Molecular Genetics

Julie ChenJulie Chen Student’s nameJulie Chen
Supervisor’s name and title (if you worked in labs while you were studying as an undergrad)
Dr. Alan Davidson, Professor in the Departments of Biochemistry, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of Toronto
Dr. Justin Nodwell, Professor and Chair of the Department of Biochemistry, University of Toronto

A few paragraphs about the student’s research, scholarship and/or awards, publications; current position; future education plans and/or career goals.
Julie graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Science with High Distinction in 2018, completing a specialist in microbiology and minor in immunology. Beginning her academic career admitted into the University of Toronto Scholars Program, Julie has since earned a variety of awards such as in-course scholarships from New College, the Canadian Society of Microbiologists Undergraduate Award, and the Ivan Szak Scholarship in Bacteriology.


In her freshman year, Julie serendipitously discovered her excitement for bacteria in a pharmacology course – the field she originally planned to pursue. The following summer, she joined the Nodwell Lab, subsequently solidifying her decision to pursue microbiology instead. Here, she focused on characterizing the AbsA1-AbsA2 two-component system, found in the bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor, which is known to regulate the production of a variety of antibiotics.

Beginning the summer after her third year, Julie switched to join the Davidson lab (funded by a GLSE Studentship) to study Photorhabdus Virulence Cassettes (PVCs), phage tail-like injection systems produced by bacteria. She found her project so exciting that she postponed her applications to graduate school to instead work an additional year in the Davidson Lab as a post-bachelor research assistant. Here, Julie has been characterizing a novel PVC for its structure, anti-eukaryotic activity, and the capacity to engineer the PVC to act against alternative targets – sparking her curiosity for bioengineering.

Aside from research, Julie had developed an interest for scientific communication during her undergraduate years – placing 1st in the University of Toronto’s Undergraduate 3-Minute-Thesis Competition in 2017 and co-organizing events for the summer research program with the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology since 2016.

Beginning in the fall of 2019, Julie will be joining MIT’s research community under their Microbiology PhD program where she hopes to explore her newfound interest in the interface of microbiology and bioengineering.