Trainee Communications Committee

The Trainee Communications Committee (TCC) represents the views of SCN trainees from across Canada and plays an important role in the development of training programs for young investigators. Members provide insight and recommendations to the Training Education Committee on the types of workshops and skill development activities that would best support trainees in the stem cell and regenerative medicine research space. Members actively participate in the organization of workshops that take place during the annual Till & McCulloch Meetings. Members also develop and implement tactics to ensure SCN trainees remain informed about SCN training and career development opportunities.

The TCC is comprised of trainees drawn from stem cell and regenerative medicine research groups across Canada with a range of disciplines and interests. Recruitment of new TCC members occurs as openings arise on the committee, and a recruitment drive is typically held each year at the Till & McCulloch Meetings.


MARISSA LITHOPOULOS, VICE-CHAIR, Postdoctoral Fellow, SickKids, Visiting Scientist, University of British Columbia
Marissa is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, and a Visiting Scientist at the University of British Columbia, working in the lab of Dr. Freda Miller and Dr. David Kaplan. Marissa’s research focuses on the relationship between brain stem cells and blood vessels during development. Marissa has been a Stem Cell Network trainee since 2013 and is passionate about science outreach, as she has been a Co-Chair of the StemCellTalks National Advisory Committee and StemCellTalks Ottawa. Marissa is also a musician and a karaoke enthusiast.
SEPIDEH ABBASI, Postdoctoral Fellow, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM) & McGill University
I’m a postdoctoral fellow at the IRCM & McGill (Montreal), I have a Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from Shiraz University (Iran), did my Masters in Reproductive Biology at the University of Saskatchewan and my PhD in Stem Cell Biology at the University of Calgary. Since fall 2010, I have been a SCN trainee and have also been involved with StemCellTalks (SCT) outreach program (2010-present), currently serving as the Co-Chair of the SCT National Advisory Committee and Montreal’s SCT director. I’m passionate about science communication/outreach and helping the next generation of scientists. Outside the lab, I enjoy travelling, cooking, baking, gardening and Persian literature/poetry.
RASHA AL-ATAR, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the McEwen Stem Cell Institute – University Health Network
I am pursuing my postdoctoral training at the laboratory of Dr. Michael Laflamme. My research focuses on using human pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes (hPSC-CMs) to re-muscularize the scar tissue post myocardial infarction. Specifically, I am using genome engineering to enhance the host-graft electrical coupling and cell to cell communication in efforts to reduce the risk of ventricular tachyarrhythmia post hPSC-CM transplantation. I am passionate about teaching and helping other trainees gain the necessary skills needed to secure their dream job. 

KABITA BARAL, PhD student at the University of Calgary
I am a PhD student in the Biernaskie lab at the University of Calgary, where I work with neural stem cells and Schwann cells leveraging single-cell mRNA-sequencing technology. I also have a MS in Bioinformatics and BSc in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Besides school, I am co-director of StemCellTalks Calgary chapter and enjoy science communication, baking, hiking and watching anime/superhero movies with my partner and our sheepdog.


COLIN HAMMOND, Postdoctoral Fellow, BC Cancer Research Centre
Colin is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Connie Eaves’ lab in Vancouver BC. Colin studies the regulation of survival and proliferation in healthy human blood stem cells with a particular focus on how these mechanisms may change with development and advancing age. Outside of the lab Colin enjoys cooking and trying to craft the perfect cocktail.
DAVID DATZKIW, PhD candidate, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
I currently study the mechanisms driving symmetric muscle stem cell division under the supervision of Dr. Michael Rudnicki at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. My previous research includes breast cancer studies at the University of Winnipeg, and probiotic and immune studies at the National Institute of Science, Education, and Research in India. I am also active within my graduate department’s student council, advocating for student wellness and organizing wellness events.
PRIYE IWORIMA, PhD candidate, University of British Columbia
Priye is a Nigerian-Canadian Biomedical engineering student whose research focuses on developing a differentiation protocol to generate stem cell-derived insulin-producing cells that may be used as a potential therapy for type 1 diabetes. She is also interested in the optimizing process parameters for large scale manufacturing of stem cell-derived products. In her free time, she loves travelling to explore new places and cultures, music, eating and socializing with friends and family.
ALEX KOZLOV, PhD candidate, Western University
Alex is a senior PhD candidate at Western University studying the impact of metabolites on pluripotency. Alex has been a Stem Cell Network trainee since 2016 and is passionate about science outreach, as she is currently a Co-Chair of the StemCellTalks National Advisory Committee and StemCellTalks London. In her free time, Alex enjoys backcountry camping and baking. 
LAURA STANKIEWICZ, PhD candidate, University of British Columbia
I am a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of British Columbia. My research focuses on learning how T cells are developed within the human thymus and how we can use this information to make T cells in the lab that can be engineered to kill cancer cells. I joined the TCC because I’m passionate about creating a common language between scientists and engineers to facilitate sharing of diverse skills and expertise. I believe training young researchers on how to effectively communicate their work is integral to the translation of cell therapies to the clinic, and I’m excited to implement workshops for trainees that address these skill sets.

KEVIN ROBB, PhD candidate, University of Toronto
I am a PhD student in the Biomedical Engineering program at the University of Toronto working under the supervision of Dr. Sowmya Viswanathan and Dr. Rajiv Gandhi at University Health Network. My project focus is on strategies to enhance mesenchymal stromal cell potency for treatment of osteoarthritis. I’ve attended TMM annually and am excited to be part of the TCC!
KIERAN MAHEDEN, MASc student, University of British Columbia
Kieran is a second year MASc student in the lab of Nika Shakiba at UBC’s School of Biomedical Engineering. His work aims to understand the social life of pluripotent stem cells by characterizing cell competition, a process where these precious cells fight to the death. When not wrestling with pipettes, you can usually find him wrestling holds while bouldering.


MORTEN RITSO, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of British Columbia
Morten is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Fabio Rossi’s lab at the University of British Columbia. He is investigating how immune, stromal, stem and progenitor cell populations communicate with each other to coordinate cardiac and skeletal muscle repair and regeneration. Morten has been an active member of public engagement teams and student committees, participated in StemCellTalks events and science commercialization competitions. He enjoys live music, skiing, hiking, and cycling.


Training & Education Committee

The Training & Education Committee members develop, implement, monitor and review multidisciplinary training strategies and programs that will recruit and train highly-qualified personnel (HQP) to the field of stem cell research and to Canada’s research environment, to increase the value of HQP to prospective employers and their profile to funding agencies, and to facilitate involvement of HQP in SCN.


Assistant Professor, Western University

Scientist, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

PhD candidate, Western University

Assistant Professor of Cancer and Development, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Assistant professor, Department of Molecular Biology, Medical Biochemistry, and Pathology Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval