Congratulations to our current Graduate Program in Neuroscience (GPN) students who have received awards through the Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral program from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), as well as from the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships program.


Brianna Bristow

Brianna completed her Bachelor’s of Science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UBC. During her undergraduate degree, she was involved in Dr. Annie Ciernia’s lab through the co-op program, where she developed functional assays to measure microglial activation in vitro. Currently, Brianna is a 2nd year Neuroscience PhD student in Dr. Mark Cembrowski’s lab.

Her thesis project explores a previously uncharacterized cortical cell type that expresses a unique transcriptomic profile. Based off their gene expression, these cells could be involved in neurogenesis within the adult brain. Using histological and viral tracing techniques on human and mouse brain tissue, Brianna hopes to explore the molecular and morphological aspects of this newly discovered cell type to aid in elucidating its role in health and dysfunction.

Brianna’s favourite thing about research is the opportunity to be at the forefront of novel discoveries. “After plenty of trial, error and technical optimizations, eventually your experiments work, and you discover something new. Whether it’s a big or small result, you’re still one of the first people to acquire that piece of knowledge and nothing beats that feeling,” she says.

Outside of research, Brianna enjoys reading, and playing games (puzzles, computer, board games, you name it…). She is also an avid volunteer for Genome BC’s Geneskool program and co-leads the BC Brain Wellness Program’s Participant Advisory Committee.


Judy Cheng

Judy completed her Bachelor’s degree in Behavioural Neuroscience at UBC. Currently, she is entering the third year of her PhD in Neuroscience supervised by Dr. Lynn Raymond. Judy’s thesis project investigates the effects of neuromodulatory signalling on motor learning in the striatum of a mouse model of Huntington Disease.

“My favourite thing about research is that you’re constantly learning something new and that every week is different from the next. I love learning new techniques in the lab and thinking about how these tools can help us better understand the brain and its influence on behaviour.”


Outside of the lab, Judy is highly involved in science communication. “Aside from running experiments in the lab,” Judy expresses, “I love sharing new advances in neuroscience using various science communication platforms.” She elaborates, mentioning her role as a co-host on the “AMiNDR: A Month in Neurodegenerative Disease Research” podcast and her position as a junior scholar on the UBC Multidisciplinary Alliance for Translational Research and Innovation in Neuropsychiatry (MATRIX-N) research cluster, where she creates educational neuroscience videos for TikTok and X. Judy also highlights her enjoyment of staying active, mentioning her routine visits to the gym and participation in volleyball/badminton drop-ins between experiments.


Angela Czarina Mejia

Angela completed her Doctor of Optometry degree at Centro Escolar University and her master’s degree in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene at UBC. Currently, Angela is in her first year of her PhD in Neuroscience, co-supervised by Drs. Alan Kingstone and Miriam Spering.

Angela’s background in clinical optometry, sports vision, and athletics has provided her with a unique perspective to pursue integrative research on natural gaze control mechanisms. Her research focuses on revealing the new principles of gaze stabilization, dynamic target tracking, interception, and visuomotor coordination.



“Seeing the difference I could make as an optometrist inspired me to dive into neuroscience research at UBC, where I can apply my knowledge of vision science on a much larger scale. Research allows me to be a lifelong learner, working with amazing people to drive innovation and create positive change. It’s a humbling and fulfilling journey of discovery, as I work to make meaningful contributions to the field while balancing my roles as a mother, wife, and researcher.”

When she is not busy with research, Angela loves spending quality time outdoors with her husband and two wonderful children, whether they are hiking, camping or skiing. For Angela, maintaining a good balance between work and family life is very important for her happiness and well-being, and it also keeps her inspired and motivated to keep pushing forward with her scientific work.

“My family is my rock and endless source of inspiration. They remind me every day that with love, determination, and a balanced approach to life, I can overcome any obstacles. It’s through this lens of gratitude and perspective that I approach my research, knowing that the work I do isn’t just for me, but for creating a better world for my children to grow up in.”


Jeremy Thomas

Jeremy completed a Bachelors of Science in Neuroscience (honours) and a Master’s in Psychology at the University of Alberta. Currently, he is a first year PhD trainee in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience supervised by Dr. Miriam Spering. His thesis project focuses on how humans combine auditory and visual information to predict the trajectory of moving objects and how these processes are influenced by sensory uncertainty.

“One cool thing we learn from neuroscience is how our everyday sensory experience, cognition and actions rely on sophisticated mechanisms that often operate below our awareness. For example, it is easy to underestimate the human capability for motion-related sensation and action, until you see a baseball player hit a 150km/h fastball for a home run. Extreme scenarios like this reveal the capacity of our sensorimotor system when it is pushed to its limit, and these same processes continuously operate as we go about our normal lives. What excites me is how little we understand and how much there is left to discover about these processes.”

Outside of research, Jeremy likes to try weird hobbies like winemaking, crabbing in the Burrard inlet, or finding a decent place for lox in Vancouver.


Andrew Thompson

Andrew received his Bachelor’s degree (honours) in Neuroscience from the University of Calgary, where he completed a thesis project supervised by Dr. Naweed Syed about the role of cannabinoids in synapse formation and plasticity. Currently, he is in his second year of his PhD in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience supervised by Dr. Shernaz Bamji in the Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences.

“My favorite thing about research is the rapid pace of advancement in our field right now. Each day brings new methods to study brain development in real time with unprecedented detail in living animals, making it an incredibly exciting time to be a neuroscientist,” Andrew says.

Andrew’s thesis project is on the role of the palmitoylating enzyme ZDHHC9 in oligodendrocyte development and myelination. Specifically, he aims to determine whether ZDHHC9 can influence axon remyelination following injury and whether this is a tractable target to improve outcomes in multiple sclerosis.

When asked about his decision to pursue neuroscience, Andrew replies: “Every human experience arises from the complex interactions of billions of neurons and glial cells. My motivation to study neuroscience comes from a desire to understand how these biological processes shape our perception of reality.”


Stefanie Todesco

Stefanie earned her bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science from McGill University before pursuing a master’s degree in Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia (UBC). This year, she fast-tracked into the PhD program and will begin her third year under the supervision of Dr. Christian Schütz.

For the past few years, Stefanie has focused on cognitive functioning and stress in patients with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders at the Red Fish Healing Centre in Coquitlam, BC. She will continue to work with substance use populations for her PhD research, utilizing fMRI to assess phenomenological aspects of craving.

Stefanie is passionate about improving mental health and addiction outcomes, aspiring for her research to inform innovative treatment approaches. Her primary interest is cognitive neuroscience; she believes that bridging the gap between the mind and the brain is crucial for advancing treatment in these populations.


Tetiana Poliakova

Tetiana completed her undergraduate degree with honors in Biology from Randolph College (Lynchburg, Virginia) and her Master’s degree in Biomedicine from Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm, Sweden). Currently, she is in her 2nd year in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience at UBC under the supervision of Dr. Cheryl Wellington. Her thesis project focuses on generating a mouse model of Alzheimer Disease (AD) with a humanized peripheral lipoprotein profile to better understand the role of circulating lipids and lipoproteins in dementia.

Tetiana has always been fascinated by the brain and how many more mysteries remain uncovered. “I am most motivated by the potential of helping many people if we uncover some of these mysteries, specifically in regard to dementia,” she says. Rodents have been an informative animal model which allowed us to better understand different types of dementia including its most common cause, Alzheimer’s Disease. However, significant translational gaps from rodent to human have hindered our ability to identify effective therapeutics for Alzheimer’s Disease and resulted in many failed clinical trials. As a translational researcher, Tetiana has a strong focus on improving the value of using mouse models to study human disease. She states, “By developing better disease models, we can bridge the translational gap and bring better care to patients.”

As a Vanier scholar, Tetiana takes pride in both her research and her leadership. Outside of research, she strives to create a supportive community in her program as VP social in the Neuroscience Trainee Association. She is also the co-founder and CEO of a Ukrainian non-profit, English2Doctors, that organized free workshops and courses of academic and medical English for doctors in Ukraine.