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Shaun Sanders (she/her/hers) – 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 (he/him/his) – Doctoral Student

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. September 2021 I began my PhD studies in the NeuroPalm lab.

Jordan Kogut (he/him/his) – Masters Student

I recently earned my Honours B.Sc degree majoring in Neuroscience at the University of Guelph. I completed an undergraduate research project in the NeuroPalm lab in 2020/2021, 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.

Charlotte Townsend (she/her/hers) – Doctoral 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.

Will Taylor – NSERC USRA Summer Student

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.

Alysha Church (she/her/hers) – Undergraduate Research Project Student and USRA S22

I am currently a fourth year Biomedical Science student who joined the Sanders Neuropalm Lab as an USRA student in May 2022. I first learned of of Dr. Sanders work while pursuing a Literature Review exploring topics in neuroscience. Since then, I have gained a great interest and respect for the role of palmitoylation and its relevance to the study of neurodegenerative disorders. I love exploring the underlying mechanisms of why things happen in the brain and how it effects people. I am excited to continue working with the Sanders Lab team for the next year for my undergraduate thesis project!

Amelia Doerksen (she/her/hers) – Undergraduate Research Project Student

I am in my fourth year of my Honours BSc in Bio-Medical Science at the University of Guelph. I joined the NeuroPalm Lab as part of my Senior Research in Biomedical Sciences Project to gain experience and learn more about current molecular neuroscience research. My curiosity about biochemical mechanisms and pathways that are involved in neurological diseases developed during my undergraduate degree. Dr. Sanders taught my third year biochemistry course and I was fascinated by her research on palmitoylation regulating sub-neuronal protein targeting and neuronal function. I wanted to pursue my interest in the field of neurobiochemistry and I am excited to have the opportunity to work with Dr. Sanders and the lab team. I plan to continue my academic career and want to apply to a graduate biomedical research program in the future. In my free time I enjoy painting, crocheting, and swimming.

Fiona McIlhargey (she/her/hers) – Undergraduate Research Project Student

I am a fourth-year Biomedical Science student, minoring in Neuroscience. My plans after undergrad are currently undecided. I hope to either complete a Masters degree looking at embryogenesis and brain development or Parkinson’s disease, or attend medical school to become a reproductive endocrinologist/obstetrician. I am excited to be a part of this lab and be afforded the opportunity to experience working in a lab. In my free time I can be found baking, going for walks or watching Netflix.

Nisandi Herath (she/her/hers) – Undergraduate Student Volunteer

I am a third year undergraduate student currently working towards a B.Sc., majoring in Biomedical Science and minoring in French, at the University of Guelph. I was first introduced to Dr. Sanders’ research while taking her third year biochemistry course. I was interested in learning more about the role of palmitoylation in protein trafficking and function of neurons, and was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to volunteer in the NeuroPalm Lab, beginning in the fall of 2022. In the future, I plan to pursue my passion for biological research and hope this first introduction will help me decide what area of research interests me most.

Sanders Lab Alumni

  • Arshia Leekha, MSc (F20-F22)
  • Natalina Becke, Undergraduate Research Project Student (F21-W22), NSERC USRA (S21)
  • Kainaat Fatima, Undergraduate Research Project Student (F21)
  • Zane Stekel, Undergraduate Research Project Student (F20-W21)