College of Medicine Office of the Saskatchewan MS Clinical Research Chair

Laboratory Personnel

Picture of  Alyssa Anand

Alyssa Anand
Summer Student with Dr. Krishnan

Alyssa Anand is a driven scholar entering her fourth year of study in Cellular, Physiological, and Pharmacological Sciences at USask. Alyssa's passion for neuroscience and research is deeply rooted in her desire to address prevalent issues like multiple sclerosis (MS) in Saskatchewan. Her academic journey is marked by a relentless pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement, fuelled by the support of her peers and mentors in the laboratory. Beyond her academic pursuits, Alyssa finds joy in various activities such as soccer and swimming. She harbours a deep affection for animals, particularly dogs, and has channeled this passion into action by founding an Animal Protection Club at the University of Saskatchewan. Through this initiative, Alyssa has spearheaded fundraising efforts benefiting animal shelter organizations like the Regina Humane Society and Saskatoon SPCA. Moreover, as a volunteer for the Canadian Blood Services and as a Student Ambassador at the University of Saskatchewan, she enjoys giving back to her larger community and has learned how to be a positive addition to the university environment and beyond.

Picture of Annika Dixon

Annika Dixon
Summer Student with Dr. Levin

Annika grew up in Regina and completed her first year of studies at the University of Regina as a pre-med student. She has since transferred to the University of Saskatchewan in order to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences. She is specifically interested in Neuroscience and hopes to apply to the College of Medicine upon completion of her degree. She was first introduced to MS in high school, as a former teacher of hers had MS and often talked openly about living with this neurodegenerative disease. Her interest in MS research has only peaked since looking into the prevalence of MS within Saskatchewan. Outside of school, you will probably find Annika watching a Toronto Raptors game (she even has a tattoo dedicated to the Raptors), playing with her kitten Herbert, or reading a new book.

Picture of  Ansalna Ansari

Ansalna Ansari MSc
MSc Candidate with Dr. Levin

Ansalna, hailing from the southernmost part of India, Kerala, finished her schooling in her village and moved to North India for her higher education. Her childhood obsession with DNA and its intricate role in complex diseases such as cancer, heart diseases and autoimmune disorders led, in due course, to a thorough interest in research in the field of genetics and autoimmune disorders and motivated her to opt for a career in biomedical science. She graduated as a first rank holder in the Integrated Master's Degree in Life Science from the National Institute of Technology Rourkela, India, in June 2020. During her Master's degree, she accomplished three short term research projects, including an international research fellowship - MITACS Globalink Research Internship Program 2019, in Dr. Franco Vizeacoumar's lab at the University of Saskatchewan. This experience motivated her to pursue higher studies in the field of biomedical science in Canada. She began a thesis-based Master's degree in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Levin in 2021. Her current project focuses on establishing the mechanistic link between dysfunctional RNA binding protein and neurodegeneration in multiple sclerosis. Ansalna has been awarded the MITACS Globalink Graduate fellowship and a Devolved Scholarship from the department of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology. Outside the lab, she enjoys travelling, exploring new cultures and cuisine, making friends, dancing and binge watching!

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Ashley James PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Popescu

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Bhadrapriya Sivakumar MSc
PhD Candidate with Dr. Krishnan

Bhadrapriya was born in a small town in Kerala, the southernmost region of India. Her family later migrated to Bangalore, a city in India. As a child, she was always interested in biology and hence completed a triple major Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, Botany, and Zoology from CHRIST University, Bangalore in 2020. During her Bachelor’s, she attended a seminar at the Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore where her interest in neurosciences peaked. She got accepted into CHRIST University, India for a Master’s in Biotechnology in 2020. Under the guidance of Dr. Suma, she published 2 book chapters and a review paper during the pandemic. She received a meritorious scholarship for her grades during her Master’s. She then completed her Master’s thesis at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, India in neurosciences and secured a distinction in her final exams. She joined as a Ph.D. student at Dr. Krishnan’s lab, CMSNRC in October 2022. Outside of the lab, she is a dancer and loves reading, hiking, binge-watching TV shows, and café-hopping.

Picture of  Catherine Hutchinson

Catherine Hutchinson MSc
Research Executive Assistant to Dr. Levin

Catherine grew up on a farm near Assiniboia in southern Saskatchewan, spending most of her time outdoors where she developed a love of nature. In high school, her favourite subject was biology—especially molecular biology—so after high school she decided to attend university and study biochemistry. Upon completion of her BSc at the University of Saskatchewan, she pursued graduate studies at the Saskatoon Cancer Centre where she studied potential treatments for chronic myelogenous leukemia. After completing her MSc, she worked as a research technician in several laboratories and assisted with research projects spanning an array of disciplines, from infectious disease and immunology to neuroscience. In 2018, Catherine joined the lab of Dr. Michael Levin at the Cameco MS Neuroscience Research Centre where she assisted with research designed to help uncover the underlying mechanisms of neurodegeneration in MS. In 2021, Catherine was promoted to an administrative position within the Office of the Saskatchewan MS Clinical Research Chair as the Research Executive Assistant to Dr. Michael Levin. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, hiking, yoga and travelling.

Picture of  Cole Libner

Cole Libner PhD
Summer Medical Student with Dr. Levin

Cole was born and raised in Saskatoon where he went on to study at the University of Saskatchewan. In 2018, he graduated with great distinction receiving a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Anatomy and Cell Biology. It was during his undergraduate studies where he found his passion for the biomedical sciences with a specific interest in neuroscience. In the summer of 2018, Cole was granted the opportunity to join Dr. Levin’s MS research team as a graduate student. Combining the high rates of MS in Saskatchewan with his interest in neuroscience made the decision to research MS an easy one. Cole's PhD project focused on how autoantibodies can cause neurodegeneration in an animal model of MS. Based on his work, Cole received the prestigious CIHR Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship. Outside of the lab, he enjoys travelling as well as a number of activities. In the summer, he enjoys fishing, golfing and camping while in the winter he likes to snowboard and play hockey. Cole defended his PhD in the summer of 2022 and is currently attending medical school at the University of Saskatchewan. Being a physician has always been the ultimate goal for Cole, but with his newfound knowledge, skills and passion for MS research, he hopes to peruse a new dream of being a physician-scientist.

Picture of Connor Denomy

Connor Denomy MSc
Research Technician with Dr. Levin

Connor is a bioinformatician from right here in Saskatoon. He completed a bachelor’s degree with honours in biochemistry from the University in Saskatchewan in 2019. During the course of his undergraduate degree, he began learning computer programming and, as part of his undergraduate honours project, created software for the parsing of manually annotated karyotypes into copy number variation data. This work led to a first-author article in Cancer Research. Following this, Connor committed to pursuing bioinformatics with a master’s degree in computer science supervised by Drs. Scott Napper and Anthony Kusalik; his thesis on the analysis of data from global kinase-mediated cell signalling experiments was successfully defended in 2022. For the year 2023, Connor used his bioinformatics expertise to research cancer with Dr. Franco Vizeacoumar, focusing on next-generation sequencing data analysis and machine learning. Connor is also an avid powerlifter, a trivia expert, and a musician, playing saxophone, piano, and accordion with the Footnotes Jazz Collective, the Saskatoon Concert Band, and the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra, among other groups.

Picture of Fariba Karami

Fariba Karami MSc
MSc Candidate with Dr. Levin

Fariba was born and raised in Karaj, which is situated near the capital city of Iran. Her interest in biology began in high school, leading her to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology, which she completed in 2011. Subsequently, she pursued a Master’s degree in Genetics, focusing on investigating the impact of miRNA on the expression of the CD1 gene in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell lines. The findings of her research were published in the Journal of Chemical Biology and Drug Design. After graduation, she worked in a molecular diagnostics laboratory for three years, conducting various tests to identify molecular causes of cancer and bacterial and viral diseases. Later, she worked on an industrial biopharmaceutical project as a research assistant and also worked as an R&D manager for a startup manufacturing powder media for insect and mammalian cell lines before leaving her home country. She has always been enthusiastic about exploring new academic and scientific opportunities and counts herself lucky to have found the Levin Lab's website. She became interested in this particular field after reading their articles and researching MS. As a result, she decided to start her Master's degree in September 2023 in Dr. Levin's research lab. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, traveling, and listening to podcasts and music.

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Grayson Tourney
Summer Student with Dr. Levin

Grayson is an undergraduate student who will be entering his fourth year of Biomedical Neuroscience this fall. He grew up in Prince Albert, where he graduated from high school before moving to Saskatoon to attend the University of Saskatchewan in 2022. His interest in the human brain from an early age has grown into a passion and has led him into a Neuroscience major, allowing him to focus on nervous system processes and pursue an Honours degree under Dr. Levin. While he has intended to pursue medicine since he was in high school, his newfound interest in research has opened his eyes to the possibility to continue his studies in the form of a PhD, MD, or both. During the school year, Grayson mentors students in the College of Arts and Sciences and teaches Structured Study Sessions for students in physics. Outside of his academics, Grayson likes to spend time reading, cooking, and playing Rec sports on campus. He is also an avid outdoorsman and enjoys both camping and outdoor sports, mainly biking, canoeing, and skiing. This summer will be his first in Saskatoon, so he is looking forward to exploring the city on two wheels.

Picture of Hannah Salapa

Hannah Salapa PhD
Professional Research Associate with Dr. Levin

Hannah was born in Pennsylvania where she completed her Bachelor of Science in psychobiology at Lebanon Valley College. During her undergraduate career, Hannah performed research in biochemistry and neural addiction labs, the latter of which sparked an interest in neuroscience research leading her to apply to neuroscience PhD programs. Upon being accepted to the University of Tennessee, Hannah rotated through several neurodegenerative disease research labs before having the opportunity to work with Dr. Michael Levin. She quickly took an interest in MS research and started her PhD thesis research in March 2015 in the Levin Lab. After a move to Saskatoon mid-degree, she completed her PhD in June 2019 with the support of the Dr. Walter and Mary Hader MS Research Scholarship at the University of Saskatchewan. Her thesis research on dysfunctional RNA binding proteins in MS and its models culminated in being awarded the John N. Whitaker Award for Best Overall Research at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of MS Centers. Hannah now works as a Research Associate in the lab and whole-heartedly enjoys designing research projects and mentoring students. Outside of the lab, she likes staying active, cooking, traveling, and the beautiful Saskatchewan summers.

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Hya El-Baroudy BSc
MSc Candidate with Dr. Krishnan

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Jay Patel
Summer Student with Dr. Krishnan

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Jenna Reding BSc
Summer Student with Dr. Levin

Jenna was born and raised in Saskatoon, where her parents and teachers cultivated her love for understanding the world around her, specifically understanding the bio-sciences. Her fascination with human behaviour and biological functioning fuelled an interest in the neurosciences. As such, Jenna recently completed her Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Neuroscience with a Minor in Psychology at the University of Saskatchewan. Fascinated by the neuropathology of multiple sclerosis (MS), Jenna joined Dr. Levin’s lab as an honour's student in the final year of her degree; under the mentorship of Dr. Joseph-Patrick Clarke, she studied the role of RNA-binding protein dysfunction in MS neuropathogenesis. She is returning to Dr. Levin’s lab as a 2024 Biomedical Science Summer Research Project awardee where she will be continuing her research throughout the summer. She has also gained recognition for achieving exceptional grades at the university where she has been listed on the Dean’s Honours List and awarded an Honours Scholarship. Aside from her interest in the sciences, Jenna is an avid reader and an amateur artist, in which she enjoys reading fictional novels and painting with acrylics. Since she was young, Jenna has enjoyed being active, whether through outdoor activities such as flag football or through indoor sports such as basketball and volleyball. Her friends also know her as being notorious for baking an excess amount of muffins in her free time.

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Joseph-Patrick Clarke PhD
Research Assistant with Dr. Levin

Joseph grew up in Trinity East, Newfoundland before attending Memorial University of Newfoundland. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and then furthered his education with a Master of Science degree in Biotechnology from the Mannheim University of Applied Sciences in Mannheim, Germany. During his graduate studies, he discovered his passion for research in the biomedical sciences, especially in Neuroscience. To further develop his skills and understanding of Neuroscience, Joseph rejoined Memorial University as a Ph.D. graduate student. During these studies, a close family member tragically passed away from a neurodegenerative disease and this life event further strengthened his resolve in researching and understanding neurodegenerative diseases. Joseph graduated from Memorial University with a Ph.D. in Medicine in the Spring of 2016, where his dissertation work focused on examining and understanding the cellular stress pathways of the heat shock response and autophagy in peripheral neuropathies, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Joseph then joined the Donnelly Lab at the University of Pittsburgh in 2016, and within his first year, was generously awarded an AFTD Postdoctoral Fellowship through The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD). His work there entailed understanding the molecular basis of pathogenesis in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) focusing specifically on stress granule function and biology. In the summer of 2019, Joseph then joined the Levin Lab at the University of Saskatchewan as a Postdoctoral Fellow, where his current work focuses on understanding MS pathogenesis through the role of heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A1 dysfunction. Gratifying aspects of the Levin Lab include: the ability to utilize innovative, cutting-edge technology and techniques to further understand fundamental biological processes, working and collaborating with an incredible group of scientists, aiding in the mentorship of undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Saskatchewan.

Picture of  Kaitland Fior

Kaitland Fior
Summer Student with Dr. Levin

Kaitland grew up on an acreage just outside Saskatoon, SK. She is currently an undergraduate student completing a Bachelor of Science at the University of Saskatchewan. Her interest in science and medicine began with a fascination of neurodegenerative diseases, with MS research being of particular interest given its high rates in Saskatchewan. In the summer of 2022, Kaitland had the opportunity to join the Levin lab after receiving funding for a biomedical summer research project through the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine. Outside of school, she enjoys cooking new recipes, visiting local restaurants and coffee shops, playing in the USask Wind Orchestra and exploring the beautiful trails around Saskatoon.

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Lara New BSc
Research Technician with Dr. Krishnan

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Maya Wilson
Summer Student with Dr. Verge

Born and raised in Saskatoon, Maya is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Saskatchewan in Biomedical Neuroscience. This is her first summer in the lab, and she intends to complete her Honours thesis under Dr. Verge next year. She is especially interested in studying nerve repair and techniques for functional neural recovery. When not in the lab, she enjoys music (especially live), spending time in the sun, thrifting, and reading.

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Miles Magno BSc
MSc Candidate with Dr. Verge

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Miranda Messmer BSc
PhD Candidate with Dr. Levin

Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, Miranda was always fascinated by neuroscience but only discovered her interest in research when she came to the University of Saskatchewan. There, she started her research career in neurodegenerative disease by studying stroke and imaging brain tissue with the synchrotron at the Canadian Light Source. Her undergraduate research projects sparked her passion for neuropathology and led her to complete her Bachelor of Science in Anatomy and Cell Biology with high honours. After graduating, she worked as a research assistant for a clinical trial at the School of Rehabilitation focused on physiotherapy for people living with MS. This opportunity introduced her to MS research and led her to the Levin Lab, where she started graduate research studying MS neuropathology and the mechanisms of neurodegeneration. After her first year, she decided to expand her research project and transferred from the M.Sc. to the Ph.D. program. In her spare time, Miranda enjoys painting, dancing, and exploring something new.

Picture of  Nataliya Tokarska

Nataliya Tokarska MSc
PhD Candidate with Dr. Verge

Nataliya was born in Ukraine and immigrated with her parents at a young age to Ontario, Canada. Just prior to high school, her family made a second big move across the country to Saskatoon. After being taught by an encouraging science teacher in high school, Nataliya developed an interest in biomedical science. In 2018, she graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Physiology and Pharmacology. Because of her fascination with neuroscience, she also received a minor in Psychology at that time. With the hope of continuing her studies in the field of neuroscience, Nataliya joined the Verge lab shortly after graduation. In 2020, she received her Master of Science degree in Anatomy and Cell Biology. Nataliya is now a PhD student in the Verge lab continuing her Master’s work to further investigate the effects of a novel non-invasive treatment called acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH) in a mouse model of MS. In her free time, she loves camping, winter sports, baking and working on music projects with her siblings!

Picture of Nathan Aubynn

Nathan Aubynn
Summer Student with Dr. Levin

Nathaniel was born and raised in Ghana, in the western part of Africa. In 2018, He relocated to Ukraine to begin his medical school education, aspiring to build a career dedicated to advancing healthcare. His education, however, faced an unexpected interruption in 2022, during his fifth and penultimate year, due to the outbreak of war. This unforeseen event necessitated a relocation to Germany, where Nathaniel stayed until August of the same year. In September 2022, seeking stability and an opportunity to continue his academic pursuits, Nathaniel moved to Canada. There, he enrolled in a biomedical science program, aiming to bridge his knowledge to eventually enter medical school. Nathaniel’s academic ambitions were further bolstered by the opportunity to join Dr. Levin’s lab for the summer, where he is involved in groundbreaking research on neurodegeneration in multiple sclerosis. This position enhances his understanding and skills in a crucial area of medical research. Outside of his academic and professional life, Nathaniel enjoys a range of activities that balance his rigorous study schedule. He is an avid fan of movies and books, and he enjoys playing games. Nathaniel is also active in sports, including swimming and playing tennis or badminton. He cherishes tranquil environments, finding peace and happiness in quiet and serene settings. A quote he lives by is "Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny." - C.S. Lewis

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Nickson Joseph MSc
PhD Candidate with Dr. Krishnan

Nickson grew up in Kannur – a town popularly known as ‘The Land of Looms and Lore’, in the northern part of Kerala, India. He completed his Bachelor’s in Zoology from Sree Narayana College and his Master’s in Zoology from St. Berchmans College; both in Kerala. He is an avid reader of scientific non-fiction books and a relentless follower of crazy ideas in science. That’s how he developed a passion for neuroscience. He joined CMSNRC as a Ph.D. student in the Krishnan lab in May 2023 where he works on breast cancer nerve-tumor interface and its effects on brain metastatic recurrence of breast cancer. Brain metastatic recurrence of breast cancer is a late event and is fatal. He is trying to understand the nerve-tumor interface to explore the prognostic and therapeutic potential of the nerve-dependence of breast cancer to fight the deadly brain metastasis. Apart from academics, he is an admirer of Haruki Murakami’s works and loves reading novels. He is a proponent of scientific temper, and he loves beaches and biryani.

Picture of Patricia Thibault

Patricia Thibault PhD
Research Assistant with Dr. Levin

Born and raised in Saskatoon, SK, Patricia found she was a “science person” relatively early on, but got hooked on molecular biology itself during her undergraduate NSERC summer scholarships at the University of Saskatchewan. She went on to get her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at the U of S with Dr. Joyce Wilson, studying the molecular biology of Hepatitis C virus. There, she started with an NSERC Master’s scholarship, followed by a PhD scholarship from the CanHepC research network. On the side, she gave tours to people of all ages and educations at the Canadian Light Source, Canada’s only synchrotron. Patricia furthered her virus adventures in the lab of Dr. Benhur Lee at Mount Sinai in New York City for her CIHR-funded postdoctoral fellowship, studying “all things Paramyxovirus” – a family of viruses that includes the all-too-familiar measles and mumps viruses, as well as their more lethal cousins, Nipah and Hendra viruses. Through all of Patricia's research training, she was fascinated by the intricate details of how our cells run, and all the mechanisms our cells employ to keep things from going off the rails. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is highly prevalent here in Saskatchewan and is a quintessential example of intricate and complex processes that have derailed. When she returned to Saskatoon, Patricia saw the opportunity to turn her expertise to the biology of this disease and joined the Levin Lab at the CMSNRC. Currently, she is examining how a protein found in neurons goes awry during progressive stages of MS. In addition, since virus infection is considered a likely trigger for MS onset, she is also exploring how viruses are involved in MS.

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Prerna Jaswal
Volunteer with Dr. Krishnan

Picture of  Priyanshi  Desai

Priyanshi Desai BSc
MSc Candidate with Dr. Krishnan

Hailing from Ahmedabad, India, Priyanshi's journey began at Nirma University, where her fascination with Pharmacology ignited. Deeply touched by the plight of breast cancer patients and their families, as well as the lack of treatment options available, she aims at dedicating herself to understanding and mitigating cancer metastasis. Under the guidance of Dr. Anand Krishnan, her research on Tumor Nerve Innervation in Breast Cancer and its potential as a prognostic indicator promises new insights into this devastating disease. Seamlessly merging her pharmaceutical sciences background with training from the University of Southern California in Clinical Pharmacy, Therapeutics, Pharmacy Practice, and Drug Design, she aims in pioneering new frontiers in combating breast cancer metastasis while pursuing neuroscience. Priyanshi's commitment extends beyond research; she served as an intern at Apollo Hospitals, specializing in Medication Management and Process Adherence within the hospital environment. As she continues her pursuit in the study of breast cancer metastasis, she wants to stand as a beacon of hope, embodying the spirit of perseverance and compassion in the quest for a cancer-free future.

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Sanskriti Shrestha
Summer Student with Dr. Krishnan

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Shannon Berko
Laboratory Administrator

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Wafa Mustafa MSc
PhD Candidate with Dr. Verge

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Ximena Delgadillo
Summer Student with Dr. Krishnan

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Zelan Wei PhD
Research Associate with Dr. Verge