Santyr group pictured at the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning at SickKids

Dr. Giles Santyr

Senior Scientist

Previous Education/ Experience: I pursued undergraduate studies in Physics at Queen’s University in Kingston and received my PhD in Medical Biophysics from the University of Toronto in 1990. I went on to work as a Research Associate and Assistant Scientist at the University of Wisconsin where I earned a National Cancer Institute FIRST award. Moving to Carleton University in Ottawa in 1995, I helped establish the Ottawa Medical Physics Institute and pioneered hyperpolarized xenon-129 for lung MRI in rodents. In 2004, I joined the Robarts Research Institute (RRI) where I held a CIHR Industry-Partnered Chair award for Respiratory Imaging as the Director of the Robarts GE 3T MRI Facility. The RRI team produced the first xenon-129 human lung images in Canada and the first carbon-13 lung images in the world. In 2013, I joined SickKids as a Senior Scientist where I am focusing on MRI approaches to study the lungs of children and young adults.

Current research interests: My current research involves hyperpolarized xenon-129 and proton MRI of anatomical and functional lung tissue and cellular biomarkers, specifically: airway and lung parenchymal morphology, ventilation, perfusion, gas exchange and inflammatory cell trafficking in lung diseases afflicting children and animal models of these diseases.

Current Members

Dr. Brandon Zanette

Laboratory Research Project Manager

Previous Education/ Experience: I obtained my B.Sc. in Physics at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay (2007-2011). I obtained my M.Sc. in Physics at Carleton University in Ottawa (2011-2013). My master’s research involved improving the quantitative accuracy of Dynamic Contrast Enhanced MRI for cancer detection. I am currently obtaining my PhD through the University of Toronto (2013-Present). My research at SickKids involves the use of hyperpolarized 129Xe for pulmonary imaging.

Current research interests: My research involves exploring new functional imaging techniques involving hyperpolarized 129Xe MRI. These techniques involve the quantification of ventilation, perfusion, and gas exchange within the lungs. I specifically look at a disease known as Radiation-Induced Lung Injury (RILI) which manifests as a result of radiotherapy treatment in certain cancer patients. RILI is a debilitating respiratory disease, which can impact patient survival and post-treatment quality of life. If detected early enough, there is the potential to reverse the effects of RILI through modification of radiotherapy treatment or adjuvant therapies. Unfortunately, current techniques are insensitive to the early stages of RILI. Hyperpolarized 129Xe MRI has shown promise for the early detection of RILI, therefore opening the potential for intervention.

Andras Lindenmaier

PhD Candidate

Previous Education/ Experience: I completed my undergraduate education at the University of Toronto (U of T) in 2011, in the Molecular Biophysics Specialist program. During my research thesis and the years leading up to it, I had the chance to explore a range of topics in the laboratories of Dr. Hilmi Ozcelik and Dr. Cynthia Goh, spanning from cancer genome wide association studies to robotic microcontact printing of polyelectrolyte multilayer substrates. After this, I continued on to receive a M.Sc. degree in Medical Biophysics at U of T (2013) in the laboratory of Dr. Alex Vitkin, working on the in vivo characterization of cervical cancer and radiation treatment response monitoring using texture analysis of optical coherence tomography images. I am currently working towards my PhD degree in the Santyr lab on measuring structural changes due to Radiation-Induced Lung Injury (RILI) using diffusion weighted hyperpolarized 129Xe MRI.

Current research interests: While my focus so far has been on using 129Xe for diffusion imaging of the lung microstructure, I have been involved in improving our hyperpolarization techniques for greater throughput of 129Xe gas, as well as pulse sequence development for hyperpolarized gas diffusion MRI. My interests include the application of 129Xe MR morphometry to other diseases as well as its improvement through the use of compressed sensing, cryocoils, and better modeling of molecular diffusion and flow within the lung airways. In the long term, I would like to get more involved in diffusion imaging of the brain with and without 129Xe and DTI.

Yonni Friedlander

PhD Student

Previous Education/ Experience: I completed my B.ASc. in Engineering Physics at Queen’s University and my M.ASc. in nuclear engineering at McMaster University. After graduation, I worked for three years in the nuclear industry for AMEC NSS. In June 2015, I joined the Santyr lab as a PhD student.

Current research interests: I am currently studying the use of xenon as a contrast agent for imaging the brain with MRI. Hopefully, this study will lead to better imaging of blood flow and oxygen consumption in the brain which will provide us with a deeper understanding of strokes, sickle cell disease, and other brain related illnesses.


Jordan Fliss

MSc Student

Previous Education/ Experience: I began my science career in 2011 by attending in Seneca College’s Biotechnology Technologist Advanced Diploma program. While enrolled, I took advantage of extracurricular introductory research and tutoring opportunities through Seneca@York programs. After completing the diploma in 2014, I entered York University’s Biophysics program where I worked with the Derek Wilson Lab Group at the Centre for Research in Mass Spectrometry until graduating in 2018. While there I worked on designing, constructing, and validating custom built microfluidic devices for application in Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry (ESI-MS).

Current research interests: I am currently completing my Master’s research in the Medical Biophysics program at the University of Toronto as part of the Santyr Lab. My research focus is primarily on investigating possible hyperpolarized (HP) 129Xe MRI biomarkers for the non-invasive diagnosis of lung diseases like bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). This work involves the development of HP 129Xe MRI and animal disease models, as well as histological image analysis methods used for their validation.


Samal Munidasa

MSc Student

Previous Education/Experience: I received my BSc from York University in Specialized Honours Biophysics. During my undergraduate degree, I conducted my research in the BioSA Lab where I designed and implemented various biological and physical sensors. I am currently a MSc student in Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto, working at the Hospital for Sick Children.

Current research interests: I am interested in examining pulmonary ventilation and perfusion in pediatric cystic fibrosis (CF) lung disease using 1H MRI and 129Xe MRI techniques. I am currently developing an automated computational pipeline to reliably and efficiently evaluate ventilation defects in CF and hope to extend my work to neonatal lung diseases.


Janny Kim

MSc Student

Previous Education/Experience: I completed my B.Sc degree at University of Toronto in the Biophysics Specialist program (2015-2019). During my fourth year at U of T, I worked on a thesis project with Dr. Sofia Chavez at CAMH. I studied the effect of B1 inhomogeneity in MRI and assessed accuracy in 4 different methods for correcting the B1 effect. Currently, I am completing my M.Sc degree in Medical Biophysics at U of T. I joined the Santyr lab in September 2019.

Current research interests: My research focus is on using the stem cells derived alveolar-like macrophages (ALMs) and super-paramagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) to localize areas of lung injuries and to visualize them using hyperpolarized 129Xe MRI. SPION labelled ALMs can be utilized as non-invasive therapeutic means for chronic lung diseases. Testing the local specificity of ALM instillation, the period for how long they last in the lungs, and their therapeutic effectiveness are the main aims for this project.

Elaine Stirrat

Research Project Co-ordinator

Previous Education/ Experience: I completed my B.Sc. in Medical Physics at Western University where I had the opportunity to work on a 4th year thesis project in the Santyr lab. In 2012, I started working for Dr. Santyr at Robarts Research Institute until 2015 when I moved to Toronto to join the SickKids group.

Current research interests: I am currently working on using 3D MRI to measure lung volume as a function of late gestational age in both subjects with healthy or intrauterine growth restriction in third-trimester fetuses. This project is focused on examining impaired lung function in fetuses affected by placental insufficiency, and the potential implications for respiratory function following birth. I am also involved with providing technical support for other projects in the lab such as project planning and image processing.


Daniel Li

Research Technologist

Previous Education/ Experience: I completed my B.Sc. in Biology (Physiology) at McMaster University in 2012 and received my M.Sc. in Biology/Neuroscience in 2015. I have worked in different labs at SickKids since then and have joined Santyr Lab in May 2018.


Current research interests: I am currently working on developing a rodent model for BPD to be used for our imaging experiments.Alongside developing new techniques for intubation and ventilation, I am also involved with providing support for other lab projects.


Dr. Shahideh Safavi

Research Fellow

Previous Education/ Experience: I read medicine at St George’s University of London, graduating with honours in 2008. I pursued my medical training in London and Nottingham, specialising in respiratory and general internal medicine. I obtained my PhD in respiratory medicine from the University of Nottingham in 2019, and was appointed to the post of clinical assistant professor in respiratory medicine. My research has been focused on developing MRI biomarkers of respiratory diseases, and I have been involved in the design and conduct of a number of clinical trials, using proton MRI on a novel open upright scanner, hyperpolarised xenon-129 MRI, and oxygen-enhanced MRI.

Current research interests: Funded by the Royal Society of Medicine Ellison-Cliffe travel grant and the Morriston-Davies award, I am currently on sabbatical from the University of Nottingham, undertaking a post-doc at the Santyr lab. My focus is on developing and learning MR image analysis techniques as well as conducting a clinical trial of the role of functional and structural MR lung imaging in paediatric patients with a number of conditions, including severe asthma.


Lumeng Cui

PhD Candidate

Previous Education/ Experience: I received my B.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering at Beijing Institute of Technology in Beijing, China (2010-2014). I completed my M.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan (2014-2017). My master’s research was to explore and study Magnetic Resonance Elastography for Applications in Radiation Therapy.

Current research interests: Currently, I am pursuing my Ph.D. with the University of Saskatchewan; and my research is focusing on developing a flexible Ultrashort Echo Time (UTE) sequence to investigate Robust Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Short T2 Tissues. I joined Dr. Santyr’s lab at SickKids in November 2019 through the Mitacs Accelerate internship program with a collaboration of Sickkids, University of Saskatchewan, and Siemens Healthineer. Here at the Santyr lab, I am hoping to learn hyperpolarized xenon-129 gas MRI methods in lung imaging and collaborate with the lab to continue and improve my UTE sequence development with the resources at SickKids.

Lab Alumni

Dr. Marcus Couch

Research Fellow

Ozkan Doganay

PhD Graduate

Felipe Morgado

M.Sc. Graduate

Vlora Riberdy

M.Sc. Graduate

Nikhil Kanhere

Research Project Co-ordinator

Saidah Hack

Clinical Research Project Assistant

Spencer Christiansen

SSuRe Student

Sid Sadanand

Research Analyst

Jennifer Zheng

Summer Student

Luca Talamo

Summer Student

Cynthia Yeung

Summer Student
Jack Zheng

Jack Zheng

Summer Student

Raymond Hu

Summer Student

Jeff Zabel

Co-op Student