Relevant Degree Programs
Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters
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.
- 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)
Cell division requires the assembly and organization of a microtubule-based mitotic spindle. Microtubule assembly at multiple sites is dependent on Aurora kinase A activity, which is promoted through a complex with TPX2 (targeting protein for XKlp2). Subsequent organization of these microtubules and progression into anaphase requires balance between forces orchestrated by antagonistic motor complexes. My studies show that the non-motor protein RHAMM (receptor for hyaluronan mediated motility) integrates structural and biochemical pathways to ensure the fidelity of cell division. Silencing RHAMM in HeLa cells delayed the kinetics of spindle assembly. I located RHAMM to centrosomes and non-centrosome sites for microtubule nucleation and found it necessary for TPX2 localization and Aurora A activity at kinetochores. The RHAMM-TPX2 complex requires a conserved leucine zipper motif in RHAMM and a domain that includes the nuclear localization signal in TPX2. These findings indicate RHAMM is needed for spatially-regulated activation of Aurora A by TPX2, which coordinates spindle assembly. I monitored mouse embryonic fibroblasts deficient for RHAMM through division and identified defects progressing through the spindle checkpoint. In RHAMM-silenced HeLa cells, I identified sustained activation of the checkpoint with unfocused spindles and unattached kinetochores, implicating unbalanced motor activities mediated by kinesins. In metaphase-delayed cells, the abundance or location of checkpoint proteins was not altered. Moreover, aberrant spindle orientation could not account for each delayed division. In RHAMM-silenced cells, I found that the reciprocal immunoprecipitation of Eg5-TPX2, an inhibitory complex, was reduced and that the concurrent inhibition of Eg5-generated force recovered division kinetics. I also observed a prolonged metaphase delay in a proportion of RHAMM-silenced cells, which resolved through cohesion fatigue. Together, my findings indicate that RHAMM-mediated attenuation of Eg5-dependent outward forces is needed to align chromosomes and progress through division. Lastly, I identified defects in spindle structure and function in redundant models for RHAMM over-expression. Collectively, my studies demonstrate that RHAMM coordinates Aurora A signaling and balances motor forces that are needed for cell division. These findings provide novel insights into processes that are essential for mammalian cell division and the maintenance of genome stability.
Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours (MPNST) are rare, hereditary cancers associated with neurofibromatosis type I. MPNSTs lack effective treatments as they often resist chemotherapies and have high rates of disease recurrence. Published analysis of copy number variation identified hemizygous loss of Hyaluronan Mediated Motility Receptor (HMMR, encodes RHAMM) in half of the examined high-grade MPNST, but not in benign neurofibromas or low grade tumours. RHAMM is a molecular brake for the mitotic kinase Aurora A (AURKA), so this loss of HMMR in high-grade MPNST may cause tumours to rely on AURKA activity and sensitizes them to aurora kinase inhibitors (AKI).Three MPNST cell-lines were profiled for the expression and activity of AURKA, as well as their responses to three AKI. The sensitivity of cell-lines with amplification of AURKA was reliant upon kinase activity, which correlated with the expression of the regulatory gene products TPX2 and RHAMM. Silencing of RHAMM, but not TPX2, increased AURKA activity and sensitized MPNST cells to AKI. All three AKIs reduced kinase activity in a dose-dependent manner, and AKI treatment induced cellular responses such as apoptosis, endoreduplication and cellular senescence. Additionally, two primary human MPNSTs grown in vivo as xenotransplants were treated with the AURKA-specific inhibitor MLN8237. Treatment resulted in tumour cells exiting the cell cycle and undergoing endoreduplication, which cumulated in stabilized disease. The MPNST cell-line S462 has a population of tumorigenic stem-like cells that can be grown in sphere culture. AURKA activity was critical to the propagation and self-renewal of sphere-enriched MPNST stem-like cells. AKI treatment significantly reduced the formation of spheroids, attenuated the self-renewal of spheroid forming cells, and promoted their differentiation. Silencing of TPX2 decreased AURKA activity, while silencing of RHAMM was sufficient to endow MPNST cells with an ability to form and maintain sphere culture. Collectively, our data indicate that AURKA is a rationale therapeutic target for MPNST, and tumour cell responses to AKI, which include differentiation, are modulated by the abundance of RHAMM and TPX2.