Current Members

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.

Matthew Maitland, MSc

MMcircMatt 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.

Claire Park, BMSc

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 and ultrasound to improve sampling of early stage breast tumours.

olha haydaychuk

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.

Garen tu, BSc

GTGeran is a MSc Candidate in the Department of Chemistry at Western University, working under the supervision Dr. Len Luyt.  He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry at Western University.  His research focuses on the synthesis of peptide-based molecules targeting the ghrelin receptor, which has been implicated in the development of several types of cancer as well as playing a role in obesity.

Peter zhang, BSc

PZPeter (Yu Fan) 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.


Christopher Zhang is a fourth year undergraduate student completing his BMSc 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.

Jessica Rodgers, BSc

JRodgersJessica Rodgers is currently in the third year of her PhD 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.

Nourhan Shalaby, MSc

NScircNourhan Shalaby is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Drs. John Ronald and Timothy Scholl.  Nourhan exploits the stiffness property of breast cancer, which is commonly used by woman for self-assessment, to develop a stiffness-sensing cancer-activatable cell system. The cell system is genetically engineered to specifically target cancer lesions and activate expression of reporter genes that can improve detection of tumour lesions using widely available medical imaging technologies, such as PET and/or MRI. Furthermore, the cell system can be genetically modified to include a therapeutic component to allow for treatment of breast cancer at earlier disease states.

Jenny Zhong, MSc

JZcircShanshan (Jenny) 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.

Community Volunteers

Lee Jones


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

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.