Current Members

olha haydaychuk, Co-Chair

OH_2Olha is a fourth year undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Medical Sciences degree with an Honours Specialization in Biochemistry of Infection and Immunity at Western University. Throughout her undergraduate studies, Olha has been involved in research under the co-supervision of Specific Biologics Inc. and Dr. Edgell at Western University. Olha is actively working on developing a platform gene editing technology consisting of a CRISPR-based dual-cleaving nuclease that can be safely delivered to cells for the treatment of various genetic diseases, with an initial focus on lung cancer (non-small-cell lung carcinoma) and cystic fibrosis.

Claire Park, Co-Chair

CPcircClaire Park is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Medical Biophysics, supervised by Dr. Aaron Fenster. Claire received her Honours Bachelor of Medical Sciences degree in Medical Biophysics (Clinical Physics Concentration) and Applied Mathematics at Western University. Her current research focuses on developing a mechatronic image-guided biopsy system using positron emission mammography (PEM) and ultrasound to improve spatial sampling of early stage breast cancer.

Matthew Maitland, MSc, Past chair (2018-2020)

MMcircMatthew is a PhD Candidate working under the supervision of Dr. Caroline Schild-Poulter and Dr. Gilles Lajoie at Robarts Research Institute and the Department of Biochemistry at Western University. His research project focuses on RanBPM, a protein that controls the behaviour of cancer cells. He is using variety of molecular biology and proteomic tools to better understand the mechanistic basis for how RanBPM functions.

Lee Jones, co-founder, Past Chair (2010-2018), Community Member


Lee Jones is a co-founding member of the first Research Information Team which was founded in London, ON in 2010. Lee is a Certified Volunteer Resources Manager (CVRM) whose passion for cancer research was ignited while she was a Volunteer Engagement Specialist for the CCS Elgin-Middlesex Community Office from 2008-2010. Lee’s growing understanding of the impact of intersecting of the mapping of the human genome; the state of technology enabling the communication of massive of amounts of highly detailed data almost instantaneously; and the breaking down of the walls of proprietary and growth of collaboration within scientific research; inspired Lee to want to share the progress and promise of cancer research with the public at large.

While Lee moved on to work with other organizations in her role as a volunteer resources manager and establish her own volunteer management consulting business she maintained her active role with RIOT as Chair of the London team. Lee worked with Dr. Kelly Fathers at the CCS Ontario Division office to capture and articulate the mission, vision, and values of RIOT to provide the foundation for teams emerging in other cities with thriving cancer research communities. Lee enjoys providing orientation, support, and inspiration to RIOT Chairs.

Lee is extremely proud of the accomplishments of the RIOT team and experiences a deep sense of fulfillment in their success and recognition. She feels deep gratitude to Angie, the many members of the team over the years, and the many community partners, who have provided her with a supportive place to grow her own brand of leadership skills. Lee has no problem with not being the smartest person in the room. In fact, those very circumstances have enabled her to learn quite a lot!

Megan Sherritt, MA, Communications specialist, community member

Megan Sherritt is a PhD Candidate at the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism, under the supervision of Dr. Allan Pero, as well as a psychotherapy student at the Toronto Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis. Megan has received Masters of Arts degrees in English and in philosophy and has past experience as a communications specialist. She provides invaluable expertise in helping the team transition information written within academic and scientific traditions to public media standards while still maintaining the accuracy and integrity of the work.

Sally Esmail, pHd

SEcircSally Esmail completed a PhD in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular biology from the University of Toronto. Her research philosophy is to employ a multidisciplinary approach combining biochemistry, immuno-oncology, biotechnology, bioinformatics, transcriptomics, phosphoproteomics, proteomics, cell and molecular biology in order to conduct basic, pre-clinical, and translational research. Since 2007, she has contributed to the field through multiple first-author publication in top peer reviewed international journals, international patents and presentations in national and international scientific meetings. Reflective of her research excellence and productivity, she obtained several competitive external funding and numerous travel awards and was invited to give oral presentations in national and international conferences.

In 2017, she moved to The Li lab at University of Western Ontario to pursue a postdoctoral research in immunooncology. She is currently using interdisciplinary approach to study the fundamental molecular mechanisms of (1) cancer immune escape, (2) immune cell regulation by immunocheckpoint molecules and maintenance of self-tolerance, (3) resistance of cancer to immunotherapy and her research ultimately will lead to the development of novel immunotherapeutic approaches for hard-to-treat cancer.

Jessica Rodgers, PhD

JRodgersJessica Rodgers is a PhD Candidate under the supervision of Dr. Aaron Fenster, in the Imaging Area of the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program at Western University. Jessica received her undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Engineering at Queen’s University in 2014. Jessica’s current research focuses on improving needle positioning during high-dose-rate interstitial gynaecological brachytherapy by introducing 3D ultrasound guidance during the procedure.

Owen Hovey, mSc

TBCRUOwen Hovey is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Biochemistry under the supervision of Dr. Shawn Li. Breast cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body, primarily lungs and bones, and this migration is known as metastasis. A primary mechanism for cell migration is the phosphorylation-switch or P-switch though some breast cancers have deactivated their P-switch and used an alternative mechanism. He aims to figure out how some breast cancer migrates without the use of the P-switch. By understanding this, he can design a specific peptide inhibitor that can be used to prevent the spread of breast cancer.



Christopher Zhang is a fourth year undergraduate student completing his Bachelor of Medical Sciences double major in physiology and medical cell biology at Western University. Chris currently volunteers in the lab of Dr. Silvia Penuela where he helps with research focused on uncovering the role of channel forming protein PANX1 in melanoma.

Shanshan (Jenny) Zhong, Msc

JZcircJenny Zhong is a PhD Candidate in the department of Biochemistry, under the supervision of Dr. Shawn Li. It is commonly believed that immune cells such as T cells in the microenvironment of cancer can effectively inhibit the growth of the tumor. To avoid being killed by cytotoxic T cells, tumors often express a kind of transmembrane protein called PD-L1 which would bind to its receptor PD-1 on T cells so to turn off the T cell-mediated immune responses. Her project aims to develop a novel class of peptide inhibitors targeting on PD-1/PD-L1 signaling and evaluate their therapeutic potential in cancer treatment.

PZYu Fan (Peter) zeng

Peter Zeng is a MD/PhD Candidate working Dr. Anthony Nichols. His clinical and research interest lies in understanding why certain patients fail treatments in different types of head and neck cancer patients. Using next-generation sequencing technologies, he is using both wet-lab and computational approaches to find novel biomarkers, develop new treatment regimens for these high-risk patients, and translate his findings into the clinic.

Veronica dubois

headshotRIOT2020apVeronica Dubois is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Medical Biophysics, supervised by Dr. John Ronald and co-supervised by Dr. Paula Foster. Veronica received her Honours Bachelor in Medical Sciences degree in Medical Biophysics at Western University. Her project focuses on chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells, a cancer cell therapy that uses modified immune cells to target and kill cancer cells. She is developing techniques to monitor CAR-T cell behaviour during treatment using magnetic resonance imaging.

Madeleine van de kleut, PhD

MVDKMadeleine completed her Bachelor’s (Medical Biophysics) and PhD (Biomedical Engineering) at Western University, with her doctoral studies supervised by Dr. Matthew Teeter. Her research focuses on x-ray imaging techniques for the in vivo assessment of shoulder replacements. She is currently pursuing an MSc in Clinical Medical Biophysics, with the goal of becoming a medical physicist.

tricia chinnery

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Tricia is an MSc Candidate in the Department of Medical Biophysics, supervised by Dr. Sarah Mattonen. She completed her Honours Bachelor of Science in Medical Physics at McMaster University. Her current research focuses on extracting quantitative imaging information from the CTs of oropharyngeal cancer patients treated with radiotherapy. She uses machine learning techniques to develop image analysis tools to predict patient outcomes, such as recurrence and treatment toxicity.

Natasha Knier

12E097C1-A5C3-43B7-BA04-A822F8EADFD7 copyNatasha Knier is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Medical Biophysics, supervised by Dr. Paula Foster. Previously, Natasha received her Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Health Studies (Co-operative Education) from the University of Waterloo in 2018. Her current research focuses on using cellular magnetic resonance imaging and early radiotherapy to study and track the fate of breast cancer cells that remain dormant in the brain and cause cancer recurrence.

Sawyer badiuk, msc

IMG_8466Sawyer Badiuk is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Medical Biophysics, working under the supervision of Dr. Eugene Wong and Dr. Jeff Chen. Sawyer received a CAMPEP-accredited Masters in Medical Physics from the University of Manitoba in 2019. She currently studies the efficacy of breast cancer brain metastases treatment using novel imaging techniques. Her research involves monitoring the response of the brain and cancer cells following radiation treatment, with the overall goal of preventing new and recurring brain metastases.

Julia Gevaert

LyERt8jQJulia Gevaert is an MSc Candidate in the Department of Medical Biophysics, supervised by Dr. Paula Foster. Previously, she completed her Honours BSc in Medical Physics (Co-operative Education) from McMaster University. Her research project is focused on the development of a new imaging modality, Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI), to quantify and track cancer cells in-vivo. Currently, she is exploring novel super paramagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIOs) that can be used as tracers for cell tracking with MPI.

Kierstin melo

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Kierstin Melo is an MSc Candidate in the Department of Medical Biophysics at Western University, supervised by Dr. Paula Foster. Her research focuses on developing a new imaging method called Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI). Her work uses this new method to help find and track breast cancer cells that have spread (metastasized) to the brain.

melissa evans


Melissa Evans is an MSc Candidate in the Department of Medical Biophysics, working under the supervision of Dr. John Ronald. She received her Honours Bachelor of Sciences degree in Biotechnology/ Economics at the University of Waterloo. Her research focuses on developing a cell imaging system to track novel cancer therapies that employ the patients own immune cells to treat the cancer.  Through clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas) which acts as “DNA scissors”, imaging reporter genes can be inserted into specific “safe harbour” sites in the cell’s DNA so they may be imaged in the body using various medical imaging technologies.

petra samardzija


Petra Samardzija is an MSc Candidate in the Physiology and Pharmacology and Developmental Biology collaborative program. Petra received her Bachelor of Medical Sciences degree with an Honours Specialization in Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences at Western University. Her project is co-supervised by Dr. Christopher Pin and Dr. Peter Stathopulos and focuses on a pancreas-specific isoform of the calcium regulatory protein, Secretory Pathway Ca2+ ATPase 2, termed SPCA2C. Specifically, she is verifying potential protein interactions and analyzing the role of SPCA2C in calcium transport, pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer.

SEUNG (Joon) kim

SJ Kim 2017Seung (JoonKim completed his undergraduate degree in biochemistry in 2016 at Western University. Under Dr. Fred Dick’s supervision at Victoria Research Labs, his doctoral research investigates the role of repetitive DNA sequences on tumourigenesis and immune activation using NGS, targeted mutant and knock-out animal models. His project may inform the use of epigenetic drugs in clinical trials to adjuvant immunotherapy.

B191AB04-AEDE-49EA-B31E-027C1E09FAF8komila zakirova

Komila is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, working under the supervision of Dr. Fred Dick. She received her Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of Guelph. Her research focuses on elucidating the genetic factors contributing to metastasis in ovarian cancer.

sareh bagherichimeh

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Sareh Bagherichimeh is an MSc Candidate at Western University under the supervision of Dr. Art Poon. She received her HBSc. in Genome Biology from University of Toronto. Sarah’s current research focuses on examining the phylodynamics of HIV within hosts, to better understand the HIV latent reservoir.