Heather Yoell

Heather Yoell, M.Sc.  is the Xu lab research technician. She graduated with her B.Sc.(Agr.) from the University of Guelph in 1986, and her M.Sc. from the University of Saskatchewan in 1992.   She taught English at several universities in China, and has worked at the University of Toronto in Mississauga and Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, as a research technician in fungal genetics.

She is currently in collaboration with an industrial partner on a project to develop diagnostics for fungal diseases. She is also the lab’s “biosafety pest”, providing training, maintaining records, and keeping an eye on people’s techniques and practices in our Biosaftey Level II lab. She and JP enjoy welcoming lab members to their home in Dundas.



Adrian Forsythe

Adrian obtained his Bachelor of Science in Biology from Trent University, where he completed a thesis project on algal population dynamics. He began his MSc degree (Specialization in Astrobiology) in September of 2014. Since then, the main focus of his research has been on the fungal pathogen, Pseudogymnoascus destructans. As the agent responsible for White Nose Syndrome in North American bat species, P. destructans is the most devastating zoonotic epidemic of mammals on record, already contributing to  >7 million deaths. His thesis project incorporates the investigation of samples obtained from Eastern Canadian bats. By observing the genetic basis of phenotypic plasticity in P. destructans, we intend to determine how White Nose Syndrome has changed since the first infection was documented in 2006. The goal of Adrian’s research is to provide crucial information to aid control strategies.

Adrian was involved with Varsity Swimming during both his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees. His backstroke times are as follows: 50m 27.99, 100m 57.96, 200m 2:05.00.

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Himeshi Samarasinghe

Himeshi started in the Xu lab as an undergraduate independent project volunteer in January 2015. She obtained her B.Sc. from McMaster University with a Biology major and a Psychology minor. She joined the lab full-time as a Masters thesis student in September 2015. Himeshi works with Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus deneoformans, two fungal sister-species that cause opportunistic infections in humans that could be fatal in severely immunocompromised individuals. Her project is focused on the biochemical dynamics of melanin pigmentation in Cryptococcus, a major factor that contributes to its virulence. She also works on the genetics of hybridization between the two species.

When she gets time off of science, she enjoys playing the violin, reading murder mysteries and cuddling with cats. She is also a volunteer at McMaster Children’s Hospital and St.Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.


Greg Korfanty

Greg has transitioned from doing his Undergraduate Thesis in the Xu Lab, to an MSc , and is now a PhD student. Greg’s research focuses on the human fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus and its global diversity and resistance to antifungals. Being an opportunistic pathogen, it infects individuals who are immunocompromised, and can cause highly lethal invasive aspergillosis. Greg is currently isolating A. fumigatus from soil samples collected from New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, and China and will analyze their resistance to antifungals and their genetic diversity. Identifying these aspects will provide exciting data on the spread and gene flow of A. fumigatus from around the world.

In his spare time, Greg enjoys spending time with lab members, or playing video games.



Sarah Sandor

Sarah is currently a first year MSc student. After graduating from McMaster’s Arts & Science Program in April 2018, Sarah decided to continue conducting research in the Xu lab after having worked in the lab as part of her fourth year undergraduate thesis project. Sarah studies poisonous Amanita mushrooms, which are among some of the most deadly mushrooms on earth causing hundreds of human deaths each year. Specifically, she is interested in trying to understand the ecological significance of toxin production in these organisms through examining mushroom-insect interactions both in the lab and in nature. Sarah spent the first four months of her graduate work, from May until August 2018, studying at the Kunming Institute of Botany in Kunming, China where she collected Amanita samples and completed some preliminary experiments.


Sally (Man You)

Sally (Man You) started as a masters thesis student in September 2016, and continued her PhD in May 2018 in the Xu lab. Sally works with the human pathogenic Cryptococcus species complex, Cryptococcus gattii and Cryptococcus neoformans. Her current research focuses on the phenotypic diversity and genotypic plasticity of hybrid progeny from inter-lineage and intra-lineage genetic crosses in this species complex. She will be working on the genetic bases of the observed phenotypic diversity and the genetic stability of these hybrids.

Sally enjoys traveling, handmaking, and playing the flute (trying to pick up) in her spare

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Yue Wang

Yue joined the Xu Lab in September 2018 as a MSc student. Here, she develops interests in studying mitochondrial introns. Known to be useless for protein coding, they are still widely distributed in fungal mitochondrial genomes. Yue is currently studying the mitochondrial intron distributions in Cryptococcus neoformans var. grubii and their relationships with the geographic distributions, mating types and other genotypes. Further, she wants to investigate the intron functions and their evolutionary process.

Yue loves animals, especially hamsters, and cooking.




Arshia joined the Xu  Lab in September 2019 as a 4th year undergraduate thesis student. He is currently examining the population genetics of environmental French Aspergillus fumigatus isolates from soil that he obtained on a vacation to France earlier this year. He is looking at how the French A.fumigatus genotypes compare to the genotypes of A.fumigatus populations found in other areas of the world, and also if the French environmental population are resistant to the commonly used anti-fungal azole drugs used as a first line therapy in medicine today.

In his spare time, Arshia enjoys boxing, running, and playing piano.