Early Career Faculty Researcher

Dr. Irena Rebalka

(assistant professor, Pathology & Molecular Medicine)

irenaCompleting both my HBSc and PhD at McMaster, I am a proud Hamiltonian! In partnership with Dr. Hawke, I am currently working with industrial partners, investigating the use of specific compounds on improving cellular health. Outside of the lab, I dance for a Ukrainian dance ensemble, and am an active member of the Ukrainian Community in Hamilton. I love traveling, cheering for my Ticats, fishing, and spending time with my family.

Current Graduate Students

zeina saayfane (PhD Candidate)

screen-shot-2023-01-31-at-2.50.14-pmI am from Bourjein, Chouf. Mount-Lebanon, Lebanon.  I hold my MSc degree in Biological and technological sciences for health from Jean Monnet University, Saint-Etienne France and a MSc degree in animal applied biology from the faculty of sciences of Lebanese University.  I’m very excited to now be pursuing my PhD in Medical Sciences at McMaster with Dr. Thomas Hawke. My thesis is focused on optimizing skeletal muscle health through manipulations of adipose tissue-devised molecules called adipokines.

alexandra (alex) steel (MSc Candidate)

alexI completed the undergraduate Medical Sciences program at Western University, with a specialization in human physiology and pharmacology. As a new student at McMaster, I am very excited to begin my graduate studies in the Hawke Lab. My MSc thesis is focused on cultured meat, in particular the optimization of cell culture in order to create an ideal cultured meat product. I have a passion for dance which I did competitively for 18 years and spend most of my spare time with the great friends I have made through school and dance.

Undergraduate Thesis Students

  • Farah El-Zoeiby
  • Nicholas Langelaan
  • Avantika Vaidya
  • Mekayla Truong
  • Tahirah D’Costa

Recent Graduate Students

DR. Athan Dial 

athanI was involved in health research at McMaster for a long time, starting with my H.BSc. in Kinesiology, where my focus was primarily on sport and exercise science. My M.Sc. thesis under Dr. Ljubicic focused on the application of exercise molecules in treating muscle-wasting disorders. With Dr. Hawke, I investigated the impact of muscle-derived molecules on type 1 diabetes, and how their use therapeutically may optimize muscle health during this condition.

dr. Cynthia Monaco

cynthiaI obtained both my BSc in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and MSc in Human Health & Nutritional Sciences from the University of Guelph. My MSc thesis was under the supervision of Dr. Graham Holloway and was primarily focused on the impact of nitrates, obtained from nitrate supplementation, on cardiac function and mitochondrial bioenergetics. I completed my PhD under the supervision of Dr. Thomas Hawke, where the primary focus of my dissertation was to investigate and characterize skeletal muscle ‘health,’ particularly mitochondrial bioenergetics, across the lifespan of adults living with Type 1 Diabetes

Michael Akcan, MSc


UPDATE:  Michael successfully defended his MSc in July 2021 and is now taking some time to travel before applying for medical schoo.  Good luck Michael!

I graduated with my Hons. BSc in Biochemistry and Biomedical Science from McMaster University. After having a lovely experience on campus I couldn’t leave just yet, and decided to pursue my masters degree under the supervision of Thomas Hawke studying protein binding partners of Xin. I love spending time with my dog, running to EDM music, rock climbing and playing video games with my friends.

Allyson Schweitzer, MSc

allyUPDATE:  Ally successfully defended her MSc in June 2020 and is now a PhD student at UBC with Dr. Cameron Mitchell.  Good luck Ally!

Having completed my undergraduate degree in Kinesiology at McMaster, I am excited to continue my education in Hamilton, and pursue my Master’s degree in Dr. Hawke’s lab. I worked alongside Dr. Rebalka, in the investigation of biological mechanisms of muscle pain. Outside of the lab, I enjoy volunteering at The Boys and Girls Club and am a member of the MMSSA at McMaster. I also love to travel and hike, and aspire to conquer (at least some of) Mt. Everest some day.

Maria Nguyen (MSc Candidate)

mariaUPDATE:  Maria successfully defended her MSc in March of 2021. Way to go Maria! Very proud of you!

As a proud alumna of McMaster University where I spent four years studying Biochemistry, I decided to return to this wonderful institution and branch out from Biochemistry into Medical Science for my Masters degree.  Under the guidance of Dr Hawke, I pursued the role of Xin in muscles, in particular I investigated potential binding partners of Xin in hopes of elucidating its function. Outside of the lab, I can be found spending time with my family and friends, teaching or volunteering at the Vietnamese community.

Grace Grafham (MSc Candidate)

graceUPDATE:  Grace successfully defended her MSc in June 2020 and is now a medical student at University of Toronto.  Congrats Grace and good luck with your studies!

I graduated from the University of Western Ontario with an HBSc in Medical Cell Biology. I am currently pursuing my MSc in Medical Sciences in the Hawke Lab, where I explored skeletal muscle repair in individuals with Type 1 Diabetes. When I am not in the lab, I can be found on the soccer field (Go Mac!), curled up in bed watching my favourite YouTube series, or just hanging out with my beloved family dog, Ruby.

Hawke Lab Alumni

  • Liam Sone
  • Salma Abrahim
  • Katelyn (Katie) Patterson
  • Brendan Lee
  • Samuel Koo
  • Vivian Pan
  • Maggie Powless-Lynes
  • Lauren Turner
  • William Khalil
  • Maya El-Zahed
  • Tirth Patel
  • Molly Gingrich
  • Enoch Tin
  • Grace Martin – McMaster
  • Cathy Ren
  • Rimsha Chattha – McMaster
  • Dr. Dhuha Al-Sajee MD, PhD
  • Dr. Donna D’Souza – McMaster
  • Andrew Cao – McMaster
  • Dr. Sibylle Molt – U Bonn, Germany
  • Sarah Zhou – McMaster
  • Namita Deodhare – McMaster
  • Olivia So – McMaster
  • Magdalene Au – McMaster
  • Christian Pretto – McMaster
  • Alexandra Rebalka
  • Maggie Jiang – McMaster
  • Matthew Raleigh – McMaster
  • Rafae Wathra – McMaster
  • Joseph DiMichele – McMaster
  • Christian Lamberz (MSc) – University of Bonn, Germany
  • Dr. Karin Trajcevski (MSc, PhD) – York, McMaster
  • Ashley Chin (B.Sc.) – McMaster
  • Albert Chiang (B. HSc.) – McMaster
  • Tina Behdinan (B. HSc.) – McMaster
  • Justin Chiu (BSc.) – McMaster
  • Alyscia McMullin (BSc.) – McMaster
  • Gwen Espidido (B. HSc.) – McMaster
  • Aliyah Nissar (MSc) –  McMaster
  • Dr. Matthew Krause (PhD) – McMaster & Now faculty at U Windsor!
  • Dr. Adam Johnston (MSc) – York
  • Daniel Atkinson (MSc) – York
  • Rita Labatia (MSc) – York
  • Bart Zemanek (MSc) – York
  • Jasmin Moradi (MSc) – McMaster
  • David Wang (B. HSc.)- McMaster
  • Heather Kilgore (Westdale High School)
  • Julianna Huang – York
  • Shaalee Dworski – York
  • Marian Staite – York
  • Julia Israelit – York
  • Peter Jaksa – York
  • Sophia Kapchinsky – York
  • Deelen Patel – York
  • Dili Dhanani – York
  • Melanie Alves – York
  • Premanand Gopie – York
  • Michael Jaksa – York
  • Abdullah Imam – York
  • Jesse Wolfstadt – York
  • Vagmi Patel – McMaster
  • Ranjini Nair – McMaster
  • Yufan Wu – McMaster
  • Connie Ma – McMaster
  • Bo Zheng – McMaster
  • Philemon Leung – McMaster
  • Marissa Laureano – McMaster
  • Peter Lam – McMaster
  • Anna Wong – Queens