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Ulli Tepass

Principal Investigator

Ulli Tepass

Academic Title: Professor
Campus: St. George
CSB Appointment: Full Primary Undergraduate Department: 
Cell & Systems BiologyGraduate Programs: 
Cell & Systems BiologyDevelopmental Biology

Education: Ph.D. University of Cologne 1990

Lab Manager and Research Associate

Milena Pellikka

I received my training in Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of Toronto. Over the years I have worked on a broad range of projects, such as generation of mutants and research tools to study the role of Alpha-catenin in establishing and maintaining epithelial polarity. Most notably I was involved in the investigation of the role of Crumbs in Drosophila photoreceptor cell integrity. My recent work includes further analysis of Crb mutant isoforms that affect rhodopsin trafficking, resulting in Crb-dependent retinal degeneration. Currently I am investigating the function of Yurt during early embryonic development, and generating new tools for lineage analysis and live imaging. My interests also include the latest in technological and research advances and incorporating/ implementing these in our research work. In my free time I sail and enjoy nature walks.

Kenana al Kakouni

Ph.D. Candidate

I work on polarized trafficking in epithelial cells. Particularly, I'm interested in studying the role of trafficking in embryonic epithelia using live imaging.

When I am not in the lab, I enjoy reading, photography and playing board games. I've lived most of my life in Toronto and one of my favorite things about this city is the number of sushi restaurants. I love sushi!

Milena Pellikka

Meggie Cao

Ph.D. Candidate

As a student who graduated from University of Toronto specializing in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, the heart of my research interest lies in understanding the role of alpha-catenin (an adherens junction protein) in growth.  Specially, my project involves examining how alpha catenin participates in various growth and regulatory pathways in the Drosophila imaginal wing disc.  By studying molecular mechanisms, many fascinating questions about human diseases, such as cancer, can be addressed and answered. During my spare time, I enjoy painting, jogging and playing flute.

Kenana a


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Gerald Lerchbaumer

Ph.D. Candidate

Imported from Austria in early 2019, Gerald joined the Tepass lab as a Phd student. During his masters project, which dealt with mechanisms of chemotaxis in zebrafish development, he developed a burning passion for cell biology and cell migration. Not surprisingly so, he joined the neuroblast project in which the ingression of neural progenitors is utilized as a model system for epithelial to mesenchymal transition. Within this project his focus lies on the Par complex, its interaction partners and how these polarity factors contribute to cell ingression. Outside of the lab he plays rugby and a variety of other sports and enjoys all sorts of outdoor activities. And he likes chess, but he is not any good at it unfortunately.

Gerald Lerchbaumer

Max Shcherbina

M.Sc. Candidate

I graduated from the University of Toronto where I specialized in Cells & Systems Biology and Health & Disease. I was first introduced to the Tepass Lab during my fourth-year research project where I investigated the role of the phosphorylation of the Crumbs protein in growth regulation of Drosophila imaginal wing discs. Working day-to-day on achieving an answer to a research question was a fantastic opportunity for me to challenge myself and grow as a scientific investigator. I am looking forward to further developing my skills as a researcher at the Tepass Lab!


When I am not thinking about research, I am thinking about photography, planning my next hike, or trying out the latest gadget.

Max Shcherbina

Jacob Froese

M.Sc. Candidate

Jacob obtained an undergraduate degree in Biomedical sciences from Brock University. During his fourth year thesis, he dove into the process of stem cell senescence to elucidate the role it, and its associated secretory phenotype, may play in human longevity. Consequently, he developed a passion for cell biology which led him to pursue a masters degree in the Tepass lab where he is working on the neuroblast project. Outside of the academic setting, Jacob is often found playing music, rock climbing, or reading a good book.


Vanessa Ghorayeb

M.Sc. Candidate

I graduated from the University of Toronto with a major in Cell and Molecular Biology, as well as Immunology. I was first interested in the Tepass Lab when I took a fourth-year seminar course about cell growth regulation in Drosophila. I was interested in epithelial cell polarity, and how research in this field can help advance cancer treatments. For my master’s project, I am studying a RhoGEF protein (Cysts) and the Yki protein to examine their roles in epithelial polarity and hyperplastic/neoplastic cell growth. During my free time, I enjoy taking martial arts (self-defense) classes, reading sci-fi books, and exploring the city.


Sarah Robinson

M.Sc. Candidate

My love for cell biology and development lead me to the Tepass lab where I completed an undergraduate research project characterizing the cancer-like growth phenotypes of RhoGEF proteins in Drosophila imaginal wing discs. After graduating from the University of Toronto with a double major in Cell and Molecular Biology and Nutritional Sciences, I rejoined the Tepass lab to pursue a masters degree. I currently examine the role of polarity proteins in mitosis and epithelial integrity during early embryonic development. When I’m not busy doing science, I am dancing to music, doing yoga, or eating delicious food.

Sérgio Simões

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow


Ethan Zand

M.Sc. Candidate

I obtained my BSc in the Honours Specialization in Biology program from Western University in 2023. The Tepass lab is of great interest to me, as the research on epithelial cells has significant applications to cancer research and human disease. As a new graduate student, I am learning the ropes of the lab and am gaining insight into possible projects to pursue.

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Fadi Zidan

M.Sc. Candidate

I graduated from York University with a degree in Biomedical Sciences. During my four years of study, I was most interested in molecular biology and genetics. I found the Tepass lab to be very interesting especially the work on neuroblast ingression and adherens junctions. I am currently working on a screening project with the other lab members. Looking forward to further develop my skills in the Tepass lab while pursuing my Master's degree.

When I am not in the lab, I am either watching a movie, playing soccer, or hanging out with friends.




Joice Ren

4th year thesis student


Gary Chatha

4th year thesis student


Ellie Yang

Work study student


Joey Ng

Work study student



Recent grads

Sérgio Simões

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Azadeh Lafaffian


Parama Talukder


David ter Stal


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Gayaanan Jeyanathan

Ritu Sarpal

Luka Sheppard

David G. Green


Senior Research Associate



Post-Doctoral Research Fellow


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