MET at SFU / Masters of Environmental Toxicology
Welcome to the home of Simon Fraser University’s Master of Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program! Here you can find information about Masters of Environmnetal Toxicology (MET), learn more about the research being conducted, and meet the students involved.

What is Enviromental Toxicology?

Environmental Toxicology is an exciting and rapidly developing field in environmental science that is concerned with understanding the harmful effects of chemicals on humans and wildlife. An additional, important aspect of environmental toxicology is determining the likelihood that harmful effects will occur under certain exposure scenarios (risk assessment).

THE MET PROGRAM

Our mission is to train new environmental toxicologists and address pertinent environmental toxicology questions through education and research. The multi-disciplinary and professional nature of the MET program addresses a variety of training demands not encountered in the more traditional scientific disciplines. The MET program at SFU is a professional degree that provides MET graduates with training in basic and applied sciences with real world work skills.

The main objectives of the MET Program are to:

  • Meet national and international needs for trained toxicologists.
  • Facilitate communication between toxicologists and other environmental scientists.
  • Develop and maintain high standards of research and education in toxicology.

Our graduate program offers specialization in areas such as chemical fate in the environment and bioavailability, pharmaco- and toxicokinetic modeling, biological effects and mechanisms of action. A focus on interdisciplinary approaches and sound science is fundamental to our education and research activities. At the inception of the MET program at SFU in 2001 and today, we are on of only several formalized toxicology training programs in Canada.

Training and education of graduate students

You will work with a faculty member in conjunction with an advisory committee to develop a program of study tailored to your needs and interests, and to help you reach your professional goals. The MET degree requires 32 hours of course credits, and at least 10 credits of dissertation research (BISC 656), and a defended dissertation in your major discipline area. The program can be completed in 2 years full time, and can be taken part-time as well.

Graduation Requirements:

  1. Selecting your supervisor and advisory committee
  2. Approval of a graduate plan of study (courses and project)
  3. Approval of a graduate research proposal
  4. Successful completion of all classes listed in calendar (32 credit hours) *
  5. Research and completed thesis
  6. Successful defense of thesis

* A co-operative education option is available to MET students in which students complete two semesters of paid work experience during their studies. Please note that suitable co-op placements cannot be guaranteed.

Our Faculty

Questions? Concerns? SFU's MET faculty are some of the most knowledgeable in the industry.

Dr. Chris Kennedy
Professor of Biology and Toxicology
Dept. of Biological Sciences
Director of the MET Program
ckennedy@sfu.ca
Dr. Margo Moore
Professor
Dept. of Biological Sciences
Microbiology and Toxicology
mmoore@sfu.ca
Dr. Francis Law
Professor
Dept. of Biological Sciences
Toxicokinetic modeling and risk assessment
flaw@sfu.ca
Dr. Tim Beischlag
Associate Profeessor
Faculty of Health Sciences
Signaling pathways in chemical carcinogenesis
beischlag@sfu.ca
Dr. Frank Gobas
Resource and Environmental Management
Contaminant Fate Modelling
gobas@sfu.ca
Dr. Miriam Rosin
Professor
Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology
Carcinogenesis
rosin@sfu.ca
Dr. Vicki Marlatt
Dept. of Biology
University of the Fraser Valley
vicki.marlatt@ufv.ca

Adjuncts

Dr. Curtis Eickhoff
Director, Business Dev. and Technical Leader
Ecotoxicology
Maxxam Analytics, Burnaby
ceickhoff@maxxam.ca
Dr. Rostam Namdari
Director
Toxicology & Clinical Pharmacology
Xenon Pharmaceuticals Inc.
rnamdari@xenon-pharma.com
Dr. Shannon Bard
Department Head
Risk Assessment & Biological Services
Keystone Environmental
sbard@keystoneenvironmental.ca
Dr. Jorgelina Muscatello
Aquatic Scientist
Environmental Services
Stantec Consulting Ltd.
jorgelina.muscatello@stantec.com

Why Study Toxicology at SFU?

Our outstanding Environmental Toxicology program is not the only reason to attend Simon Fraser University. SFU is a very highly regarded university in Canada and is strategically located on top of Burnaby Mountain in the heart of metro Vancouver.

There are so many ways you can enjoy Vancouver. Are you looking for an exciting night life? Head to Granville and Robson Streets for nightclubs, bars, and concerts. If you’re looking for relaxation and rejuvenation, skip down to Yaletown and get pedicures, go to spas, and dine on the Marina Waterfront. To visitors, and people across the globe, our famous city is known as an international destination with something for everyone; we really have it all! Attractions, events, and family fun abounds for everyone. You can climb white-capped mountains in the morning, go sailing off Spanish Banks in the afternoon, and dine under the stars at one of Vancouver’s many restaurants and sushi bars. Vancouver is warm and welcoming, as well as friendly and vibrant.

Nature is a major love in our city, and you will never be far from the forest, beaches, mountains, or the Pacific Ocean. Many simply come to this city to become inspired by its beauty! It's a City that has a vibrant, and electric mix of thriving businesses, social vibes, and natural beauty. What more could you ask for?

MET STUDENTS / RESEARCH

The students of MET cover a wide range of research topics, from catnip to pancakes. Meet some of our students below, learn about their work, and see what makes them tick.
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Alexander Cancelli

STUDY

Chemical Fate and Bioaccumulation Modelling

HOMETOWN

Toronto, Ontario

ABSTRACT

The aim of my research is to assess the response to contaminant loading, reaction mechanisms, and recovery of a parameterized wetland from exposure to oil sands processed wastewater. Using a modeled environment and time-dependent mass-balance approach, this work will support the construction of wetlands by providing a more complete illustration of chemical fate. In turn, engineering principles may be efficiently applied to optimize prominent mechanisms of chemical degradation and removal.

My work incorporates the Arnot and Gobas (2004) food web bioaccumulation model to assess biological risk through trophic levels from estimated compartment concentrations.

SUPERVISOR

Dr. Frank Gobas

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE ENVIRONMENTAL TOXICOLOGY AT SFU?

I chose the MET program at SFU to contribute and learn from a community of students and faculty. This also was the perfect excuse to move to one of Canada's best cities. The beauty of the city and surroundings makes environmental toxicology a relevant and rewarding program.

IF YOU COULD CHOOSE ONE SUPERPOWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

One superpower....to manipulate gravity, or be super lucky. I could walk across the street without looking and always avoid traffic. Possibly also talk to animals. I've thought about this since I was a child - clearly I can't make up my mind. So maybe a power to make decisions easily?

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ASPECT OF THE MET PROGRAM?

My favourite part of the MET program is definitely the interdisciplinary aspect of this field. Professors, lecturers, and seminar speakers come from all over the world and have a range of expertise. It makes it easy to find the right fit for project work and helps to network with professionals.

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Lindsay Du Gas

STUDY

Aquatic Toxicology

HOMETOWN

Langley, BC

ABSTRACT

My research examines the effects of two current-use pesticides, atrazine and chlorothalonil, on sockeye salmon early life stages. Sockeye were monitored from fertilization to emergence for potential changes in developmental success, timing and growth at hatch and emergence stages. A flow-through gravel-bed incubator system was designed and built at SFU to provide a more natural streambed-like environment in which eggs could be buried and swim-up success of alevin monitored as a toxicological endpoint.

SUPERVISOR

Dr. Chris Kennedy

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE MET PROGRAM AT SFU?

I think it is so valuable to be able to leave a graduate program with a specific skillset that can be immediately applied in a related career!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE JOKE?

What do you call cheese that’s not yours? … NA-CHO cheese!

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Grant Fitzpatrick

STUDY

Aquatic Toxicology

HOMETOWN

Surrey, BC

ABSTRACT

P-glycoprotein (Pgp) is a non-specific, multi-drug resistant, membrane efflux pump that plays an important role in cell xenobiotic regulation and cancer therapy development. The role that Pgp plays in mammals is relatively well understood, however there is little known about the prevalence of Pgp and the blood-brain barrier in fish. I am therefore doing a comparative study between fish and mammals (rainbow trout and lab rats). I am attempting to determine the pharmacokinetics of a known Pgp substrate (ivermectin) in both animals.

Pharmacokinetics basically describes how the drug is absorbed in the body, where it goes, and how it’s eliminated. By comparing the pharmacokinetics of the well understood organism we can get a clearer picture of the poor misunderstood rainbow trout.

SUPERVISOR

Dr. Chris Kennedy

WORDS OF WISDOM

Never attempt to intimidate anyone when you have the hiccups.

Occasionally think, "I know you can read my thoughts," just in case...

Saying "good eye might" will fool any Australian.

Always celebrate your birthday; people with more birthdays live longer 100% of the time.

Sixty-nine percent of people can find something dirty in every sentence, and eleventeen percent of all statistics is made up.

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Jeremy Jackson

STUDY

Molecular Toxicology

HOMETOWN

Vancouver, BC

ABSTRACT

My research falls under the umbrella of aquatic molecular toxicology - the study of the molecular mechanisms of action and detoxification of toxic agents in marine and fresh water organisms. Exposure to toxicants often triggers regulatory responses involving changes to gene and protein expression. My work investigates how the model teleost fish, Danio rerio (zebrafish), regulates the induction of P-glycoprotein, a transmembrane efflux pump involved in the absorption, distribution, and clearance of toxicants within the organism.

Studying such molecular responses in fish improves the sensitivity by which we can detect and predict toxicity at various degrees of chemical exposure in aquatic habitats.

SUPERVISOR

Dr. Chris Kennedy

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE MET PROGRAM AT SFU?

Very few schools in Canada offer anything like the MET program here at SFU. I value the prospect of incorporating the specific training we receive in environmental toxicology to a career where applied science can help make responsible decisions that directly affect the health of our environment.

WOULD YOU HAVE TAKEN THE RED PILL OR THE BLUE PILL?

I regret to say I just took the red pill and answering this question is the reality I awoke to. But seriously, I’d save the red pill for someone with the gift to out speed (?) the matrix. I’m fairly sluggish when it comes to dodging bullets!

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Ryan Lebek

STUDY

Aquatic Toxicology

HOMETOWN

Tsawwassen, BC

ABSTRACT

My research is focused on quantifying the gene expression and induction of a membrane-bound transport protein, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), at the blood brain barrier in Rainbow Trout. P-gp expressed in the endothelium of brain capillaries helps protect the brain from toxic damage by preventing uptake of harmful toxicants from general circulation and into brain tissues. My aim is to further refine our understanding of how fish P-gp gene expression and induction in the blood-brain barrier is affected by exposure to ecologically-relevant doses of current-use pesticides.

SUPERVISOR

Dr. Chris Kennedy

WHAT ACTIVITIES MAKE YOU LOSE TRACK OF TIME?

The biggest time-sink for me would have to be reading. Whether it is for leisure or work/school, reading eats up whatever time is set aside for it and far too often takes time away from my other favorite activities. Throw in a bag of Spitz (seasoned or salted, none of that dill pickle or barbecue!) and I can happily sit there for hours on end, engaged in whatever words are in front of me while running through a half-kilo of sunflower seeds!

WHAT IS THE WORST PRESENT YOU'VE BEEN GIVEN?

Beer - not because I don’t like it (I love it) but because my aunt decided it was a good idea for my cousin to deliver it to me for my 24th birthday. I remember the beer was a German brew and it came with a handy ice bucket - the type of affordable gift I would really appreciate. Unfortunately, all I received was the bucket...the beer having mysteriously disappeared sometime between my cousin receiving my present and delivering it.

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Bonnie Lo

STUDY

Aquatic Toxicology

HOMETOWN

UNKNOWN

ABSTRACT

The excess integration of selenium in protein is believed to be the main mechanism underlying selenium toxicity. Due to similar chemical characteristics, biochemical systems may substitute excess selenium for sulfur in protein structures. To further an understanding of the sulphur-selenium relationship at lower trophic levels of an aquatic food chain, my research project explores the effect of sulphate on the uptake of selenium in a duckweed, algae and invertebrate (Lemna minor, Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata, Daphnia magna). The invertebrate exposure considers dietary selenium in addition to dissolved selenium and sulphate.

SUPERVISOR

Dr. Chris Kennedy

WHAT ACTIVITIES MAKE YOU LOSE TRACK OF TIME?

Baking, cooking from scratch, and reading recipes.

IF YOU COULD READ A BIO DETAILING THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.. WOULD YOU?

No.

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Alvin Louie

STUDY

Aquatic Toxicology / Endocrine Disruption

HOMETOWN

Vancouver, BC

ABSTRACT

Abstract: My research involves the use of a panel of yeast bioassays to detect and semi-quantify the levels of endocrine disrupting chemicals (estrogens, androgens, corticosteroids, AhR agonists) in wastewater treatment plant and environmental samples. The hope is that these assays may eventually be used in EDC bio-monitoring or screening level risk assessment programs to protect wildlife from adverse effects such as feminization of males, interference with neural development and reduced reproductive success.

SUPERVISOR

Dr. Francis Law

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU'VE LEANRED IN LIFE?

Always read the instructions... eventually...

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?

"It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open one’s mouth and remove all doubt."
-- Mark Twain

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU WISH MORE PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT YOURSELF?

I am actually an optimist... but I don’t think that helps...

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Sydney Love

STUDY

Aquatic Toxicology

HOMETOWN

Burnaby, BC

ABSTRACT

I'm studying the effects of sublethal copper exposure in juvenile rainbow trout. Copper is known to affect the respiratory (gill epithelia), ionoregulatory (ion transport) and olfactory (alarm substance recognition) systems in fish. Since water hardness is known to affect copper toxicity, my research focuses on the physiological effects of copper exposure in water conditions designed to match local habitats here in South Western British Columbia. Measured effects will include swim burst performance (Umax), stress, and impaired osmoregulatory function. Based on these data, I will either conduct a predator avoidance assay or seawater challenge. Predator avoidance should be affected if the fish have a reduced swimming performance in addition to an impaired olfactory system; the seawater challenge is indicative of ionoregulatory disruption.

SUPERVISOR

Dr. Chris Kennedy

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE EXPERIENCE IN THE MET PROGRAM SO FAR?

Attending the PNW-SETAC conference in Spokane, Washington was by far my favourite moment of the program. The drive to Spokane was shared with some wonderful friends. The conference was a very worthwhile experience; I met some great people, listened to some interesting research and attended a very useful short course on "omics" technology. Stopping for some wine tasting on the way home was the icing on the cake!

WHAT ACTIVITIES MAKE YOU LOSE TRACK OF TIME?

Reading and riding horses. I've worked for a library since I was 17 and am constantly finding new books to read. I love curling up on the couch with a good book and cup of tea and will be there for hours. Same goes for spending time at a barn. I can easily spend all day brushing, cuddling and riding horses.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS?

No longer in school!

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Melanie Pylatuk

HOMETOWN

Regina, Saskatchewan

BACKGROUND

I’m a Masters of Environmental Toxicology student and began my involvement with the program in the fall of 2013. My areas of interest are toxicogenomics and vertebrate organisms such as rainbow trout. My involvement with toxicogenomics began with Environment Canada through student co-operative education terms in 2012 and 2013. The experience I garnered from toxicological testing has driven me to continue with school and carry on my interests into the MET program. I hope to continue this interest into research with a physiology or toxicogenomics laboratory.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?

"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have."
-Coleman Cox

WHAT ACTIVITIES MAKE YOU LOSE TRACK OF TIME?

Reading a good book, going for a swim, and archery practice.

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Alexandra Reers

STUDY

Endocrine Toxicology

HOMETOWN

Marburg, Germany

ABSTRACT

Organophosphate flame retardants are a group of chemicals that are used in polymers to prevent the combustion of fire, but they are also suspected to interfere with the endocrine signaling pathways in humans and biota. Through my research, I am trying to understand the potential mechanism of action of these chemicals on the androgen, estrogen and aryl hydrocarbon receptor using human cancer cell lines as a model. I find this project highly interesting and motivating to work on, as it combines environmental toxicology with human health.

SUPERVISOR

Dr. Tim Beischlag

WHY DO YOU ENJOY LIVING IN THE LOWR MAINLAND?

Vancouver is a great city to live in. It might take you some time to really settle here, especially if you are from abroad. But don’t get discouraged Vancouverites are a tough crowd to crack, but worth having as friends :)

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU'VE LEARNED IN LIFE?

If life gives you lemonade, make lemons. Life will be like WHAAAAT?!(Dunphy, P., 2012. Schooled. Modern Fam., S.4 E.2)

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Mohammed Sheriffdeen

STUDY

Food and Drug toxicology / Pharmacokinetic modelling

HOMETOWN

Burnaby, BC

ABSTRACT

I’m using pharmacokinetic modeling to predict the potential/ capacity of common plant-based foodstuffs to inhibit drug metabolism in human and animal models in vivo using pharmacokinetic variables determined in vitro. My focus is pointed mainly at competitive and time-dependent inhibition of hepatic microsomes in rats and humans, and right now I’m evaluating inhibition of human CYP1A2 microsomes given caffeine as a substrate. The foodstuffs I’m evaluating are traditional Chinese medicinal herbs, as well as commonly available fruit juices sold in your local IGA / SuperStore / Big Box Grocer.

SUPERVISOR

Dr. Francis Law

What Would You Do Differently If You Knew Nobody Would Judge You?

I’ve been told many times by multiple people that I don’t have a very well-developed sense of shame, so this is a tricky question. Possibly busk (I love music). Or be a professional karaoke singer.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully working in the pharmaceutical industry, indubitably puzzling over a questionnaire that’s interrogating me as to my next five-year plan.

Are you the kind of person you would want to have as a friend?

I usually eat all the chocolate when my roommate isn’t paying attention. So probably not (I really like chocolate).

Why do you enjoy living in the lower mainland?

Where else can you immediately know which way is North by simply looking for a hulking mountain range in the distance? It’s gorgeous.

What is your idea of success?

A blissful balance between personal and professional success (also a statue made of me in bronzed granite).

If you could read a bio detailing the rest of your life... would you?

It would probably be really boring. It depends whether I’m in the football offseason or not.

Why did you choose the MET program at SFU?

It’s a fabulous blend of academic enhancement in addition to professional training. That and there are so many opportunities to get free pizza.

What activities make you lose track of time?

I love writing (fiction) as well as songwriting. I usually stop when the tips of my fingers are too sore to press down the guitar strings.

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Lilian Wong

STUDY

Endocrine Toxicology

HOMETOWN

Vancouver, BC

ABSTRACT

I received my BSc. in biology with a concentration in molecular and cellular biology and a minor in environmental toxicology at SFU in 2010. My Masters project in Dr. Timothy Beischlag's lab focuses on the effects of legacy and emerging persistent organic pollutants on endocrine signaling pathways in mammalian cancer cell lines. I'm currently doing a co-operative work term at Environment Canada, conducting toxicogenomics studies.

SUPERVISOR

Dr. Tim Beischlag

WHY DO YOU ENJOY LIVING/STUDYING IN THE VANCOUVER AREA?

I enjoy living in the Lower Mainland (Vancouver, BC) because of our diverse food culture. This city is blessed with so many varieties of cuisine it’s often difficult to choose!

WHAT MAKES YOU LOSE TRACK OF TIME?

Spending time with the people I love. Also, reading celebrity gossip and news. This form of escapism offers a break from the more serious issues on the planet and helps remind me that not everything in the news is a tragedy!

CAREERS IN TOXICOLOGY

The increase in our health consciousness, as well as concern for our environment, has led to a wide and growing variety of career opportunities in toxicology

After Graduation

The use of chemicals is important to a high standard of living, and the challenge to toxicologists is to ensure that these do not adversely impact human or environmental health. A toxicology career provides the excitement of science and research while also contributing to healthy and sustainable current and future generations. Few other careers offer such exciting and socially important challenges as protecting public health and the environment.

Attractive Salaries and Professional Advancement

The demand for well-trained toxicologists continues to increase. Highly competitive salaries are available in a variety of employment sectors. Increasing specialization in the science of toxicology now provides the toxicologist with a competitive advantage over chemists, engineers, biologists or other scientists without specialized training in toxicology. Salaries for those with master’s degrees in toxicology will generally start at $50,000 to $60,000.

Where do Toxicologists Work?

Toxicology careers, listed by percentage of graduate placements

47
Pharmaceutical, Chemical, Consumer Products and Other Related Industries
Industries are the number one employer of toxicologists. Product development, product safety evaluation, and regulatory compliance generate a large job market for toxicologists. Pharmaceutical industries employ 17 percent of toxicologists, and chemical industries employ 7 percent.
21
Academic Institutions
Academic institutions are the number two employer of toxicologists. Most of these opportunities are in schools of medicine and/or public health in major universities, however smaller colleges are beginning to employ toxicologists to teach toxicology in basic biology, chemistry and engineering programs.
14
Government
Government is the third largest employer of toxicologists. Although most government jobs are with federal regulatory agencies, many Provinces are now beginning to employ toxicologists with master’s degrees in toxicology.
12
Consulting
An increasing number of toxicologists are employed in the professional services industry. These provide professional guidance and advice to local public agencies, industries, government, and attorneys involved in problems with toxic chemicals and is a rapidly growing activity for the experienced toxicologist.
4
Research Foundations
A small proportion of toxicologists pursue research within nonprofit organizations. Numerous public and private research foundations employ toxicologists to conduct research on specific problems of industrial or public concern.