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MEET THE TEAM

Shaun Sanders – Principal Investigator

I first became interested in scientific research during my BSc at the University of British Columbia while volunteering in a research lab. I was always fascinated by the brain and brain diseases and quickly realized that I love research. At the time I was trying to develop strategies for delivery of therapeutics across the blood brain barrier in Sandhoff and Tay-Sachs diseases, devastating, fatal neurodegenerative disorders that primarily affect young children. After my BSc, I worked as a research technician in Dr. Michael Hayden’s lab researching the adult-onset neurodegenerative disease, Huntington disease (HD). There, I became fascinated with how the protein-lipid modification known as palmitoylation regulates protein trafficking in neurons and how that goes wrong in neurological disorders. I quickly decided that I wanted to pursue a PhD with Dr. Hayden investigating the role palmitoylation plays in HD and identified the Huntingtin palmitoylating enzyme ZDHHC17 as an essential protein crucial for neuronal integrity. This led to a postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of Dr. Gareth Thomas in Philadelphia. During my postdoc I combined biochemical and cell biological studies with viral-mediated approaches in neurons to identify a new role for palmitoylation in targeting voltage-gated potassium ion channels to the neuronal axon initial segment, the site of action potential initiation. I joined the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Guelph June 2020.

Andrey Petropavlovskiy – Lab Technician

Originally from Saint-Petersburg, Russia, I have completed an Honours Specialization Bachelor of Science degree in genetics and biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario in 2020. During my thesis project in Dr. Martin Duennwald’s lab I investigated the functional diversity of Hsp40 chaperones and their involvement in neurodegenerative disease. This experience led me to become interested in how protein post-translational modifications, folding, and trafficking contribute to neuronal function. In the NeuroPalm lab I am working to understand how palmitoylation controls clustering of sodium voltage-gated channels (NaVs) at the axon initial segment (AIS). Additionally, I am studying how palmitoylation modifies subcellular targeting and function of Hsp70 chaperones. This September, I will begin my PhD studies in the NeuroPalm lab.

Jordan Kogut – Masters Student

I recently earned my Honours B.Sc degree majoring in Neuroscience at the University of Guelph. Last year, I completed an undergraduate research project in the NeuroPalm lab, throughout which I learned a great deal about palmitoylation-dependent protein trafficking. My experience working in Dr. Sanders’ lab led to a profound interest in this area of research, which is why I decided to further explore the topic through the completion of a Masters program. I have always been fascinated by the brain, especially the neurological mechanisms implicated in function and disease. As such, I look forward to further investigating the role of palmitoylation in neuronal processes and neuropathology.

Arshia Leekha – Masters Student

I am currently completing my MSc in Molecular Cell Biology with a specialization in Neuroscience (2022). I completed an HBSc at Western University (2020) where I took various advanced cellular biology courses, which sparked my interest in cellular neuroscience. My current research project is aimed at investigating the regulation of a specific motor protein subunit known as dynactin by palmitoylation during fast axonal transport. My long term goals are to learn more about the nervous system and how it plays a role in various neurodegenerative disorders by hopefully becoming a physician-scientist specializing in neuropathology. When I’m away from the lab, I enjoy getting creative with makeup, graphic design and baking.

Charlotte Townsend – Masters Student

I completed my Honors BSc in Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of Guelph. Realizing I had a strong interest for research and being fascinated by the human brain, I came across Dr. Sanders and her work on palmitoylation. This led me to peruse my MSc in Molecular and Cellular Biology with a specialization in Neuroscience in her lab. I am excited to be part of the Sanders Lab to learn and build my skills in various genetic, biochemical, and cell biological approaches. My current focus is on the mechanisms of dynamic palmitoylation of voltage-gated potassium ion channels and how dynamic palmitoylation aids in the clustering of these channels at the axon initial segment. When I am not in the lab, you can find me hiking with my two dogs, surrounded by house plants or on the golf course.

Natalina Becke – Undergraduate Research Assistant

I will be going into my fourth year in the BSc Neuroscience program here at the University of Guelph in September 2021. I received an Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) from NSERC allowing me to begin my research in the NeuroPalm Lab this summer. I will then continue into the coming school year for my undergraduate research project. I have a keen interest in the molecular mechanisms underlying neurological diseases and disorders, and hope to pursue research in a Masters program following the completion of my BSc.

Will Taylor – Undergraduate Research Assistant

I joined the Sanders NeuroPalm Lab in May 2021. I am a third-year Biomedical Toxicology student and I am minoring in Neuroscience. After undergrad I would like to pursue a Masters degree and eventually become a professor. As well as the content of my program, I am also very interested in psychology. I haven’t chosen exactly where to focus my research yet, but this lab will open many doors for me and will help me choose what direction to head.

Kainaat Fatima – Undergraduate Research Project Student (F21)

I am a Biomedical science student currently working in the NeuroPalm Lab on palmitoylation of voltage-gated sodium channels. I am fascinated by the intricate communication which occurs inside our cells, particularly how their miscommunication can lead to disease. Despite how much we already about the brain, there are seemingly endless questions still to be answered. I believe we should seize the opportunity to use what we know to solve the unknown. 

Sanders Lab Alumni

  • Zane Stekel, Undergraduate Research Project Student (F20-W21)