Questions & Answers
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1. Who is working in the Nanobioengineering lab and what are we working on?
Our projects cover a wide range of areas and are centered on creating and developing novel micro- and nanotechnologies for ultrasensitive and multiplexed protein assays for biomarker discovery in cancer and traumatic-brain injury, as well as point-of care diagnostics using autonomous microfluidics and with a focus on global health applications and emergency medicine. The technologies we primarily use are nanopatterning, microfluidics and chip-based technologies for biomolecules and cells. Specific medical applications include discovery and validation of biomarkers for breast cancer, brain cancer and traumatic brain injury, rapid diagnostics for infectious diseases to be used for patient triage in the clinic or in low resource settings. Clinical studies may be lead by us or in collaboration with partners. Specific life science applications include neuronal and immune cell response and navigation and high throughput artificial selection of fruit flies. The common thread in our diverse research efforts is micro- and nanotechnology. Our lab is truly interdisciplinary, with group members from backgrounds in electrical, mechanical, chemical and biomedical engineering, but also biology, physics, chemistry and medicine. Our common denominator is the desire to have an impact on society, as well as to make scientific progress.
2. What is the work and research environment like in DJ Group?
The lab is built on the idea that science flourishes by collaborating and interacting, which is encouraged. Presence in the lab is requested between 10 to 4 to foster interactions between lab members. Of course, students work more than that, often into the evenings as well as on weekends. This is due to the challenges of interdisciplinary research, which requires one to master two or more areas of research and which sometimes requires collecting patient samples in the middle of the night or attending to cells on the weekend. However, ultimately the work ethic demonstrated by students is due to the fact that they get very involved in their work! The satisfaction derived from work is commensurate with the effort made to achieve the results (you will get out of it what you put into it) and this satisfaction can be very high. Students work for the group and their project, but ultimately your work is primarily for your own success and it's your name alone that will be on your thesis.
3. What are the program timeframes?
Prof. Juncker is notably affiliated with the Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering graduate program
, the Integrated Program in Neuroscience
, and Experimental Medicine
, and can supervise students registered in any of these program. Master degrees can take from 1.5 up to 3 years, and PhD between 3 to 5 years.
4. What are the future prospects of those who graduate from the lab?
Afterwards, many students pursue academic careers in various fields (Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Neuroscience, etc.), while others move on to the private sector (Biomerieux, Dassault, Médimabs, National Instruments) as well as government work (national labs, patent offices) and of course to the biomedical field (hospitals). Enterpreuneurship is also encouraged, and two active companies based on technologies developed in the lab are developing diagnostic and analytical and technologies, respectively, namely Sensoreal
and Parallex Bioassays
5. How often does Dr. Juncker meet with students?
We have a group meeting every two weeks with short presentations and sub-group meetings every two weeks as well, where students working on thematically related areas have the opportunity to present and discuss their work and request feedback from Dr. Juncker and their peers. In this way, students learn about each other's research and often contribute to other projects and strike internal collaborations. Dr. Juncker also has an open door policy and meets students on an ad hoc basis in the lab or in his office. A formal first year feedback meeting is also offered. In addition to the group meetings, there are regular Master and PhD committee meetings with participation of several faculty members to provide feedback and suggestions and to ensure that each student remains on track towards the degree.
6. What physical resources are available?
The atmosphere of our labs and offices make for an energetic and friendly environment with people always available to help one another. The facilities are state of the art - the group is located on the 6th floor in the McGill University and Genome Quebec Innovation Centre, a facility built 10 years ago. Students and post-docs are seated in a shared room next to Dr. Juncker's office. The labs are close by, and brightly lit with many resources and affording a beautiful view of Montreal. There are many other core facilities available at McGill and access to numerous types of equipment for fabrication, imaging and analysis. Click here for our wikipage.
7. If I have a new idea, will I be able to pursue it?
Dr. Juncker encourages students to develop their own ideas and pursue them within the lab whenever possible. We maintain open discussion about ideas at all times, with the aim to challenge them, develop critical thinking and converge on unexplored and exciting avenues. For example, our microfluidics-on-threads project was launched following an idea and suggestion by Roozbeh Safavieh and advanced concepts such as mixing by knotting arose through discussion.
8. Will I get the opportunity to travel?
Attendance to local conferences is strongly encouraged, and attendance to national and international conferences is subject to acceptance of an abstract and available funding. As a general rule, all students attend at least one national or international conference a year. In addition, depending on the opportunity, some students have participated in exchanges with Harvard or Princeton University, as well as with the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. There are also many opportunities to participate in hands-on training courses.
9. What are Dr. Juncker’s expectations from the students?
Dr. Juncker is interested in working with reliable, highly motivated, creative, practical students with strong critical thinking skills and who set high standards for themselves. In addition, social skills and an inclination to help and work with others is highly valued. Indeed, given the interdisciplinary nature of our research, help and collaboration among group members is important for our individual and shared success and also makes work much more enjoyable. These social skills are in fact critical to professional success both in and outside of academia. Students with a high GPA and/or who have significant research accomplishments as attested by first author journal papers are strongly encouraged to apply to work with the group. Please send an application package comprising a cover letter, CV with name of references, and pdfs of up to 3 publications. The cover letter should outline your specific motivation for applying to DJGroup as well as explain how you will contribute to the success of the lab.
10. If I am accepted to the DJ Group, what research subject will I be working on?
The topic will be selected in common agreement. Depending on the funding source (e.g. independent funding vs project funding), the project may be open or defined. Dr. Juncker likes to start with some general ideas and give the student the opportunity to test various options, and carve out specific project in discussion with his supervisor(s) and peers, thus helping the student to take ownership of the project. As students progress, they typically gain more independence. Research projects range from medical studies to the discovery of biomarkers to cleanroom fabrication. Most projects involve creation and design of a new technology, sometimes computer simulations, cleanroom fabrication and/or testing with biological samples. Biomedical projects involved with the proteomics platform may involve developing novel assay formats (for example to detect single molecules), collecting patient samples with the help of collaborators, quantifying proteins in the samples and identifying biomarker candidates.
11. What is the impact of the work of the Nanobioengineering group?
Our group publishes work in leading peer-reviewed journals in the areas of microfluidics, lab-on-a-chip, nanotechnology, chemistry, proteomics, etc. Our work has been cited over 2500 times (indicating that it has received attention from the scientific community) and Dr. Juncker has received a number of awards and is regularly invited to speak at conferences. Many of our projects are aimed at developing new devices or using novel molecular markers for the diagnosis and prognosis of disease, which we hope will have a societal impact and help save lives in time. We are also developing new technologies with applications in develoing countries that are particularly vulnerable and where the need for diagnostic technologies is the greatest.