Catch a Rising Star: New Faculty Profiles

Dr. Mani Larijani

Assoc Prof, Dept of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry

Biological Mechanisms of Disease

Dr. Larijani's research program explores processes that mutate and alter the genetic codes of DNA/RNA, with an ultimate goal of understanding these processes and how they impact biological function. Depending on the species, these processes have biological functions such as modulating immune responses, precipitating and aggravating cancer, inducing the evolution of host and viral genomes, and affecting developmental reprogramming and tissue differentiation. Two driving interests of his lab group are how DNA/RNA-mutating processes impact human health and how these processes evolved to their present-day role from their functional origins in non-human species of the distant past. Broad though it is, the scope of his research is made possible by the Larijani lab's mastery of interdisciplinary methods, and their integration of expertise from areas ranging from biochemistry to computational biology.  

Read more:  Dr. Larijani's profile on the Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry website

Dr. Leithen M'Gonigle

Asst Prof, Dept of Biological Sciences

Ecology and Evolution

Dr. Leithen M’Gonigle’s research program involves both field research and theoretical modeling. His interests include landscape ecology with tropical birds and pollinators such as bumble bees, as well as species co-existence, sexual selection, and evolution of dispersal.  In the coming years, he is keen to start new projects that will let him study ecology and evolution in the wilds of British Columbia.

Read more:  an interview with Dr. M'Gonigle and his profile on the Department of Biological Sciences website

Dr. Lloyd Elliott

Asst Prof, Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science

Statistical genetics and genomics, informatics, Bayesian statistics, machine learning

With expertise in modern machine learning and software development, Dr. Elliott enables genome-wide association studies on large-scale (>0.5 million subjects) consortia to uncover patterns and extend associations to phenotype predictions. Toward understanding how genetics affects human brain structure and function, his group is developing efficient computational and machine learning methods to analyze and interpret the genetic associations between neuroimaging and genetics. Beyond improving our understanding of the genetics of brain architecture, such innovative techniques may also be important research tools in the developing field of personalized medicine, helping to accelerate progress; i.e., to understand neuropathology and the interaction between genetics and high-dimensional epidemiological measurements such as lifestyle.

Read more: Dr. Elliott’s profile on the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science website.

Dr. David Hik

Prof, Department of Biological Sciences

Terrestrial Ecology


Dr. Hik’s group studies plants and animals, to understand how they interact with each other and their environment. His current research program builds on 25 years of field work in Yukon mountains and includes long-term experiments to understand the consequences of rapid warming for the ecology and conservation of mountain and tundra ecosystems. His group also works in the Canadian Rocky Mountains studying the resilience of alpine plants, mountain goats and bighorn sheep; in Iceland where sheep grazing has caused significant land degradation; and in the high mountain páramo of Costa Rica. Beyond basic research, Dr. Hik is passionate about the translation of research into policy, Open Science initiatives and science communication.


Read more: Dr. Hik’s profile on the Department of Biological Sciences website.

Dr. Caterina Ramogida

Asst Prof, Dept of  Chemistry, TRIUMF

Nuclear Medicinal Inorganic Chemistry

Dr. Ramogida’s biomedical research program focuses on the synthesis and development of cutting-edge radioactive drugs (radiopharmaceuticals) for diagnosing and treating cancers. The overarching goal of her research program is to use radioactive metal ions, or radiometals, as diagnostic or therapeutic tools for the improved detection and therapy of disease. As drug constituents, the flexibility of radiometals in terms of their radiological half-life, decay emission, and chemistry lends extremely well to their incorporation into radiopharmaceuticals for personalized diagnostics and therapies for cancer patients. Critically important to her research program is the design, synthesis, and characterization of novel and innovative metal ion chelators that enable promising radiometals to be attached to drug delivery molecules for imaging purposes and/or targeted treatment of cancer.      

Read more: Dr. Ramogida's profile on the Department of Chemistry website.

Dr. Paul Kench

Prof, Dept of  Earth Sciences; Dean of Science

Reef Island Dynamics

There is global concern about low-lying, mid-ocean reef islands becoming uninhabitable, forcing the depopulation of island nations over the next few decades. Such islands are vulnerable to stresses like climate change. Dr. Kench’s research aims to provide insight about how changes in environmental boundary processes­, such as sea level changes, wave activity, and sediment supply, control the formation and physical alterations in reef islands. His team studies field sites that include atoll archipelagoes of Kiribati in the central Pacific and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. This program is improving the prediction of island morphological changes and supports new strategies for adaptation in island nations.   

Read more: Dr. Kench’s profile on the Department of Earth Sciences website.

Dr. Amarpreet Rattan

Assoc Prof, Dept of Mathematics

Algebraic and Combinatorial Enumeration

Many important questions in mathematics can be reduced to counting problems – that is, determining the number of objects having a certain set of properties.  Solving counting problems is the main focus of enumeration.  Dr. Rattan’s research includes work on enumerative problems in algebra and combinatorics.  He has worked on problems from combinatorial representation theory, for example on the representation theory of the symmetric group, as well as problems involving traditional combinatorial objects such as trees, lattice paths, permutations and parking functions.   Enumeration is an exciting field of mathematics where new connections between disparate objects and techniques can lead to surprising and elegant mathematical insights.

Read more: Dr. Rattan’s profile on the Department of Mathematics website.

Dr. Caroline Colijn

Prof  & Canada 150 Chair, Dept of Mathematics

Applied Combinatorics, Applied Mathematics, Discrete Mathematics

Where mathematics meet pathogens and evolution is the focus of Dr. Colijn’s research. She develops mathematical tools to link sequence data for pathogens to pathogen ecology, and to understand the dynamics of diverse pathogen interactions (e.g. how the development of antimicrobial resistance is driven by the interplay between co-infection, selection, and competition). She is also working on tools for precision healthcare, integrating individual-level data sources with population-level health contexts and interventions. Using other tools developed in her group, she can analyze phylogenetic trees derived from pathogen sequence data, study phylogenetic tree space, and perform ecological and epidemiological modelling.

Read more: Dr. Colijn’s profile on the Department of Mathematics website.

Dr. Brendan Dyck

Asst Prof, Dept of Earth Sciences

Petrology, High-temperature Metamorphism, Crustal Melting

A career of hiking in remote places to study mountains is a dream come true for Dr. Brendan Dyck.  He uses thermodynamic modeling and quantitative microstructure analysis to study the evolution of the planetary crust. Current sites of interest include the Coast Plutonic Complex and the Shushwap Metamorphic Complex in British Columbia, as well as Greenland, the Canadian Arctic, and the Austrian Alps.

Read more: an interview with Dr. Dyck and his profile on the Department of Earth Sciences website

Dr. Jean-François Bégin

Asst Prof, Dept of Statistics & Actuarial Science

Financial Econometrics, Actuarial Finance, Financial Engineering

Financial markets and datasets come in all shapes and sizes; accordingly, statistical models and methods used as decision-making tools need to be adapted to the reality of each market. Dr. Jean-François Bégin’s research group uses statistical methods and models to characterize risk in the financial and insurance industries. His versatile research program focuses on both theoretical and empirical aspects of risk assessment, with specific areas of interest that include financial modelling, financial econometrics, filtering methods, high-frequency data, credit risk, and option pricing.

Read more: an interview with Dr. Bégin and his profile on the Department of Statistics & Actuarial Science website

Dr. Dylan Cooke

Asst Prof, Dept of Biomedical Physiology & Kinesiology

Sensorimotor Neuroplasticity

Dr. Dylan Cooke’s innovative research program explores links between variation in brain organization and behaviour, response to injury, and the brain’s capacity to rewire itself. In laboratory experiments, variation between individuals has almost always been regarded as a complication to be minimized and thus, very little is known about individual variation in brain organization. Dr. Cooke aims to characterize and study the significance of this variation, determining how it affects skilled behaviour, resilience in the face of brain injury, and natural, adaptive changes in the brain.

Read more: an interview with Dr. Cooke, his profile on the Department of Biomedical Physiology & Kinesiology website and his Banting Research Foundation profile

Dr. Timothy Audas

Asst Prof & Tier 2 Canada Research Chair, Dept of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry

RNA Biology, Amyloidogenesis, Neurological Diseases

Dr. Audas is interested in how cells respond to changes in their environment. Recently, he showed that a class of biological molecules – noncoding RNA – is essential to many of the stress response pathways used by cells to adapt to changing conditions.  In particular, he discovered a noncoding RNA-mediated pathway that causes cellular proteins to clump (i.e., form amyloids) under stress conditions; he suspects that this pathway can go awry and lead to neurological disorders, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Could these diseases be activated by cellular stress events? The increasing incidence of neurological diseases motivates Dr. Audas to unravel how this pathway works and identify compounds that may cause or disassemble amyloids.

Read more: an interview with Dr. Audas, his profile on the Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry website and his lab website

Dr. Stephanie Simmons

Asst Prof & Tier 2 Canada Research Chair, Dept of Physics

Silicon Quantum Computing

With a goal of developing quantum technologies, Dr. Simmons’ work falls squarely between engineering and physics. She believes that silicon is the way to go for quantum computing because “thanks to the hugely successful semiconductor industry, we really understand how to make accurate, reliable nanoscale structures in silicon.” Control and accuracy are essential to realizing the potential of quantum technology and bringing it into the mainstream.

Read more: an interview with Dr. Simmons, her profile on the Department of Physics website and her Silicon Quantum Technology Lab’s website

Dr. Sam Doesburg

Assoc Prof, Dept of Biomedical Physiology & Kinesiology

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

Our ability to unravel the biological mechanisms underpinning behaviour and the mind is expanding. Imaging techniques are critical to brain research, and advances in the development of these tools are fuelled by the rapidly moving fields of computing science and biology. Dr. Doesburg’s research program leverages brain imaging technology to probe the effectiveness of intervention strategies for autism and ultimately establish a clear, scientifically-founded basis for autism treatments.

Read more: an interview with Dr. Doesburg and his profile on the Biomedical Physiology & Kinesiology website

Dr. Roger Linington

Assoc Prof & Tier 2 Canada Research Chair, Dept of Chemistry

Natural Products Drug Discovery via High-throughput Screening

Dr. Linington’s research program applies marine microbiology, natural products isolation and structure determination, bioassay design and development, synthetic medicinal chemistry, and 'omics' techniques to tackle biomedical problems. His group develops high-content approaches to natural products discovery that use modern methods in image-based screening and high resolution mass spectrometry to create powerful tools for the functional annotation of natural products libraries. His strategy integrates high-throughput chemical and biological annotation of the libraries to predict biological functions of compounds early in the discovery process. His ultimate goal is to discover novel natural products that possess bioactivity against targets in disease areas such as infectious disease and cancer.

Read more: an interview with Dr. Linington, his personal website, his profile on the Chemistry website, and research features on the Nature of Things, Motherboard, and Seeker Digital Network

Dr. Luke Bornn

Asst Prof, Dept of Statistics & Actuarial Science

Computational Statistics and Machine Learning Applied to Large-scale Spatial and Dynamic Data

Dr. Bornn possesses exceptional skills in statistical modeling and computation. He creates original, scalable statistical models and innovative computational approaches to identify complex patterns from immense, complex datasets. His research on high dimensional spatio-temporal data has diverse applications, including environmental and climate modeling, optical tracking in sports, and structural health monitoring. He uses stochastic computation (e.g., Monte Carlo methods) to tackle the associated computational problems.  

Read more: an interview with Dr. Bornn and his personal website


Dr. Vicki Marlatt

Asst Prof, Dept of Biological Sciences

Aquatic Ecotoxicology and Endocrine Disruption

The growing threat to ecosystems posed by pollution and climate change highlights the importance of environmental monitoring activities and informed action by governments.  Endocrine disruption in wildlife exposed to environmental contaminants is of concern worldwide. Through lab work and field studies, she is developing new biomarkers as early onset indicators of exposure to environmental contaminants that can be used in risk assessment and monitoring activities, which will benefit both local and global communities.

Read more:  an interview with Dr. Marlatt and her profile on the Biology website

Dr. Loren Kaake

Asst Prof, Dept of Chemistry

Transport Phenomena in Organic Optoelectronics

Dr. Kaake is interested in understanding the transport of ions, charges, and heat in polymeric and molecular films. These materials are already used in computer and cell-phone displays and will someday be in widespread use as solar cells and transistors. The properties that make organic materials useful in optical and electronic devices rely on the transport of one or more things through the film. His group uses a combination of electrical and spectroscopic measurements to understand transport processes at the nanoscale. A deep understanding of these phenomena will catalyze the development of materials with significantly better properties and lead to new applications.

Read more: an interview with Dr. Kaake, his personal website and his profile on the Chemistry website

Dr. Ben Adcock

Asst Prof, Dept of Mathematics

Compressed Sensing Algorithms

High-dimensional approximation is becoming imperative in the data-rich era. Dr. Adcock’s research tackles problems related to the recovery of complex, high-dimensional objects from limited datasets in the realms of modern science, medicine, and engineering. He seeks to develop new algorithms using the theory of a signal processing technique called compressed sensing (CS), as well as optimal approximation algorithms. His work is interdisciplinary, with applications in medical imaging, intelligent signal processing, machine learning, uncertainty quantification, and the numerical solution of partial differential equations.

Read more: an interview with Dr. Adcock, his personal website and his profile on the Mathematics website

Dr. Nathan Ilten

Asst Prof, Dept of Mathematics

Algebraic Varieties with Combinatorial Structure

Dr. Ilten’s research focuses on understanding algebraic varieties (e.g., toric and Fano varieties), deformation theory and Hilbert schemes, and linear subspaces of varieties. His group tackles geometric problems using combinatorial techniques related to polyhedral geometry, representation theory, and Gröbner basis theory. Dr. Ilten is also engaged in developing computational tools in algebraic geometry; for example, he has authored several packages in the Macaulay2 software system.

Read more: an interview with Dr. Ilten, his personal website and his profile on the Mathematics website

Dr. Eundeok Mun

Asst Prof & Tier 2 Canada Research Chair, Dept of Physics

Emerging Materials in Condensed Matter Physics

Dr. Mun seeks to create novel materials that possess unusual physical properties. He has a knack for growing high-quality crystals and designing complex, precise measurements. His research group grows single crystals of strongly correlated electron systems and characterizes their ground states using extreme experimental conditions, such as high magnetic fields and extremely low temperatures. His research program is developing ultra-precise, novel measurement tools that will form the basis of new technologies, from which exotic materials will be developed with ground-breaking industrial applications.

Read more: Dr. Mun's Emerging Materials Lab website and his profile on the Physics website

Dr. David Sivak

Asst Prof & Tier 2 Canada Research Chair, Dept of Physics

Nonequilibrium Thermodynamics of Molecular-scale Biological Processes

Dr. Sivak’s group applies fundamental theory and computational methods to the efficient design of molecular machines. They seek to understand the communication of energy and information within and between driven biomolecular systems. His research program explores how fundamental physics leads to principles that might guide the evolution of efficient, powerful biomolecular motors. This knowledge will inform the design of artificial molecular machines or other nano-scale devices, e.g., for drug delivery or solar energy conversion purposes, and the development of drugs to target malfunctioning biomachines.  

Read more:  an interview with Dr. Sivak, his personal website and his profile on the physics website