Principal Investigators

Jason Plemel, Ph.D.

Dr. Jason Plemel began his training in the laboratory of Dr. Wolfram Tetzlaff at the University of British Columbia where he completed his Doctorate. There he investigated two separate strategies to improve white matter regeneration: transplantation of precursor cells to replace lost oligodendrocytes and cell culture to find novel targets to improve remyelination. During Dr. Plemel’s postdoctoral work he studied the contribution of microglia following myelin injury in the laboratories of Dr. Peter Stys and Dr. Wee Yong at the University of Calgary. His interdisciplinary project investigated mechanisms of how immune cells respond to primary degeneration and developed a new tool to image cell death and injury using spectral microscopy. In his new faculty appointment at the University of Alberta, Dr. Plemel and his laboratory will investigate how microglia play an important role in the regeneration of injured white matter, but also how microglia can induce injury to white matter during different disease conditions.

Bradley Kerr, Ph.D.

Dr. Bradley Kerr received his BSc in Psychology from McGill University. He then went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of London-King’s College in the UK. His Ph.D. research was aimed at understanding the role of novel modulatory peptides, growth factors and pro-inflammatory cytokines in persistent pain. Dr. Kerr went on to do postdoctoral work at the California Institute of Technology and at McGill University where his work focused on studying inflammatory responses after nervous system injury. Dr. Kerr joined the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at the University of Alberta in 2007 and is also an adjunct associate professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Psychiatry. The focus of research in his lab is aimed at addressing the mechanisms of chronic pain after injury or disease with a major focus on chronic pain associated with Multiple Sclerosis.

Graduate Students

Zoe Dworsky-Fried, M.Sc. Student

Zoe is a first year Master’s student in the Department of Pharmacology under the supervision of Drs. Bradley Kerr and Anna Taylor. She moved to Edmonton from Halifax where she completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at Dalhousie University. Zoe is currently investigating if there are sex differences in neuroinflammation and microglial activation in the motivational and affective domains in the EAE model of MS.

Kevin Thorburn, Ph.D. Candidate

Kevin completed his BSc in neuroscience at the University of Alberta in 2014. He started as a volunteer in Bradley Kerr’s lab in 2012 and continued on to pursue a PhD under Dr. Kerr’s supervision. Kevin is currently studying 1) trigeminal pathology and dysfunction in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis 2) astrocyte biology after CNS injury and disease and 3) effects of systemic inflammation on the regeneration/sprouting state of dorsal root ganglion neurons. Outside of the lab, Kevin enjoys hiking, camping and cycling. Kevin’s bike team, Go for Spoke, recently made its debut at the 2018 Johnson MS Bike ride and raised $2880 for the MS Society of Canada.

Caylin Chadwick, M.Sc. Student

Caylin is a first year MSc student in Neuroscience as of September 2018 under the supervision of Drs. Bradley Kerr and Anna Taylor. She was born and raised on Vancouver Island and completed her B.Sc. degree in Neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge. She will be exploring the role of corticotropin-releasing factor in two models of pain: chronic nerve pain and EAE (experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; a model of MS).

Timo Friedman, M.Sc. Student

Timo is a Master’s student under the supervision of Dr. Bradley Kerr. He is investigating the role of microRNAs in pain syndromes using computational and bioinformatics methodology. His other interests include data mining and machine learning.

Muhammad Saad Yousuf, Ph.D. Candidate

Saad completed his B.Sc. degree in Neuroscience and Psychology from the University of Toronto and joined the Kerr lab at the University of Alberta as a graduate student in 2013. His research focuses on understanding the role of the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) in mediating pain hypersensitivity in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS). His current research in the lab suggests that sensory neurons of the DRG experience inflammation and stress possibly resulting in hyperexcitability. He employs a variety of techniques including qRT-PCRs, Western blots, immunohistochemistry, RNA interference, pharmacology, and calcium imaging to identify novel therapeutic strategies aimed at alleviating pain in EAE and, by extension, in MS.

Charbel Baaklini, M.Sc. Student

All the way from Lebanon, Charbel came to Edmonton for his masters in neuroscience. He graduated with a BSc in Biology. As Plemel’s first graduate student, he’s so excited to be in the process of discovering new ways to treat one of the most prevalent neurodegenerative diseases, multiple sclerosis. His project will focus on the roles of microglia in the process of remyelination and he hopes to find molecular targets to induce this regenerative process in MS patients.

Martin Zirngibl, M.Sc Student

Martin is a visiting grad student from Munich, Germany. He completed his Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biotechnology at the TUM in Munich. Currently he is in his last year of Master of Biology at the LMU Munich. At the end of April, Martin came into the lab of Jason for a 3-month internship in the course of the UARE program. However, he will prolong his stay to March 2020 to do his Master’s Thesis in Jason’s lab to complete his studies in Germany. 
Martin focuses in his project on the effect of microglia on demyelination in Cuprizone-induced demyelination in the corpus callosum.

Aislinn Maguire, M.Sc Student

Aislinn finished her neuroscience BSc at the UofA in 2019 and is now a neuroscience masters student under the supervision of Dr. Bradley Kerr. She is studying the contribution of ER stress in the peripheral nervous system to central neuropathic pain in Multiple Sclerosis. In her spare time Aislinn enjoys hiking, snowboarding, and boxing.

Brady Hammond, M.Sc Student

Brady received his BSc in Biology at the University of Alberta: Augustana Faculty and joined the Plemel lab as a graduate student in 2019. He is now in his first year of study as a Master’s student in the Department of Neuroscience under the supervision of Dr. Jason Plemel. Brady is currently studying the capacity of Interleukin-1 cytokines to stimulate proliferation of microglia during neurodevelopment using serum-free cell culture and mouse models. Outside of the lab, Brady enjoys riding motorcycles, skiing, and camping.  

Sameera Zia, M.Sc Student

Sameera completed her BSc at the University of Toronto and is now a first year Master’s student under the supervision of Drs. Jason Plemel and Bradley Kerr. Her research explores the heterogeneity of microglia phenotypes using single cell sequencing.

Undergraduate Students

Jacob Dunn

Isabelle Tottenham

Isabelle is a fourth-year undergraduate student completing her honors B.Sc. at the University of
Alberta. Under the supervision of Dr. Bradley Kerr, she is completing her NEURO 498/499 thesis
investigating the roles of TLR7/8 relating to chronic pain signaling in EAE, a mouse model of
Multiple Sclerosis. Spare time is an abstract concept to her, but she enjoys being near dogs and
outdoors whenever time allows.

Tristan Pidner

Tristan Pidner is a fifth year Psychology Honours student, who is completing a Pharmacology independent study course under the supervision of Drs. Anna Taylor and Bradley Kerr. Tristan has personal experience with chronic pain, which has spurred his interest in pain research. He is working with Dr. Taylor to examine the mechanism by which gut microbiome function mediates opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Mizuki Lopez

Mizuki is a 3rd year undergraduate student in the BSc Honours in Neuroscience program. Under the supervision of Dr. Plemel and Charbel Baalkini, she will be taking Neuro 451/452, an Honours Research Project in Neuroscience, in the 2019/2020 school year, focusing in the role of microglia in remyelination.

Rupali Manek

Rupali is a third-year undergraduate student in the Faculty of Science. Under the supervision of Dr. Jason Plemel and Brady Hammond, she will be studying interleukin-1 cytokines as regulators of developmental microglia proliferation as part of a Cell 398 Research Project. In her free time, Rupali enjoys travelling, spending time with family and friends, and playing soccer!

Lab Support

Kelly Lee

Kelly completed her MSc at the University of Toronto in the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics.  The main focus of her research will be using Cuprizone model of progressive Multiple Sclerosis in mice to investigate how microglial cells respond to demyelination and the factors that are released into the extracellular matrix as a result of the toxin.

Madelene Ho

As an undergraduate in the BSc Specialization in Cell Biology program, Madelene chose the 2018-2019 academic year to intern as a Research Assistant for the Plemel Lab not only to gain more laboratory experience and techniques, but to be part of the front lines in Multiple Sclerosis research.
Now in her 4th year, she will continue her duties as research assistant as well as starting her own Cell 499 project in characterizing microglia activity/activation during remyelination.
Apart from her love of the daring environment of research labs, she is passionate about curative research and care in the clinical sciences. Recently, she has been fascinated by auto/immune and degenerative diseases and disorders; she likes being involved in working with MS, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and HIV/AIDS.

Gustavo Tenorio

After completing an MSc from the University of Alberta, Gustavo started working with Dr. Kerr and has been working with him for the past 9 years. Gustavo is an important lab resource. He trains new staff and students on a variety of tasks ranging from bench work to data processing. Recently, his work has shifted more towards lab administration, as well as identifying hazards and implementing controls in order to make sure the lab follows EHS standards.

Alumni and Past Members

Ana Catuneanu, M.Sc. Student

Apurba Mainali (Undergraduate)

Mansi Desai (Undergraduate)

Stephanie Brown (support staff)