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Heather Yoell

Heather Yoell, M.Sc.  is the Xu lab research technician. She graduated with her B.Sc.(Agr.) from the University of Guelph in 1986, and her M.Sc. from the University of Saskatchewan in 1992.   She taught English at several universities in China, and has worked at the University of Toronto in Mississauga and Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, as a research technician in fungal genetics.

She is currently in collaboration with an industrial partner on a project to develop diagnostics for fungal diseases. She is also the lab’s “biosafety pest”, providing training, maintaining records, and keeping an eye on people’s techniques and practices in our Biosaftey Level II lab. She and JP enjoy welcoming lab members to their home in Dundas.

email    heatheryoell@gmail.com


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Adrian Forsythe

Adrian obtained his Bachelor of Science in Biology from Trent University, where he completed a thesis project on algal population dynamics. He began his MSc degree (Specialization in Astrobiology) in September of 2014. Since then, the main focus of his research has been on the fungal pathogen, Pseudogymnoascus destructans. As the agent responsible for White Nose Syndrome in North American bat species, P. destructans is the most devastating zoonotic epidemic of mammals on record, already contributing to  >7 million deaths. His thesis project incorporates the investigation of samples obtained from Eastern Canadian bats. By observing the genetic basis of phenotypic plasticity in P. destructans, we intend to determine how White Nose Syndrome has changed since the first infection was documented in 2006. The goal of Adrian’s research is to provide crucial information to aid control strategies.

Adrian was involved with Varsity Swimming during both his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees. His backstroke times are as follows: 50m 27.99, 100m 57.96, 200m 2:05.00.

email adrian.e.forsythe@gmail.com     researchgate  ResearchGate    twitter @adrian_forsythe


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Himeshi Samarasinghe

Himeshi started in the Xu lab as an undergraduate independent project volunteer in January 2015. She obtained her B.Sc. from McMaster University with a Biology major and a Psychology minor. She joined the lab full-time as a Masters thesis student in September 2015. Himeshi works with Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus deneoformans, two fungal sister-species that cause opportunistic infections in humans that could be fatal in severely immunocompromised individuals. Her project is focused on the biochemical dynamics of melanin pigmentation in Cryptococcus, a major factor that contributes to its virulence. She also works on the genetics of hybridization between the two species.

When she gets time off of science, she enjoys playing the violin, reading murder mysteries and cuddling with cats. She is also a volunteer at McMaster Children’s Hospital and St.Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

email    samaraya@mcmaster.ca


Greg Korfanty

Greg has transitioned from doing his Undergraduate Thesis in the Xu Lab, to an MSc , and is now a PhD student. Greg’s research focuses on the human fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus and its global diversity and resistance to antifungals. Being an opportunistic pathogen, it infects individuals who are immunocompromised, and can cause highly lethal invasive aspergillosis. Greg is currently isolating A. fumigatus from soil samples collected from New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, and China and will analyze their resistance to antifungals and their genetic diversity. Identifying these aspects will provide exciting data on the spread and gene flow of A. fumigatus from around the world.

In his spare time, Greg enjoys spending time with lab members, or playing video games.

email    gkorfanty@gmail.com


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Sarah Sandor

Sarah is currently a first year MSc student. After graduating from McMaster’s Arts & Science Program in April 2018, Sarah decided to continue conducting research in the Xu lab after having worked in the lab as part of her fourth year undergraduate thesis project. Sarah studies poisonous Amanita mushrooms, which are among some of the most deadly mushrooms on earth causing hundreds of human deaths each year. Specifically, she is interested in trying to understand the ecological significance of toxin production in these organisms through examining mushroom-insect interactions both in the lab and in nature. Sarah spent the first four months of her graduate work, from May until August 2018, studying at the Kunming Institute of Botany in Kunming, China where she collected Amanita samples and completed some preliminary experiments.