Featured New Faculty & Postdocs

Dr. Ainsley Lewis

Dr. Ainsley Lewis is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Professor RJ Neil Emery at Trent University where he studies the metabolomics of plant and bacteria using high-resolution mass spectrometry. The project is a collaboration between the Emery laboratory and NutriAg Inc. The project’s goal is to produce a biofertilizer for augmenting plant growth. Dr. Lewis received his PhD from Trent University in June 2021, with the President’s Medal for the PhD, where he studied under Professor Céline Guéguen (now at the Université de Sherbrooke). He used high resolution mass spectrometry to characterize the microalga/euglenoid Euglena gracilis and applied this microalga as a bioremediation tool to remove a critical rare earth element from water. Hailing from the country of Jamaica, Dr. Lewis is also an advocate for more representation of minority groups in STEM. Keep in touch with Dr. Lewis on Twitter @chemicalfugue.

Dr. Purva Karia

Dr. Purva Karia is a postdoctoral scientist working with Dr. Sue Rhee and Dr. David Ehrhardt at Carnegie Institution in Stanford, California. She is working on the Sorghum Metabolic Atlas project to unravel the localization and functions of sorghum metabolic enzymes. She received her PhD under Dr. Keiko Yoshioka at the University of Toronto in 2021. Her PhD research focused on the importance of Triphosphate Tunnel Metalloenzyme 1 (TTM1) localization to the mitochondrial outer membrane for its function in regulating senescence. She discovered that multiple phosphorylation events of TTM1 regulate its function in senescence and protein turnover. Outside of the lab, she enjoys camping, hiking, baking, and visits to the dog park with her furbaby. Keep in touch with Dr. Karia on Twitter @prkaria.

Dr. Lauren Erland

Dr. Lauren Erland is a Postdoctoral Research & Teaching Fellow in Dr. Susan Murch’s PlantSMART Lab at UBC Okanagan. Dr. Erland completed her PhD in 2019 in Dr. Praveen Saxena’s lab at the University of Guelph, where she focused on understanding the roles of the mammalian neurotransmitters melatonin and serotonin in plants. Her research uses interdisciplinary approaches such as plant tissue culture, metabolomics, analytical chemistry, ecological niche modelling, and quantum dot microscopy to study the role of plant growth regulators in plant perception and response to changes in their environment. She is particularly interested in how plant signaling can be applied to understand and predict climate change resiliency of native Canadian plant species in the Okanagan Valley and Canada’s Arctic (Inuit Nunangat).  Dr. Erland is the Acting Communications Director and Website Administrator with the CSPB. When she is not in the lab she enjoys hanging out with her dog Piper and being outside usually moving very slowly as she finds new plants along the way! Keep in touch with Dr. Erland on Twitter and Instagram @plantdrlauren and at www.laurenerland.com.

Dr. Mohamed Samir Youssef

Dr. Mohamed Samir Youssef is a research associate working with Prof. Claudio Stasolla at the University of Manitoba. In 2010, he received his Ph. D. from Tanta University in Egypt. His Ph.D. thesis focused on micropropagation and somatic hybridization of Citrullus L. In 2013,   he joined the University of Kafrelsheikh, Egypt as an Assistant Professor where his research focused on studying the genetic diversity of economically important plants. Then he joined the lab of Prof. Stasolla as a postdoctoral fellow in 2015 to study the role of corn phytoglobin genes in the mitigation of soil flooding. He then joined the Kafrelsheikh University as an Associate Professor in 2018. Mohamed joined the lab of Dr. Claudio Stasolla in 2019 as visiting professor to develop an experimental screen for evaluating drought and salinity stress in soybean using morpho-physiological parameters, transcriptional profiling and monitoring enzyme activity. His work improves our understanding of the molecular mechanisms through which plants respond to abiotic stresses. In 2022 Mohamed will join Dr. Robert Duncan’s lab at the University of Manitoba as a research associate to work on a NSERC Collaborative Research and Development project on High Erucic Acid Rapeseed improvement. This work will involve genetic characterization and manipulation of canola plants to determine the genetic control of key traits.

Dr. Catherine Cullingham

Dr. Catherine Cullingham is an Assistant Professor specializing in plant population genetics in the Department of Biology at Carleton University. Her research uses landscape genetics and population genomics to fill knowledge gaps and develop tools that can be applied to issues in forestry and wildlife management. She completed her PhD at Trent University under the supervision of Dr. Bradley White where she was the first to use landscape genetics to understand the spread of raccoon rabies. From there she completed her postdoctoral work at the University of Alberta working with Drs. Dave Coltman and Janice Cooke examining pine genetics to understand mountain pine beetle spread risk. During her tenure there she confirmed host-expansion of the beetle to jack pine, redefined the spatial complexity of the lodgepole x jack pine hybrid zone, and identified genetic markers potentially associated with mountain pine beetle resilience. Her research lab, the Genomics of Plants, Pests, and Pathogens (GP3) is continuing work on the mountain pine beetle system, and will also be branching out to explore other forest-pathogen systems. She is particularly interested in the relationship between environmental adaptations and pest resilience in forest trees. Dr. Cullingham is a member of the editorial board for the Canadian Journal of Forest Research, and sits on the Terrestrial Mammals Specialist Subcommittee for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Dr. Mehran Dastmalchi

Dr. Mehran Dastmalchi joined McGill University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Science in the Fall of 2020. He is setting up a research program to study metabolism in legume species (Fabaceae), with interest in pathways producing defence compounds. Dr. Dastmalchi began his research career in the lab of Dr. Dhaubhadel at Western University/ Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (2010-2015), with work culminating in the discovery of a metabolon (enzyme complex) in the isoflavonoid pathway. From there, he joined Dr. Facchini at the University of Calgary as a postdoctoral fellow and later as a research assistant (2015-2018), to investigate morphine biosynthesis in opium poppy. He was part of a team that found novel biosynthetic and transport genes involved with the pathway. The discoveries potentiated the modular assembly of natural and semi-synthetic opioid production in engineered microbes. Subsequently, he worked with Dr. De Luca at Brock (2019-2020), tackling specialized metabolism in the medicinal plant Madagascar periwinkle. This summer, the Dastmalchi lab welcomes its first cohort of students, including an NSERC-USRA recipient, and later in the Fall, two master’s students. They will be exploring the utility of specific regulatory and auxiliary genes in the production of isoflavonoids in legume species. A genetic and biochemical understanding of plant pathways will hopefully facilitate metabolic engineering in the plant and heterologous systems. 

Know an Early Career Researcher you would like to see featured? Contact the communications director communications@cspb-scbv.ca

Previously featured early career members can be found here or check out their features in our past bulletins!

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