Maternal and Child Health Scholarship Program

Program Profiles

MatCH students and coordinators group photo on ECHA atrium stairs

MatCH Program Students and Coordinators

MatCH Program Profiles

Program Coordinator, Dr. Denise Hemmings

Dr. Denise Hemmings obtained her PhD in Medical Microbiology and Immunology (MMI) in 2001 with Dr. Larry Guilbert and did a post-doctoral fellowship with Dr. Sandra Davidge at the University of Alberta (U of A). She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, cross-appointed in MMI at U of A, recipient of a CIHR New Investigator award in 2010 and the former Chair of Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology (WISEST). Her research focuses on the vascular roles of sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), a bioactive lipid, in pregnancy and aging and the impact of cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection on these processes. In addition to pregnancy, two other active areas of research are the impact of chronic CMV infections on aging and in breast cancer. Dr. Hemmings is currently funded by operating grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute in Alberta and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Dr. Hemmings serves on several student advisory committees and reviews for many journals and funding agencies. She has a passion for training students and since her appointment in 2005 has trained or mentored more than 60 students from the junior high school to the post-doctoral fellow level. Through her connections with WISEST, she is passionate about encouraging young women to enter, stay and advance in science, engineering and technology careers. As the Graduate Program Coordinator and the Reproductive Sciences Division Director, Dr. Hemmings also encourages students and staff in the basic sciences to step outside of their comfortable scientific boundaries to forge interdisciplinary links with clinicians and epidemiologists.

Program Coordinator, Dr. Sujata Persad

Dr. Persad is an Associate Professor and researcher in the Department of Pediatrics and adjunct associate professor in the department of Oncology. Her research focuses on understanding the mechanism of cancer metastasis. She completed her PhD training at the University of Manitoba with post-doctoral fellowship at University of British Columbia and first faculty position at McMaster University. The Department of Pediatrics constitutes approximately 250 academic members, including Physicians, Clinician Scientists and basic research scientists and approximately 50 graduate students with diverse research foci. Dr. Persad has served as the Graduate Education Coordinator in the Department of Pediatrics since July 2011, and is a co-founder of the MatCH Program. Dr. Persad is an active member in numerous committees in alignment with her role as Graduate Education Coordinator which includes among others The Medical Sciences Graduate Program (Co-Chair), Clinician Investigator Program (FoMD), Faculty Development Committee (FoMD and the Policy Review Committee (FGSR).

Program Coordinator, Dr. Rachel Wevrick

Dr. Wevrick is a Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics, and her research program is focused on the genetic, molecular, and physiological basis of abnormal neurodevelopment, growth and metabolism in developmental disorders affecting children using Prader-Willi syndrome mouse models. Specifically, they investigate the Necdin and MAGEL2 genes, whose expression is disrupted in people with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS).

Dr. Wevrick has studied the genetic basis of PWS since 1993, and discovered three of the genes whose expression is disrupted in this disorder. She has worked with mouse models of PWS since 1999, including two strains of mice null for the Necdin and Magel2 genes, respectively. Although her background is in medical and molecular genetics, Dr. Wevrick has developed expertise in metabolism, neuroscience, and endocrinology as part of our studies of these mouse models of PWS. Under Dr. Wevrick’s direction and with research grants from Canada’s federal funding agencies and from international charitable organizations, her group showed that mice missing the Magel2 gene (a model for both Prader-Willi and Schaaf-Yang syndromes) have behavioral abnormalities, changes in brain structure and neuropeptide content, endocrine dysfunction, leptin insensitivity, and obesity. They showed that mice lacking Necdin have neuronal abnormalities resulting in respiratory distress. Dr. Wevrick has a record of successful research projects that have led to highly cited publications relevant to the genetic, molecular, and physiological basis of both Prader-Willi syndrome and animal models of abnormal neurodevelopment. Dr. Wevrick’s research group is actively investigating whether Magel2 functions in regulatory networks that are implicated in metabolism and obesity, muscle development and function, and intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorders. Finally, their translational program aims to shorten the timeline between basic discovery and clinical implementation through the investigation of therapeutics in preclinical animal models of Prader-Willi and Schaaf-Yang syndromes.

Research in the Wevrick Laboratory is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research and the Womens and Children Health Research Institute.

Program Co-founder, Dr. Sarah Hughes

Together with Dr. Sujata Persad, Dr. Sarah Hughes from the Department of Medical Genetics created the proposal for the program now known as MatCH. The Office of the Provost put out a call for innovative programs proposals, and the MatCH Program, with its unique interdisciplinary focus and laboratory rotations, was funded. Her hope is to "produce more well-trained, open-minded students," through the MatCH program. "They're the future."

Read more about Dr. Hughes' work building the MatCH Program here.

Supervisor, Dr. Lynne Postovit

Dr. Lynne Postovit is currently supervising two MatCH students, including the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology's first PhD Student (Mackenzie Coatham). Her advice to a supervisor considering supervising a MatCH Student is: "A no-brainer. All you’ll get is a benefit. You get a higher calibre of students, who are more likely to get scholarships in the end; I think it’s definitely worth it. Our research output is completely dependent on the people we have in the lab, and having someone who can do really great work benefits the team and better research will come out of it.”

Read more about Dr. Postovit's experience with the MatCH Program and its students here.


Students

Want to know more about student experiences in the MatCH Program? Have a look at our Student Stories page for interviews with students from each of the participating departments.