Biotechnology PhD - Potential Supervisors

The members of the Lakehead University Biotechnology Research Program represent a variety of faculties, providing a diverse knowledge base. Faculties include: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Forestry and the Forest Environment, Health Sciences, Kinesiology, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science and Environmental Studies, and Physics. We also have members from the Biorefining Research Institute and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute.

The researchers listed here are members of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and are eligible to supervise graduate students. Please refer to the links for additional information.



Dr. Mitchell Albert

Dr. Albert's primary research focus is on applying HP helium-3 and HP xenon-129 MRI to image ventilation function in the airways and alveoli of the lungs. In addition, his group has been developing the following innovative imaging technologies: (1) HP xenon-129 functional MRI (xenon fMRI) of the brain; (2) HP xenon fMRI of stroke and traumatic brain injury; (3) HP xenon biosensor MR imaging of breast tumours; (4) HP xenon biosensor MRI for early detection of lung cancer; and (5) HP xenon biosensor MRI for early detection of  Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Albert received the 1999 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from President Clinton, and the NSF Career Award in 2001 for his work with HP gas MRI.

Dr. Gautam Das

Optical fiber lasers are very attractive because of their compact size, simple design and high efficiency. They have applications in wavelength division mutiplexing systems for long distance transmission, spectroscopy, sensors and instrumentation. Dr. Das's research concentrates on the development of high power fibre lasers in the visible and in the infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The work will also develop a highly sensitive sensor for measuring temperatures and pressure in harsh environments using the fiber lasers. A high power multi-wavelength fiber laser in the infrared region will find application in industry, environmental monitoring and biomedical research. This laser emits a number of lasing lines simultaneously with high power. It is possible to select a particular lasing line or a group of lasing lines depending on the requirements of the application. For differential absorption measurements one can use two laser lines with high power which may be tuned over a wide spectral range: one as a reference and the other to detect a different gas signal. A laser emitting a number of lasing lines with high power in the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum is also attractive. This laser will be applicable for displays, printing technology, medical diagnosis, treatment (e.g. photodynamic therapy for cancer) and development of a new system for biomedical research.

Dr. Jinan Fiaidhi

Dr. Jinan Fiaidhi's research involves the development of timely learning indicators for biosurveillance (i.e. the detection and observation of disease outbreaks) based on suite of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 technologies involving Deep Web Crawling, Mining and Knowledge Refinement Techniques, Ontology-Based Message Classification, Web Harvesting and Grid Infrastructures Notification Systems (e.g. Cloud, Collaborative, Peer-to-Peer, Ubiquitous and Social Networking) as well as a  Semantic Web Approach to Integrative biosurveillance.

Dr. Wely Floriano

Dr. Floriano's research falls within the field of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. Recent work involves the development and application of computational tools to simulate biologically relevant systems. This includes the development of computer programs to predict three-dimensional structure of proteins and nucleic acids from genetic data, engineer enzymes, find potential binding sites in proteins, and scan virtual libraries of chemicals for molecular probes, potential drugs or modulators of biological activity. In the context of Medical Biotechnology, computer-assisted molecular design (CAMD) techniques can aid in the development of new and modified chemical entities, such as new medicinal drugs and fluorescent molecular probes. Computational tools are also useful to process proteomic data, understand the molecular basis of drug action, and the molecular basis of individual differences in drug response. In the context of Environmental Biotechnology, computer-assisted molecular design methods can be used to study genetic sequences of biomass-degrading microorganisms for selection and/or modifications aimed at improving efficiency and reducing waste of biorefining processes

Dr. Jinqiang Hou

Dr. Hou's research has focused on the development of radio-labelled chemical entities for the potential use in the imaging of various diseases using Positron Emission Tomography (PET), and the discovery of drug molecules targeting disease-relevant targets through computational molecular design, organic synthesis and molecular biology. The longer-term goal of his research is contributing to the integration of PET imaging into drug discovery. For additional information please visit his group website.

Dr. Justin Jiang

Dr. Jiang’s research topics are generally in the field of “Organic and Medicinal Chemistry” with particular focus on the discovery of new drugs as well as new molecular tools for biomedical research. His research aims to develop and apply advances in synthetic organic chemistry and immunochemistry to the design and synthesis of chemically defined glycoconjugates with novel biological activities. His current research interests include: 
(i) totally synthetic cancer vaccines, (ii) synthetic immunostimulatory vaccine adjuvants, (iii) the structural modification of cytotoxic drugs for targeted cancer therapy, and (iv) design and development of biodegradable polymers for targeted drug delivery. 

Dr. Neelam Khaper

Dr. Khaper's research involves pathophysiology and novel therapeutic approaches of heart failure using various experimental models. Dr. Khaper is also interested in the roles of integrins in oxidative stress-induced apoptosis in the heart. Also being investigated are the molecular mechanisms of hyperglycemia-induced oxidative stress and cardiac dysfunction and the role of BRCA1 in cellular response to ionizing radiation.

Dr. Simon Lees

Dr. Lees supervises a translational research program in the The Skeletal Muscle Cell Biology Lab at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. To this end, the range of projects includes the study of stem cells in culture, Positron Emission Tomography (PET imaging), biomedical animal studies, and human clinical research. Current projects include:

  • Studying the age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass, known as sarcopenia, and a diminished capacity for skeletal muscle regeneration. 
  • Investigating local and systemic inflammatory status/function related to sarcopenia and fibromyalgia. 
  • Examining mechanisms leading to altered glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity in a variety of tissues, including brown adipose tissue, liver, and cardiac and skeletal muscle. 

Dr. Api Linhananta

Dr. Linhanata's research focuses on computational protein folding. Recent work includes protein folding diseases, hormone transports and coarse-grained models of protein in complex solvents. Current research is being done with computational models of beta-amyloid peptides associated with Alzheimer's disease and computational models of green fluorescent proteins using molecular dynamics and density functional methods.

Dr. Sabah Mohammed

Dr. Sabah Mohammed’s recent research involves biosurveillance and visualization. The biosurveillance research is based on monitoring and analyzing Electronic Health Records (EHRs) utilized at large healthcare networks. This research aims at developing critical tool for the early detection of highly infectious diseases before they transform into full blown pandemics. The visualization techniques for biosurveillance is based on situation awareness (Situation awareness is used to describe a variety of techniques used to address situations where there is a lot of data and very little knowledge of what it represents). The situation awareness components provide the platform with the ability to detect anomalies, clusters of potential events, predict the rate and spread of a disease outbreak, and provide the analysts and decision makers with tools, methodologies and processes to investigate the event.

Dr. Alla Reznik

Dr. Alla Reznik is a specialist in photoconductive materials and technologies for radiation medical imaging.  The focus of her work is on solid-state technology for organ-specific Positron Emission Tomography (PET). The goal is an improvement in resolution and sensitivity over commercially available PET imagers. Another focus of her work is on advanced low-dose direct conversion x-ray imaging detectors based on novel x-ray-to-charge transducers.

Dr. Paolo Sanzo

Dr. Paolo Sanzo’s research interests are in the area of rehabilitation and sports medicine. More specifically, his research integrates the clinical, biomechanical, and physiological aspects of human movement and gait analysis. It also includes the
exploration of the medical and clinical uses and effects of extracorporeal shockwave therapy as it applies to failed tendon and bone healing responses, the clinical application and rationale for the use of therapeutic taping and bracing as an adjunct to
rehabilitation and sport performance measures, the biomechanical analysis of concussion, manual therapy and length tension testing and the relationships between muscle and myofascial tissues in various musculoskeletal disorders, and the integration
of medical technologies for both assessment and treatment purposes.

Dr. Heidi Schraft

Dr. Schraft's research concentrates on microbial biofilms with the long-term goal to better understand the cellular mechanisms of biofilm formation by foodborne microorganisms. Dr. Schraft also investigates cold-adaptation of foodborne pathogens using dairy Bacillus cereusas a model organism She applies molecular techniques for detection  and ecological studies of bacteria to advance knowledge on distribution and survival of foodborne pathogens in various environments. In addition, Dr. Schraft participates in interdisciplinary research on microbial biofilms in pulp and paper processing.

Dr. Zacharias Suntres

Research Interests: 

  • Nanotechnology Drug Delivery Systems    
  • Biological Effects of Medicinal Herbs   
  • Oxidant and antioxidant levels, DNA damage markers, and proteomic analysis of Antigen-Presenting Cells (APCs) in blood of cancer patients 

Dr. Marina Ulanova

The major project in my group is the study of molecular mechanisms of interactions between pathogenic bacteria and lung epithelial cells, with an emphasis on the role of innate immune receptors. We try to dissect specific pathways, which help pathogenic bacteria to escape host innate immune defences and establish an infectious process. Our ultimate goal is to identify new molecular targets for therapy of pulmonary disease caused by the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Dr. Carlos Zerpa

Research Interests:

  • Injury biomechanics: concussion, gait; protective and assistive devices
  • Educational measurements applied to the field of cognition and learning
  • Equipment design and testing for biomechanics and health information technology applications 
  • Modeling and simulation
    • Applications of neural networks for instrument calibration
    • Item response theory modeling techniques
    • Classical statistics predicting models



Dr. Michael Rennie

Our research is focused on the metabolic and community ecology of altered environments. Human activities often create change in the form of multiple stressors, altering the community composition of aquatic ecosystems. Accurately measuring those changes is a critical first step to understanding ecosystem responses to stress. Our research group focuses on understanding how those community changes alter ecosystem energetics and function. Two broad research themes are: 1) understanding the role of multiple stressors (e.g., climate change, commercial and recreational fishing, species invasions) on the community structure and energetics of aquatic ecosystems and 2) understanding ways in which the behaviour and life histories of aquatic organisms can influence population size and ecosystem structure. For more information:

Dr. David Law

Dr. Law's research interests include molecular aquatic toxicology; effects of industrial effluents on fish reproduction; plant biochemistry, molecular biology, and biotechnology; molecular responses of plants to developmental progression; epigenetics, gene expression, proteomics and metabolism of specific plant cell types; molecular function of subunits in multimeric proteins.

Dr. Kam Tin Leung

Dr. Leung's research program focuses on interactions between and survival mechanisms of microorganisms with the objective of enhancing the survival of beneficial microorganisms while controlling the growth and spread of pathogenic microorganisms in various environments. Some of the major ongoing projects in Dr. Leung's laboratory include: (1) stress-survival mechanisms and activity of pollutant-degrading microorganisms in the environment; (2) transport of microorganisms (such as pathogenic E. coli) through soil; (3) survival and interactions between potential pathogenic bacteria and other microorganisms in pulp and paper mill biofilms; (4) UV and laser disinfection of drinking and waste water; (5) rapid detection of bacterial contamination on central venous catheters used in cancer treatments; (6) molecular detection of pathogenic E. coli in the environment.

Dr. Robert Mackereth

Influence of Landscape Disturbance on Stream Aquatic Communities: Evaluating the influence of landscape disturbance (timber harvest and forest fire) on stream aquatic communities. The research focuses on how disturbance at different spatial scales influences coldwater stream fish (mainly brook char) and their habitat.

Dr. Wensheng Qin

Dr. Qin's research focuses on (1) Genetic engineering for bacterial and fungal strain development for production of bioconversion enzymes: cellulases, hemicellulases, ligninases, and glucoamylases, etc. (2) Production of algal biofuels and valuable bioproducts. (3) Algal and microbial treatment and cleaning of mining wastewater, organic wastewater, and municipal wastewater. (4) Extraction of bioactive substances from natural biomass, especially northern Ontario medicinal plants. (5) Microbial molecular biology and biotechnology.



Dr. Siamak Elyasi

Research interests include air pollution control, water and waste water treatment using Advanced Oxidation Process, visualization of transport phenomena, computer based image acquisition and processing, computational fluid modeling for chemical reactors, heat transfer and fluid transferring equipment, reaction engineering.

Dr. Pedram Fatehi

Dr. Fatehi’s main research objectives include a number of projects on

  • Isolating lignocelluloses from spent pulping liquors
  • Modification of lignin and hemicelluloses to produce value-added products
  • Utilizing wasted ago-based materials in the production of bio-oil.

Dr. Baoqiang Liao

Dr. Liao's research interest is focused on biotechnology, applied colloidal surface chemistry, particle science and technology, separations, transport phenomena, reaction engineering and their applications in pulp and paper processing and waste management engineering. Of particular interest is biotechnology for water and wastewater treatment, air pollution control, sludge management, renewable energy recovery from waste streams and biomass, membrane bioreactors, membrane separations and membrane fouling.

Dr. Leila Pakzad

In general, my research study stems from my desire to understand fundamental aspects of fluid dynamics. By considering this fact and my research background, my research interest is listed as follows: Fluid Mechanics, Fluid Rheology, Mixing Process, CFD Modeling, Multiphase Flow, Non-Newtonian Fluids, ERT Technique, Complex Mixing System, and Spray Columns.

Dr. Sudip Kumar Rakshit

Research interests include bioenergy and biorefining processes, bioethanol from lignocellulosic residues, biodiesel, renewable chemicals from renewable resources using biological routes, fermentation production of fine chemicals, waste utilization, food safety and security, nutraceautical products.

Dr. Ebrahim Rezaei

Research Interests:

  • Catalytic total oxidation of organic pollutants in gas/liquid phase
  • Removal of inorganic gases (NH3 and H2S) from air by adsorption
  • Catalytic reforming of greenhouse gases (CO2 and CH4) to value added products
  • Catalytic conversion of biomass
  • Modelling, simulation, and optimization of chemical engineering processes



Dr. Amir Azimi

My general research interest is in the area of Hydraulics and Environmental Fluid Mechanics. I am interested in studying multiphase flows such as bubbly flows and sediment-laden flows, mixing of bubbles and sediments in pipes and open channels. More specifically, I am interested in

  • Mixing mechanisms in slurry jets and plumes
  • Mixing characteristics of bubbly jets and plumes
  • Transport of  sediment and pollutants in aquatic systems
  • Erosion and deposition of sediments in channels
  • Hydraulics of weirs and spillways
  • Hydraulics of non-Newtonian mixtures

My interest also includes experimental techniques (flow visualization, digital image processing and signal processing of fiber optic probes) and numerical modeling (development of research based codes and models, numerical experiments). 

Dr. Liang Cui

Dr. Cui has been involved in extensive applied research in the area of geotechnical engineering and mining engineering for more than ten years. His research interests are mainly on the reliable and accurate assessment and prediction of the behaviour of porous geomaterials including cementitious materials, soils, and rock under complex multiphysics loading conditions through mathematical modelling and experimental methods. Following is a list of Dr. Cui's current research areas:

  • Mine Backfill Technology
  • Carbon Geo-sequestration Technology
  • Problematic Soils
  • Rock Mechanics

Dr. Jian Deng

Dr. Deng’s research interests include: (1)Dynamic stability of structures; (2) Structural dynamics and random vibration, nonlinear dynamics, and stochastic mechanics; (3) Structural reliability in civil and geotechnical engineering;  (4) Rock mechanics, rock dynamics, and mining engineering; (6) Slopes, tunnels, and foundations;(6) Underground excavations. The objective of his cutting-edge research is to advance theories and techniques for the stability and reliability analysis and design of critical systems, structures and components in engineering by developing new mathematical and experimental models and tools for better understanding the mechanism of dynamic instability and failure of structures. The applications of this research pertain to dynamic stability and reliability of structures that are subjected to loadings caused by earthquakes, blasting, and wind turbulence, e.g., underground structures, foundations, slopes, bridges in civil, mining, and geotechnical engineering.  As a result of his work,  Dr. Deng's research group has published more than 60 journal and conference papers (a part in google/scholar) and has received several best paper awards at international conferences, such as 2018 RocDyn-3 and ACEER 2019.

Dr. Ahmed Elshaer

The unifying theme of Dr. Ahmed Elshaer's research is identifying problems affecting the resiliency and sustainability of our built environment, and finding solutions for these problems throughout assessment, design, mitigation and optimization. His current research projects work on the following research areas:

  • Wind Engineering (wind-structure interaction, aerodynamics and wind load evaluation)
  • Artificial Intelligence-based optimization
  • Finite element and applied element methods
  • Multihazard risk assessment and mitigation of structures and cities
  • Structural dynamics and wind flow simulations using High-performance computing (HPC)

Dr. Eltayeb Mohamedelhassan

In general, my research interests are in the fields of remediation of contaminated soil and groundwater; effluent quality and membrane fouling, and the use of nanomaterials in geotechnical applications. My current research interests include:

  • Enhanced bioremediation techniques for remediation of soil and ground water contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons
  • Integrated electrokinetic-phytoremediation of soil contaminated with heavy metals and hydrocarbons
  • Electrokinetic techniques to enhance effluent quality and hinder membrane fouling
  • Applications of nanotechnology for remediation of polluted soil and water