People

Principal Investigator

Prof Benedikt Hallgrímsson

 

 

Prof Benedikt Hallgrímsson  (bhallgri@ucalgary.ca)

Benedikt Hallgrímsson was born in Reykjavík, Iceland and completed his studies at the University of Alberta and The University of Chicago.  He is a biological anthropologist and evolutionary biologist who combines developmental genetics and bioinformatics with 3D imaging and morphometrics to address the developmental basis as well as evolutionary significance of phenotypic variation and variability. His work has focused on the mammalian craniofacial complex, craniofacial dysmorphology in humans, and skeletal biology and disease and has employed both experimental and comparative approaches. Among other accomplishments, he was awarded the Rohlf medal for excellence in Geometric Morphometrics in 2015. and is currently the chair of the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy and the Theme Leader for the Genes, Development and Health theme of the Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute. He is also a full member of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Join Health. 


Lab manager

Wei Liu

 

 

Wei Liu (weiliu@ucalgary.ca)

Wei was born in Harbin (China) and completed his studies at Harbin Medical University. He then moved to Canada to study Software Engineering at the University of Calgary, where he specialized in Micro Computed Tomography (microCT). Wei has been a member of the Hallgrímsson lab since 2005. He has extensive experience in 3D X-ray microCT scanning, data collection, and deep learning image registration approaches for automated landmarking. He manages and maintains multiple microCT systems in the Hallgrímsson lab and provides support to both internal and external users. Outside the lab, Wei enjoys outdoor activities, plays soccer, and is a licensed referee in CUSA.  

For all samples or imaging inquiries, please contact Wei at weiliu@ucalgary.ca

 

 

 

 

Research Associate

Dr. David Katz

 

 

Dr. David Katz (David.Katz@ucalgary.ca)
David completed a law degree at New York University School of Law prior to pursuing a PhD in evolutionary anthropology. His work focuses on the application of multivariate statistical models to explain the evolution and evelopment of human skull form. David's dissertation research adapted quantitative genetics models to characterize genetic and environmental (climate, diet) influences on global human cranial diversity. In parallel to completing his dissertation, David also developed and is now a principal investigator on an ongoing study of admixture signals in skeletal form; the project uses an captive, admixed rhesus macaque population as a model for human admixture in the Late Pleistocene. In the Hallgrimsson lab, David focuses on the genetic and epigenetic bases for cranial variation. Specific subjects include human syndromic craniofacial dysmorphology, and in mouse models, (a) the identification of genetic loci that contribute to craniofacial variation, (b) the effects of growth hormone deficiency and treatment on craniofacial development, and (c) the basis of genetic-background-independent admixture effects on the face. David has been awarded grants from the National Science Foundation (3 times), ACHRI, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Leakey Foundation, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Society for the Preservation of Natural History.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr. Marta Marchini

 

 

Dr. Marta Marchini (mmarchin@ucalgary.ca)
Marta completed her undergraduate in Biology and master in Evolutionary Biology at University of Padova (Italy). She then moved to Calgary in 2013 to join the Rolian lab, achieving her PhD in 2017. As postdoctoral researcher in Hallgrimsson lab, Marta is studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in producing phenotypic variation in skeletal development. She has received funding from the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health for her work on understanding a mutation which results in a shortened limb phenotype. 

Dr. Lucas Lo Vercio

 

Dr. Lucas D. Lo Vercio (lucasdaniel.lovercio@ucalgary.ca)
Lucas completed his degree in Software Engineering in 2011, from UNCPBA (Argentina). Then, he recieved his PhD in Computational Mathematics in 2017 as scholar of CONICET (Argentina). During his PhD studies, he worked on automatic processing of ultrasound images for computer-assisted diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases. In late 2018, he moved to Dr. Hallgrimsson’s lab as Eyes High Postdoctoral Scholar of the University of Calgary. His current work is to develop computational methods to quantify anatomic features of embryos, under the supervision of Dr. Hallgrimsson and Dr. Forkert (Department of Radiology, UofC).

Dr. Vidal-Garcia

 

Dr. Marta Vidal-García (marta.vidalgarcia@ucalgary.ca)
Marta joined the Hallgrímsson lab in 2019, after completing a PhD and a postdoc at the Australian National University. Marta is an evolutionary biologist whose interests stem from the relationship between form and function. Her research has been focused on identifying the macroevolutionary patterns that drive morphological diversity across clades, using various different vertebrate and invertebrate study systems. Recently she has expanded her research to understanding the developmental and genetic bases of phenotypic variation. Marta uses a combination of methods to answer these questions, including morphometrics, comparative methods, and machine learning approaches. She has previously been awarded an Endeavour Leadership Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Australian Government and an ACHRI Postdoctoral Fellowship, and is currently supported by an Alberta Innovates Postdoctoral Fellowship in Health Innovation. To know more about her research, visit her website.

Dr. Beth Barretto

 

Dr. Elizabeth Barretto (elizabeth.barretto@ucalgary.ca)
Beth completed her undergraduate degree in Biology at St. Francis Xavier University. She moved to Calgary in 2014 and completed her PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the University of Calgary in 2020, investigating transcriptional responses to hypoxia in Drosophila. Beth joined the Hallgrímsson laboratory in 2021 and will be investigating how genes and the environment can shape phenotypic variation during development. She is currently supported by a CSM Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Craig Jacobs

 

Dr. Craig Jacobs (craig.jacobs@ucalgary.ca)
Craig received his Bachelors in Biological Sciences and his Masters in Molecular Medicine from the University of East Anglia in the UK, where he first became interested in developmental biology studying Xenopus and chick. He moved to the University of Calgary in 2015 to complete his PhD with Dr. Peng Huang, studying cell signalling during spinal cord development. During this time, he looked at how the cells of the early spinal cord use Notch signalling to coordinate their pattern in both space and time. He joined the Hallgrimsson lab as a postdoc in 2021, interested in how external pressures can cause irreversible change to the developmental program of an organism and decipher how those pressures are interpreted into evolutionary progression and childhood disease. In his spare time he enjoys everything Calgary has to offer, including hiking, craft beer, skiing and hockey.

Graduate Students

David Aponte

 

 

David Aponte (daponte08@gmail.com)
David did his master’s in the Houle lab at Florida State University. He joined the Hallgrimsson lab as a PhD student in 2015 under an Eyes High fellowship. David’s primary interests involve relating genotypic variation to phenotypic variation. That started with looking at how spatial properties of gene expression patterns relate to phenotypic variation in fly wing development and has continued with looking at many-to-many relationships between developmental processes and craniofacial variation in mice. Recently, he has become interested in using machine learning to classify craniofacial syndromes in humans and in statistical visualization for biological problems. Outside the lab, David is interested hiking, and snowboarding.

Jay Devine

 

Jay Devine (Jay.devine1@ucalgary.ca)
Jay completed a BA (Hons) in Anthropology at the University of Victoria in 2016. His undergraduate thesis leveraged laser scanning and morphometrics to explore the influence of physical activity on humeral morphology. Such work was supported by NSERC and supervised by Dr. Helen Kurki. Now a PhD student in Dr. Benedikt Hallgrimsson's lab, with support from the McCaig Institute and NSERC, Jay is developing, optimizing, and applying automated high-throughput medical imaging and machine learning methods to study anatomical variation in shape, form, and function. Using mouse models of disease, three specific questions are currently under investigation. First, what are the effects of a wide range of morphological variation on automated phenotyping? Second, to what extent can single-cell level variation be mapped onto tissue level variation? Third, what major patterns of cellular and morphological variation manifest in the growth-restricted fetus?

Eva Zaffarini

 

Eva Zaffarini (eva.zaffarini@ucalgary.ca)
Eva completed her Master’s degree in Biology at the University of Milan-Bicocca in 2019. Her thesis, conducted at the University of Vienna under the ERASMUS+ Research Fellowship, focused on determining the environmental factors that contribute to the worldwide increase in Caesarean section rate, as well as studying the pattern of sexual dimorphism in the chimpanzee pelvis in relation to the human obstetric dilemma. At the Hallgrimsson lab she is studying the genetic factors and developmental processes underlying the covariation between skull shape and pelvic shape in relation to Cephalopelvic Disproportion and the evolution of childbirth. For this project she is using a combination of Geometric Morphometrics, automated landmarking methods and Genome Wide Association Studies. She is currently supported by the Eleanor Mackie Scholarship and the Alberta Graduate Excellence Scholarship. 

Jordan Bannister

 

Jordan Bannister (Jordan.Bannister@ucalgary.ca)

Jordan completed his undergraduate studies in Engineering Physics at UBC Vancouver and is now a Biomedical Engineering PhD candidate at the UofC. With a background in optics and signal processing, he is currently working to develop new 3D generative models of human facial shape as well as other useful medical image-processing algorithms under the supervision of Dr. Benedikt Hallgrimsson and Dr. Nils Forkert.

 

 

Cassidy Da Silva

 

Cassidy Da Silva (cassidy.dasilva@ucalgary.ca)

Cassidy completed her Honours Bachelor’s degree in Biology with an Interdisciplinary Minor in Archaeology at McMaster University in 2019. In the Hallgrimsson lab she is studying the genetics underlying sex differences in human facial morphology, as well as how sex chromosome syndromes and their genetic aetiologies contribute to sexual dimorphism in syndromic and non-syndromic populations. Her primary research interests include morphology, human anatomy, complex trait genetics, and human evolution. Cassidy is also passionate about science education and has received several teaching certificates in her time at the University of Calgary, including the Graduate Student Certificate in University Teaching and Learning and SoTL Advancing Graduate Education in STEM. Cassidy is also a recipient of the University of Calgary Graduate Studies Scholarship. 

 

 

 

Undergraduates

Andreas Dauter

 

 

Andreas Dauter (andreas.dauter@ucalgary.ca)
Andreas is a biomedical sciences undergraduate currently working on his honours thesis. He has been with the lab since 2019, and his work aims to understand the drivers of shape change during development through light sheet microscopy. His honours project aims to explore the relationship between cell proliferation and shape change in the developing maxilla by combining biological data and developmental simulations.

Avrille Aiello

 

Avrille Aiello (avrille.aiello1@ucalgary.ca)
Avrille is a 4th-year student working towards her Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Anthropology. Avrille joined the lab in 2021 as a summer student, working to understand the developmental and genetic bases of phenotypic variation in Icelandic salmonoid morphs. She has been landmarking x-ray microCT data and will be microCT scanning, and performing geometric morphometrics and QTL analyses. Avrille has previous experience using methods in paleoanthropology to reconstruct ancient ecosystems using microfossils. You can watch a summary video of Avrille's previous research here.

Anandita Mahika

 

Anandita Mahika (anandita.mahika@ucalgary.ca)
Anandita is a Bioinformatics undergraduate student entering her 2nd year and is working towards her Bachelor in Health Sciences. She joined the Hallgrimsson lab in 2021 as a summer student, and will be working on the imaging pipeline for light sheet microscopy image processing using mice embryo scans. 

Bilal Shakir

 

Bilal Shakir (muhammad.shakir@ucalgary.ca)
Bilal is a 2nd-year Biomedical Sciences undergraduate who joined the Hallgrimsson lab in 2021 as a summer student. He is currently working to understand the morphological phenotypes associated with genotype variants. His research focuses on how shape changes in murine facial development are due to differential cell proliferation within tissues. He also aims to define 'normal' phenotypic variance across genetically unique individuals.


Lab Alumni

 

Rebecca Green (Postdoctoral Fellow) - Asst. Prof. University of Pittsburgh, US

Chris Percival (Postdoctoral Fellow)  - Asst. Prof., Dept. of Anth. Stony Brook University, US (https://sites.google.com/stonybrook.edu/percivallab)

Neus Martinez-Abadias (Postdoctoral Fellow) - Assoc. Prof., Universitat de Barcelona, Spain (https://grupsderecerca.uab.cat/greab/node/163)

Jacinda Larson (PhD Student) - Project Lead for the Pediatric Emergency Research Team at the Alberta Children's Hospital, Canada

Hayley Britz (PhD Student)

Mange Manyama (PhD Student) - Asst. Prof., Weill Cornell Medicine in Qatar (http://vivo.med.cornell.edu/display/cwid-mfm2003)

Denise Liberton (Postdoctoral Fellow)

Francis Smith (Postdoctoral Fellow) - Postdoc, University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO, United States

Paula Gonzales (Postdoctoral Fellow) - Lab Leader, National Scientific and Technical Research Council, Argentina (https://enys.conicet.gov.ar/phenotypic-variation-and-neurodevelopment/paula-n-gonzalez-phd/).                        

Julia Boughner (Postdoctoral Fellow) - Assoc. Prof., Univ. of Saskatoon, Canada (https://medicine.usask.ca/profiles/anatomy-and-cell-biology/boughner,-julia.php)

Nathan Young (Postdoctoral Fellow) - Asst. Prof., University of California, San Francisco, US (https://profiles.ucsf.edu/nathan.young)

Campbell Rolian (Postdoctoral Fellow) - Assoc. Prof., University of Calgary, Canada (https://vet.ucalgary.ca/contact-us/campbell-rolian)

Heather Jamniczky (Postdoctoral Fellow) - Assoc. Prof., University of Calgary, Canada (jamniczkylab.ca)

Jevon Brown (MSc Student)

Eric Schmidt (PhD Student)

Trish Parsons (PhD Student)

Kat Willmore (PhD Student) - Asst. Prof., Dept. of Anat. & Cell Bio, University of Western Ontario, Canada (kwillmo2@uwo.ca)

Dave Cooper (PhD Student) - Assoc. Prof., Univ. Of Saskatoon, Canada (http://www.cooperlab.ca/)

Sian Wilson (PhD Student)

Christopher Powell (MSc Student)

Peter Kublik (MSc Student)

Steven Wat (Msc Student)

Kaisra Esmal (Msc Student)

Danika Lipman (Undergraduate Student)

Malcolm Eaton (PhD Student) - Postdoc, University of Calgary, Canada

Sihan Guo (Undergraduate Student) - Masters Student

Michelle Leong (Undergraduate Student)

Amanda Neves (Undergraduate Student, Research Associate) - Masters student, McMaster University