Meet Our Leaders

Peter NorrisPhD LeadersPhD Leaders Peter Norris

Peter’s PhD research focuses on the pathophysiology of the autoimmune disease immune thrombocytopenia, with an emphasis on Fc gamma receptors and novel monoclonal antibody-based therapies. Peter was involved with the St. Michael’s Hospital Research Student Association from 2016-2018 and during his time as chair, he implemented the ongoing Life Sciences Career Symposium at St. Michael’s Hospital and served as a student advocate for the equitable treatment of students in research student-supervisor relationships. Peter’s current focus is on developing and implementing environmentally sustainable research practices in the biomedical research community.

Grace JacobsGrace JacobsGrace Jacobs

Grace Jacobs is a PhD Candidate in the Institute of Medical Science. Her research uses structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study brain circuitry and heterogeneity across youth experiencing mental illnesses. Grace has been actively involved in a number of science communication initiatives throughout her graduate degree such as the graduate student run Raw Talk Podcast and Pueblo Science Charity. For the last two years she has been the Executive Producer of Raw Talk Podcast, a podcast about diverse medical science topics featuring the journeys, perspectives, and expertise of faculty, professionals, students, and patients that has over 50k downloads and 81 episodes to date. She is also involved in her graduate community through the IMS Peer-to-Peer Mentorship Program and IMS Curriculum Committee. Together with fellow PhD Leaders Dustin & Lazar, Grace recently received the Faculty of Medicine Graduate Student Wellness Grant for a project that is using data collection, an app, and podcast workshop series to build student resilience and wellness.

Michelle DubinskyMichelle Dubinsky Michelle Dubinsky
Michelle is a PhD candidate in the Institute of Medical Science. Her research explores how blood flow patterns affect gene-protein interactions. She is avidly involved in mentorship and science outreach, both at UofT and in the community. Michelle has organized and run the IMS Summer Undergraduate Research Program's annual Research Day for over 100 students. She has expanded the department’s Peer-to-Peer Mentorship Program through collaboration with other University organizations to provide mentors for Undergraduate students and provided intake mentors for incoming students to the program. At present, Michelle is working on creating an opportunity for current students to be mentored by Alumni. Through her experience on the St. Michael’s Hospital Research Student Association, Michelle has created the Senior Advisor position, and continues to be involved in promoting advocacy, equity, and the student perspective on many Hospital Research Committees. Michelle hopes to create a welcoming environment for students at all educational levels through teaching and mentoring.

Lazar JovanovicLazar Jovanovic

Lazar Jovanovic
With a PhD in biomedical engineering, I want to solve medical problems using creative engineering approaches. Additionally, involvement with various student associations and graduate community initiatives has given me the opportunity to enrich my experience as an international student at the University of Toronto. Outside the academic setting, I like to keep up with current trends in pop culture by listening to podcasts on my commutes. I am also a fan of cinema – it is my way of relaxing. And, to keep a healthy mind in a healthy body, I play tennis, basketball, and squash.

Simoun IchoSimoun Icho Simoun Icho
Simoun is a PhD candidate in the department of Biochemistry. His research is focused on the discovery of novel small molecule inhibitors of bacterial toxins with a specific interest in understanding how the bacterial toxin from Clostridioides difficile can be safely inhibited to mitigate disease. During his PhD and through holding several positions in the Biochemistry Graduate Student Union, Simoun gained appreciation for the importance of graduate student mentorship. This led him to co-found the Biochemistry Mentorship Committee in 2017, which aims to connect incoming students with senior graduate students to ease transition into the department and encourage a welcoming and supportive environment. Beyond this, Simoun is hoping to improve his skills as an instructor by holding simultaneous positions as a Teaching Assistant at the university and a Biology Instructor for The Princeton Review. Simoun seeks to continually improve the ability of the Mentorship Committee to provide support to incoming students while also honing his skills as an instructor to one day lead in a clear, motivating, and equitable manner.

Natalie WorkewychNatalie Workewych Natalie Workewych
Natalie is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Her research involves investigating the safety of drug use in lactation through the development of cellular models of drug transfer into breast milk. To help others in their educational pursuits, she currently teaches in various capacities, from teaching assistantships within the university to standardized test instruction through the Princeton Review. Natalie is keen an enthusiastic advocate of the dissemination of scientific and medical knowledge to lay and scientific communities alike, and works toward this goal through her involvement in science and medical writing roles.

Dorrin Zarrin KhatDorrin Zarrin Khat Dorrin Zarrin Khat
My name is Dorrin, I am a 5th year PhD candidate in the LMP Department. During my graduate studies, I have taken active roles in the educational programs and advocacy, including Teaching Assistantships, Faculty of Medicine Graduate Awards Committee and Professional Graduate Education Committee memberships and serving as a Graduate Mentor for my newly incoming graduate classmates.

My long-standing passion for creative arts, cardiovascular health studies and personal storytelling, motivated me to work with a team of healthcare professionals to create ‘Paint Your Experience’ an art therapy program for cardiac patients and their caregivers at Toronto General Hospital. Patient stories have been shared describing what it is like to live with a donor heart, what taking medication is like and what it was like for their loved-ones. The discussion has been very insightful and powerful. Paint Your Experience aims to unite us all, with a focus on quality of life.

Nick DemersNick Demers Nick Demers
In collaboration with Chloe Mitchell, a fellow GLSE PhD leader, we lead the peer communication team (PCT) in the Biochemistry department. The PCT is a student organized initiative which works to improve the communication skills of all students in our department, particularly junior students. Since taking this leadership position Chloe and I have grown our PCT team and worked hard to increase our impact in the Biochemistry community. In addition, I am also an executive member of the Biochemistry Graduate Student Union as our treasurer, and a member of the Biochemistry Mentorship Committee. These leadership positions have given me the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the Biochemistry department and continually grow as a leader.

Chloe MitchellChloe Mitchell Chloe Mitchell
Chloe Mitchell is a fifth-year PhD student and for four of those years has been a Teaching Assistant to an introductory biochemistry course. Wanting to help give other TA’s the skills and confidence to pursue teaching positions or continue to improve as teachers, she has been leading a mini teaching workshop. The workshop has provided rich conversation on challenges and opportunities within teaching and many of the students have gone on to secure TA positions. Chloe is a strong believer in effective scientific communication and working with fellow graduate student Nick Demers, they have together been running the Peer Communications Team (PCT). The PCT is a group of senior students that listen to and help mentor students prior to their first student seminar, or any oral presentation students want feedback on. This has been an excellent experience creating a welcoming community within the Biochemistry department of students helping their peers.

Jennifer LissemoreJennifer Lissemore Jennifer Lissemore
Jen is a PhD candidate in the Institute of Medical Science (IMS). Her graduate research has explored the neurochemical and neurophysiological mechanisms that drive pathological human behaviours, such as in depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. During her PhD research, she enjoyed engaging undergraduate students in neuroscience research as a teaching assistant in the Human Biology Program, and connecting fellow medical science students as the CAMH site director for the IMS Student Association. She was also privileged to mentor several exceptional women undergraduate and graduate students, for example as part of the IMS Peer-to-Peer Mentorship Program. Going forward, Jen is driven to support women in science, encourage students who are interested in science to learn to code, and promote mental health within and beyond the academic community.

Katie MaoKatie Mao Katie Mao
Katie is a PhD candidate in the department of Biochemistry. Her research explores the biology of chaperone complexes and their involvement in oncogenesis. Recently, she is focusing on the discovery of antiviral small molecules to combat the COVID pandemic and future outbreaks by targeting the host chaperone network. Wanting to improve the graduate student experience for her peers, Katie joined the Faculty of Medicine Graduate Representative Committee (FoM-GRC) as the Biochemistry Representative. FoM-GRC is a group of student leaders from the 9 FoM basic science departments that collects information from its students regarding their graduate experience with the goal of advocating on the students' behalf. There, she collaborated with other members to negotiate a better funding package and living standards for FacMed graduate students. Taking those skills, she implemented surveys within the Biochemistry department which directly led to the start of the Wellness Initiate Group (WIG). Currently, she is actively working within the WIG in hopes of improving awareness and support for student wellness.

Dustin AmmendoliaDustin Ammendolia Dustin Ammendolia
Hi there! I am a fourth year PhD candidate in the Department of Molecular Genetic. My research interests include host-pathogen interactions and intestinal disease. Graduate school is often regarded as an academic journey however personal development is equally as important. The PhD Leaders program has provided me with invaluable experience to catalyze self-improvement and strengthen my resilience in a research setting (which we all know can be quite challenging and disappointing at times!). Alongside two fellow leaders (Grace & Lazar), we have started a faculty-wide initiative to promote graduate student wellness through open discussion of common issues encountered during graduate school.