Dr. Charles Ishak, PhD.

LIA2017-8 (1)Charles completed an Honour’s Bachelor of Science at the University of Toronto prior to initiating graduate studies within the laboratory of Dr. Fred Dick at Western University and the London Regional Cancer Program in 2011. As a graduate student, Charles discovered that a frequently targeted tumor suppressor protein regulates repetitive sequences within ‘non-coding’ regions of the genome to maintain genomic integrity. Following defense of his thesis in 2017, Charles joined the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre as a postdoctoral fellow, funded in-part through a 2017 Princess Margaret Excellence Postdoctoral Fellowship. His current research explores how tumor suppressor functions at repetitive regions direct clonal evolution and promote immune evasion.

Charles has engaged in scientific outreach through the London CCS RIOT team, authoring numerous articles, participating in outreach videos, and volunteering with ‘Let’s Talk Cancer’. Charles hopes to continue his scientific outreach efforts through the Toronto CCS RIOT team.

Outside of the lab and beyond science outreach, Charles stays active through hockey, and enjoys exploring live music events around the city.

Douglas Chung, HBSc, PhD Candidate, Department of Immunology, University of Toronto.

douglas-chung-pictureDouglas is currently a research assistant working in Dr. Pamela Ohashi’s Lab at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. He recently received his Honours Bachelors of Science at McMaster University with a double major in biology and psychology, and minor in biochemistry. Douglas aspires to become a neuro-oncologist and a scientist conducting research in cancer immunotherapy, a type of treatment that uses a person’s immune system to fight cancer. He is currently interested in exploring methods to increase effectiveness of T cell immune therapies against cancer by overcoming the ways that tumours suppress the immune system. Through a collaboration with other scientists, he is also studying the role immune cells play when they are situated within ovarian tumours. Beyond lab work, Douglas also has a passion for community outreach and science communication. Through RIOT, he wishes to increase accessibility of findings from current cancer research to patients, their families, and the community at large. Douglas is also a rock climbing enthusiast, a competitive fencing athlete, and a pilot.

Joan Miguel Romero, HBSc, MSc Candidate, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto.

JoanHaving lost his father to pancreatic cancer, Joan Miguel decided to pursue a career in cancer research and medicine to further understand the mechanisms of cancer and help patients suffering from this lethal malignancy. He received his Honours Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto in 2017, specializing in Pathobiology and majoring in Immunology. He is currently in the Master’s program in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto. His research interests lie in understanding the role of the immune system in the tumour microenvironment of pancreatic cancer.. He is conducting his work at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research as part of the PanCuRx Translational Research Initiative, led by Dr. Steven Gallinger. Ultimately, Joan Miguel intends on pursuing a career in oncology, as he is passionate about bringing medical and scientific research together to drive novel therapeutics for cancer patients.

Joan Miguel has been actively involved in raising awareness for cancer, as well as cancer research. During his undergraduate degree, he spent his summers researching prostate and pancreatic cancer. Combining this with his passion for cancer outreach, last year he served as co-president for Vic For a Cure, a cancer charity initiative at the University of Toronto. He is thrilled to be a part of RIOT to continue raising awareness for cancer research to the public, as well as working with the team to help inspire the next generation of cancer scientists.

Joan Miguel enjoys playing both metal and classical guitar, weight training, coaching archery at the university, and travelling.

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.

Joseph Longo, HBSc, PhD Candidate, Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto.

joseph-longo-pictureJoseph received his Bachelor of Science degree from the Honours Molecular Biology and Genetics program at McMaster University, and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto. Under the supervision of Dr. Linda Penn at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Joseph is studying whether statins, a family of drugs commonly prescribed for the management of high cholesterol, can be used to treat cancer. He is using both cell line and patient-derived tissue models to identify the types of cancer that are most sensitive to statins, and how to maximize the anti-cancer potential of statins without harming normal cells.

Joseph joined the Toronto RIOT team because he believes that progress in cancer research should be communicated to the general public in a way that is clear and easy to understand. Through volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and RIOT, Joseph hopes to promote awareness of the cancer research being conducted across Canada and around the world, and effectively communicate the relevance of this research to society.

Outside of the lab, Joseph is an avid swimmer and enjoys reading and traveling.

Julia Jaramillo, BMSc, MSc Candidate, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto.
Julia_BIP_1773Julia 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.

Erika Luis, MSc.


Erika completed her BSc at McGill University with an honours specialization in Biochemistry. There, she gained her first insights into cancer research by completing an undergraduate thesis with Dr. Julie St-Pierre. Her project investigated the relationship between mitochondrial metabolism and cell migration in breast cancer. Erika went on to complete her MSc degree at the University of Toronto, in The Department of Molecular Genetics, with a focus on understanding the therapy-resistant population in the brain tumour medulloblastoma. Currently, she is a researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Peter Dirks at the Hospital for Sick Children where her research is centred on understanding the developmental origins of medulloblastoma and how anomalies during development can lead to downstream tumour initiation.

Erika is passionate about increasing public understanding of science and disease and values new opportunities that allow her to do so. Outside the lab, Erika can be found riding her bike in search of the city’s best cup of coffee.

Zeynep Kahramanoğlu, MSc., Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

BioRiotZeynep 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).

Sangeetha Paramathas, HBSc, PhD Candidate, The Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto.

Sangeetha Bio Pic.jpegSangeetha completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto in immunology and cell biology. She is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Toronto, in the Department of Medical Biophysics under the supervision of Dr. David Malkin at the Hospital for Sick Children. Her current research work involves identifying and testing the use of liquid biopsies as a way to detect and manage cancer. Liquid biopsies, most notably blood tests, are a promising way to monitor and identify cancers by characterizing free-floating cancer cells and/or tumour DNA in the bloodstream. Sangeetha is testing this technique specifically for the hereditary cancer syndrome, Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS). Through her research, Sangeetha hopes that this highly sensitive and specific way to screen for cancer will enable earlier detection and diagnosis of cancers in patients who have a very high risk of developing cancers.

Sangeetha is actively involved in the non-profit sector through many different initiatives. She is involved with science outreach with the charity S.E.E.D.S., which offers life science education to youth across Ontario to aid in the empowerment and development of health leaders and advocates through social innovation. Funnily, just when she was looking for outreach initiatives related to cancer research, she discovered the RIOT team and jumped at the opportunity. Through RIOT, she is able to share her work as a cancer researcher and speak to cancer research with various members of the community through workshops, presentations and blogs. She hopes to share the notion that cancer research is an ever-changing field with cool science being performed on a daily basis!

Dr. Patty Sachamitr, PhD.

PattyPatty received her Master’s of Science from University of York, UK in 2011 and a Doctorate in Philosophy in Stem Cell Biology and Immunology from the University of Oxford in 2016, where she investigated the differentiation of immune cells from stem cells for HIV-1 immunotherapy.  She is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow working jointly in Dr. Peter Dirks’ lab at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and at the Structural Genomics Consortium. She is currently engaged in the discovery and validation of drugs for the treatment of  Glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive brain cancer in adults.

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.

Dr. Kevin Lan, PhD.

KevinKevin completed a Honour’s Bachelor of Science at the University of Toronto, where he learned about cancer research through a 4th year independent research project under the supervision of Dr. Jason Moffat. During this time he also developed an interest in the intersection of computer science and medicine, and the potential for genomics to further our understanding of basic tumour biology. He is now finishing a PhD degree in the lab of Dr. Peter Dirks at The Hospital for Sick Children. His project is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and is focused on understanding how human glioblastoma tumours escape frontline therapies and develop recurrences which are drug resistant. Kevin is especially excited to work with such a group of bright and motivated individuals as the Research Information Outreach Team, and look forward to discussing cancer research with communities in Toronto.

Dr. Nathan Schachter, PhD.

Nathan Schachter PhotoAfter completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario in 2009, Nathan began studying breast cancer at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. His PhD project, funded by the Terry Fox Research Institute and the Ontario Provincial Government, aims to identify mutations that cause breast tumors to spread to other areas of the body. These findings are expected to aid the development of therapies to treat the most lethal stage of breast cancer— when cancer cells have traveled away from the breast and established themselves in distant organs, such as the lung. Nathan’s scientific expertise is in animal models of cancer and molecular biology.

Outside the lab, Nathan enjoys watching and re-watching episodes of Suits, volunteering, and working off stress at the gym. He’s also a big movie buff. Nathan is very excited to have joined the RIOT team early in November, 2014.

Dr. Martin Smith, PhD.

msmith_pic(2)After looking around and realizing that cancer has an impact on so many people across Canada, Dr. Martin Smith took on a PhD at the University of Waterloo, where he studied biochemistry and how proteins can lead to cancer.  Then, joining SickKids, Martin worked as a postdoctoral fellow to continue his research and develop his skills in cancer biochemistry and protein structure. As part of this exciting collaboration, Martin studied the structure of the protein called vacA, from the bacteria Helicobacter pylori.  Successfully finishing his postdoctoral fellowship, Martin joined The Ontario Brain Institute where he works with researchers to study brain disease. Martin joined the RIOT team because it brings together his passion for science and communication. Outside the RIOT, he puts his biochemistry to work by learning about the culinary arts and fermentation techniques.

Dr. Katie Wright, PhD.

LI profileKatie Wright completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Life Sciences at Queen’s University in 2006, where she became interested in molecular biology, leading her to pursue graduate studies at the University of Toronto. She completed her PhD in 2014, during which she developed breast cancer models in mice and identified how certain genes work together to cause the spread of cancer cells leading to what is known as ‘metastasis’. Currently Katie shares her passion for science by working as a teacher, educating undergraduate students in biology and biochemistry.

Katie has been involved in various science outreach initiatives throughout her time at the University of Toronto, including SciHigh, Let’s Talk Science, StemCellTalks, and most notably as the Head program Liaison for Science Rendezvous in 2014. She is excited to bring her cancer research and outreach expertise to RIOT in order to promote public understanding of the importance of research for development of new therapies and improvement of the quality of life of cancer patients. In her spare time, Katie enjoys staying active with long distance running and yoga, and loves to cook and try out new recipes.

James SeongJun Han, HBSc, MSc Candidate, Department of Immunology, University of Toronto

James Han PictureJames completed his undergraduate degree in McMaster’s Integrated Science program, and is currently in his first year of graduate studies at the University of Toronto. He is currently conducting cancer research at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, under the supervision of Dr. P. Ohashi. His research focuses on understanding the ways in which T cells, which are immune cells important in combating against cancer, fight back against immune cells that try to suppress the ability of T cells to fight off cancer. Using the immune system to fight cancer is a promising new line of cancer treatment. James hopes that his research will help to generate T cells that can overcome any resistance signals from other immune cells and the tumour surroundings. This approach would likely enhance the effectiveness of current immunotherapies. James is actively engaged in numerous non-profit organizations and community-based initiatives. One of his focuses involves inspiring and engaging university students and young professionals in science through international leadership conferences, leadership competitions and workshops to generate future leaders of Canada. He is currently serving as the president of the Young Generation National, a national governing body of the Association of Korean-Canadian Scientists & Engineers’ university chapters distributed across Canada. James joined RIOT because he sees significant value in communication between the general public and researchers, and he also finds passion in talking about up-to-date research to the general public. He enjoys traveling in his spare time.

Nandini Raghuram, H.BSc., PhD Candidate, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto.

Nandini PictureNandini received her Bachelor of Science from the University of British Columbia in Cell and Developmental Biology in 2011. She is currently in the fourth year of her PhD at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on developing mouse models of breast cancers to understand how certain types of breast cancer develop. By doing so, her work will help us understand these different forms of the disease and eventually could lead to better, more effective therapies.

Her projects are funded by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society. In the past, Nandini has been invited by the Canadian Cancer Society to speak at fundraising events about her research and thoroughly enjoyed it. Therefore when the opportunity to join RIOT arose she jumped at it. She believes that communication between scientists and the public is essential for increasing awareness and knowledge about cancer.

In her spare time, Nandini likes to discover the eclectic cuisines found in Toronto as well as get in a couple of games of tennis each week.

Nicole Park, MSc, PhD Candidate, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto.

Nicole Park

Nicole learned at an early age that she wanted to better understand cancer in an effort to help patients and their families. In addition to researching new cancer therapies, she aims to bridge the knowledge gap between the scientific community and those affected by cancer.

She completed her MSc degree at Western University using computer algorithms to study how different genes involved in breast cancer influence the response to chemotherapy. She is now completing her PhD degree at the University of Toronto, in the SickKids Research Institute, where she studies the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. She is currently studying how specific genes affect the function of cancer cells, and how to target those genes as a therapy.

Nicole’s passion has been to give back to the community that has continuously helped supprt and fund cancer research. Through speaking events for high school students, fundraisers, cancer patients and survivors, she aims to provide education on the fundamentals of cancer, as well as the new and exciting discoveries being made today.

Mathew Hall, MSc.

2015-03-25 22.43.36Mathew Hall is a researcher currently working in Dr. Brent Derry’s lab at the Hospital for Sick Children. He uses a non-human species, the worm called Caenorhabditis elegans, to understand how cancer genes work. By introducing mutations that cause human cancer in the worms, he is able to study how the genes affected by these mutations alter fundamental biology – turning normal growth into abnormal growth. In doing so, he learns how to suppress these changes and is currently working on a project that shows how this can be applied to human cancers. Mathew received his Master of Science from the University of Toronto in 2014 and his Bachelor of Science in 2010 from Western University.

Michael Pryszlak, HBSc, PhD Candidate, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto.

mike-updated-pictureMichael received an Honours Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto in Cell & Molecular Biology and Human Biology in 2013. He is currently in the fourth year of his PhD in Molecular Genetics, also at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on the idea that genes that regulate stem cells are conserved throughout evolution and become dysregulated in cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells are thought to be responsible for initiating tumour growth and causing tumour relapse. Mike is trying to further our understanding of how these genes work to design treatments focused on targeting cancer stem cells. By targeting cancer stem cells, it may be possible to treat cancer more successfully and prevent cancer from returning after treatment.

Mike is of the belief that science should always be presented in a way that anyone can understand it and has always sought out opportunities to lend his expertise to make it so. “If you can’t explain what you’re doing simply, you don’t understand it well enough yourself!” For this reason, Mike decided to volunteer for the Canadian Cancer Society, specifically with the RIOT team.

Outside of the lab, Mike is interested in anything and everything related to Sherlock Holmes, Superman and triathlons.

Stanley Zhou, HBSc, PhD Candidate, Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto

StanleyStanley received his Honours Bachelors of Science degree with a double-major in Cell and Systems Biology and Human Biology: Health and Disease in 2015. In December 2015, Stanley joined Dr. Mathieu Lupien at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre to study cancer genomics and epigenomics. Specifically, Stanley is investigating how changes in the three-dimensional organization of DNA inside a cell can alter the expression of various genes to drive prostate cancer progression.

Stanley is a huge supporter of scientific outreach and science communication. By joining Toronto RIOT, Stanley sees a fantastic opportunity to directly give back to the community through educating the public about the tremendous progress made in cancer research.

Outside of the laboratory, Stanley enjoys discovering new music and cheering on the Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, Raptors and Manchester United.

Dr. Katherine Rowland, PhD.

Katie R_cropped picAfter completing both an Honour’s Bachelor of Science and a PhD degree at the University of Toronto, Katie started a post-doctoral fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children in 2011, where her interest lies in the field of cancer stem cells, which are the specific cancer cells thought to be responsible for tumour growth, drug resistance and relapse. Katie has been a researcher in the areas of cancer and stem cells for 10 years with a specific focus on the brain and gut. During her graduate studies, she created an animal model through collaboration with scientists at Marie Curie Institute, Paris and Harvard to study how a certain class of drugs specifically work and their effects on intestinal growth. Her current research focuses on discovering new drugs and understanding how a certain type of brain cancer, called glioblastoma, develops. Her projects are funded by Brain Canada, CIBC and the Canadian Cancer Society. As a volunteer with the Society, Katie wishes to educate and speak about cancer research and cancer prevention through community outreach.

Outside of time in the lab, Katie enjoys taking part with Team Fortesque in the annual Terry Fox Run as well as spinning classes at the gym.



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