Trainee Highlights

This month’s highlighted CIRTN-R2FIC trainees are featured below.

Monica Hoang

PhD Candidate, Jamie Joseph Lab


Training: BSc, McMaster University

Project: The goal of our research is to discover novel drug targets to stop or revert disease progression by enhancing β-cell function. One of our focuses is ARNT/HIF-1β; one of the most down regulated transcription factors in islets from type 2 diabetic patients, which has been suggested to play a key role in glucose sensing and insulin secretion in vitro as well as maintenance of β-cell function. We are also exploring the isoform-specific roles of prolyl hydroxylase domain proteins (PHDs) alongside αKG to promote glucose stimulated insulin secretion.

Techniques: Islet isolation, western blots, diet manipulation in rodents, immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence, transgenic mice, CLAMS, GC/MS, HPLC, islet perifusion, Seahorse XF.

About: My interests include baking, reading, playing with my puppy and staying active! I also volunteer with Save Our Scruff to rehome rescue dogs.

Stephanie Fernandez

PhD Candidate, Corinne Hoesli Lab


Training: BSc & BEng, McGill University

Awards: NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship – Master’s, NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship – Doctoral, FRQNT Doctoral Scholarship

Project: One of the main areas of research in the Hoesli Lab is the improvement of pancreatic islet encapsulation strategies for diabetes cell therapy. Current encapsulation devices aim to prevent immune rejection but tend to exhibit poor oxygen and nutrient transport, leading to graft impairment and necrosis. My project involves developing an islet macroencapsulation device featuring artificial vasculature to investigate oxygen effects on cell performance and propose a design that enhances mass transport.

Techniques: Device design and fabrication, cell encapsulation, perfusion cell culture, histological analysis, computational modelling.

About: Within my university, I founded a volunteer organization for Engineering graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to collaborate on social equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives. Other interests include mental health support and science communication. As hobbies, I enjoy travelling, spending time in nature, and engaging with the creative arts, particularly music and visual arts.

Jelena Kolic

Postdoctoral Fellow, Jim Johnson Lab


Training: BSc Honours (2008) and PhD (2014), University of Alberta 

Awards: Graduate – CIHR Doctoral Research Award, Postdoc – Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship

Project: My project investigates human islet functional responses to dietary macronutrients (glucose, amino acids, & fatty acids) and metabolites (ketone bodies). More specifically, I measure islet hormone secretion (insulin and glucagon) using both static and dynamic approaches. I am particularly interested in donor-donor variability in these functional responses; and the aim of my research is to compare these responses to the unique genetic profile of the donor. We believe that by understanding the interactions between our genes and islet response to macronutrients, personalized preventative and/or therapeutic intervention strategies can be implemented.

Techniques: Human islet culture, glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (static & perifusion), radioimmunoassay, molecular biology techniques.

About: Outside of the lab, I enjoy exploring Vancouver, experimenting with low-carb baking, and spending time with my husband and 18-month old son.