Lab volunteers

2021 Sepetmber

Kestral Adams Unger

Hello! My name is Kestrel Adams Unger and I am a third year biology student here at Dalhousie University.

A bit about me; my ambition is to continue pursuing plant biology research through undergraduate honours and into graduate school, with particular focus on ecology, genetics, and taxonomy. My first lab experience was with Dr. Di Cara in her lab at the IWK researching the role of peroxisome-mediated lipids in macrophage-like cells. I am extremely grateful and excited to be given this volunteer opportunity in Dr. Gunawardena’s lab, I am fascinated by plants and research and have already learnt so much from working with her and her research team. It’s an amazing and fascinating experience to be able to learn from such a talented and hard working group of people. From making media and learning to tissue culture to sitting in on lab meetings and listening to practice presentations this has been one of the most transforming experiences of my life. I look forward to learning even more about the lace plant and research and continuing to work with Dr. Gunawardena in coming years.



2018 March

Alice Rollini


Hi everyone, my name is Alice and my hometown is Milan, in Italy. I’m in the second year of my undergrad in Biology here at Dalhousie University. As a requirement for my degree, I had to take Diversity of Life 2 and I’m really glad I did since it gave me the opportunity to know Dr. Gunawardena. During her first class of Plant Diversity, she presented her research on Lace Plants and I immediately got interested. This is my first experience in a lab as a volunteer and I look forward to improve my skills and learn more about Lace Plants, since I think that research in this field is fundamental for medicine. My goal is to attend Medical School and specializing in heart surgery here in Canada.

I’m really glad Dr. Gunawardena gave me the opportunity to be a member of her lab where everyone seems so nice and helpful in supporting each other. I think it will be a very rewarding experience.


2017 April

Michaela Kember

Michaela Kember is in her second year at Dalhousie University and is completing a double major in Microbiology and Immunology, and Philosophy. She became interested in the lace plant and PCD 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. She loves working with the members of Dr. Gunawardena’s team and hopes to eventually complete an experiential learning course in her lab (BIOL 3800) during the coming year.

Michaela has competitively danced for fourteen years at venues across North America. She recently joined the Golden Key International Honour Society chapter at Dalhousie and continues to volunteer at the Cobequid Community Health Centre’s emergency department. Eventually she hopes to complete a degree in medicine and become a pathologist.


2016 January

Nathan Hoffmann


Nathan is entering his third year of university, completing a double major in Biology and Environmental Science. After completing his University Degree, Nathan intends on entering into the Forestry Management industry. Nathan has enjoyed growing and caring for plants for many years and felt like a volunteer position in Dr. Gunawardena’s PCD Lab was a natural progression for his interest. During high school, Nathan completed two field schools in the Australian Outback concerning animal population density as well as the progression of succession after severe wildfires. These experiences inspired Nathan to become involved in the research aspect of biology, which continues to drive him today. During his time in the lab, Nathan hopes to gain a greater understanding of PCD as well as a greater knowledge of general lab procedures.


2015 January

Thomas Baker

My name is Thomas and I have just finished the first year of my BSc at Dalhousie University. I’m still deciding whether I want to major in Biology or Marine Biology but regardless of whichever one I pick I hope to be able to complete an Honours project in that field. I wanted to volunteer in a lab because I am interested in research and want to learn about it outside of my scheduled classes. I asked Dr. Gunawardena because she is a kind and knowledgeable individual who seemed eager to accept a volunteer into her lab and because I was intrigued by her presentation of her research in my Diversity of Life II class. I have been volunteering in Dr. Gunawardena’s lab for a couple months now and it has been a very rewarding experience. I am very grateful that I have this great opportunity.


2014 September

Ellen Jamieson

My name is Ellen and I am in my third year at Dalhousie University studying Biology and English. My interest in Botany has grown immensely since being enrolled in Diversity of Life II and Economic Botany. After spending the summer of 2013 working on a Strawberry and Raspberry farm, I became extremely interested in agriculture and commercial plant uses. In the summer of 2014, I completed an Ornithology SEASIDE course at Dalhousie which enlightened me to the many applications of scientific research and the incredible experiences of field work. I am very excited to be volunteering in Dr. Gunawardena’s lab and to be a part of the innovative research happening here at Dalhousie. The “Lace Plant Team” has been extremely welcoming and I am looking forward to a great experience this semester.


2013 December

Jacob Fletcher

Jacob is in his final year of study of his BSc in Biology at Dalhousie University. He has always enjoyed learning about all forms of life, but has taken a particular interest in botany since completing classes such as Diversity of Life II, Economic Botany, and Developmental Biology. He has gained so much inspiration from the professors in the Biology Department over the years of his study. In the summer of 2012, Jacob partook in a volunteer conservation project in the Limpopo province of South Africa, which involved conducting biodiversity surveys of native plant life within the Masebe nature reserve. He has been a teaching assistant here at Dalhousie for Diversity of Life II, Developmental Biology, and Introduction to Biology for Engineers. Jacob loves both field work and research, and is very enthused about volunteering in Dr. Gunawardena's lab this semester, and becoming a specialist in PCD in lace plants. He is looking forward to conducting a summer research project within the field, and hopes to continue additional research into graduate studies at Dalhousie. 


2013 Sepetmber

Roula Bayerli


Hello, my name is Roula Bayerli. I am an associated professor in plant physiology and biotechnology, Faculty of Agriculture, Damascus University, Syria.

I was born in Damascus, Syria. Syria is a small country in the Middle East. It is surrounded by Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and the Meditation Sea. Its population is around 23000000 and it has an area of 185000 square km. Syria has a very moderate weather. It does not snow very often in Syria. Damascus; the capital, is a very old city. It is considered as one of the most beautiful Arabic countries which have a long history and great civilisations. The history of Christian religion and Jewish religion is sourced from that area. It is one of the top countries that are known by their tourist and culture heritage. It is also famous as the first with its rich of Jasmine.

I completed my high school in Damascus and graduated from Faculty of Agriculture, Damascus University. I got an Egyptian Scholarship for the post- graduate studies. In 2003 I got my PhD degree from Fac. of Agriculture, Cairo University, Egypt. I performed all my practical work in the Lab. of Plant Biotechnology, Cairo University.

In 2003, I backed Damascus and worked as professor assistant in Damascus University until 2013. My working In Damascus University was focusing on teaching several courses like Plant physiology and plant tissue culture, monitoring and supervising the under graduate and post graduate students. I am very interested in methodology of plant tissue culture, technology of callus induction, proliferation and regeneration, production of Haploid plants, physiology of plants under stress conditions induced in vitro, mutation induction. I have 14 publication s in the previous mentioned field of study. I did experiments with different plant types like fruits (banana, citrus, date palm, apricot, strawberry) and ornamentals ( Anthurium, Asplenium, gerbera, gardenia).

I worked in King Feisal University, AL Dammam, KSA for one year during 2010. I visited Hannover University in Germany and Scottish Crop Research Institute in Dundee University, England as a visitor professor.

In July 2013, I came to Canada. It was my first visit. I heard a lot about Dalhousie University and I was so excited to visit the University but I could not have a chance till I met Prof. Arunika Gunawardena who gave me this chance and kindly welcomed me in her Lab.


2013 Sepetmber

Britteny Allen


My name is Brittney Allen and I am a second year undergraduate student majoring in biology. My interest in research began in secondary school where I competed in three national science fairs with research projects focused on the prevention treatment of plant cell death caused by biotic and abiotic stress. As a member of Team Canada with Youth Science Canada, I had the opportunity to present my research as a member of the Youth Science Team Canada contingent at the international MILSET Science expo held in Bratislava Slovakia. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to volunteer in the Gunawardena-PCD lab where I am able to acquire new skills, and have the opportunity to learn about the ongoing research conducted in the lab. In future, I would like to pursue my own research in this area. For the past twelve years, I have been a competitive dancer, competing and training nationally and internationally, and I am currently a member of DalDance.



2013 from May

Randa Ataya

Randa Ataya is currently about to enter her third year of her science undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She came across Dr. Gunawardena’s programmed cell death in plants research and was immediately hooked. She read more about her lab work and publications and it made her really want to be involved within the work. Right away, everyone was very welcoming and she felt right at home. Her tasks include callus induction, sub-culturing, as well as helping others around the lab. She wishes to continue to pursue this wonderful opportunity for the years to come.


2012 from September

Angelica Camillo

My name is Angelica Camillo and I am currently in my third year of my undergraduate degree in Biology. After taking Dr. Gunawardena's Diversity of Life II class I began to develop an interest in plants and plant research. My passion for botany has grown after taking Dr. Gunawardena's plant cell biology class this semester. I began volunteering in Dr. Gunawardena's PCD lab this past fall and have thoroughly enjoyed my time spent learning about PCD in the lace plant. I hope to continue working with the lace plant in the upcoming years as I am planning to start my Honours Project under the supervision of Dr. Gunawardena next fall.


Jiyoung Song

Hello, my name is Jiyoung Song. I’m a third year student in Dalhousie and I am studying biology as my major. When Prof Gunawardena talked about her lab work on PCD in lace plants at the end of the diversity II class, I got interested in her lab and decided to volunteer. I do tissue culturing, which I really enjoy. I’m really glad that I volunteer at Prof Gunawardena lab because I had a chance to learn about lace plants and different lab techniques, which I will not learn during lectures.



Malik, Ali

Malik is finishing his Bachelor of Science Biology degree.Having finished his second year, he completed the diversity of life course and developed a passion for plant cell biology where he pursued it in the PCD lab. He is currently working with the lace plant, practicing on conducting sterile techniques and tissue culturing while lending a hand to anyone else in the lab. He really enjoys working in the lab and has plans of working in the PCD lab for the coming years.


Michelle Rose Salah

Michelle graduated with a Bachelor of Science with majors in Biology and French in May 2011 from Dalhousie University. She is now in her first year of her B.Ed at MSVU. She is volunteering in the Gunawardena lab in hopes of gaining experience and knowledge for a project she is working on. During her time here, she will be learning how to use sterile techniques in doing tissue cultures. 

Rebecca Watts

Rebecca is a fourth year science student at Dalhousie University. Having taken courses in  Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, and the Arts, she decided on pursuing a double major in Biology and History with the intent of completing a Combined Honours degree in 2012. During her Combined Honours, research in the Gunawardena-PCD lab regarding plant cell biology will be her primary focus. Rebecca began volunteering doing lab preparatory work, tissue culturing, and assisting other lab members in September 2011. Her interests include cellular signaling pathways during the process of apoptosis in lace plants.

Rebecca loves to balance her academic interests with work and training endeavors. These include life guarding, lifesaving sport, swimming, swim instructing, scuba diving, marathon training and travel. She hopes to compete in Adelaide, Australia for the 2012 World Lifesaving Championships.

Lydia Fraughton

Lydia is a third year student at Dalhousie University doing her undergraduate degree in Biology. She is planning on doing the honors program at Dal and is interested in working with plants. She is currently a TA for the Diversity of Life 1 class and is really enjoying the opportunity to teach biology. Lydia began volunteering in the Gunawardena lab in the fall of 2011 while taking Arunika’s fourth year plant cell course. She enjoys working with and learning about PCD in the place plant and is continuing her volunteer tissue culturing and lab preparatory work throughout the semester and planning to go throughout the summer. Lydia is the vice president of the Dalhousie Biology Society and has been involved in DABS for the past 2 years. Her future plans involve research and pursuing graduate school to study developmental biology and botany.

Leah MacLean- Co-op student, Lockview High School

My name is Leah MacLean, I am a grade eleven student from Lockview High School. For my coop credit at Lockview I was accepted to come and work at the Gunawardena Lab, Dalhousie University. I love animals plants, everything nature. So learning about plant development and death is always exciting for me.

Tosin Fashoranti - Grade eleven student at Halifax Grammer School




Devin MacDonald

Devin MacDonald just graduated with a Bachelor of Science, Major in Biology from Dalhousie in May 2011. He began volunteering in the Gunawardena lab in the fall of 2010 while taking Arunika's 4th year plant cell course. He enjoyed working with and learning about PCD in the lace plant and is continuing his volunteer tissue culturing and lab preparatory work through the summer. He has hopes to one day attend dental school.

Jillian Obritsch

Jillian was an undergraduate student who recently completed her Bachelor of Science in Biology. She currently continues to volunteer in Dr. Arunika Gunawardena’s lab after doing so since the second semester of the third year of her undergraduate degree. Jill will be going back to Dalhousie this fall to acquire her nursing degree through the accelerated nursing program, after which she will continue applying to the dentistry program. She met Arunika in her second year and has taken four courses with her. Working in the lab has been fulfilling by helping and learning about the other student’s research as well as giving her the opportunity to learn valuable laboratory techniques. She also was given an assignment to discover how to disinfect the lace plant’s corm without damage. She hopes to continue to volunteer in the lab throughout her university career.





Lace Plant

PCD Research







Lab Members









Lab volunteers


Experiential Learning

Lab Events & Photos

Art work

Volunteer work



Past Lab Members
























Inspirational talks


Lab Events

Birthday Parties, Dinner Parties, Lab lunch, Picnics, View from the Lab

Lab Events

Birthday Parties, Dinner Parties, Lab lunch, Picnics, View from the Lab

The lace plant

Aponogeton madagascariensis

The lace plant

Aponogeton madagascariensis

Kendra Sauerteig

Kendra's Research

Kendra Sauerteig

Kendra's Research