Derek Dee
Assistant Professor

I am a food scientist and biophysicist, having focused on the folding mechanisms of aspartic proteases, the misfolding and aggreagation of prion protein at the single molecule level, and the conversion of food related proteins into nanofibrils.

Office FNH 240
Office phone 604-822-4489

Dekaban Visiting Scholar

Katarzyna ‘Kasia’ Skrzypczak
Ph.D., (Lublin, Poland).

Dekaban Foundation and LFS


Graduate Students

Drew Sanders
Ph.D. candidate, co-supervised with prof. Rickey Yada.

I am using optical tweezers to investigate pepsin and pepsinogen folding at the single molecule level. These proteins are an excellent model for studying protein (kinetic) stability, which remains poorly understood, and characterizing how evolution sculpts protein folding energy landscapes. Better understanding these basic properties may have utility in engineering novel, industrially-relevant enzymes for stable catalysis under a wider range of conditions and in targeting pepsin-like proteases involved in several diseases.


Leslie Huynh
Master’s student, co-supervised with prof. Rickey Yada.

I joined the Dee Lab in September 2023 after completing my Bachelor’s degree in Food Science at the University of Guelph. My research focuses on recombinant expression and characterization of pepsin-like proteases from cold-adapted yeast. We want to better understand how extremophilic enzymes have adapted to fold and function in harsh environments. Besides protein engineering, this research can be useful in applications which require lower temperatures, such as cold-wash detergents, leather manufacturing and cold-ripening of cheeses.


Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Aicha Asma Houfani
Ph.D. Microbiology. Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Legume Proteomics.

I joined Derek’s lab to use advanced proteomics tools to characterize seed-storage proteins from legumes, focusing on pea proteins initially. The project involves characterizing the composition and structure of pea proteins using LC-MS/MS and other biophysical tools, to understand how protein structural changes contribute to quality attributes of pea protein used in food.

During my Ph.D., I studied bacterial enzymes involved in the degradation of lignocellulose using a combination of biochemical, genomics and metagenomic approaches. I joined UBC in 2019, where I led Leonard Foster Lab’s Mitacs industrial projects to develop and apply (phospho)proteomics for studying the mechanism of action of a small molecule drug and combination therapeutics, as well as developing proteomics for protein corona characterization with lipid nanoparticles.


Research Associate

Daniel Foster
Ph.D. Physics. (Focus areas: biophysics and optics)

I joined Derek’s lab in the fall of 2021, to help with the single molecule biophysics work using optical tweezers for force spectroscopy. During my graduate studies at the University of Alberta, I was part of a team who built three optical tweezers instruments in Michael Woodside’s lab. Here we have the commercial Lumicks’ C-trap with which we will explore protein folding.

My graduate research focused on both optical tweezers construction (optics, alignments, programming, CAD) and advancing measurement capabilities, while studying the folding of nucleic acids, both the DNA hairpin model systems, and RNA regulatory elements such as riboswitches and frame shifting pseudoknots. My post doctoral research involved the prototyping of microfluidic devices (from the cleanroom to the wet bench) and the (stop/slit) flow lithography of functional hydrogels (fluophores and functional proteins) in Dae Kun Hwang’s lab.


Summer students in 2024

Rachel Rosenberg (UBC undergraduate NSERC USRA)

I am currently doing my undergraduate degree in food science at UBC. At the Dee lab this summer I will be working on and gaining valuable skills pertaining to recombinant protein expression and purification. I am passionate about creating sustainable food systems via precision fermentation/recombinant protein expression to create alternative protein sources.

Hrishika Dekate (MITACS Globalink intern)

My project focuses on the detailed study of protein dynamics using single-molecule force spectroscopy with optical tweezers, overcoming the limitations of ensemble averaging in bulk samples. By examining single molecules, we aim to uncover critical features such as folding intermediates and misfolded states, which are vital for understanding neurodegenerative diseases.
I am pursuing my undergraduate degree as a chemistry major & biology minor at IISER Kolkata (India); during my internship in Dee Lab, I aspire to learn new skills involving the expression and purification of proteins along with ThT kinetic studies.

Outside of the lab, I enjoy cooking, reading and travelling.

Lab alumni:

  • Lanfang ‘Charlotte’ Shi (M.Sc. Dec 2023)
  • Alexandra Reith (Mitacs Globallink summer student 2023) Hochschule Darmstadt, Germany
  • Jogindh Sivakumar Suganthi (Mitacs Globallink summer student 2023) IISER Pune, India to Max-Planck-Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology
  • Fan Bu (2021-2022) transferred to U. Minn. Pharmacology*
  • Yuran Zhang (M.Sc. Dec 2022), Biochemistry Research Scientist at CarboNet
  • Vivian Zhang -> Wageningen U ( (NSERC summer student 2022)
  • Yu He (Mitacs Worklearn summer student 2022), UBC
  • Prerana Balasubramanian (Mitacs Globalink summer intern 2022), at UMass Amherst
  • Sara Zamani (MSc, Dec 2021)
  • Sneha Kelkar (BSc)
  • Alyssa Robertson (MSc, UGA)
  • Lida Rahimi Araghi (MSc, UGA)
  • Ana Jaworski (MSc, UGA)