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
Ph.D. candidate, co-supervised with prof. Ricky 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.
I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Food Science at UBC with an undergraduate thesis in our lab, entitled “Characterization of the assembly kinetics and structure of lentil protein nanofibrils”. My current MSc research is focusing on improving the self-assembly of legume protein nanofibrils for use in fibril-based gels and films. When outside of the laboratory, I enjoy music, movies and photography.
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.
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 2023
MITACS Globalink & Worklearn interns
Incoming undergraduate students will be learning new skills in protein purification and contribute to research projects in the Dee lab. Watch this space!
- Fan Bu (2021-2022) transferred to U. Minn. Pharmacology*
- Yuran Zhang (M.Sc. Dec 2022)
- Vivian Zhang -> Wageningen U (wur.nl) (NSERC summer student 2022)
- Yu He (Mitacs Worklearn summer student 2022)
- Prerana Balasubramanian (Mitacs Globalink summer intern 2022)
- Sara Zamani (MSc, Dec 2021)
- Sneha Kelkar (BSc)
- Alyssa Robertson (MSc, UGA)
- Lida Rahimi Araghi (MSc, UGA)
- Ana Jaworski (MSc, UGA)