Our Team

Brendan Leung

Principle Investigator, Assistant 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.

Nick Dawe

MASc student – Biomedical Engineering, BSc Hon. – Microbiology and Immunology (Dalhousie University) 

I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree from Dalhousie University in 2019 while completing an undergraduate research project in Microbiology & Immunology. My undergraduate research project investigated the role of a metabolite in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease. Following graduation, I worked as a research technician in the Microbiology department at Dalhousie University. I am now working towards a MASc in biomedical engineering where I will be developing an in vitro tissue culture platform that is capable of recapitulating the tumour microenvironment and maintaining tumour cell heterogeneity. When I’m not in the lab, you can find me at the golf course, in an ice rink coaching hockey, or exploring Halifax/Nova Scotia with friends and family.

Courtney O’Brien

MASc student – Biomedical Engineering, BASc. – Chemical Engineering (Dalhousie University) 

I graduated from Dalhousie University in 2018 with a degree in Chemical Engineering. After graduating in 2018, I worked in the environmental industry for 2 years. I am now in the MASc in Biomedical Engineering program where my research project involves the development of mucus-like biomaterials to support a chronic lung infection model. In my free time I like to bake and spend time outdoors with my dog.

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.

Shalyn Henley

Honour Thesis student, Medical Sciences – Dalhousie University 

My name is Shalyn Henley, and I am a third year Medical Sciences student at Dalhousie! For my experiential learning project, I will be looking at biofilms and their role in antibiotic resistance. I will be investigating potential ways to disrupt biofilms in order to have a more successful delivery of antibiotics. In my free time I like to go for walks, play basketball, and play board games with friends!

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.

Jade Ley

Honour Thesis student, Medical Sciences – Dalhousie University

I am a 4th year Medical Sciences student at Dalhousie University. For my honours project, I will be studying the formation and development of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms. I will be investigating conditions that promote confined Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm growth within aqueous two-phase systems. Outside of the lab I enjoy playing piano, reading, and spending time with friends.

Lab Alumni

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 studen, 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