MEET THE TEAM
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) – PhD 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. Contact me at andrey at uoguelph.ca.
Charlotte Townsend (she/her/hers) – PhD Candidate
I am a first generation university student who completed their Honours BSc. In Molecular Biology & Genetics at the University of Guelph. Falling in love with not only molecular science but also the beauty and culture of the campus, I knew I wanted to continue my academic journey at UoG. While looking over faculty and various labs I came across Dr. Sanders and her work on palmitoylation of neuronal proteins. I have a never-ending curiosity of how proteins are regulated and trafficked throughout our cells. I am also fascinated by the human brain and being able study protein defects that are implicated in human disease is something that brings me so much gratification. As a PhD student in the NeuroPalm Lab I get 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.
Saba Sabzevari (she/her/hers) – PhD Student
I recently joined the NeuroPalm lab recently as a PhD student. I have a background in behavioural studies and am eager to learn more about molecular sciences. Dr. Sanders’ lab provides me with the opportunity to learn more about protein regulation and trafficking. I find it intriguing to watch how minor adjustments in the smallest parts of our bodies may have a significant impact on our health and well-being. I am interested in studying molecular biology and using what I have learned to address and alleviate neurological and psychological disorders. Dr. Sanders is a highly helpful personality and is highly knowledgeable, making her an excellent supervisor. The NeuroPalm lab, with its diverse techniques and prospects, can assist me in moving closer to my goal. I believe that the most meaningful aspect of my life is when I can alleviate the suffering or sorrow of others, and I hope that as a scientist, I can accomplish this goal.
Brodie Buchner-Duby (She/her/hers) – PhD Candidate
I completed my Honours B.Sc. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Trent University in the Spring of 2019. During my fourth year at Trent, I completed my undergraduate thesis project under the supervision of Dr. Carolyn Kapron investigating the antioxidant effects of Methylene Blue on Cadmium toxicity in Zebrafish (Danio rerio) Embryos. This research sparked my passion for molecular biology and the study of disease. This passion for research and my joy for learning brought me to the University of Guelph, the city I grew up in. My PhD work focuses on the effects of the posttranslational modification S-Nitrosylation on proteins caused by misfolded alpha synuclein in Parkinson’s Disease as well as implementing a targeted degradation of this misfolded alpha synuclein through a lentivirally introduced ubiquitin variant. Outside of academics I enjoy baking, playing volleyball, and spending time with my husky.
Amelia Doerksen (she/her/hers) – MSc 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.
Will Taylor (he/him/his) – NSERC USRA S22 & S23, Undergrad Research Project Student W23 & F23
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.
Denver Bakhareva (they/them) – President’s Scholar Research Assistant S23
With just a recent finish of first year, I am on my way to completing my Honours B.Sc. with a major in Neuroscience and a minor in Philosophy. Being a first-generation science student and a Siberian immigrant, I am very grateful to be one of the recipients of the President’s Scholarship at the University of Guelph; which generously includes an incredible opportunity to invest a summer in a chosen type of research. Luckily, as a previous mentor of mine, Dr. Sanders and the NeuroPalm lab were simply the perfect matches for this program. With my history of researching the Human Connectome Project (HCP) at the Aspiring Scholars Directed Research Program (ASDRP) and participating in/initiating numerous research workshops at STEM Fellowship, I was fascinated by the impactful role of palmitoylation in neuronal protein trafficking and its relation to neurodegeneration the moment I attended the lab team’s meetings. I joined the NeuroPalm lab in the summer of 2023 to focus on the folding and trafficking of GRP94 during neuronal palmitoylation – and I hope to contribute more as I move on in my undergraduate career! Moving forward, I plan to further study my interest in neural engineering within neurodegenerative diseases and its underlying medical ethics; with the hopes of teaching such intricate topics to future generations as a professor and researcher. Outside of academics, I am a proud member of the University of Guelph Dragon Boat Team and the director of STEM Fellowship @ Guelph. I also enjoy making art/music, reading, watching video essays, cooking and gardening! Contact me at abubelic at uoguelph.ca.
Nisandi Herath (she/her/hers) – Undergraduate Research Project Student (F23-W24)
I am a fourth year undergraduate student 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 in neurons, and was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to volunteer in the NeuroPalm Lab F22-S23. Currently, I am completing an undergraduate research project in Dr. Sanders’ lab. 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.
Mahmoud Al Ramadan (he/him/his) – Undergraduate Research Project Student (F23/W24)
I am currently in my fourth year at the University of Guelph, pursuing a BSc in Biological Sciences. During my third year, while taking Dr. Sanders’s biochemistry course, I discovered her lab and became deeply intrigued by the research conducted by her and her lab members. I am looking forward to being involved in the NeuroPalm Lab through this undergraduate research role. I hope that this opportunity will help me determine my future academic path post-graduation and satisfy my interest in neuroscience. In my free time, I enjoy spending quality time with my friends and family as well as playing soccer and basketball.
Sanders Lab Alumni
- Jordan Kogut, MSc (F21-S23)
- Alysha Church, Project Student (F22-W23)/Research Assistant (S23) & USRA (S22), alysha.church at medportal.ca
- Fiona McIlhargey, Undergraduate Research Project Student (F22-W23)
- 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)