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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 "Admission Information & Requirements" - "Prepare Application" - "Supervision" 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.
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- 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.
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- 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.
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G+PS regularly provides virtual sessions that focus on admission requirements and procedures and tips how to improve your application.
Graduate Student Supervision
Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
Background: The process of axonal degeneration and neuronal loss has been described as the major cause of irreversible clinical disability in multiple sclerosis (MS). An ideal neuroprotective strategy would be to focus on inhibition of axonal degeneration and on protection against neuronal cell death in addition to immunomodulation. The aryl-hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator 2 (ARNT2) is a protein with neuroprotective properties previously described in ischemic insults and oxidative damage. We hypothesize that alterations in ARNT2 expression are associated with changes in cell viability in in vitro and in vivo models of multiple sclerosis. Methods: Following exposure to various compounds mimicking MS disease processes, ARNT2 protein and mRNA levels were observed in primary cortical neuron-enriched cultures using western blotting, quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and immunocytochemistry, alongside cytotoxicity measurements, using a lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) release assay/Live/Dead® Viability/Cytotoxicity assay. ARNT2 protein levels were also evaluated in primary cortical astrocytes using immunocytochemistry. Analyses in an animal model of MS, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) were conducted, with tissue collected at various stages of the disease course, to examine ARNT2 expression patterns in vivo. Results: Examination of individual neurons reveals that most cells demonstrate low-medium ARNT2 expression under steady-state conditions. Exposing cells to both low and higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide (H₂O₂) to mimic mild to more severe oxidative stress significantly increases ARNT2 protein levels early, as measured via western blotting and immunocytochemistry. At the mRNA level, oxidative stress fails to drive Arnt2. This increased detection of ARNT2 protein is observed in both neurons and reactive astrocytes specifically within the neuronal-enriched mixed populations. Non-reactive astrocytes also express ARNT2 at baseline conditions. Finally, ARNT2 is differentially expressed in healthy versus EAE tissue at peak disease. Conclusions: This work demonstrates for the first time that ARNT2 can follow altered expression patterns in vitro in neurons depending on the severity/duration of the stimulus involved in MS disease progression. This lays a foundation for understanding the link between ARNT2 expression and neuronal health in vitro.
Microglia are the primary immune cells found within the central nervous system (CNS), playing a vital role in neuronal function, trophic support and also modulating immune or inflammatory responses to pathogens or damage during disease. Microglia are essential to repair processes influencing axonal health and remyelination. However, the study of microglia is limited as significant yields of microglia through tissue culture are difficult to obtain. We show that the addition of granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) during the culture of embryonic microglia yields significantly greater cell numbers. GM-CSF cultured microglia exhibit a non-differentiated phenotype similar to in vivo microglia and represent a useful model for disease and reparative processes in the CNS. Using our primary microglial model, we investigated two proteins, Aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator 2 (ARNT2) and receptor-mediated endocytosis – 8 (RME-8). ARNT2, a transcription factor for several proteins but most notably for the neuronal growth factor, brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), has been primarily studied in neurons. Our studies show regulation of ARNT2 in astrocytes and immune cells (microglia and splenocytes) under inflammatory conditions. In the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model, splenocytes exhibited lower ARNT2 expression than those from healthy controls. Lipopolysaccharide and interferon-γ increased otherwise low ARNT2 expression in microglia.RME-8 is a protein that is important in endosomal trafficking. Mutations in RME-8 have been linked to Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. However, RME-8 has yet to be characterized within the CNS. Motor neurons, astrocytes and ependymal cells expressed RME-8 in healthy control mice; RME-8 was increased and co-localized with CD68 positive cells in immune infiltrates in EAE mice. Our results show the uptake of dextran in RME-8 mutant knock-in microglia is decreased, indicating the importance of this protein in phagocytic processes. These results show that microglia can be effectively cultured from embryonic tissue with the addition of GM-CSF in comparison to previously established protocols and are similar to microglia in vivo. Furthermore, inflammatory mediators influence expression of ARNT2 and RME-8 and may highlight roles for each in neuroprotection or phagocytic function respectively, thereby influencing inflammatory neurodegenerative or reparative processes relevant to several diseases in the CNS.
Background: Reactive oxygen and nitrogen species are implicated in inflammatory-mediated damage to the central nervous system in multiple sclerosis (MS) and an animal model of the disease, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). We have shown that oral administration of the antioxidant TEMPOL (4-hydroxy-2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidine-N-oxyl), a stable nitroxide radical, lowers incidence and reduces severity of disease in EAE. We hypothesize that TEMPOL limits inflammatory demyelinating disease by regulating the development of pathogenic immune responses that influence immune cell activation, including T cell and antigen presenting cell phenotypes and function. Methods: Immune responses were compared between control and TEMPOL-fed EAE or healthy mice by examining differences in proliferation, population distribution, surface marker expression, and cytokine production in immune cells isolated from lymphoid organs. The effect of added TEMPOL on immune cell proliferation and phenotype was also studied in vitro using mixed lymphocyte reactions (MLR) with human or mouse cells, and in isolated murine lymphoid cell cultures stimulated with anti-CD3. Results: TEMPOL-fed animals exhibit comparable levels of myelin-reactive T cells versus controls, but show reduced production of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interferon gamma, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and transforming growth factor-beta 1. Flow cytometry showed enrichment of CD8+ over CD4+ T cells in lymphoid tissues of TEMPOL-fed EAE mice, as well as decreased MHC II and increased CD80 and CD86 expression in myeloid cells and myeloid dendritic cell (DC) populations. Enrichment of Foxp3+ regulatory T cells was also observed in lymph nodes with TEMPOL. In vitro, iii TEMPOL was found to enhance proliferation of lymphoid cells in mouse MLR or when stimulated with anti-CD3 in a dose-dependent manner. Human MLR experiments also showed enhanced cell proliferation and enrichment of CD8 T cells in the presence of TEMPOL. Adding TEMPOL to cell cultures decreased expression of MHC II, CD80, and CD86 in splenic myeloid cells and myeloid DCs. Conclusions: These studies suggest that TEMPOL is not globally immunosuppressive, but instead alters the phenotype of antigen-specific or autoreactive immune cells generated in vivo, reducing the pro-inflammatory nature of immune responses in EAE. These immunomodulatory properties contribute to TEMPOL’s potential as an efficacious therapeutic in MS.
SPARC (secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine) is a cell-matrix modulating protein involved in angiogenesis and endothelial barrier function, yet a potential role in cerebrovascular repair and inflammatory responses in the central nervous system (CNS) has not previously been characterized. The inflammatory demyelinating disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) is characterized pathologically by inflammatory infiltrates, demyelination and axonal damage/loss and aberrant alterations in blood-brain barrier (BBB) integrity. We hypothesize that SPARC expression may be influenced by inflammatory or repair processes during MS, and that SPARC itself may influence BBB integrity. This study examined SPARC expression in cultured human cerebral microvascular endothelial cell (hCMEC/D3), an in vitro model of the BBB, under steady state conditions or those modeling an inflammatory milieu by immunoblotting and immunocytochemistry. hCMEC/D3s constitutively express SPARC during proliferative growth and downregulate SPARC as cells establish a BBB phenotype. SPARC expression in cerebral endothelia directly correlated with the cell proliferation marker Ki-67, consistent with a role for SPARC in CNS angiogenesis. Proinflammatory cytokines associated with inflammation and immune activation differentially regulate SPARC expression in cerebral endothelia. Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) cytokine or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) endotoxin treatment significantly increased SPARC protein levels. TNF-α and interferon gamma (IFN-γ) cotreatment abrogated SPARC induction compared to TNF-α alone, suggesting divergent roles for each cytokine in regulating SPARC expression in cerebral endothelia. Compared to cultures replenished with media lacking exogenously supplied SPARC, addition of a physiological SPARC concentration observed in healthy individuals (0.1μg/ml) increased tight junction protein expression of zonula occludens 1 (ZO-1) and occludin by approximately thirty percent, suggesting a role in BBB maintenance. Paradoxically, functional assays show recombinant human SPARC applied exogenously increased the transendothelial permeability of hCMEC/D3 monolayers. In agreement, barrier hCMEC/D3s exposed to increased SPARC concentrations (1-10 μg/ml) associated with pathological conditions in vivo, reduced ZO-1 and occludin by one-third. Together, these data support a role for SPARC in BBB maintenance under normal physiological conditions and BBB alterations during inflammatory conditions. In this regard, SPARC levels may play a key role in regulating BBB integrity and serve to alter processes of CNS inflammation and repair.