October 2021

Lab members

Front row (left to right): Arunika Gunawardena and Nathan Rowarth

Second row (left to right): Cassandra Hirte and Shanukie Embuldeniya

Last row (left to right): Kestral Adams Unger, Sophie Tattrie, and Kate Love

Sohiba Khayol Muhammad (not in the photo)


Michaela Kember



Michaela is in her third year at Dalhousie University and is currently completing a double major in Microbiology and Immunology/Philosophy. In January 2019 Michaela began her Experiential Learning Course in Dr. Gunawardena’s lab, in collaboration with the Cheng lab of the Microbiology & Immunology department. She is investigating the activity of lace plant anthocyanin extract against the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas Aeruginosa.

Michaela became interested in the lace plant and PCD in her first year of study after listening to Dr. Gunawardena give a guest lecture on the subject to her DISP class. Michaela began volunteering in the lab at the end of her first year and has continued volunteering there ever since. She hopes to eventually complete her Honors research in the Gunawardena lab. She loves utilizing the knowledge she gains from both the Gunawardena lab and the Cheng lab to further explore the important roles that plants can play in our health and wellness. She is so grateful to be a part of the fascinating research at the Gunawardena lab as well as to have the opportunity to work with its amazing lab members.

In the meantime, Michaela has competitively danced for sixteen years at venues across North America. She also volunteers at the Cobequid Community Health Centre’s emergency department. She additionally works with the Atlantic Science Links Association (http://atlanticsciencelinks.dal.ca/gallery.html) and Let’s Talk Science. Eventually she hopes to complete a degree in medicine and become a pathologist.



Sofia D'Angelo




Sofia is excited to begin working in the PCD lab and to begin examining the effects of varying sugar concentration on anthocyanin production in lace plants. She is currently in her third year at Dalhousie as a Marine Biology major and French minor. Sofia took an interest in Dr. Gunawardena’s research after hearing about her work with cancer cells and lace plants. The unique and exciting topic caught her eye, as she had always had a love for plants and would love to connect it with medical research. In the summer of 2021, Sofia received the Sarah Lawson Scholarship to identify and quantify anthocyanin species in lace plants under stress conditions induced by sugar. Outside of the lab, Sofia can normally be found at the library reading, swimming or going for hikes around Halifax. In the future, Sofia hopes to conduct her honors research in the Gunawardena lab and to eventually pursue graduate studies in biology or marine biology.


2020 January

Front row (from left to right): Georgia Denbigh, Arunika Gunawardena, Michaela Kember

Back row (from left to right): Nathan Rowarth, Alice Rollini, Cassandra Hirte, Jenna Liang


Jenna Liang


Jenna is in her fourth year and will be completing her Honours in Biology at Dalhousie University and a minor at the University of King’s College in Early Modern Studies and Art History. She has been volunteering in the Gunawardena lab since October 2019, identifying DNA sequences of the genes of interest in lace plant development. For her Honours project, she is using next gen sequencing (NGS) and bioinformatics to compare differentially expressed genes in NPCD and PCD cells across lace plant leaf stages.

She first became interested in plant development after taking the courses: Diversity of Microorganisms and Plants and Developmental Biology. More recently, she took Plant Cell Biology (taught by Dr. Arunika Gunawardena), which gave her the opportunity to conduct an independent research project leading to her interest in PCD and its developmentally regulated function in Aponogeton madagascariensis (aquatic lace plant).

Outside of the lab, Jenna is an avid film photographer with publications in independent magazines. She volunteers at the Museum of Natural History, Halifax Sexual Health Centre, and Dalhousie Art Gallery. In the near, yet distant future, Jenna hopes to pursue graduate studies in Biology or Art Curation.


Alice Rollini


Alice is currently in her last year of BSc of Science, Biology at Dalhousie University (2019-2020).

She fell in love with Dr. Gunawardena's work in the PCD Lab during her second year, when she was enrolled in Diversity of Life (pt.2). Alice started volunteering in the PCD lab and developed a true passion for plants and molecular work that pushed her to enrol in the experiential learning course and the independent research project during her third year. These two experiences were a great opportunity for Alice because she learned about unique laboratory techniques, microscopy, as well as plant cell mechanisms. Her endless work during the experiential learning led her to be a co-author in one of Dr. Dauphinee's articles, "The Function of Autophagy in Lace Plant Programmed Cell Death"(2019). Because of the independent research project and the collaboration between Dr. Gunawardena and Dr. Hoskin, from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Alice is currently hard at work collecting interesting results on the cytotoxicity of the lace plant phenolic compound, anthocyanin. Her work involves investigating the anti-cancer and anti-proliferative activities of crude anthocyanin extracts on two human ovarian cancer cell lines and one control mammary epithelial cell line.

Alice's hard work during the independent research project led her to obtain the Sarah Lawson research scholarship (Summer 2019), which allowed her to continue and deepen this work on both lace plant and human cell lines. Alice is currently furthering her research through the honours course. Her project has now expanded to working on four human cell lines, two ovarian cancer, one breast cancer and one mammary epithelial cell line.

Alice's goal after graduation is to continue studying anthocyanin extracts from the lace plant and looking at the effects that it has on cancer cells during her master studies. Alice is determined to bring Science closer to a cure for cancer and eventually enter into Medical School where she will achieve her final goal of becoming a heart surgeon.

Alice has been volunteering for the MS Society as well as Doors Open Halifax. In her spare time she enjoys taking care of her Gourami fish Boing and his fellow fishy friends, and spending time with her close friends and family.


Past lab members -2020/21







Lace Plant

PCD Research







Lab Members









Lab volunteers


Experiential Learning

Lab Events & Photos

Art work

Volunteer work



Past Lab Members
























Inspirational talks