Lab Technicians

  • Dr. Cathy Ma

    Cathy has a PhD in Chemistry and also has expertise in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
    She worked as Lab Manager from 2009-2022 and focused on using ultrasensitive LC-MS/MS for steroid profiling in blood and microdissected brain and immune tissues.

  • Ruolan Wu

    Ruolan received her B.Sc. in Anatomy and Cell Biology from McGill University (2019). She was a research assistant in the Soma Lab and worked on steroid profiling in human baby teeth as a potential new tool to measure early-life stress.

    Ruolan is currently an embryologist at Olive Fertility Centre.

Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Prof. Thierry D. Charlier

    Thierry was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Soma Lab (2005-2008) and collaborated with Prof. Geoff Hammond to investigate steroid-binding globulins and brain steroid levels. He received major Postdoctoral Fellowships from CIHR and IBRO.

    Thierry is currently a Professor at the University of Rennes in France.

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  • Prof. Sarah A. Heimovics

    Sarah was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Soma Lab (2008-2012) and studied the rapid effects of estradiol on social behaviour and intracellular signaling pathways in the brain. She received major Postdoctoral Fellowships from CIHR and MSFHR.

    Sarah is currently an Associate Professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, USA.

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  • Prof. H. Bobby Fokidis

    Bobby was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Soma Lab (2011-2013) and studied how food availability impacts social behaviour, neuropeptides, and neurosteroids. He received a prestigious Postdoctoral Fellowship from NSERC. He also collaborated with Prof. Emma Guns (Vancouver Prostate Centre) to study how food quality (macronutrient composition) affects androgen synthesis within prostate tumors in mice, particularly the beneficial effects of a low-carbohydrate high-protein diet.

    Bobby is currently an Associate Professor at Rollins College in Florida, USA.

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  • Dr. Arya E. Mehran

    Arya was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Soma Lab (2017-2018). Arya examined local synthesis of estradiol and insulin within the brain and whether the interaction between these two neural signals is important in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Arya also worked with Prof. Angela Devlin and examined how second-generation antipsychotics lead to obesity and Type 2 diabetes and was supported by a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship.

    Arya is currently a Medical Science Liaison at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.

  • Prof. Daniel J. Tobianksy

    Daniel was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Soma Lab (2015-2018). He received a BS in Psychology from DePaul University (2006) and a PhD in Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin (2014). His PhD research with Prof. Juan Dominguez demonstrated that estrogens act in the hypothalamus to modulate the effects of cocaine on the mesocorticolimbic system and cocaine-seeking behavior. At UBC, Daniel was co-supervised by Stan Floresco and examined how local androgen synthesis in the mesocorticolimbic system influences motivated behaviors and decision making. In another line of research, he explored how sucrose (table sugar) in the maternal diet during pregnancy and lactation influences offspring behavior and neuroendocrinology. Daniel received a Bluma Tischler Postdoctoral Fellowship and is a Fellow of the Neuroscience Scholars Program and FLARE Program. Daniel then worked as a postdoc with Prof. Matt Fuxjuger at Brown University. 

    Daniel is currently an Assistant Professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

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  • Dr. Desiree R. Seib

    Désirée completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. In her PhD research with Prof. Ana Martin-Villalba at the German Cancer Research Center, she focused on neural stem cells in the brain and their functions in learning and memory, aging and depressive-like behaviour. She was supported by a Helmholtz Graduate School Fellowship. At UBC, Désirée worked with Prof. Jason Snyder and was co-supervised by Prof. Stan Floresco from 2013-2019 to further understand the role of neurogenesis in pattern separation and complex behavioural traits associated with depression. During this time, she received a postdoctoral fellowship from the German Research Foundation and a NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. Désirée joined the Soma Lab in 2020 and is investigating the effects of maternal sucrose (table sugar) intake on offspring physiology and behaviour. She received the Clyde Hertzman Memorial Fellowship to support this project. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Prince Edward Island.

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PhD Students

  • Prof. Amy E.M. Newman

    Amy was a PhD student in the Soma Lab (2004-2009) and focused on the interactions between glucocorticoids and DHEA. She received Graduate Fellowships from NSERC and MSFHR. She also collaborated with Prof. Scott MacDougall-Shackleton (Univeristy of Western Ontario) to study how corticosterone and DHEA regulate adult neurogenesis. She was then an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Guelph.

    Amy is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario.

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  • Dr. Matthew D. Taves

    Matt received his BSc in Biology from McMaster University, where he worked with Prof. Sigal Balshine. He then came to UBC to work with Prof. Soma and completed his PhD in 2015. With the support of CIHR scholarships, he studied local production of glucocorticoids in the immune system of birds and mice. Matt then worked as a CIHR Postdoctoral Fellow at NIH and explored glucocorticoid functions in lymphocytes, which are critical for adaptive immunity.

    Matt is currently a Research Associate at Cornell University.

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  • Dr. Nora H. Prior

    Nora was a PhD student from 2009-2014. Her research investigated the neuroendocrine regulation of pair maintenance in the zebra finch. Nora used a combination of field and lab studies to describe how brain and circulating sex steroid levels change with environmental conditions. Then Nora was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Maryland with Profs. Robert Dooling and Greg Ball.

    Nora is currently a Senior Research Associate at Cornell University. 

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  • Dr. Jordan E. Hamden

    Jordan received his B.Sc. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Radford University (2015). Jordan completed his PhD in UBC Zoology in 2021. Jordan’s work focused on the local regulation of glucocorticoids in immune organs and several brain regions during mouse development. His projects investigated the roles of the intestinal microbiome, stress, and local regeneration of an inactive glucocorticoid metabolite. Jordan was supported by the UBC 4-Year Doctoral Fellowship (2017-2021).

    Jordan is currently a post-doctoral researcher working with Prof. Mari DeMarco at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

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  • Dr. Cecilia Jalabert

    Cecilia is from Uruguay in South America, where she obtained her BSc and MSc degrees in Neuroscience from Universidad de la Republica, working with Prof. Ana Silva and Prof. Laura Quintana on neuroethology.

    Her PhD research focused on understanding local sex steroid synthesis in the brain and the regulation of social behaviour in a songbird model. She also developed novel methods for ultra-sensitive quantification of multiple estrogens (including 17beta-estradiol, 17alpha-estradiol, estrone, estriol, methoxyestrogens, and catecholestrogens) using LC-MS/MS. Cecilia held an Uruguay Graduate Scholarship and a Zoology Graduate Fellowship.

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Master Students

  • Dr. Eunice H. Chin

    Eunice was a MSc student in the Soma Lab (2004-2006) and studied neurosteroids during early development. She received a NSERC CGS-M Fellowship. She then completed a PhD at Trent University and a postdoctoral fellowship at Simon Fraser University.

    Eunice is currently an Instructor at Capilano University in Vancouver.

  • Dr. Kim L. Schmidt

    Kim was a MSc student in the Soma Lab (2007-2009) and examined corticosterone and cortisol levels in lymphoid organs during development. She received a NSERC CGS-M Fellowship. She then completed a PhD in Biology at the University of Western Ontario and a postdoctoral fellowship at Simon Fraser University.

    Kim is currently a Research Manager at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

  • Prof. Devaleena S. Pradhan

    Devaleena was a MSc student in the Soma Lab (2006-2008) and focused on the metabolism of DHEA in the brain. She then completed a PhD at Georgia State University and a postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA.

    Devaleena is currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor at Idaho State University.

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  • Dr. Amit H. Shah

    Amit was a MSc student in the Soma Lab (2006-2008). He then completed a PhD in Neuroscience at Michigan State University. Next, Amit received an MBA from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

    Amit is currently an Equity Analyst at Mawer Investment Management.

  • Katelyn Low

    Katelyn completed a BSc in Integrated Sciences at UBC. As an undergrad, she was involved in research on harbour seal sensory systems and zebra finch social behaviour at the University of Rostock and McGill University. For her MSc, she focused on androgen receptors in the mesocorticolimbic system and how these change with aging. Then, she completed the MSc Biotechnology program at the University of Toronto-Mississauga.

    Katelyn is currently employed in the biotech sector as a Medical Writer.

  • Ryan J. Tomm

    Ryan received his BA and MA in Psychology from UBC, working with Prof. Soma and Prof. Stan Floresco. Ryan examined how neurosteroids, such as testosterone, regulate different aspects of executive function, particularly behavioural flexibility. Ryan received multiple NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards and multiple NSERC Aboriginal Ambassador awards. He has taken his passion for research beyond the lab, holding science outreach workshops and seminars with high school students all over British Columbia.

    Ryan currently holds a UBC 4-Year Doctoral Fellowship and is working on his PhD in Psychology with Prof. Rebecca Todd, focusing on human cognitive neuroscience.

  • Sofia L. Gray

    Sofia completed her BA in Psychology in 2020 at UBC and completed her MA in Psychology in 2022. As an undergraduate, she received the NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award

    Her research focused on social behaviour and sex steroids produced locally in the brain. She studied neurosteroids, particularly with regard to regulation of territorial aggression in song sparrows. She received a Graduate Entrance Scholarship from the Psychology Department to support her research.

  • Valerie M. Lo

    Valerie completed her BA in Psychology at UBC in 2020. During her undergraduate degree, Valerie worked in the lab of Prof. Stan Floresco and studied the role of the medial prefrontal cortex in behavioural flexibility.

    As an MA student, she focused on investigating the relationship between locally-produced testosterone in the mesocorticolimbic system and behavioural flexibility, specifically looking at the effects of testosterone and its sites of action.

  • Megan Q. Liu

    Megan completed her BSc in Neuroscience at McGill University in 2020. During her undergraduate degree, Megan worked with Prof. Nahum Sonenberg to investigate the relationship between global protein translation and depressive-like behaviors in mice. She also worked with Prof. Rosemary Bagot to study how chronic stress changes the inputs received by the nucleus accumbens and alters information processing. Her work with Prof. Bagot was supported by a Science Undergraduate Research Award.

    As a MSc student in Neuroscience, Megan used a wheel running task to study the motivation to exercise in rats, and was particularly interested in how this behaviour is regulated by local sex steroids in the brain and other hormones. She developed an ultrasensitive method for measuring multiple estrogens using LC-MS/MS that is optimized for use in rats and mice. She is currently a PhD student at McGill University.

Undergraduate Students

  • Garrett Ainsworth-Cruickshank

    Garrett completed his BSc in Cell and Developmental Biology (honours). Garrett is interested in how changes to the gut microbiome impact health. He assisted Dr. Jordan E. Hamden and Dr. Désirée R. Seib with the bioinformatic analysis of their projects as well as helped establish behavioural analysis software in the lab.

  • Jennifer Ferris

    Jenn worked in the Soma Lab as an undergraduate and examined two neuropeptides that regulate reproduction (GnRH and GnIH). She received a Faculty of Arts AURA award to complete this project. From her work in the Soma Lab as an undergraduate, Jenn is a co-author on 2 papers and the first-author on a paper in Journal of Neuroendocrinology.

    Jenn completed a MSc in Neuroscience and is currently a PhD student in Rehabilitation Science at UBC.

  • Anastasia Korol

    Anastasia worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Soma Lab. Her research was focused on local synthesis of steroids in the rat brain and its regulation by gonadal hormones, cognitive challenges, and diet. She also studied local glucocorticoid production in immune tissues. Anastasia is a co-author on two peer-reviewed papers and presented her findings at the 2017 Society for Neuroscience conference, for which she received the SfN Trainee Professional Development Award to attend. She completed a Directed Studies with Prof. Soma and also participated in the UBC Work Learn Program.

    Anastasia completed the UBC Speech-Language Pathology M.Sc. program and is currently working as a speech therapist.

  • Helen Schweitzer

    Helen completed her B.Sc. in Psychology in 2017. She completed a Directed Studies course with Prof. Soma, participated in the Work Learn Program, and presented at the UBC Undergraduate Neuroscience Conference. Her research examined how androgens influence behavioural flexibility, and also the effects of aging on dopamine receptors in the brain. She is co-author on a paper published in the prestigious journal, Neurobiology of Aging.

    Helen is currently attending law school at Queen’s University.

  • Marie Turcott

    Marie completed her BA in Psychology in 2018. She was in the Psychology Honours Program and presented her research at the UBC Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference. For her Honours project, she worked with Whitney Krieger to develop novel methods to measure the motivation to exercise in rats.

    Marie then completed a JD at UBC Law School.

  • George Kachkovski

    George worked in the Soma Lab (2015-2018) as part of the Honours Program in Psychology and continued his research with funding from the Arts Undergraduate Research Award and the Work Learn Program and the NSERC USRA Program. George studied how consumption of sucrose (table sugar) by the mother affects the brain and behaviour of her offspring, as well as the gut microbiome (in collaboration with Prof. Brett Finlay). He also investigated the role of neural testosterone synthesis in behavioural flexibility. George presented his data at the UBC Undergraduate Neuroscience Conference and the UBC Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference, as well as the 2018 Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology meeting.  He is a co-author on abstracts for major international scientific conferences.

    George graduated from UBC Nursing School and worked as a nurse. He is now attending medical school at McMaster University.

  • Whitney Krieger

    Whitney completed her BSc Biology Honours thesis in the Soma Lab in 2018. She and Marie Turcott studied the effects of food availability on motivation to exercise, using a novel operant conditioning paradigm. She received an award from the NSERC USRA Program to work full-time in the lab during the summer of 2018, to learn immunohistochemistry and microscopy as well as steroid analysis in microdissected brain tissue. She is first author on a Society for Neuroscience conference abstract.

    Whitney is currently working at BC Children’s Hospital.

  • Ravish Sharma

    Ravish finished his B.Sc. in Integrated Science in 2018 and studied immunology, nutrition, and physiology. He then completed courses in business and accounting.

    Ravish is currently working in the financial sector.

  • Jasmine Cleary-Gosine

    Jasmine received a BSc in Behavioural Neuroscience in 2019. She and Cheryl Chow examined the motivation to exercise in a rodent model. She studied how motivation and executive function are modulated by steroid action in neural circuits.

  • Katherine Gray

    Katherine’s research focused on the regulation of glucocorticoid levels within different brain regions. More specifically, she examined whether the metabolite of corticosterone, 11-dehydrocorticosterone (DHC), is locally regulated within the brain and the implications for how stress affects the brain. Katherine received a 2019 NSERC USRA to conduct research and a Quinn Travel Award to attend the 2019 Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology to present her results.

    Katherine is currently in UBC Medical School.

  • Brandon Forys

    Brandon completed his B.A. in Honours Psychology and studied how neurosteroids influence behaviour. He is especially interested in computational modeling of the synthesis of neurosteroids within and among various brain regions, and exploring how computational models of neuroendocrine systems can be used to understand the production of steroids in the brain. He also learned various bioinformatics techniques for microbiome analysis, to study how the microbiome affects immunosteroid synthesis. Brandon received the prestigious Wesbrook Scholarship.

    Brandon is currently a Master’s student in UBC Psychology.

  • Maria Shock

    Maria completed her BSc in Behavioural Neuroscience in 2021. She investigated the roles of estrogens in social behaviour. Maria assisted Cecilia Jalabert with her PhD project investigating local sex steroid synthesis in the brain and how these neurosteroids regulate aggressive behaviour in a songbird model. Maria participated in developing an ultra-sensitive method for measuring multiple estrogens, using chemical derivatization and LC-MS/MS.

    Maria is currently a medical student at McMaster University.

  • Athena Varghese

    Athena was a BSc student in Behavioural Neuroscience in the Soma Lab. She studied steroid synthesis within the brain, particularly steroids conjugated to fatty acids.

  • Taylor Bootsma

    Taylor was a BSc student in the Soma Lab, and assisted with developing an ultra-sensitive method for the detection of multiple estrogens via chemical derivatization and LC-MS/MS.

  • Michael Li

    Michael was a BSc student who is interested in neuroscience and immunology. He was working with Melody Salehzadeh and examining regulation of immunosteroid synthesis using qPCR and LC-MS/MS. Michael is in UBC Medical school. 

  • Eashan Halbe

    Eashan was an undergraduate student in the Soma Lab pursuing his BSc in Biology. He has an interest in the intersection between immunology and endocrinology and studied local glucocorticoid production in lymphocyte populations.

  • Sarah Lim

    Sarah was an undergraduate student in the Soma Lab pursuing a BSc in Integrated Sciences, in which she incorporated neurobiology and microbiology. She assisted Melody Salehzadeh in investigating local glucocorticoid production in lymphoid and brain tissue using qPCR and LC-MS/MS.

  • Esther Choi

    Esther was an undergraduate student pursuing her BSc in Biology, with a minor in Psychology. She worked with Valerie Lo and investigated the relationship between behavioural flexibility and locally-produced testosterone in the mesocorticolimbic system.

  • Lily Chen

    Lily was an undergraduate student studying the effects of maternal sucrose intake on offspring neurodevelopment. Lily is now in Veterinary Medicine school

  • Karnvir Dhillon

    Karnvir completed his BSc in Chemistry, Biology, and Earth and Ocean Sciences in April 2022. He is looking to pursue a graduate program next year related to medicine or immunology. Karnvir worked to understand how to use the LC-MS/MS technique with Dr. Asmita Poudel.

  • Cameron Kelsey

    Cam studied the role of testosterone in behavioural flexibility.