thesis was aimed to characterize and investigate the therapeutic potential of cancer stem cells from esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, the 5th cause of death by cancer in Brazil. In 2017, she lived 6 months in Toronto for a collaboration in Dr. Daniel de Carvalho’s Lab to test the efficacy of an epigenetic drug on esophageal cancer stem cells inhibition. After defending her thesis, she moved back to Toronto as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Dr. Daniel de Carvalho’s Lab at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, where she is currently working on molecular mechanisms behind the combination of epigenetic and pro-apoptotic drugs in Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

Isabela is engaged in science communication since her time as an undergrad student, organizing conferences, summer-training program, events for High School students and elaborating an online platform to bring awareness about the science advances. She joined as a RIOTś member in 2019, working on the website management and social media content.


Julia Jaramillo, BMSc, MSc Candidate, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto.

julia_bip_1773-e1551728677403.jpgJulia obtained her Bachelor of Medical Sciences degree from Western University, where she completed an honours specialization in Biochemistry. It was here that she became involved in scientific research, working in Dr. Ilka Heinemann’s lab. Here, she investigated the regulation of RNA, an important intermediate between DNA and protein, using fission yeast as a model organism.

Julia is currently pursuing her Master of Science degree in Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto, working in the lab of Dr. Peter Dirks at the Hospital for Sick Children. Her project investigaates Glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive primary brain cancer in adults. She is working to understand the functional differences between patients’ tumours to identify sensitivities that can be exploited for therapeutic purposes.

From organizing fundraising events to conducting research, Julia has actively pursued cancer research since she was a high school student. She is passionate about sharing knowledge and mentoring young people interested in science. Outside of the lab, Julia enjoys playing volleyball, traveling and spending time with family.

Dr. Kinjal Desai, PhD.

desai_photoKinjal received her Bachelor of Science from St. Xavier’s College, India, and her Doctorate of Philosophy from Dartmouth College, USA. Her thesis work uncovered genetic changes that modified a key gene involved in breast cancer, which promotes progression of the disease. This fuelled her interest in understanding how signals within a cell dictate how genes can turned on or off in cancer. She is now a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, where she works on medulloblastoma, the most commonly occurring malignant brain tumour in children. Her research goal is to learn more about the reliance of brain cancer cells on these key signals in order to develop potential treatments to treat brain cancer.

Kinjal believes that good research is incomplete without the effective communication of the scientific findings to the community at large and is excited to be an active participant at R.I.O.T.. Outside of research, Kinjal enjoys baking, tennis, and classical concerts.

Dr. Patty Sachamitr, PhD.

Patty lab picture

Patty received her Doctorate in Stem Cell Biology and Immunology from University of Oxford in 2016, where she investigated the differentiation of immune cells from stem cells for Immunotherapy.  She then moved from the UK to Toronto to pursue a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Dr. Peter Dirks’ laboratory at the Hospital for Sick Children where she was engaged in the discovery and validation of drugs for the treatment of  Glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive brain cancer in adults. She currently works as a Scientist in the Translation Immunology group at Bluerock Therapeutics, a Toronto-based cell therapy company.

During her Masters and PhD, Patty was actively involved in organizing conferences, networking events and communicating research. She believes that scientific outreach is key to increasing public awareness of the importance of scientific research and is essential to inspire young students to pursue STEM careers. Outside the lab, Patty is passionate about yoga, scuba diving, travelling and cooking.

Patty is currenly one of the two co-ordinators of RIOT Toronto.

Rochelle McAdam

bip_1835.jpgRochelle attended Queen’s University for her undergraduate degree and graduated with a Bachelor of Science, Specialization in Life Sciences. Her interest in research started at Queen’s when she undertook a thesis project in the Lab of Dr. Michael Rauh where she studied mis-splicing events in Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia.

Rochelle is currently a PhD student in the Molecular Genetics Department at the University of Toronto and is jointly supervised by Drs. Peter Dirks and Xi Huang. She uses drosophila, mouse, and cell culture techniques to study the role of membrane potential in the pediatric brain tumour medulloblastoma.

Since getting involved with cancer research, Rochelle has noticed gaps in the general public’s understanding of research initiatives. By working with RIOT, Rochelle hopes to help fill these gaps by engaging with the general public at educational events and writing informational blog posts about current cancer research initiatives.

Zeynep Kahramanoğlu, MSc., Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

bioriot.jpegZeynep received her B.Sc. at the University of Guelph, specializing in Molecular Biology and Genetics. Later, she earned her master’s degree in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine with a collaborative degree in Developmental Biology from Western University. Her master’s thesis focused on the effects of chemotherapy on late-stage ovarian cancer tumour cells and surrounding tumour blood vessels. Her experience as a researcher developed through several institutions including Mt. Sinai Hospital and the Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower, where she studied a variety of cancers such as osteosarcoma and breast cancer. She currently works as a research technician in a tumour immunology lab. Zeynep was also a member of the London RIOT team during her master’s studies. She is a passionate writer and enjoys writing about scientific concepts, research and discoveries. Zeynep is a firm believer in open and accurate communication between researchers and the general public, and as such, greatly values the RIOT initiative for community outreach.

In her spare time, she enjoys kickboxing, windsurfing and reviewing restaurants (as a completely unqualified food expert).

List of Past Members who contributed for RIOT in Toronto.