IPN Alumni Profile: Maria Ioannou

I have exceptionally fond memories of McGill. There were the obvious perks of studying in Montreal, a culturally rich city with a seemingly unlimited number of festivals to attend and restaurants to try. Then of course, there is hockey. Whether playing on the neuro’s ‘Lobotomizers’ intramural team or a game of pickup on an outdoor rink, Montreal is certainly a great place to get on the ice.

As a PhD student, I worked under the supervision of Peter McPherson to learn about membrane trafficking. Specifically, in the McPherson lab, I studied the regulation of a small GTPase, Rab13, by its activator DENND2B. Using biochemical methods and microscopy, we discovered the role of DENND2B in a recycling pathway that promotes cell migration and metastasis in cancer.

I took advantage of the amount of research taking place in the city. I organized the Montreal Membrane Trafficking club, a monthly seminar series that brought together researchers from McGill, Concordia, Université de Montréal and Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal. This was a particularly enriching experience as I was able to learn about the amazing science being conducted all over Montreal and form new friendships and collaborations.

During my studies, I developed a keen interest in microscopy. After all, seeing is believing. I found it fascinating to watch fluorescently labelled vesicles travelling around in the cell or to image where a protein is being activated while a cell crawls around in a dish. I was given several opportunities to hone my microscopy skills through workshops and various collaborations. Since graduating from McGill, I have been working as a postdoctoral associate at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Research Campus. I work jointly with Zhe Liu and Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz to continue using advanced microscopy to study lipid transfer in neuronal health.

Finally, I just want to say that the IPN is an extraordinary program and I am fortunate to have been a part of it. I met many great friends and am grateful for the incredible mentorship that I received. The training and support that I received as a student in the IPN have been invaluable to my current and future successes as a scientist.