Work in the Gillis lab is focused on the vertebrate heart and the mechanisms that regulate it’s function and ability to remodel in response to a physiological stressor. Current projects include characterizing the capacity of the hagfish heart to work in anoxia (no oxygen), examining developmental plasticity in the alligator heart, and determining the influence of bitumen (crude oil) exposure on cardiac histology and function in salmonid fish.Learn More
Research Area: Mechanisms of disease
We are interested in characterizing the mechanisms of pathogenesis, adaptation, and survival in fungal and bacterial microbes from a systems biology perspective through mass spectrometry-based quantitative proteomics. Specifically, research in the lab centres around the following areas:
1. Systems biology to elucidate microbial proteome dynamics and interactions;
2. Mechanistic characterization of pathogenic proteins; and
3. Mass spectrometry-based proteomics for drug discovery and repurposing.
Our long-term goals emphasize the utilization of mass spectrometry-based proteomics to fundamentally understand differential microbial adaptation and survival strategies and to integrate a novel systems biology platform for investigation of diverse biological systems.
In our laboratory we use multiple advanced techniques to take an integrative approach to research that involves combining cell and systems research with animal behaviour to help us gain insights into the mechanisms that underlie neurological disorders. At present our primary research focuses are in depression, schizophrenia, autism, and Alzheimer’s disease, with a specific interest in understanding sex differences in neuropathology and treatment response. To achieve this we use pharmacological, pharmacogenetic and behavioural techniques combined with electrophysiology and computational algorithms to evaluate how neuronal network communication is impaired is these models, and to determine the cell signaling pathways responsible for the network disruption.Learn More
First, we have systematically generated inhibitors and activators for E3 ubiquitin ligases to discover new enzyme catalytic mechanism and new substrates. We continue to develop synthetic peptides and proteins to delineate biochemical mechanisms of E3 ubiquitin ligases.
Second, we showed that structure-based protein engineering enables development of anti-viral reagents for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus. Now we started engineering post-translational modifications to probe and rewire DNA damage signaling for cancer therapeutics.
Finally, we created molecular tools to increase CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing efficiency. Now we are developing new tools as "off-switch" for CRISPR-based gene editing through targeted protein degradation.
Prof. Dawson studies the impact of inherited changes in heart muscle proteins to understand what is going wrong in patients with heart diseases so that we can develop specific strategies to treat the problem. His research takes the research from molecules to organisms, studying the biochemistry of proteins and the development and physiology of zebrafish with changes in their hearts reflecting those seen in people with diseases.
Prof. Dawson's education research focuses on learning outcome assessment in general and the development, implementation, and assessment of critical thinking through higher education science curricula in particular.
Our research is dedicated to understanding mechanisms that dictate healthy function of the human spine, and ultimately the causes and consequences of low back injury and pain. To do this we study the mechanics and physiology of the lumbar spine and its musculature. We use both human and animal models to understand different aspects of how spine movement is achieved and what ‘normal’ movement looks like, the role of muscle in producing this movement and stabilizing the spine, and how the spine and muscle both adapt to injury and how they can be rehabilitated from injury.Learn More
My human research program has three primary areas of interest.
First, we are using single-unit muscle sympathetic nerve recordings to understand the organization and regulation of the sympathetic nervous system in response to a stress. We have shown (PMID: 30388036) the capacity for differential control of postganlionic sympathetic single units directed towards skeletal muscle.
Second, we are determining the mechanisms responsible for inter-individual variability in blood pressure responses to exercise. We have made key contributions to determining the role of genetic variants and muscle strength in this area (PMID: 30206938; 29135658).
Third, we study the clinical utility of exercise rehabilitation and are currently conducting a exercise training study in patients with Parkinson's.