Aaron Goodarzi

PhD in Protein Biochemistry Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Postdoctorate in Radiation Biology Genome Damage and Stability Centre University of Sussex, United Kingdom

Aaron Goodarzi

Areas of Research

DNA damage repair, Radiation Biology, Chromatin Dynamics, Cell Biology
In our lab, we study how ionizing radiation (such as gamma rays, x-rays or alpha particles) impact human DNA and overall health. The human genome is subject to an extraordinary burden of oxidative DNA damage throughout life, driving cancer formation and, for genetically susceptible individuals, numerous other debilitating diseases particularly of the brain and central nervous system. Our research aims at understanding and developing solutions to human pathologies caused by radiation induced DNA damage, with a particular focus on developing the molecular knowledge required to develop novel disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment strategies. Our primary disciplined are cell biology, molecular biology and biochemistry, with a major focus on advanced microscopy and live-cell imaging. Our research areas are applicable to cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as a variety of developmental disorders caused by a failed DNA damage response. We have THREE MAIN PROJECTS:
Project #1 - SNM1 nuclease-mediated DNA repair
The SNM1 nucleases, including SNM1A, SNM1B (also called Apollo) and SNM1C (also called Artemis) are very important DNA repair enzymes that confer resistance to either DNA double strand breaks or DNA interstrand crosslinks. This biochemistry, cell biology and synthetic chemistry oriented project is about defining the functional interplay of the three SNM1 (Sensitive to Nitrogen Mustard 1) nucleases in DNA repair, and applying our mechanistic understanding of SNM1C as well as the synthesis of novel compounds to develop new methods of analyzing DNA damage.
Project 2 - Chromatin remodeling in oxidative DNA damage responses
Chromatin (the DNA and protein complex that our genome is packaged in) is highly dynamic, particularly in response to DNA damage. This cell and molecular biology oriented project focusses on our discovery that the CHD6 chromatin remodelling enzyme, which is often over-expressed in cancers, is an important oxidative DNA damage response factor. The goal is to determine the molecular mechanism by which CHD6 is stabilized by and recruited to oxidative DNA damage, and the significance of this to DNA repair, cancer cell growth and the cellular transcriptional response to oxidatively stressed microenvironments.
Project 3 - Alpha-particle-induced DNA damage
This project is about genomic instability diseases, including cancer, caused by the most common type of ionizing radiation exposure, namely alpha-particles from radon and other environmental radionuclides. We are studying human responses to alpha particle exposure, examining compounds that may block the negative health effects of alpha radiation exposure and examining gene signatures that predispose people to cancer following alpha irradiation (from radon gas). This is a very interdisciplinary project involving biologists, geologists, psychologists, population health specialists, architects and home engineering experts that aims to examine all aspects of radon exposure in Canada, with a view towards reducing the burden of the 1,000's of lung cancers caused by radon each year in Canada.

Supervising degrees

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology - Doctoral: Unavailable
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology - Masters: Unavailable

Working with this supervisor

We are currently looking for PhD students. The ideal candidate should have a BSc (honours) or, preferably, an MSc degree and be an author on at least one original research publication in the fields of Biology, Biochemistry or an equivalent field. Knowledge of the DNA damage response field is a major bonus. An equivalent GPA of 3.5 or higher is essential, as well as fluency in spoken and written English. As some of our research interests are interdisciplinary by nature, individuals with background experience (in addition to Biology) in population health, psychology and/or statistics will also be considered strongly.