The Trainee Development Committee (TDC) comprises four to ten active trainee members (undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, and clinical fellows) of the DOHaD Canada Society, of which two (committee Co-Chairs) are elected members of DOHaD Canada council. The roles of the TDC are two-fold. First, we represent the needs and priorities of trainee members of the Society to ensure their voices are represented within the decisions taken by the Society’s Council. Secondly, we seek to enhance the experiences and professional development opportunities for trainee members within the Canadian DOHaD Chapter. To do this, we actively liaise with the Society’s Council, organize events for trainees by trainees, and root our decision making in fostering inclusive, interdisciplinary community-building among trainee members.


Dr. Elnaz Vaghef Mehrabani, PhD – Co-Chair

Postdoctoral Fellow, Developmental Psychobiology Laboratory, Owerko Centre at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI)

Elnaz completed her BSc in 2010 and her MSc in 2013, both in Nutritional Sciences at Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Iran. She then worked as a dietitian to expand her clinical experience. In 2019, she completed her PhD in Nutritional Sciences at Tabriz University of Medical Sciences. She started her first postdoc in 2019 at the University of Calgary. Her research being interrupted by maternity leave, she extended her postdoc in the same lab to complete her projects. Elnaz is interested in the role of nutrition in prevention of chronic diseases especially mental health problems which are tightly connected with physical disorders and complicate their management. During her postdoc she developed interest in learning about how maternal nutritional exposures pre-pregnancy and prenatally could affect mental health outcomes in the offspring. The focus of her research is the inflammatory aspects of these exposures, affecting fetal neurodevelopment. She hopes to use this knowledge to work on feasible, cost-effective, and community-based nutrition interventions during pregnancy to help prevent mental health problems in young children.

Dr. Gillian England-Mason, PhD – Co-Chair

Dr. Gillian England-Mason is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Calgary. Her research program is supported through a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Fellowship and a Postgraduate Fellowship in Health Innovation provided by Alberta Innovates.

Gillian received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from McMaster University in 2018. She is currently working with the Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition (APrON) study team, under the mentorship of Dr. Deborah Dewey. Her postdoctoral research examines the associations between early environmental factors and neurodevelopmental outcomes in young children. She is particularly interested in examining potential biological mechanistic pathways which may underly these associations. This transdisciplinary research aims to better understand the mechanisms of developmental change and inform preventative interventions for Canadian families.

Savana Biondic – Trainee

Savana completed her BSc in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Molecular Biology at the University of Guelph, where she stayed to also complete a masters degree in Biomedical Sciences (specializing in Applied Reproductive Biotechnologies). Currently, Savana is a PhD candidate in the laboratory of Dr. Sophie Petropoulos at l’Université de Montréal. Here, her research investigates the mechanisms underlying lineage specification in the mammalian preimplantation embryo. In particular, she is interested in the role small non-coding RNAs may have in proper establishment of the first embryonic lineages.


Innocent Uzochukwu Okagu – Trainee

PhD Student, Memorial University of Newfoundland and member, DOHaD TDC

Innocent Uzochukwu Okagu completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s of Sciences in Biochemistry at the University of Nigeria in 2012 and 2016, respectively. He after took up a teaching position in the same department in mid-2016 till date. Innocent is currently undergoing his doctoral training at the Department of Biochemistry, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Innocent investigates how the quality and quantity of lipids in maternal diets during gestation influences fetal sustainability and brain development and the biochemical mechanisms involved.

Hauna Sheyholislami, M.Sc. – Trainee

Hauna Sheyholislami is a PhD student in Dr. Kristin Connor’s lab at Carleton University. She received her MSc in Health: Science, Technology and Policy and BSc in Biology at Carleton. Hauna’s research interests include the role of the maternal gut microbiome, microbiome-altering substances and perinatal nutritional exposures and implications for maternal, fetal and infant health outcomes. Specifically, she is investigating the maternal gut microbiome and metabolome in pregnancies complicated by fetal neural tube defects.

Jessica Laura Puranda – Trainee

PhD candidate, School of Human Kinetics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa

Jessica is a first year PhD candidate in Dr. Kristi Adamo’s Lab, who fast-tracked from her Master’s of Science. She completed her Honours Bachelor of Science at the University of Ottawa in 2020. Her PhD thesis will be focused on characterizing reproductive health, bone health, and musculoskeletal injuries in female Canadian Armed Forces members. Jessica is also working on project, validating accelerometry cut-off points in pregnant individuals. This project collaborates with Bishop’s University and the Complutense University of Madrid.

Marina White, B.Sc. (Hons.) – Member at Large

PhD Candidate, Department of Health Sciences, Carleton University

Marina is a PhD candidate in Dr. Kristin Connor’s lab in Health Sciences at Carleton University, where she began her graduate studies after receiving her BSc Hon. in Neuroscience at Carleton in 2017. Her research investigates how maternal health and the placenta influence fetal and infant development, with a focus on pregnancies complicated by maternal HIV infection or fetal congenital anomalies. Specifically, she is interested in understanding how the early nutritional environment and alterations in placental phenotype in these pregnancies may affect growth and neurodevelopmental trajectories.


  • Maryam Kebbe
  • Hirotaka Hamada
  • Kozeta Miliku
  • Luseadra McKerracher
  • Shelby Oke
  • Christian Bellissimo