from “y” to “phd”

Samantha has been experimenting and asking "why" and "how" her whole life, though her formal science training officially started at the University of Toronto. She earned her Honours Bachelor of Science degree by completing the Neuroscience Specialist and Cell & Molecular Biology Major within the Life Sciences program.

Following her undergraduate degree, Samantha joined the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto, where she completed her PhD in 2019. Alongside her studies, she was employed as a Pedagogical Research Assistant for a foundational neuroscience course at the university, a Teaching Assistant for introductory neuroscience and introductory genetics courses, and a guest lecturer for several advanced courses in engineering, translational research, and biology.

Samantha has had the opportunity to work in a variety of exciting laboratory environments throughout her training, including a human psychology lab at OISE where she studied learning disabilities and ADHD in adolescents, and a lab at the Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases studying aberrant protein interactions that lead to amyloid beta accumulation in Alzheimer's disease. She currently researches how brain stem cells build the brain during embryonic development, and how the same populations of stem cells persist into the adult brain where they can maintain the diversity of cell types needed for brain function.

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6 years of plates
 

Samantha’s phd: Generation and maintenance of the mammalian brain by stem cells.
 

Samantha's PhD research in Dr. Derek van der Kooy's Neurobiology Research Group investigated some of the first cells of the brain - neural stem cells.

The van der Kooy lab previously categorized a novel type of neural stem cell called the primitive neural stem cell that arises by default from mouse embryonic stem cells in vitro or can be derived from pre-neurulation stages of the developing mouse embryo. Alongside collaborators in Dr. Cindi Morshead's lab, they have found that these early primitive neural stem cells persist throughout development and into the adult brain. Samantha and her lab mates published that these primitive neural stem cells comprise a relatively quiescent population that can act as a reserve pool of stem cells in the adult brain, and how these cells can be specifically targeted for activation, which may be useful in cases of injury or disease.

Samantha also studied the direct progeny of primitive neural stem cells and the other more common GFAP-expressing neural stem cell population using at the single cell level. Using clonal lineage tracing strategies, she constructed a hierarchy of these neural stem cells and their progeny that elucidates the intermediate steps between precursors and mature cell types. She then used single cell transcriptomics to better characterize these cells at the molecular level and answer fundamental questions about the gene expression profile of progenitor cells as their fate is specified.

Samantha has presented this research consistently at annual ISSCR, SfN, and Till & McCulloch Meetings.

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Prefer Videos to Text?

Samantha's research on adult stem cells:

Samantha describes one of her PhD research projects in 60 seconds!

Samantha's research on pre-natal brain development from stem and progenitor cells:

Samantha was a finalist in the 3 Minute Thesis competition at the University of Toronto in 2017. Here is her presentation, which was also livestreamed to Instagram.