BSC2023 National, Young Investigator Award, and Keynote Lecturers

The 8th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society of Canada (BSC) will host lectures of the 2023 National Lecturer and the 2023 Young Investigator Award. Three invited keynote speakers will highlight the broad spectrum of 2023 BSC Annual Meeting. Please check back as we update the website with invited speakers.

  • National Lecturer: Dr. Michael Woodside

    National Lecturer: Dr. Michael Woodside

    University of Alberta

    Dr. Michael Woodside is a Professor of Physics at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, AB, Canada. He obtained Physics Specialist and Music Major degrees from the University of Toronto, ON, Canada, followed by a PhD in Physics from UC Berkeley, CA, USA, where he studied electron transport in nanostructures with scanned probe microscopy. He trained in single-molecule biophysics during a postdoc in the Biology Department at Stanford University before moving to Edmonton in 2006.

    His research interests cover the intersection of physics, chemistry, biology, and medicine, centering on how individual biomolecules like proteins, DNA, and RNA self-assemble into complex structures. His work focuses on three themes: the fundamental physics of folding reactions, the relationship between folding and function in viral RNAs, and protein misfolding that causes disease. His work has led to new methods for measuring the energy landscapes that govern folding, insights into how viral RNA pseudoknots stimulate programmed ribosomal frameshifting, the first direct observation of misfolding in the proteins that cause "mad-cow" disease and ALS, and new approaches to probing the mechanism of action of drugs at the single-molecule level.

    For his efforts, Dr. Woodside was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship — a first for the Faculty of Science and the first such honour for the University of Alberta in nearly 40 years. Dr. Woodside is a member of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology at the University of Alberta, as well as the Centre for Prions and Protein Folding Diseases.

  • Keynote Speaker: Dr. Molly Shoichet

    Keynote Speaker: Dr. Molly Shoichet

    University of Toronto

    Dr. Molly Shoichet completing her Ph.D in Polymer Science & Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA (1992), and was recruited to University of Toronto, ON, Canada after three years at CytoTherapeutics Inc. She is now the Michael E Charles Professor in Chemical Engineering at the University of Toronto (a distinction held by less than 2% of the faculty), and has held the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering (2001-2020).

    Dr. Shoichet is recognized as a world leader in the areas of polymer synthesis, biomaterials design and drug delivery in the nervous system and 3D hydrogel culture systems to model cancer. Due to her unique and interdisciplinary research program, Dr. Shoichet has been the recipient of 55 prestigious national and international awards and is the only person to be inducted into all three of Canada’s National Academies of Science of the Royal Society of Canada, Engineering and Health Sciences. Among her many awards she has received the order of Ontario (2011), North American Laureate for the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science (2016), named foreign member of the US National Academy of Engineering (2016), Killam Prize in Engineering (2017), inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada (2018), and elected to the UK Royal Society (2019). In 2020, Dr. Shoichet was awarded the NSERC Herzberg Gold Medal and won the Margolese National Brain Disorders Prize.

    Professor Shoichet has published over 650 papers, patents, and abstracts, has given over 430 lectures worldwide and has trained over 220 scientists in the past 26 years. She currently leads a laboratory of 30 trainees and has founded four spin-off companies. She is also actively engaged in translational research and science outreach. In 2015, Dr. Shoichet launched a national social media initiative, Research2Reality, which shines a spotlight on Canadian research. She has also served as an inaugural member on the Science, Technology & Innovation Council and now serves on the Boards of Martinrea Inc, which is one of the largest tech incubators in North America.

  • Keynote speaker: Dr. Tamir Gonen

    Keynote speaker: Dr. Tamir Gonen

    University of California and Howard Hughes Medical Institute

    Dr. Tamir Gonen obtained a PhD in Biological Science in 2002 from the University of Auckland, New Zealand for research with by Edward N. Baker and Joerg Kistler. Postdoctoral education was conducted at Harvard Medical School, MA, USA in the laboratory of Dr. Thomas Walz from 2002 to 2005. He became an assistant Professor, University of Washington School of Medicine in 2005. He then became a group Leader at Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 2011 where he began developing Microcrystal Electron Diffraction (MicroED) as a new method for structural biology. In 2017 Dr. Gonen moved his laboratory to the David Geffen School of Medicine of the University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA as an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a Professor of Biological Chemistry and Physiology, where he continues studying membrane protein structure and function using cryoEM and MicroED. With the microED, Dr. Gonen has pushed the boundaries of cryoEM and determined several previously unknown structures at resolutions better than 1Å. Dr. Gonen has authored more than 120 publications and several of his past trainees are now faculty around the world at top universities.

    Dr. Gonen is member of the Royal Society of New Zealand. He received a Career Development Award from the American Diabetes Association and was an Early Career Scientist of HHMI. Dr. Gonen served on several study sections of the National Institutes of Health, and acted as ad hoc reviewer for several international funding agencies.

  • Keynote Speaker: Dr. Pascale Legault

    Keynote Speaker: Dr. Pascale Legault

    Université de Montréal

    Dr. Pascale Legault received her PhD in Chemistry (option biophysics) from the University of Colorado at Boulder, CO, USA in 1995 and completed her post-doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, ON, Canada in 1998. She started her academic career in 2003 at the University of Georgia, in Athens, GA and after 5 years, moved to the Université de Montréal (UdeM), QC, Canada. She is currently Professor and Chair in the Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine Department at the UdeM and holds the UdeM Bristol-Myers Squibb Research Chair.

    She has received several awards as a trainee as well as a faculty member, including a National Sciences Foundation Career Award and a Canada Research Chair in Structural Biology of RNA. Dr. Legault has made significant contributions in the general area of RNA structure and function, and her results have been consistently published in high-quality journals.

    Dr. Legault’s laboratory is to address one of the key challenges of current biomedical sciences, which is to better understand the relationship between RNA structure and function as needed to exploit the potential of RNA for nanotechnology and biomedical applications. Using an integrative structural biology approach, Dr. Legault the two main research axes are 1) Structural, functional, and engineering studies of functional RNAs, including ribozymes and RNA viruses; 2) Functional and structural studies of the maturation of miRNAs associated with cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

  • Keynote Speaker: Dr. Gerhard Hummer

    Keynote Speaker: Dr. Gerhard Hummer

    Max Planck Institute of Biophysics & Goethe University Frankfurt

    Dr. Gerhard Hummer studied physics at the University of Vienna, Austria. He received his PhD in 1992 for work at the University of Vienna, Austria, and the Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany. He joined the Los Alamos National Laboratory (NM, USA), first as a postdoctoral fellow (1993-1996) and then as a group leader (1996-1999). In 1999, he moved to the National Institutes of Health (MD, USA), where he became Chief of the Theoretical Biophysics Section and Deputy Chief of the Laboratory of Chemical Physics, NIDDK. In 2013 he was appointed as scientific member and director at the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics in Frankfurt, Germany, where he heads the Department of Theoretical Biophysics. Since 2016, he is also Professor of Biophysics at the Goethe University in Frankfurt.

    Dr. Hummer uses molecular simulations, integrative modeling and theory to study the structure, dynamics and function of biological systems at the molecular scale. Gerhard Hummer is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (2005), a Senior Fellow of the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (2015), a recipient of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler International Prize in Biophysics (2010), the Nancy Nossal Scientific Mentorship Award at the NIH (2010), and the ISQBP Award in Computational Biology (2022). He is an Elected Member of the German National Academy of Sciences

  • Dr. Filip Van Petegem

    Dr. Filip Van Petegem

    The University of British Columbia

    Dr. Filip Van Petegem obtained his PhD in Biochemistry at Ghent University (Belgium) in 2002, where he was trained as an X-ray crystallographer. He then moved to University of California San Francisco, CA, USA for postdoctoral studies, investigating the structure and function of voltage-gated calcium channels. Since 2007, he joined the Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of British Columbia, BC, Canada where he was promoted to Full Professor in 2017. His lab uses electrophysiology and structural biology methods to study ion channels and ion channel modulators.

  • Dr. Arnold Mathijssen

    Dr. Arnold Mathijssen

    University of Pennsylvania

    Dr. Arnold Mathijssen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, at University of Pennsylvania, PA, USA since 2021. He was a PhD student in Dr. Julia Yeomans’ group at Oxford University, UK (2012-2016). He then moved to the lab of Dr. Manu Prakash at Stanford University, CA, USA. Dr. Mathijssen now focuses on a combination, experimental, and theoretical techniques across the disciplines of physics and biology to study biologically active materials and pathogens.

  • Dr. Elitza Tocheva

    Dr. Elitza Tocheva

    The University of British Columbia

    Dr. Elitza Tocheva was recruited as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at University of British Columbia, BC, Canada in Jan 2019 . Prior to this she was Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the FEMR cryo-EM facility at the University of Montreal QC, Canada, in the Department of Stomatology. Dr. Tocheva received her BSc and PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of British Columbia, and her Postdoctoral training in Biology and Biological Engineering Caltech and HHMI, Pasadena, CA, USA. Dr. Tocheva focuses on the structure and function of the bacterial cell envelope and method development for correlative light and electron microscopy.

  • Dr. Hans-Joachim Wieden

    Dr. Hans-Joachim Wieden

    University of Manitoba

    Dr. Hans-Joachim Wieden received his MSc. in chemistry at Heinrich-Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany (1995) and his PhD at the University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany (2000). He then conducted his Postgraduate Training in Bioinformatics at the Ruprecht-Karls-University, Heidelberg, Germany before joining the University of Lethbridge as an assistant professor in 2005. He was promoted to full professor in 2016. He has been at the University of Manitoba since 2021 and serves as the president of Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences since 2022. Dr. Wieden’s research ranges from the rational design of biological nano-machines, to designing and reprogramming of genetic circuits, the structure and function of the transition machinery (ribosome), and to the development of novel antibiotics.

  • Dr. Eldon Emberly

    Dr. Eldon Emberly

    Simon Fraser University

    Dr. Eldon Emberly is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at Simon Fraser University, where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2000. He was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the NEC Research Institute at Princeton from 2000 to 2002 and at The Rockefeller University from 2002 to 2004. He currently holds a Tier II Canada Research Chair and is a CIFAR Scholar in the Nanoelectronics Program. His lab focuses on using computational biology to study genetic networks and gene regulation.

  • Dr. Gabor Balazsi

    Dr. Gabor Balazsi

    Stony Brook University

    Dr. Gábor Balázsi is a Henry Laufer Associate Professor, in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, USA. He obtained his MSc in Magnetism at Babeş-Bolyai University of Cluj, Romania in 1997 followed by a MSc (1999) and a PhD (2001) in Physics at University of Missouri at Saint Louis, USA. The goal of Dr. Balázsi lab is to better understand of biological processes such as cellular decision making using computational modeling and synthetic gene circuits to study how gene network dynamics affects cellular phenotypes in cancer and drug resistance.

  • Dr. Anna Blakney

    Dr. Anna Blakney

    University of British Columbia

    Dr. Anna Blakney is an Assistant Professor in the Michael Smith Laboratories and School of Biomedical Engineering at the University of British Columbia, Canada. She received her BSc in Chemical & Biological Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and her PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Washington. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Imperial College London on the development of molecular and biomaterial engineering strategies for delivery of self-amplifying RNA, under the supervision of Prof. Robin Shattock and Prof. Molly Stevens. The Blakney Lab is a multidisciplinary group of engineers, immunologists, and molecular biologists investigating the interactions between RNA, biomaterials, and the immune system to prevent and treat disease.

  • Dr. Gwynn Elfring

    Dr. Gwynn Elfring

    The University of British Columbia

    Dr. Gwynn Elfring is an Associate Professor, in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of British Columbia, BC, Canada. He obtained his MSc from the University of Victoria, BC, Canada, and his Ph.D from University of California, San Diego, CA, USA. He conducted his Postdoctoral training at University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA. His research revolves around applied mathematics and physics to study problems biology including biological fluid mechanics, complex fluids, cell biomechanics, and active matter.

  • Dr. Lejla Zubcevic

    Dr. Lejla Zubcevic

    The University of Kansas

    Lejla Zubcevic is a biochemist and biophysicist with expertise in transport across biological membranes, ion channels, membrane protein biochemistry, X-ray crystallography, and single particle cryo-EM. She received her BSc in Biochemistry from the University of Copenhagen, her MSC in Pharmacology from the University of Oxford, and her PhD in Biophysics from the University of Oxford. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University, where she focused on the structural biology of ion channels. Currently, Dr. Zubcevic is an Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas in the Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

  • Dr. Danielle Tokarz

    Dr. Danielle Tokarz

    Saint Mary's University

    Dr. Danielle Tokarz obtained her H.B.Sc. degree in 2008 and Ph.D. in 2014 from the University of Toronto where she studied the nonlinear optical properties of conjugated molecules. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in 2015 at the University Health Network, and undertook an NSERC postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, using nonlinear optical microscopy for biomedical applications. In 2017, Danielle started as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at Saint Mary's University and she is currently an associate professor. Her current research program is geared towards characterizing ultrastructural alterations during natural as well as artificial synthesis and degradation reactions in carbohydrate- and protein-dense model systems via development of nonlinear optical microscopy imaging analysis techniques.

  • Dr. Francesca Vallese

    Dr. Francesca Vallese

    Columbia University

    Dr. Francesca Vallese fulfilled her studies at the University of Padova, Italy. During her PhD in Biochemistry and Biophysics she studied structure and interactions of proteins involved in hydrogen production in the lab of Prof. Giacometti and Dr.Costantini. She did a PostDoc in the lab of Prof. Giuseppe Zanotti where she learns crystallography and how to work with membrane proteins. During her PostDoc, she was a visiting student in the lab of Dr. Baumeister (Max Plank Institute), she collaborated with Novartis (Basel) and with BioGUNE (Bilbao). Currently she is an Associate Research Scientist at Columbia University in the Lab of Oliver Clarke where she is studying membrane complexes from human red blood cell using Cryo-EM.

  • Dr. Rachael (Ré) Mansbach’s

    Dr. Rachael (Ré) Mansbach’s

    Concordia University

    Rachael (Ré) Mansbach’s research interests lie in physics-based design of therapeutics. Their lab group uses computational techniques such as molecular dynamics simulations and machine learning to understand and design novel search spaces for short proteins and small molecules.

  • Dr. Gonca Erdemci-Tandogan

    Dr. Gonca Erdemci-Tandogan

    Western University

    Dr. Gonca Erdemci-Tandogan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Western University. Her research focuses on theoretical and computational biophysics with specific expertise in modelling mechanics of cells and tissues, and viruses. She received her Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California, Riverside, where she studied the physics of self-assembly of virus particles, specifically the role of the genome and membrane during viral assembly. After her Ph.D., she worked as a postdoctoral associate at Syracuse University, investigating the mechanisms underlying tissue and organ formation. Her work resulted in a novel model to define and control material properties of epithelial tissues, which has key implications for embryonic development and disease. She was then a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, where, in close collaborations with experimentalists, she continued to develop verifiable mathematical models and predictions to study the role of tissue mechanics on various embryonic developmental processes. Based on her contributions to the field she was selected as a Rising Star in Engineering in Health by Columbia University in 2020.

  • Dr. David Langelaan

    Dr. David Langelaan

    Dalhousie University

    Dr. Langelaan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at Dalhousie University. He received his PhD from Dalhousie University investigating membrane protein structure and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Queen’s Unviersity (Kingston ON) studying the structure and function of oncogenic transcription factors. His lab uses a suite of biophysical and functional techniques to characterize the structure and function of proteins involved in disease or with potential to be used as biomaterials.

  • Dr. Suzana K. Straus

    Dr. Suzana K. Straus

    University of British Columbia

    Dr. Suzana K. Straus received her PhD from the ETH-Zurich in 1998, in the group of Professor Richard R. Ernst. She completed a postdoc from 1998-2000 at the University of Pennsylvania, in the group of Professor Stanley J. Opella. She was then a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, working with Professor Anthony Watts. She moved to the University of British Columbia, as an Assistant Professor in late 2002. She has risen through the ranks and has been a Full Professor since 2015. Dr. Straus has made significant contributions in the area of i) NMR method development, ii) antimicrobial peptide mechanisms of action, design, and delivery, as well as iii) protein-protein interactions.

  • Dr. Miranda Holmes-Cerfon

    Dr. Miranda Holmes-Cerfon

    University of British Columbia

    Dr. Miranda Holmes-Cerfon is an associate professor of mathematics at the University of British Columbia. She obtained her PhD in applied mathematics from the Courant Institute for Mathematical Sciences, at New York University. She was subsequently a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, and then an assistant and associate professor of mathematics at NYU, before moving to UBC last fall. She uses a variety of applied mathematics techniques, including modelling, coarse-graining, and computation, to study material and biological systems at scales where fluctuations matter.

  • Dr. Nikki Weckman

    Dr. Nikki Weckman

    University of Toronto

    Dr. Nikki Weckman (ISTEP, ChemE) is the incoming Paul Cadario Chair in Global Engineering at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on developing the next generation of point-of-care technologies for diagnosing diseases and monitoring outbreaks of drug-resistant infections. She is particularly interested in developing low cost and sustainable diagnostics that can help to improve health equity. Dr. Weckman is joining U of T after completing postdoctoral research at Harvard University and the University of Cambridge. Before her postdoctoral work, Dr. Weckman obtained her PhD in Engineering from the University of Cambridge, her MEng in Chemical Engineering from McGill University and her BASc in Nanotechnology Engineering from the University of Waterloo. Beyond her academic work, Dr. Weckman is co-founder of the start-up 52 North Health, where she is working in the medical diagnostic space to develop low-cost digitally linked technologies that help improve health outcomes and health equity for people receiving chemotherapy.

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