Faculty Members

The members of the Lakehead University Biotechnology Research Program represent a variety of faculties, providing a diverse knowledge base. Faculties include: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Forestry and the Forest Environment, Health Sciences, Kinesiology, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science and Environmental Studies, and Physics. We also have members from the Biorefining research Institute and the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute.
The researchers listed here are members of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and are eligible to supervise graduate students. Please refer to the links for additional information.

Dr. Aicheng ChenChemistry
Contact Dr. A. Chen
Dr. Chen is a Canada Research Chair in Material and Environmental Chemistry. His research interests span the areas of Electrochemistry, Bioelectrochemistry, Green Chemistry, Materials Science and Nanotechnology. The knowledge gained from his research program not only addresses the fundamental issues of the structure and reactivity of electrochemical interfaces, but is also devoted to the design of novel electrochemical biosensors for environmental and biological analysis and to the development of new green technologies for the mining and pulp & paper industries. Dr. Chen's research laboratory is well equipped with advanced instruments including atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), infrared spectroscopy, UV-vis spectroscopy, impedance spectroscopy, gas chromatography, electrochemical workstations, pure water system, and facilities for the synthesis of nanomaterials.
>> Website

Dr. Jinan Fiaidhi Computer Science
Contact Dr. J. Fiaidhi
Dr. Jinan Fiaidhi's research involves the development of timely learning indicators for biosurveillance (i.e. the detection and observation of disease outbreaks) based on suite of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 technologies involving Deep Web Crawling, Mining and Knowledge Refinement Techniques, Ontology-Based Message Classification, Web Harvesting and Grid Infrastructures Notification Systems (e.g. Cloud, Collaborative, Peer-to-Peer, Ubiquitous and Social Networking) as well as a  Semantic Web Approach to Integrative biosurveillance.

Dr. Wely FlorianoChemistry
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Dr. Floriano's research falls within the field of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. Recent work involves the development and application of computational tools to simulate biologically relevant systems. This includes the development of computer programs to predict three-dimensional structure of proteins and nucleic acids from genetic data, engineer enzymes, find potential binding sites in proteins, and scan virtual libraries of chemicals for molecular probes, potential drugs or modulators of biological activity. In the context of Medical Biotechnology, computer-assisted molecular design (CAMD) techniques can aid in the development of new and modified chemical entities, such as new medicinal drugs and fluorescent molecular probes. Computational tools are also useful to process proteomic data, understand the molecular basis of drug action, and the molecular basis of individual differences in drug response. In the context of Environmental Biotechnology, computer-assisted molecular design methods can be used to study genetic sequences of biomass-degrading microorganisms for selection and/or modifications aimed at improving efficiency and reducing waste of biorefining processes.

Dr. Justin JiangChemistry
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Dr. Jiang’s research topics are generally in the field of “Organic and Medicinal Chemistry” with particular focus on the discovery of new drugs as well as new molecular tools for biomedical research. His research aims to develop and apply advances in synthetic organic chemistry and immunochemistry to the design and synthesis of chemically defined glycoconjugates with novel biological activities. His current research interests include:
(i) totally synthetic cancer vaccines, (ii) synthetic immunostimulatory vaccine adjuvants, (iii) the structural modification of cytotoxic drugs for targeted cancer therapy, and (iv) design and development of biodegradable polymers for targeted drug delivery.

Dr. Neelam KhaperNOSM
Contact Dr. N. Khaper
Dr. Khaper's research involves pathophysiology and novel therapeutic approaches of heart failure using various experimental models. Dr. Khaper is also interested in the roles of integrins in oxidative stress-induced apoptosis in the heart. Also being investigated are the molecular mechanisms of hyperglycemia-induced oxidative stress and cardiac dysfunction and the role of BRCA1 in cellular response to ionizing radiation.

Dr. Apichart Linhananta
Contact Dr. A. Linhananta
Dr. Linhanata's research focuses on computational protein folding. Recent work includes protein folding diseases, hormone transports and coarse-grained models of protein in complex solvents. Current research is being done with computational models of beta-amyloid peptides associated with Alzheimer's disease and computational models of green fluorescent proteins using molecular dynamics and density functional methods.

Dr. David Law
Contact Dr. D. Law
Human health is affected by the environment. Biotechnology allows the use of cutting edge techniques to address important questions that link these areas. At a molecular level, this requires an understanding of how specific patterns of gene expression govern plant development events. These include gene expression in response to environmental stresses such as high temperature, and initiation of the growth of reproductive and storage organs such as seeds and tubers. The experimental approaches employed by Dr. Law's lab are interdisciplinary and systems biology oriented. Consideration of metabolism from multiple angles will enable an understanding of these events at a molecular level and translation of these results into products that benefit the environment and economy of Northwestern Ontario.

Dr. Peter LeeBiology
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Dr. Lee is the Director of Aquatic Toxicity Research Centre (ATRC) and the Lakehead University Laboratory. His research focuses mostly on toxicity questions in the pulp and paper and mining sectors. Current research involves the development of Toxicity Identification and Evaluation procedures for the above resource sectors. Other research interests include bioremediation using wetland plant species. He has particular expertise in wild rice. Collaborating agencies with Dr. Lee include the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada (PAPRICAN), the National Water Research Institute (NWRI), Bowater, The Royal Botanical Gardens and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

Dr. Kam LeungBiology
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Dr. Leung's research program focuses on interactions between and survival mechanisms of microorganisms with the objective of enhancing the survival of beneficial microorganisms while controlling the growth and spread of pathogenic microorganisms in various environments. Some of the major ongoing projects in Dr. Leung's laboratory include: (1) stress-survival mechanisms and activity of pollutant-degrading microorganisms in the environment; (2) transport of microorganisms (such as pathogenic E. coli) through soil; (3) survival and interactions between potential pathogenic bacteria and other microorganisms in pulp and paper mill biofilms; (4) UV and laser disinfection of drinking and waste water; (5) rapid detection of bacterial contamination on central venous catheters used in cancer treatments; (6) molecular detection of pathogenic E. coli in the environment.

Dr. Baoqiang LiaoChemical Engineering
Contact Dr. B. Liao
Dr. Liao's research interest is focused on biotechnology, applied colloidal surface chemistry, particle science and technology, separations, transport phenomena, reaction engineering and their applications in pulp and paper processing and waste management engineering. Of particular interest is biotechnology for water and wastewater treatment, air pollution control, sludge management and renewable energy recovery from waste streams and biomass.

Dr. Carney Matheson
Dr. Matheson's research is focused on molecular biology and molecular genetics, specifically the design of molecular methods. For example the study of compound that affect the enzymatic activity or DNA degradation and repair. Recent research includes the characterization of chemical compounds and components of plant exudates, where both poisons and compounds that have medicinal properties have been identified.

Dr. Sabah MohammedComputer Science
Contact Dr. S. Mohammed
Dr. Sabah Mohammed’s recent research involves biosurveillance and visualization. The biosurveillance research is based on monitoring and analyzing Electronic Health Records (EHRs) utilized at large healthcare networks. This research aims at developing critical tool for the early detection of highly infectious diseases before they transform into full blown pandemics. The visualization techniques for biosurveillance is based on situation awareness (Situation awareness is used to describe a variety of techniques used to address situations where there is a lot of data and very little knowledge of what it represents). The situation awareness components provide the platform with the ability to detect anomalies, clusters of potential events, predict the rate and spread of a disease outbreak, and provide the analysts and decision makers with tools, methodologies and processes to investigate the event.

Dr. Wensheng QinBiology
Contact Dr. W. Qin
Dr. Qin's research focuses on (1) Genetic engineering for bacterial and fungal strain development for production of bioconversion enzymes: cellulases, hemicellulases, ligninases, and glucoamylases, etc. (2) Production of algal biofuels and valuable bioproducts. (3) Algal and microbial treatment and cleaning of mining wastewater, organic wastewater, and municipal wastewater. (4) Extraction of bioactive substances from natural biomass, especially northern Ontario medicinal plants. (5) Plant molecular biology and biotechnology. For more information about his research, please refer to Qin Lab Homepage.

Dr. Charles Xu
Chemical Engineering
Contact Dr. C. Xu
Dr. Xu's research includes bio-refining technologies (catalytic conversion of sugars into value-added chemicals, renewable hydrogen/methane production via supercritical water gasification of wet biomass or organic wastes, bio-crude production via hydrothermal liquefaction of biomass, depolymerization of lignin into bio-phenols and bio-polyols, synthesis of bio-based resins/adhesive, polyurethane and epoxy resins); Upgrading of heavy residual oil via hydro-treatment and co-processing with bio-crude oil: Catalytic gasification/co-firing of coal/biomass; catalysts and catalysis; green process engineering; recovery of organics from oil sands process and tailing water.

Dr. Heidi Schraft Biology
Contact Dr. Heidi Schraft
Dr. Schraft's research concentrates on microbial biofilms with the long-term goal to better understand the cellular mechanisms of biofilm formation by foodborne microorganisms. Dr. Schraft also investigates cold-adaptation of foodborne pathogens using dairy Bacillus cereus as a model organism She applies molecular techniques for detection and ecological studies of bacteria to advance knowledge on distribution and survival of foodborne pathogens in various environments. In addition, Dr. Schraft participates in interdisciplinary research on microbial biofilms in pulp and paper processing.

Dr. Zacharias SuntresNOSM
Contact Dr. Z. Suntres
Dr. Suntres’s long-term goal is to develop liposomal drug delivery systems that will be used for the treatment of oxidative stress-mediated tissue and organ injuries.  Oxidative stress has been characterized by an elevation in the steady-state concentration of reactive oxygen species including, superoxide anion, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl radical.   There is increasing evidence connecting oxidative stress with a variety of pathological conditions including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic inflammatory disease, post-ischaemic organ injury, diabetes mellitus, xenobiotic/drug toxicity, and rheumatoid arthritis.  A pharmacological strategy in preventing or treating oxidant-induced damage is by administering appropriate antioxidants.  Evidence from several studies have shown that administration of antioxidants did not seriously modify the injurious actions of oxidants, an observation attributed mostly to their inability to cross cell membrane barriers and/or to their rapid clearance from cells.  Recent advances in controlled delivery systems for drugs such as liposomes have generated an interest in their potential application for the prophylaxis or treatment of oxidant-induced injuries.  The relative ease in incorporating hydrophilic and lipophilic therapeutic agents in liposomes; the properties of liposomes to protect therapeutic agents from inactivation; the possibility of directly delivering liposomes to an accessible body site; and, the relative non-immunogenicity and low toxicity of liposomes have rendered the liposomal system highly attractive for drug delivery.

Dr. Marina UlanovaNOSM
Contact Dr. M. Ulanova
The major project in my group is the study of molecular mechanisms of interactions between pathogenic bacteria and lung epithelial cells, with an emphasis on the role of innate immune receptors. We try to dissect specific pathways, which help pathogenic bacteria to escape host innate immune defenses and establish an infectious process.

Our ultimate goal is to identify new molecular targets for therapy of pulmonary disease caused by the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Dr. Rui Wang
Contact Dr. Rui Wang

Dr. Wang’s research focuses on the regulation of cardiovascular health in general.  He is an international leader in the study of the metabolism and physiological functions of a group of small molecules of gas, known as gasotrasmitters, including nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide.

Dr. Guangdong Yang
Contact Dr. Guangdong Yang

Dr. Yang’s research focuses on the regulation and function of hydrogen sulfide (H2S), a novel gasotransmitter, on the proliferative cardiovascular diseases, aging and cancer. There are four areas of on-going research programs and interests: 1) Regulation and function of cystathionine gamma-lyase (CSE)/H2S system on smooth muscle cells upon vascular injury. 2)  H2S signaling in cellular senescence and aging development. 3) Roles of H2S in cancer. 4) Comprehensive investigation on H2S S-sulfhydrating proteins. For more information, please refer to http://cmru.lakeheadu.ca/.

Dr. Ingeborg Zehbe NOSM, TBRRI
Contact Dr. Ingeborg Zehbe
Dr. I Zehbe is a career scientist from the Cancer Centre at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. She focuses on the mechanisms of HPV virus involvement in cervical cancer development.  

Dr. Lada Malek Biology
Contact Dr. Lada Malek
Currently funded research interests include the degradation of lignin by fungal and bacterial enzymes. I am also interested in lignin biosynthetic pathways in plants and in plant proteolytic systems. My approach is based on classical biochemical enzyme purification and analysis, with an applied biotechnological angle to utilize microbial enzymes in an industrial setting to produce useful substances from wood wastes. Collaboration with Northern Ontario School of Medicine (Dr. B. Ross laboratory) investigates the utility of Selected ion flow tube mass spectrometry (SIFT-MS) in detecting volatile fungal metabolism by-products. PhD, MSc, as well as undergraduate projects are available periodically, depending on current funding situation.

Dr. Gautam Das Physics
Contact Dr. Gautam Das
Optical fiber lasers are very attractive because of their compact size, simple design and high efficiency. They have applications in wavelength division mutiplexing systems for long distance transmission, spectroscopy, sensors and instrumentation. Dr. Das's research concentrates on the development of high power fibre lasers in the visible and in the infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The work will also develop a highly sensitive sensor for measuring temperatures and pressure in harsh environments using the fiber lasers. A high power multi-wavelength fiber laser in the infrared region will find application in industry, environmental monitoring and biomedical research. This laser emits a number of lasing lines simultaneously with high power. It is possible to select a particular lasing line or a group of lasing lines depending on the requirements of the application. For differential absorption measurements one can use two laser lines with high power which may be tuned over a wide spectral range: one as a reference and the other to detect a different gas signal. A laser emitting a number of lasing lines with high power in the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum is also attractive. This laser will be applicable for displays, printing technology, medical diagnosis, treatment (e.g. photodynamic therapy for cancer) and development of a new system for biomedical research.

Dr. Alla Reznik Physics, TBRRI
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Dr. Reznik has been investigating the properties of wide band-gap semiconductors for more than 15 years. She is an expert in photoconducting materials for x-ray and gamma-ray detector application.

In the last five years Dr. Reznik has been actively collaborating with NHK Science & Technical Laboratories (Japan) on the development of the solid state technology for a new generation of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imagers based on amorphous selenium avalanche photosensors.

The goal of this research is to improve sensitivity for cancer detection, enabling diagnosis in the early stages of cancer. As part of the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute team Dr. Reznik will continue to work on the development of advanced radiation imaging detectors for a variety of biomedical applications, beginning with breast cancer.

Dr. Mitchell Albert Chemistry, TBRRI
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Dr. Mitchell Albert is a specialist in the field of hyperpolarized (HP) noble gas MRI. He is a co-inventer of this technology, and as a graduate student at Stony Brook University, demonstrated the first ever HP 129Xe MR imaging of the mouse lung. He was awarded a PhD in Physical Chemistry at Stony Brook University in 1993, and he joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School in 1995. While at Harvard, he continued his research on HP gas MRI while simultaneously holding a research appointment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

In 2006, he moved to the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and was appointed Professor and Director of MRI Research. He brought together and led a multidisciplinary team of scientists in advanced MRI research. Dr. Albert joined TBRRI and Lakehead University in Spring 2011. The research focus of his group is on developing HP 3He and 129Xe MRI to image ventilation in the airways and alveoli of the lungs. In addition, his group has been i) developing the use of HP 129Xe MRI to image stroke, ii) planning to image brain injury using xenon bio-sensors in living animals, and iii) imaging breast tumours using specific anti-tumour antibodies. Dr. Albert received the 1999 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from President Clinton, and the NSF Career Award in 2001 for his work with HP gas MRI.

Dr. Oleg Rubel Physics, TBRRI
Contact Dr. Oleg Rubel

Microscopic modelling of transport, optical, electronic, and structural properties of disordered semiconductors for medical imaging detectors. Particular topics include:

  • atomic structure of compound and amorphous semiconductors

  • defects and impurities in crystals and interaction between them

  • electronic and vibrational states in disordered solids

  • density functional theory and empirical force-field potentials

  • semiconductor surfaces: structure and energetics

  • electronic transport in disordered low-mobility semiconductors: hopping, multiple trapping, diffusion, incl. high-field effects, such as impact ionization

  • charge carriers: generation, recombination, lifetime, and trapping

  • optical properties of low-dimensional nanostructures: quantum wells and quantum dots

Dr. Lingyun Wu Health Science
Contact Dr. Lingyun Wu
  • The role of methylglyoxal (MG), a metabolite of glucose, and MG-induced advanced glycated endproducts (AGEs) in the development of insulin resistance and its underlying mechanisms. 
  • Cardiovascular biomarker development in the diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases
  • H2S and the pathogenesis of hypertension and diabetes.

Dr. Laura Curiel
Electrical Engineering, TBRRI
Contact Dr. Laura Curiel
Dr. Laura Curiel’s research focuses on novel imaging guidance for non-invasive thermal therapy using high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). HIFU is used to ablate precise regions within tissues without performing an incision. Her work includes clinical and pre-clinical investigations to advance HIFU therapy. She is particularly interested on interdisciplinary studies to use biological characteristics of the target to generate images that can guide HIFU procedures. She also works on the development of modalities to provide real-time HIFU exposure control, particularly ultrasound and Magnetic Resonance imaging. 

Dr. Pedram Fatehi                                                                     Chemical Engineering
  Contact Dr. Pedram Fatehi
Dr. Fatehi’s main research objectives are to 1) convert traditional pulp and paper mills to biorefinery complexes, 2) produce bio-based materials that could be used in various industries and substituted for oil-based materials and 3) reduce the environmental impacts.

His current research programs are:  
1- Lignin-based value-added products: In the current technology practiced in kraft pulping, black liquor is burnt in the recovery boiler of pulp mills. Although burning of lignocelluloses dissolved in black liquor would supply the required heat demand of the mills, the lignocelluloses would be indeed under-utilized. Dr. Fatehi is currently conducting research to produce various kraft lignin-based value-added chemicals that have wide range applications. 

2- Bioseparation: various spent liquors are produced in different pulping processes, but are treated in waste water systems. These spent liquors contain lignocelluloses that can be utilized in the production of different value-added chemicals. Dr. Fatehi is conducting research to isolate these lignocelluloses from spent liquors and then convert the isolated lignocelluloses to value-added chemicals.  

3- Wet end chemistry: Wet-end polymers are commonly used in papermaking for various purposes. Dr. Fatehi is currently conducting research to produce novel polymers that are used in wet-end application of papermaking. These polymers will improve paper properties so that less energy and cellulosic materials are consumed in the production of various paper grades.  

For more information, please visit Dr. Fatehi’s website (www.pfatehi.lakeheadu.ca).

Dr. Samuel Pichardo                                                       Electrical Engineering, TBRRI
Contact Dr. Samuel Pichardo

Dr. Chris Phenix                                                                                     Physics, TBRRI
Contact Dr. Chris Phenix

Dr. Sudip Rakshit                                                    Chemical Engineering, Biorefining
Contact Dr. Sudip Rakshit
Dr. Rakshit is a Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Bioenergy and Biorefining processes. His research interests include biofuels (first generation and second generation) and biorefining routes for the production of renewable, value added chemicals using clean technology.  He has considerable experience in the pretreatment and hydrolysis of lignocellulosic residues and biomass and their bioconversion to a variety of products.  As a biochemical engineer his areas of expertise span fermentation, applied microbiology and biochemistry.  His present research focus is on the utilization of lignocellulosic biomass and residues, wastes and byproducts of industries for the production of renewable chemicals in an environmentally friendly manner. With a background in food technology he has also been involved in food safety, nutraceuticals and food security.  He has worked with a number of international development agencies in less developed and emerging countries in areas of local and regional importance.  Dr. Rakshit’s  research laboratory is well equipped with advanced instruments including a high performance liquid chromatograph (HPLC), UV-vis spectroscopy, gas chromatography (GC), bioreactors, PCR and its accessories, pure water systems, laminar flow chamber, ultrasonic systems, incubator shakers and facilities required for bioconversion using useful microorganisms and biocatalysts.

 Dr. Simon Lees
Contact Dr. Simon Lees
Dr. Lees supervises a translational research program in the The Skeletal Muscle Cell Biology Lab at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. To this end, the range of projects includes the study of stem cells in culture, biomedical animal studies, and human clinical research. 
Current projects include:
  • Studying the age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass, known as sarcopenia, and a diminished capacity for skeletal muscle regeneration. 
  • Investigating the local inflammatory status of aged skeletal muscle, which has been implicated as a key regulator of sarcopenia and an impaired skeletal muscle regenerative capacity.
  • Examining mechanisms leading to improved glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle

 Dr. Siamak Elyasi
 Chemical Engineering
Contact Dr. Simak Elyasi
Dr. Elyasi's research interests focus on water and air treatment. Recent research includes disinfection of air and water using semi-natural methods and has been the developed methods are being implemented in collaboration with Bombardier. Future research will investigate the disinfection rate of UV radiation on diverse microorganisms and the use of bio-techniques in the production of nano-cellulose fibre.

These researchers are committed to focus their combined breadth and depth of expertise in Science and Engineering on interdisciplinary work in two areas of biotechnology: Environmental Biotechnology and Molecular Biotechnology. Experimental work will involve close collaborations between biological, medical, physical and engineering disciplines. In addition, collaborations of experimental researchers with experts in Math-Biology and Math-Physics will include mathematical modeling , bioinformatics, advanced data exploration and statistics.