June 2018, Volume 21
  1. Welcome New BioZone Students
  2. Congratulations to Graduated Students
  3. Federal Science Minister Kirsty Duncan visits BioZone
  4. BioZone Spring Symposium 2018 Highlights
  5. Biozone Horizons Update
  6. Science Rendezvous 2018 Highlights
  7. Biozone Games Night Highlights
  8. Student/Postdoc Highlight
  9. CsCHE/OQ-BM Conference 2018 Highlights
  10. BioZone Summer Social 2018 - Wonderland
  11. New Publications

1. Welcome New Biozone Students

As usual, summer is a time of many new faces joining us in Biozone. We are pleased to introduce the new summer students, graduate students, and post doctoral fellows joining us in Biozone this summer. Welcome to all and best of luck during your time here.
Pictured new students (left to right): Elizabeth Hii (Brent Sleep Lab), Heping Shen (Allen Lab), Chelsea Cao (McGuigan Lab), Sandy Dai (Mahadevan Lab), Erica (Yijia) Wang (Allen Lab), Peter Dong (Mahadevan Lab), Jim Yao (BioZone), Daphne Sze (McGuigan Lab), William Wong (Mahadevan Lab), Alexander Czyrny (Mahadevan Lab)  

Students not pictured: Sadafnaz Kashi Kalhour – Phd, Rui Wu - Summer Student, Christopher Salmean - Visiting Researcher, Shamantha Lora - Summer Student, Andrew Jo - Research Assistant, Yilan Liu, Post Doctoral Fellow, Daphne Sze - 4th Year Thesis Student, Chao Chen - Research Associate, Marie Goujet - Visiting Student, Nathalie Mesa - Co-op student, Natalie Landon-Brace - PhD  

2. Congratulations to Graduated Students

Congratulations to the following Biozone students who graduated this month:
Aakash Engineer - M.Eng. - Diosady Lab
Masood Khaksar - PhD - Mahadevan Lab
Rachel Kwan - M.A.Sc. - Master Lab
HyunWoo Lee - M.A.Sc - Edwards Lab
Corina Ramirez - M.Eng. - Allen Lab

Best of luck to all in your future endeavors!

3. Federal Science Minister Kirsty Duncan visits BioZone

It was an exciting month for Professor Edwards' group, as the lab was visited by Kirsty Duncan, Canada's Federal Science Minister. The visit highlighted Dr. Duncan's efforts to increase investment in academic research across Canada. Read more about Dr. Duncan's visit by clicking here.

4. Biozone Spring Symposium 2018 Highlights

This year's BioZone Spring Symposium took place on May 14th with a great turnout. Congratulations to the winners of the 3MT (Luz Puentes, PhD Candidate, Edwards Group), 20-min Presentation (Dr. Alessandra Biz, Postdoc, Mahadevan Group), and Posters (Dr. Christine Romano, Research Associate, Edwards Group). Thank you to those who attended and helped out, and special thanks to all our presenters. It was a great time and we look forward to seeing everyone again in the Fall Term.

5. Biozone Horizons Update

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for details regarding the upcoming Biozone Horizons. Biozone Horizons is an annual event aimed at exploring the vast range of career paths available to Biozone graduates in both industry and academia. The event will consist of talks from Biozone alumni detailing the paths they have taken during their careers, as well as networking opportunities with industry and academic partners. Stay tuned for specific date, time, and location information.

6. Science Rendezvous 2018 Highlights

This May, BioZone hosted a booth at University of Toronto’s Science Rendezvous. This event is a great opportunity for kids to get interested in science, and to have loads of fun in the process. This year, BioZone showcased a paper-making station, where kids learned how to create pulp, cast it into a sheet, and decorate it with biodegradable string and seeds. Our booth was very popular and many kids went home with their very own home-made paper that night. Keep a look out for calls to volunteer for next year’s rendition of Science Rendezvous! 

7. BioZone Games Night Highlights

Thanks to all who joined us for the first ever BioZone games night. Stay tuned for more games nights in the coming months!

8. Student/Postdoc Spotlight

This month’s Student Spotlight is on Olanrewaju (Olan) Raji, a Post Doctoral Fellow in the Master lab. See the abstract below for details on Ruhi’s research during her time here in BioZone.

What motivated you to study biotech?
At the beginning of my PhD I didn’t have that much of an interest in biotechnology. As I started my PhD in biochemistry in the department of sustainable bioproducts at Missisipi State I realized the importance of what is being doing there, even though I overlooked this in my undergrad and previous experience. It is a way to improve what we gain from the planet. The idea of using what is already being provided by nature and either making it better or finding a way to make it useful. There is a tonne of biowaste out there with nothing productive coming from it. It was very unique to me when my first project was to use a biopolymer to protect furniture, houses, and other wood products from biodegradation. Being in the department of sustainable bioproducts in Missisipi State was my first “hook” to come to this realm of biotechnology.  

What was the path that led you to Toronto and UofT?
Toronto is a big city. I’ve never lived in a city this big. I think it is a rich and diverse society. My advisor at Mississipi State was Dr. Jeramic (spelling), and she was also a postdoc here. Several times we would have discussions about the work that goes on here, and how once I was able to, I could come learn here. My advisor helped me get in contact with Dr. Master. I had a couple of interviews and felt that it would be a good fit. You have to have this feeling that you can fit in to the work that is being done. You might not have a lot of experience, which I don’t in the specific chemistry area that I’m working on, but I have the feeling that I can learn from here, I can gain knowledge from here, and I can contribute, so that alone is my driving force to come to BioZone. I felt that I would be able to develop as a scientist. The combination of those things and the connections through my previous experience with my advisor are what pushed me here. 

What has been one highlight of your experience in BioZone so far?
It’s the convenience of having access to the instruments you need. We don’t have everything, but we almost have everything. Not only that there is always someone who can train you and walk you through it. I’ve been in and seen other departments where this is not the case. Also the people in general. They are very helpful! There are a lot of people, which is a good thing. It’s the convenience of the people and the unit itself…it works. Sometimes it’s crazy and you have to go find a flask or something like that, but that’s just a small thing. The big idea is that you can share your knowledge and experience and whether a person is an undergrad or a PI, everyone wants to learn. I think it is that common drive that actually makes BioZone great. It makes it very appealing to be here.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Ten years? I don’t know where I’m going to be tomorrow! I don’t know what I’m going to eat for dinner. Seriously. Careerwise, hopefully I will be doing research in some form. I am particularly interested in the combination of medicine and biotechnology. That is ultimately where I would like to be.

Fun questions now…If you could be any animal, which one would you be?
No one has ever asked me this question… Probably a cat because I like cats. They are weird and you can never tell what they are going to do. They can either love you or very much hate you and switch like that. They are very unpredictable.

If you could bring a single CD and a Walkman to a deserted island while waiting to be rescued, which CD would you bring?
I would bring an audiobook on CD. Something fun and imaginative. I would want something to take my mind away from being on a deserted island. Perhaps something fictional like the Harry Potter series or another fantasy novel.

What advice do you have for an aspiring graduate student or researcher here in BioZone? Everyone always asks you questions like “what do you want to do?” and “what are your life goals?” I would say to start with the easy stuff. Do you actually enjoy what you are doing? It’s sometimes very hard to see the big picture. But sometimes it is very easy to look over this little picture too. I don’t believe that you should punish yourself by staying somewhere you don’t really enjoy. You may make a lot of money, but if you feel like you aren’t fulfilling your potential or being as productive as you could be, I wouldn’t suggest you to spend most of your adult life doing that. First of all, determine if you enjoy where you have put yourself. If not, search for a reorientation. Also, make sure that the people that you decide to be around are optimistic or people that can make you better.
Science will always be science, research will always be research. That is not going to change. The people, their attitudes, and your own attitudes could change. The personal things are important. Then decide what you want to do from there, such as winning a Nobel Prize!
Almost every biochemical process involves catalytic macromolecules known as enzymes, therefore they are the subject of investigation for the upgrade of biopolymers. Biopolymers primarily from industrial waste (pulp mills) and green waste (forest resource) are made up of various polysaccharides in the form of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZY) act on these polysaccharides using very different mechanisms, thus several enzyme classes have been categorized. The goal of this project is to discover, characterize and engineer CAZY enzymes for the purpose of efficient and optimal upgrading of biopolymers. These upgraded or upcycled biopolymers can then be utilized in numerous biotechnological applications.

9. CsCHE/OQ-BM Conference 2018 Highlights

The 20th Annual CsCHE Quebec-Ontario Biotechnology Meeting was held on May 17th at McMaster University this year. The keynote for the meeting was delivered by Professor Yingfu Li from McMaster who presented his lab's work on the applications of biosensors using synthetic DNA molecules. There were also several presentations and posters all demonstrating work highlighting the work done in various fields related to biotechnology. Our own Samantha Cheung, Patrick Diep, and Scott Proulx all presented posters at the conference, with Scott winning third place in the poster competition. Congratulations Scott, and we hope everyone looks forward to the meeting next year. 

10. BioZone Summer Social 2018 - Wonderland

Summer has just begun in the city and all of us in Biozone are looking to take advantage while it lasts. What better way to take a break from the lab, soak up some sun, and socialize with your fellow Biozoners than at our Biozone Summer Social. This summer, the event will be taking place at Canada's Wonderland on August 13. Park hours are from 10AM-8PM, so feel free to join for as much or as little of the day as your schedule allows. Biozone Council is currently working on a group rate discount, so stay tuned for pricing details! 

Canada's Wonderland is Canada's largest amusement park. It contains 330 acres of roller coasters, rides, games, and a full water park. If amusement parks are of interest to you, you will not want to miss out on this event! 

11. New Publications May/June 2018

Nemr, K., Müller, J.E., Joo, J.C., Gawand, P., Choudhary, R., Mendonca, B., Lu, S., Yu, X., Yakunin, A.F. and Mahadevan, R., (2018). Engineering a short, aldolase-based pathway for (R)-1, 3-butanediol production in Escherichia coli. Metabolic Engineering. In Press.

Perez De Mora, A., Lacourt, A., McMaster, M.L., Liang, X., Dworatzek, S.M. and Edwards, E.A., (2018). Chlorinated electron acceptor abundance drives selection of Dehalococcoides mccartyi (D. mccartyi) strains in dechlorinating enrichment cultures and groundwater environments. Frontiers in Microbiology, 9:812. DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.00812

Nemr, K., Müller, J.E., Joo, J.C., Gawand, P., Choudhary, R., Mendonca, B., Lu, S., Yu, X., Yakunin, A.F. and Mahadevan, R., 2018. Engineering a short, aldolase-based pathway for (R)-1, 3-butanediol production in Escherichia coli. Metabolic engineering. 48:13-24 DOI:

Stogios, P.J., Cox, G., Zubyk, H.L., Evdokimova, E., Wawrzak, Z., Wright, G.D. and Savchenko, A., 2018. Substrate Recognition by a Colistin Resistance Enzyme from Moraxella catarrhalis. ACS chemical biology. 13(5):1322-1332. DOI: 10.1021/acschembio.8b00116

Quaile, A.T., Stogios, P.J., Egorova, O., Evdokimova, E., Valleau, D., Nocek, B., Kompella, P.S., Peisajovich, S., Yakunin, A.F., Ensminger, A.W. and Savchenko, A., 2018. The Legionella pneumophila effector Ceg4 is a phosphotyrosine phosphatase that attenuates activation of eukaryotic MAPK pathways. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 293(9):3307-3320. DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M117.812727

Please email us if you have something to add to the next edition of the BioZone Newsletter
Copyright © 2018 Biozone Centre for Applied Bioscience and Bioengineering, All rights reserved.

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