Our Team

Brendan Leung

Principle Investigator, Associate Professor – Department of Applied
Oral Sciences, School of Biomedical Engineering, 
BSc Hon. – Biochem
(University of Ottawa), BASc – Chem. Eng. (University of Ottawa), MASc and PhD – Biomedical Engineering (University of Toronto)

My research program focuses on the development of advanced tissue construct platforms and cell-based assay technologies to understand fundamental phenomenon that govern tissue homeostasis and responses in human diseases. Specifically, I’m interested in creating in vitro tools to understand the role of human associated microbes in chronic disease, including metabolic syndrome, fibrosis and cancers. When not in my office or in the lab, you can find me hiking on one of many scenic Nova Scotia coastline trails with my camera.

Naeimeh Jafari

Postdoctoral Fellow – Department of Applied Oral Sciences, BSc – Chemistry (Shahid Beheshti University); PhD – Chemistry (McMaster University)

In December 2020, I defended my Ph.D. in chemistry at McMaster University. My Ph.D. dissertation was at the intersection of the amyloid and signalling fields. I worked on diseases-related mutants of protein kinase A regulatory subunit R1a and allostery of human serum albumin under Dr. Melacini’s supervision throughout my research. I joined Dr. Leung’s lab in July 2021 as a postdoctoral fellow. I am working on the role of the oral microbiome in chemotherapy-induced oral mucositis (CIOM). We are trying to investigate the interaction of the microbiome species and epithelial cells using the aqueous two-phase system (ATPS) bioprinting technique. In my spare time, I love to spend time with my family, planting, hiking and exploring nature.

Yashar E. Monfared

Postdoctoral Fellow – Biomedical Engineering, Previous postdoc(s): Physics and Chemistry Departments (Dalhousie University) and Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory (Columbia University), PhD – Electrical and Computer Engineering (Dalhousie University) 

I completed my PhD at Dalhousie University (Electrical and Computer Engineering Department) in 2018 where I studied novel light sources and optical pulse propagation in nonlinear waveguides. I also worked on plasmonic nanostructures and their applications in spectroscopy, photothermal therapy, water desalination, and biosensing in my previous postdoc appointments at Dalhousie (Physics and then Chemistry Department) and also Columbia University (LDEO). I am now working towards designing and developing biosensors for monitoring biological variations in cell-based assays and also studying the impacts of photothermal effect of plasmonic nanoparticles on anticancer immune response. In my free time I enjoy hiking, spending time with my parrot and cats, or playing badminton with friends and family!

Sofía Magaña Lama

MASc student – Biomedical Engineering, BSc. – Biotechnology Engineering (Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education )


I obtained my BSc in biotechnology engineering with a concentration in molecular biology in 2021. As an undergrad I worked in neurosciences, more specifically with biochemistry of hormones, genetic engineering and proteogenomics. My MASc research project will mimic the bacterial environment of the mouth of children with cancer to identify the microbes that could be having a beneficial role in Chemotherapy-induced oral mucositis (CIOM). We want to provide the possibility of new diagnostic tools or personalized therapies for this dose-limiting side effect of chemotherapy. Outside lab work, I enjoy hiking and camping with my dog, practicing yoga, and outdoor sports, especially tennis.

Morgan Pugh-Toole

MSc student – Pathology, BSc. Hon. – Medical Sciences (Dalhousie University )

I obtained my BSc in Medical Sciences from Dalhousie University in 2021 while completing my honours project in Microbiology & Immunology. My honours project focused on developing a 3D spheroid model for ovarian cancer to study their interaction with natural killer cells to validate their therapeutic potential for this disease. I am now working towards my MSc in Pathology, in which I will be continuing my study of ovarian cancer by developing an in vitro tissue platform that mimics the tumour microenvironment to further investigate natural killer cells as a therapeutic target for this disease. Outside of the lab, I enjoy competing in and coaching sprint kayaking, as well as spending time with my family and friends and three dogs.

Sarah Spencer

Honour Thesis student, Medical Sciences – Dalhousie University 

I am a 4th year student in the Medical Sciences program here at Dalhousie. My current research is focused on creating a model that mimics the lung epithelium in a suspended manner to investigate lung cancer and other lung disease states. When I’m not busy with school or lab work, I enjoy exploring the province with my friends and family, playing softball, and occasionally I help out at a local dog breeder.

Andrew Smith

BEng, Chemical Engineering – Dalhousie University 

I am a 5th year student in Chemical Engineering at Dalhousie and will graduate in May of 2022. My current research is focused on designing, modeling, and fabricating a lung alveoli model using a combination of manufacturing techniques, including 3-D printing, soft lithography, and CNC milling. The goal of the model is to better mimic the mechanical stresses of the alveolar microenvironment. When I’m not busy with school or lab work, I enjoy surfing and skiing.

Clair Carruthers

Honours thesis student – Medical Science, (Dalhousie University) 


I am in my 4th and final year of Medical Science at Dalhousie, completing my honours in the Leung lab. I am studying ovarian cancer within an in-vitro device that models key aspects of the tumour microenvironment. My project focuses on the effect of hypoxia on the chemosensitivity of ovarian cancer. Outside of school, I enjoy running and playing the piano.

Lab Alumni

Courtney O’Brien – MASc student, Biomedical Engineering, 2022

Nick Dawe – MASc student, Biomedical Engineering, 2022

Jade Ley – Hon. thesis student, Medical Sciences, 2022

Shalyn Henley – Hon. thesis student, Medical Sciences, 2022

Emma Lirette – Dalhousie Integrated Science Program (DISP), 2022

Hannah Laquerre – Dalhousie Integrated Science Program (DISP), 2022

Andy Huang – MASc student, Biomedical Engineering, 2021

Andrew Clarke – Hon. thesis student, Medical Sciences, 2021

Ethan Ring – Hon. thesis student, Medical Sciences, 2021

Dimah Alabdulhafith – Hon. thesis student, Medical Sciences, 2021

Matthew Kelvey – Hon. thesis student, Medical Sciences, 2020

Matthew Curry – Hon. thesis student, Microbiology and Immunology, 2020

Sungbin Lim – Mitacs Globalink Research Fellow, 2020

Hajung Kim – Dalhousie Integrated Science Program (DISP), 2020

Priyanshi Rao – Dalhousie Integrated Science Program (DISP), 2020

Sarah Spencer – Dalhousie Integrated Science Program (DISP), 2019

Brianna MacKinnon – Dalhousie Integrated Science Program (DISP), 2019

Artem Soroka – Experiential learning student, Chemical Engineering, 2019

Kajanan Sivapalan – Experiential learning student, Medical Sciences, 2019

Gavin Raddall – Honour thesis student, Medical Science, 2018

Breagh Devereaux – Experiential learning student, Medical Science, 2018

Jessica Grant-Burt – Summer student 2017

Emily Bishop – DDS summer student, 2017

Claire Jurgens – Undergraduate research student, 2017

Michaela Kember – Undergraduate research student, Dalhousie Integrated Science Program (DISP), 2017

Lauren Kelly – Undergraduate research student, Dalhousie Integrated Science Program (DISP), 2017

Jacob Nickerson – DDS summer student, 2016