Team

The passion and dedication of the Watt lab members make our lab an exciting place to do science! Meet the team below!

Alanna Watt

Associate Professor and PI, Interim Chair of Biology July – Dec 2022

Email me: alanna.watt@mcgill.ca

Alanna completed her PhD at Brandeis University, MA, USA in the Turrigiano lab studying homeostatic synaptic plasticity. She then moved to UCL in London, UK where she studied cerebellar development in the Häusser lab. Alanna started her own lab at McGill in 2011, focusing on cerebellar development and plasticity in both healthy brains and in animal models of disease. 

Postdoctoral Fellows

Brenda Toscano-Márquez

Postdoctoral Fellow

Email: brenda.toscanomarquez@mail.mcgill.ca

Brenda completed her PhD in Biology from McGill University, studying the action of neuromodulators in the electrosensory system in weakly electric fish. For her postdoctoral research, she joined the Watt lab, where she is using her training in electrophysiology and molecular techniques to study the pathophysiology that underlies the onset of ARSACS in the hope of gaining better insights into developing treatments for this disease.

Amy Smith-Dijak

Postdoctoral Fellow

Email: amy.smith-dijak@mail.mcgill.ca

After completing a BSc in Neuroscience at McGill in 2013, Amy moved to Vancouver to do a PhD at the University of British Columbia. There she studied impairment of cortical homeostatic plasticity in Huntington disease. She handed in her thesis in 2019 and returned to Montreal to continue studying homeostatic plasticity in neurodegenerative diseases, now focusing on Purkinje cells. She hopes that studying these processes will give us a better understanding of how neural circuits can be resilient in the face of degeneration.

Graduate Students

Anna Cook

PhD Student

Email: anna.cook3@mail.mcgill.ca

For Anna, an undergraduate research project on cerebellar granule cells developed into an enduring fascination with the mysteries of cerebellar function. Since completing her BSc in Biology at Imperial College London, she has followed that fascination around the world and has worked in cerebellar research labs in three continents. Anna has now settled down in Montreal where in 2017 she joined the Watt lab as a PhD student. Anna is interested in understanding how information processing occurs in the cerebellum and how this goes wrong in disease.

Eviatar Fields

PhD Student

Email: eviatar.fields@mail.mcgill.ca

After working with aging subjects during his undergraduate project at York University, Eviatar became fascinated with the aging brain. He joined the Watt lab in 2017, initially as an MSc uncovering the little-known role of the cerebellum in aging, before fast-tracking to a PhD. His PhD thesis is focused on the role of Purkinje cells in age-related motor decline in the hopes of devising new treatments to improve mobility in the elderly. Outside of the lab, Eviatar can be found running, working on his podcast or making YouTube videos!

Kim Gruver

PhD Student

Email: kim.gruver@mail.mcgill.ca

Kim moved to Montreal in 2016 to join the Watt Lab after graduating with honours from Cornell University with a B.A. in Psychology. As an undergraduate, Kim got her start in the lab working in learning and memory neuroscience research, though she quickly discovered a deep curiosity for how the cerebellum works. She is now fortunate to pursue this fascinating question as a Ph.D. candidate in the lab of Alanna Watt at McGill University. Outside of the lab, Kim can be found bouldering, weaving, or baking bread.

Sophia Leung

PhD Student

Email: sophia.leung@mail.mcgill.ca

Sophia moved to Montreal in 2018 to start her PhD in the Watt Lab. She conducted research on histone variants after earning her BSc in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Currently, she is interested in studying the pathology of ataxias.

Moohebat Pourmajidian

PhD Student

Email: moohebat.pourmajidian@mail.mcgill.ca

Moohebat completed her BSc and MSc in Biotechnology at the University of Tehran. For her undergraduate project, she studied a unique gene mutation in Parkinson’s disease. She went on to complete her Master’s studying metabolic dysfunctions in autism spectrum disorders using genome-scale metabolic network models. To pursue her interest in neuroscience, in 2021 she joined the Watt lab to explore cerebellar dysfunctions in presymptomatic and postsymptomatic ataxia at a neuronal population level. Outside of the lab, Moohebat enjoys playing guitar, volleyball and yoga.

Bruna Soares de Souza

PhD Student

Email: brunasoares.souza@mail.mcgill.ca

Bruna had her first contact with neuroscience during her undergraduate in Biology when she joined a research lab. There she learned about and became fascinated about neurodevelopment. Bruna then pursued her MSc. in Neuroscience in the same lab working with an animal model of ADHD. In 2021, Bruna joined the Watt lab to continue studying neurodevelopment. Bruna is interested in understanding the mechanisms underlying axonal modifications in cerebellar development.

Research Assistants

Louisa Shen

Research Assistant

Email: ru.shen@mail.mcgill.ca

Louisa is a former molecular biology and international development undergraduate student at McGill University. She joined the Watt Lab in 2021 and has been working to characterize the ultrastructure of Purkinje cell axonal swellings in the cerebellum. In her free time, Louisa enjoys painting and visiting museums.

Jacky Sheng

Research Assistant

Email: jacky.sheng@mail.mcgill.ca

Jacky is a former neuroscience undergraduate student at McGill. He joined the Watt Lab in early 2019 and is working to characterize the pathology underlying SCA6. In his spare time, Jacky can be found playing badminton with his friends and eating copious amounts of banana bread.

Undergraduate Students

Alison Aube

Undergraduate student

Email: alison.aube@mail.mcgill.ca

Ali is an undergraduate student in the Honours Biology program. She joined the Watt lab in 2021 due to her interest in neurobiology. She is currently studying the role of astrocytes in the neuropathology of ARSACS. Outside the lab she enjoys running the trails of Mont Royal and cooking!

Allie Bernstein

Undergraduate student

Email: alexandra.bernstein@mail.mcgill.ca

Jenny Jiao

Undergraduate student

Email: jenny.jiao@mail.mcgill.ca

Jenny is currently an undergraduate student at McGill University in the Honours Joint Computer Science and Biology program. She joined the Watt lab in 2021 and is currently working on understanding and modelling cerebellar connectivity. Outside of the lab, Jenny enjoys skating, playing the piano and crocheting.

Genavieve Maloney

Undergraduate work-study student

Email: genavieve.maloney@mail.mcgill.ca

Genavieve is currently an undergrad in Cognitive Science at McGill. Her passion for Neuroscience led her to join the Watt lab in 2020, where she has been working on identifying cellular changes in SCA6 in order to find treatments for ataxia. When not in the lab, she can be found skiing the Northeast or capturing Montreal on film.

Maya Nachman

Undergraduate SURA student

Email: maya.nachman@mail.mcgill.ca

Maya is currently an undergraduate  studying biology and mathematics.  She joined the watt lab in summer 2022 because of her passion for studying neurodegenerative diseases and is currently working with a mouse model of sca6.  Outside the lab she can be found playing soccer or singing with her A Capella group. 

Ayesha Pointer

Undergraduate summer MITACS student

Email: ayesha.pointer@student.manchester.ac.uk

Ayesha is currently an undergraduate student studying Neuroscience at the University of Manchester. To pursue her interest in neurodegenerative disease, she joined the Watt in the summer of 2022. Here she is working to characterise the cellular basis for ataxias such as ARSACS. Outside the lab, she can be found climbing or exploring Montreal.

Max Rice

Undergraduate student

Email: max.rice@mail.mcgill.ca

Max is currently an undergraduate student studying Neuroscience at McGill University. Since he joined the Watt Lab in 2019, he has been working to characterize the intracellular changes in Purkinje cells that may occur in spinocerebellar ataxias. Outside the lab, Max enjoys biking around Montreal and cooking.

Élyse Zadigue-Dubé

Undergraduate student

Email: elyse.zadigue-dube@mail.mcgill.ca

Elyse is currently an undergraduate student studying Neuroscience at McGill University. She has always been fascinated by nervous system development, its related diseases, and neurodegeneration. For the summer of 2022, the Department of Biology gave her the opportunity to work on a research project and paired her with the Watt Lab. Supervised by Anna Cook, her project consists of looking at how some Purkinje cells’ components are affected in cases of spinocerebellar ataxia 6 (SCA6).  She hopes her work will help further our understanding of this disease in order to find treatments for it. Outside of the lab, Elyse enjoys biking and discovering new musical artists.