Lab Members

Principal investigator

Dr. Che Colpitts was born and raised in Saskatchewan. She obtained BSc and MSc degrees in biochemistry at the University of Regina, where she became fascinated by viruses and how viruses hijack host cells. Dr. Colpitts obtained her PhD in virology from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where she trained with Dr. Luis Schang and characterized the mechanisms of novel broad-spectrum antivirals targeting the entry of unrelated viruses. She then moved to the lab of Dr. Thomas Baumert at the University of Strasbourg (France) to focus on hepatitis B and C virus entry and to identify novel antiviral strategies targeting entry of these viruses. Most recently, she has been working with Dr. Greg Towers at University College London (UK) to understand how hepatitis C virus uses a host protein, cyclophilin A, to evade intrinsic cellular antiviral responses. Dr. Colpitts is now an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences at Queen’s University in Kingston.

Graduate students

Emma LeBlanc
MD/PhD student

Emma completed an Honours BSc in Pharmacology at McGill University. She was highly motivated by her first research project where she focused on the synthesis of small molecules inhibitors to a resistance pathway in Salmonella, in the lab of Dr. Karine Auclair. Wanting to learn more about microbial pathogenesis, she completed her MSc at the University of Toronto, under the supervision of Dr. Leah Cowen, investigating strategies to selectively target fungal pathogens. She is thrilled to broaden her research skills to the study of virus-host interactions. She is investigating the roles of host and viral glycans in coronavirus cell entry.
Emma is supported by a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship.

Carla E. Gallardo Flores
PhD student

Carla completed an Honours BSc in Biology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has been interested in viruses since high school, and pursued that interest through her academic life. She completed her MSc at the Center of Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) under the supervision of Dr. Rosa María del Ángel, studying the viral content in exosomes derived from dengue virus infected cells. Carla is now focusing on the roles of cyclophilins in regulating PKR and stress granule formation in the context of hepatitis C virus and coronavirus infection. She likes travelling to new places, and swimming.
Carla was a recipient of a Mitacs Globalink Graduate Fellowship. She is currently supported by a PhD studentship from the Canadian Network on Hepatitis C.

Isabella Delano
PhD student

Isabella completed an Honours BSc at McMaster University. Throughout her undergrad she was passionate about viral immunology and infectious disease, and particularly intrigued by mechanisms of viral immune evasion. She is currently working in the Colpitts lab to characterize how intracellular antiviral mechanisms target viral replication organelles to inhibit the transcription and replication of positive-sense RNA viruses.

Emily Halajian
MSc student
Co-supervisor: Dr. Katrina Gee

Emily grew up in British Columbia and completed a BSc in Biology at the University of Alberta. During her undergraduate studies she became interested in microbiology and immunology, particularly in immune responses to infectious diseases. She is currently working in the Gee and Colpitts lab to study interactions between Dengue NS1 protein and the immune receptor TLR4. Outside of the lab, Emily is an avid swimmer and enjoys reading, cooking, and birding. 

Kim Siwak
MSc student

Kim completed an Honours BSc in Life Sciences at Queen’s University. During her undergraduate studies she was particularly drawn to her microbiology classes, which led her to the Colpitts lab to complete a MICR 499 research project investigating emerging coronaviruses and their entry mechanisms. Currently, she is expanding her insight from her previous MICR 499 project to characterize the role of heparan sulfate in coronavirus infection and pathogenesis. Outside of the lab Kim enjoys staying active and reading!

Ujjwal Sangwan
MSc student

Ujjwal obtained her BSc in Microbial and Food Technology from Panjab University, India. Her interest in microbes led her to pursue research internships at CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology and J.C Bose Institute in India. Later, Ujjwal moved to England to pursue her MSc in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Nottingham, where she completed her MSc research project in Dr. Alexander Tarr’s lab and examined the codon usage bias in Pestiviruses using bioinformatics tools. During this time, she developed a particular fascination with viruses and their interaction with the human immune system. Currently, she is working to understand how cyclophilin inhibitors enhance antiviral immune responses against positive-sense RNA virus infection. Outside of the lab, Ujjwal enjoys doing yoga and Pilates.

Undergraduate students

Jihyun Cho
MICR 499

Jihyun is a 4th year Life Sciences student from Ottawa, Ontario. She became interested in the fields of virology and immunology after taking undergraduate microbiology courses. Jihyun is excited to work on her project evaluating the inhibition of PKR by Hepatitis C NS5A protein and the proposed role of CypA in this process. Outside of her studies, Jihyun is part of Queen’s Women of Color Collective, a club aimed at supporting self-identifying and non-binary women of colour. She also enjoys traveling and cooking

Nicole Coman
HSCI 594/595

Nicole is a 4th year Health Sciences student from Richmond Hill, Ontario. Ever since taking high school biology, Nicole has been interested in studying virology and analyzing the mechanisms used by the host immune system to disrupt viral entry and replication. Nicole is excited to learn more about positive-sense RNA viruses and build off her previous coursework. Outside of class, Nicole enjoys working with the QSuccess program to support first-year students, or spending time outdoors with friends and family!

Payton Hooey
LISC 595
Co-supervisor: Dr. Katrina Gee

Payton is a 4th year Life Sciences student from Calgary, Alberta. Throughout her undergraduate degree, she has developed a strong interest in immunology and microbiology. This attracted her to pursue a LISC 595 independent study project in the Colpitts and Gee labs. Payton is eager to investigate the role of Toll-like receptors in dengue virus-induced cytokine expression. When she is not focusing on schoolwork, Payton trains and competes on the Queen’s Varsity Artistic Swimming Team.

Heidi Scott
Summer student; LISC 595

Heidi is a fourth year Biology student. She has become increasingly interested in disease pathogenesis and immunology throughout her undergraduate degree, and is particularly fascinated by virus-host immune interactions. Heidi is excited to work on a project exploring the functional impacts of polymorphisms in the TLR4 immune receptor in viral infections. Outside of the lab, she enjoys being active outdoors, doing artwork, and spending time with animals.

Alumni

John Mamatis (MSc, 2020-2022). Next step: Culinary school

Maddie Roth (MSc, 2020-2022; co-supervised by Dr. Katrina Gee). Next step: Travelling

Taylor Walsh (MICR 499, 2021-2022)

Celine Tsai (Undergrad volunteer, 2019-2022). Next step: Master of Public Health program

Lauren Fernandez (MICR 499, 2020-2021). Next step: MSc program, University of Toronto

Yilun Huang (LISC 595, 2020-2021). Next step: PhD program, University of Cincinnati

Caleb Morin (NSERC USRA and MICR 499, 2020-2021)