Relevant Degree Programs
Complete these steps before you reach out to a faculty member!
- Familiarize yourself with program requirements. You want to learn as much as possible from the information available to you before you reach out to a faculty member. Be sure to visit the graduate degree program listing and program-specific websites.
- Check whether the program requires you to seek commitment from a supervisor prior to submitting an application. For some programs this is an essential step while others match successful applicants with faculty members within the first year of study. This is either indicated in the program profile under "Requirements" or on the program website.
- Identify specific faculty members who are conducting research in your specific area of interest.
- Establish that your research interests align with the faculty member’s research interests.
- Read up on the faculty members in the program and the research being conducted in the department.
- Familiarize yourself with their work, read their recent publications and past theses/dissertations that they supervised. Be certain that their research is indeed what you are hoping to study.
- Compose an error-free and grammatically correct email addressed to your specifically targeted faculty member, and remember to use their correct titles.
- Do not send non-specific, mass emails to everyone in the department hoping for a match.
- Address the faculty members by name. Your contact should be genuine rather than generic.
- Include a brief outline of your academic background, why you are interested in working with the faculty member, and what experience you could bring to the department. The supervision enquiry form guides you with targeted questions. Ensure to craft compelling answers to these questions.
- Highlight your achievements and why you are a top student. Faculty members receive dozens of requests from prospective students and you may have less than 30 seconds to pique someone’s interest.
- Demonstrate that you are familiar with their research:
- Convey the specific ways you are a good fit for the program.
- Convey the specific ways the program/lab/faculty member is a good fit for the research you are interested in/already conducting.
- Be enthusiastic, but don’t overdo it.
G+PS regularly provides virtual sessions that focus on admission requirements and procedures and tips how to improve your application.
Graduate Student Supervision
Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2019)
A hallmark of cancer is the accumulation of mutations, and a small proportion of these give rise to mutant neoantigens – mutated peptides bound to Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) and recognized by T cells. Accumulating evidence suggests that mutant neoantigens (hereafter referred to as “neoantigens”) underlie successful immune therapies in cancers with high mutation loads, such as melanoma. Moreover, neoantigen-specific vaccines have successfully targeted highly mutated murine tumor models. However, less is known about neoantigen-specific T cell responses in cancers with moderate mutation loads, such as ovarian cancer. I hypothesized that (1) modified peptide-based vaccination schedules can lead to enhanced antigen-specific T cell responses; (2) neoantigen-specific vaccines can elicit T cell responses that eradicate murine ovarian tumors; and (3) neoantigen-reactive T cells are detectable in human ovarian tumors and peripheral blood. To activate high frequencies of antigen-specific T cells, I developed a vaccination method involving repeated, daily immunizations with long peptides and adjuvant. This method elicited robust T cell responses that eliminated established murine tumors. I used these enhanced vaccination methods to target tumor-specific mutations identified by exome- and RNA-sequencing of the ovarian tumor model ID8-G7. Prophylactic and therapeutic vaccinations were performed targeting all expressed mutations that had a predicted MHCI binding affinity
Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
High grade serous carcinoma (HGSC), the most commonly diagnosed ovarian cancer subtype, is often presented as late stage disease with high recurrence rates, thus contributing to poor prognosis. Despite poor survival outcomes, the presence of tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) in primary, untreated tumours is associated with increased survival. However, little is known about the phenotype and composition of TIL subsets in HGSC patients following treatment. In this thesis, we investigated the functional phenotype of TIL and the changes in immune composition in tumours over the course of chemotherapy. In Chapter 2, we investigated the association of cytotoxic TIL with the presence of apoptotic tumour cells in primary tumours. By immunohistochemistry (IHC), we found that the majority of the CD8⁺T cells lack cytotoxic Ganzyme B and that the presence of both CD8⁺ and Granzyme B⁺TIL were not associated with the presence of apoptotic cleaved caspase-3⁺ tumour cells. In Chapter 3, we investigated the composition of TIL subsets in HGSC following neoadjuvant chemotherapy in matching pre- and post-chemotherapy tumour samples. By IHC, we found an increased density of intraepithelial T cells, CD20⁺B cells, and TIA-1⁺ and PD-1⁺TIL. In contrast, no significant change was found in the density of intraepithelial Granzyme B⁺TIL, FoxP3⁺T cells, or CD68⁺ macrophages. Patients with high CD8⁺TIL density following chemotherapy showed prolonged survival. Thus, we found the immune response to cancer is dynamic, and TIL populations change during the course of treatment. The results from this study indicate chemotherapy can alter the immunologic microenvironment in which tumour prior to chemotherapy lacking cytotoxic T cells can have increased infiltration of cytotoxic T cells and B cells, as well as PD-1⁺TIL. This study indicates the increased TIL infiltration following chemotherapy could be further enhanced with immunotherapies, such as tumour-specific vaccines and immune modulators (PD-1 blockade), to eradicate remaining tumour cells and reduce recurrences in HGSC. This work contributes to a better understanding of the effects of chemotherapy on TIL and this can lead to a more strategic development of immunotherapies in order to harness the anti-tumour immune response and mitigate immunosuppression against cancer.