Current Team

Staff

Katherine Rhodes

Katherine joined the MacVicar lab in 2008 as a research coordinator. She soon took on a role as his Leducq Network research coordinator, then was promoted to lab manager. When the Djavad Mowagfaghian Centre for Brain Health opened in 2014, Katherine also took on the role of facilities manager for the centre. Katherine is the central point of contact for the lab. She has a BA in Psychology and MSc in Family Studies.

Undergraduate students

Prashanth is an undergraduate co-op student from the University of Waterloo. He studies the induction and inhibition of brain swelling in hippocampal slices of rat brain tissue by exposing them to a variety of drugs and treatment conditions. 

Graduate students

Alexa Nelson

I completed my Bachelor of Science in Biology with a specialization in cells, molecules, and physiology at Simon Fraser University (2011-2015). During this time I first gained experience in research as an undergraduate researcher, where I was involved in work examining the role of mitochondria in a mitochondrially inherited disease using a primary human cell culture model system. I enjoyed research and decided to pursue graduate work, and therefore subsequently joined the MacVicar lab in 2016 and enrolled in UBC’s Neuroscience graduate program. In my project I am continuing to study the role of mitochondria in disease by exploring the possible role of mitochondrial calcium in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). To investigate this, I work with a mouse model of AD using mitochondrially-targeted calcium probes for imaging in brain slices using two-photon microscopy. I will also be using electrophysiology in combination with imaging to further understand the possible role of mitochondria in AD, and potentially gain more insight into the pathophysiology of AD. 

Elisa York

Elisa (Eli) York

I completed my Bachelor’s of Science at the University of Western Ontario, where I did an honour’s thesis project with Dr. Arthur Brown, looking at glial scar formation after spinal cord injury. I then came west to UBC, and spent two years with Dr. Jane Roskams working on epigenetic regulation of microglia in the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. Now, as a PhD candidate with Dr. Brian MacVicar, I study the role of cellular metabolism in regulating the immune functions of microglia. The complex pathways of cellular metabolism have more roles than producing the cell’s energy – these metabolites and enzymes are also important in controlling cell proliferation, differentiation, and the expression of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines. To determine the metabolic pathways active in microglia, I use two-photon microscopy and fluorescence lifetime imaging of NADH in acute hippocampal slices. I have also developed 3DMorph, a MATLAB script to semi-automatically analyze microglial morphology from 3 dimensional data. Outside of the lab, I volunteer with the Neuroscience Graduate Student Association as VP Outreach to promote neuroscience understanding and curiosity within the public. I also love the great outdoors and spend much of my free time exploring the forest, ocean, and beautiful BC mountains. 

Postdoctoral fellows

Dr. Chris Groten

Dr. Groten came to the MacVicar lab after completing his PhD in Physiology from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. During this time, he studied the cellular mechanisms underlying state-dependent changes in neuronal excitability, ion channel function, peptide secretion, and Ca2+ signalling. A surprising finding from this research was the integral role of mitochondria (the principle source of cellular ATP) in the control of several fundamental neuronal properties. In the MacVicar lab, Dr. Groten is examining the interactions between energy metabolism and neuronal function in healthy and disease states using two-photon microscopy and electrophysiology. This is a critical research area, as perturbations in the relationship between energy metabolism and neuronal function are implicated in mediating numerous acute and chronic brain disorders.

Dr. Nicholas Weilinger

Dr. Weilinger obtained his BSc from McGill University and his PhD from the University of Calgary, where his research centred on understanding the subcellular mechanisms of cell death during stroke. As a postdoctoral fellow in the MacVicar Lab, he is building upon his PhD work by investigating the molecular underpinnings of cerebral edema (brain swelling), a hallmark consequence of stroke and traumatic brain injury. Using advanced fluorescent lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) coupled with electrophysiological techniques, Nick’s research focuses on how movement of chloride ions in neurons can regulate cell volume during physiological signaling and plasticity, but also in pathological swelling, dysfunction, and even death.

 

 

Dr. Stefan Wendt 

Dr. Stefan Wendt obtained his Bsc. at the University of Hanover and his Msc. at the University of Lübeck before he moved to Berlin to obtain his PhD in the lab of Prof. Helmut Kettenmann. He characterized microglial electrophysiological properties in different pathological models including Alzheimer’s disease, Glioblastoma and cortical spreading depression. During this time he developed a strong interest in neuron-microglia interaction, specifically how microglia alter neuronal functions in neurodegenerative diseases. He moved to the MacVicar lab in 2017 to study microglial derived reactive oxygen species and how they influence synaptic functions of nerve cells in an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease. Unraveling these pathways will help to find molecular targets to rescue neuronal functions in neurodegenerative diseases.

Research Associates

Dr. Louis-Philippe Bernier

Following my PhD in Neuroscience at McGill University, where I studied the involvement of microglial purinergic system in chronic pain pathologies, I transitioned to stroke research in the MacVicar lab.

My projects focus on two aspects of stroke pathophysiology: how microglia, the brain’s immune cells, react to stroke and other metabolic challenges; and how pericytes and other mesenchymal progenitor populations participate in long-term recovery after stroke.

Investigating glial communication in the brain as well as uncovering new roles for vascular mural cells in plasticity after injury is critical in understanding brain function in both health and disease.

 

Dr. Hyun Beom Choi

Dr. Hyun Beom ChoiI am interested in studying the mechanisms underlying metabolic communications between neuronal and glial cells. 

Astrocytes are proposed to maintain brain health by providing energy substrates to neurons from their glycogen stores and from glycolysis. However, little is known about the molecular pathways responsible for metabolic coupling between different cell types in the central nervous system (CNS). 

Currently, I am investigating the role of astrocytes in providing an energy substrate to neurons in an activity dependent manner.