Dr. Jensen Cherewyk (PhD), Dr. Juan Camilo Parra Aguirre (PhD), Dr. Daniel Moreno Reyes (DVM, MSc), Dr. Hiruni Kathyana Deeyagahage (PhD) and Dr. Adrian Hernandez Ortiz (PhD). Photos: Christina Weese.
Clockwise from top left: Dr. Jensen Cherewyk (PhD), Dr. Juan Camilo Parra Aguirre (PhD), Dr. Daniel Moreno Reyes (DVM, MSc), Dr. Hiruni Kathyana Deeyagahage (PhD) and Dr. Adrian Hernandez Ortiz (PhD). Photos: Christina Weese.

Graduate students with WCVM links celebrated at USask spring convocation

A group of 13 University of Saskatchewan (USask) graduate students with links to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) are among the 3,600-plus students who took part in the university’s spring convocation ceremonies in early June.

By Rigel Smith

Eight of the graduate students received their Master of Science (MSc) degrees and five students earned Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees. This group includes several graduate students based in the USask Toxicology Centre whose research work was supervised or co-supervised by WCVM faculty members.

Dr. Piyachat Saengsawang (DVM), also received a graduate certificate after completing a one-year small animal rotating internship at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre.

The convocation ceremony for the WCVM and USask College of Agriculture and Bioresources took place on Wed., June 5. Click here to view the USask Spring Convocation booklet.



Juan Camilo Parra Aguirre, PhD program

Supervisors: Drs. John Harding and Heather Wilson (Department of Veterinary Microbiology)

Thesis title (embargoed): “Development of a transmission model and evaluation of non-antimicrobial strategies against swine dysentery”


Nicholas Shiu Tsun Wong

Supervisors: Drs. Murray Jelinski and Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Thesis title: “Characterization of the bacterial communities located on the skin surface of digital dermatitis and foot rot lesions of feedlot cattle”

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Lameness in feedlot cattle is a major health concern with significant economic and welfare implications. Wong’s research focused on two common hoof diseases that are significant contributors to lameness — foot rot (FR) and digital dermatitis (DD). Using surface hoof swabs from cattle, the researchers identified distinct bacterial communities associated with FR, DD, and combined FR and DD infections. Wong’s study found that the bacterial communities of these infectinos were distinct from the healthy control skin. Additionally, he characterized mixed bacterial communities of combined DD and FR lesion for the first time. This research provides valuable insights into the bacterial makeup of these infections, aiding in better treatment and potential control strategies for the feedlot industry.



Hiruni Kathyana Deeyagahage, PhD program

Supervisor: Dr. Tony Ruzzini

Thesis title (embargoed): “Antimicrobial peptides inspired by staphylococcal phenol soluble modulin d-toxins”


Gaurav Malik, MSc program

Supervisor: Dr. Yan Zhou

Thesis title: “Regulation of nuclear RIG-I mediated interferon signaling by DUSP11 during influenza A virus infection”

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Influenza A virus (IAV) poses a significant public health threat due to its ability to rapidly evolve and evade the innate immune system, preventing an immune response. In his research work, Gaurav discovered that the protein DUSP11 plays a key role in helping IAV avoid immune detection by altering genetic information in the cell. Gaurav’s study suggests that targeting DUSP11 could be a promising strategy to enhance immune responses against IAV and similar viruses.


Fatima Masood, MSc program

Supervisors: Drs. Tony Ruzzini and Sarah Wood

Thesis title (embargoed): “Antimicrobial resistance and genomic characterization of North American Melissococcus plutonius isolates”


Adrian Hernandez Ortiz, PhD program

Supervisor: Dr. Emily Jenkins

Thesis title: “Serological and molecular evaluation of tissue-dwelling parasites (sarcocystidae) in harvested wildlife in the Canadian Arctic”

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Country foods such as game meats, are essential to Inuit culture and food security, but they can carry parasites like Toxoplasma gondii that can infect humans. Ortiz’s work aimed to determine the prevalence of T. gondii and similar parasites in wildlife harvested in the Canadian Arctic, specifically caribou and beluga whales. Through his research, Ortiz found that the risk of zoonotic transmission of T. gondii from harvesting and consuming these animals is low, but not zero. This research underscores the need for improved testing protocols and highlights the importance of a One Health approach to ensure the health of humans and animals in the Canadian North.


Phi Pham, MSc program

Supervisor: Dr. Joe Rubin

Thesis title: “Antimicrobial resistant bacteria detected from imported snails and bottom dwelling fish”

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Food is a common carrier of antimicrobial resistant bacteria that can reduce the efficacy of antibiotics in fighting infections. Pham’s work focused on testing imported snails and fish in Canadian grocery stores — which are not included in the Canadian surveillance program for antimicrobial resistance — to determine whether these foods carry antimicrobial resistant bacteria and genes. His tests revealed that these products did carry several harmful bacteria, including E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, that had resistance genes. These findings suggest that imported foods might contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria, highlighting the need for better surveillance of these products in Canada to protect public health.



Yasmine Messiaen, MSc program

Supervisor: Dr. Cindy Shmon

Research focus:  Ex vivo evaluation of spinal canal temperature after application of polymethyl methacrylate to the feline vertebral lamina with and without saline irrigation


Daniel Moreno Reyes

Supervisor: Dr. Kevin Cosford

Research focus: Assessment of hemostasis in hyperthyroid and euthyroid cats using two viscoelastic assays and platelet aggregometry


Graduate certificate in small animal rotating veterinary internship (one year)

Piyachat Saengsawang



Hadi Tabarraei, MSc program

Supervisor: Dr. Michael Wu

Thesis title: “The roles of ccf-1 and PAL-1 genes in aging and stress resistance of Caenorhabditis elegans

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Tabarraei’s research focuses on the ccf-1 gene, a key component in regulating gene expression and cellular processes, and its role in stress responses and lifespan in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans). By exposing the worms to environmental stressors like cadmium and acrylamide, Tabarraei found that ccf-1 is essential for activating stress-responsive genes and is crucial for the lifespan of certain worm mutants. Additionally, his research identified the PAL-1 protein as a new factor that interacts with ccf-1 to influence stress responses. These findings have broader implications for understanding stress and aging mechanisms in C. elegans and potentially in more complex organisms, including people.


TOXICOLOGY (supervised or co-supervised by WCVM faculty)

Kate Samantha Prestie, MSc program

Supervisors: Dr. David Janz (Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences); Drs. Som Niyogi and Iain Phillips (College of Arts and Science), Dr. Iain Phillips; and Dr. Tim Jardine (School of Environment and Sustainability)

Thesis title: “Development, evaluation, and implementation of a standardized fish community-based index of biotic integrity for evaluating the ecological health of boreal plains streams and rivers in Saskatchewan, Canada”

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Fish-based index of biotic integrity (IBI) tools play a crucial role in assessing and monitoring the health of freshwater ecosystems. Despite a prosperous, significant fishery and ample aquatic habitats, Saskatchewan and much of Canada’s boreal region currently lack a fish-based IBI framework. This study developed and evaluated a fish-based IBI framework for streams and rivers of the Beaver River watershed in Saskatchewan’s Boreal Plain ecozone. The study’s results reinforce the importance of long-term monitoring to decipher trends in natural variation of fish communities from variation created by anthropological stressors and can inform fisheries and aquatic ecosystem health management and decision making in Saskatchewan as well as other watersheds in boreal plains throughout Canada.


Jensen Cherewyk, PhD program

Supervisors: Drs. Barry Blakley (Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences) and Ahmad Al-Dissi (Department of Veterinary Pathology)

Thesis title: “Biological activity, analytical detection, and degradation assessment of the S-epimers of ergot alkaloids”

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Ergot-contaminated food and feed currently poses a health risk to humans and animals. The fungus produces six common ergot alkaloids that exist in two configurations: the C-8-R-isomer (R-epimer) and the C-8-S-isomer (S-epimer), the latter of which has been studied to a lesser extent. Results of Cherewyk’s study demonstrated the bioactivity of the S-epimers — a research first — and the use of a novel in silico method to assess how the S-epimers may contribute to the adverse effects associated with ergot alkaloids. As well, Cherewyk observed high concentrations of S-epimers within ergot contaminated samples. The use of ammonia as a method to degrade ergot epimers may be practical within the agriculture industry. Results of Cherewyk’s study encourage the inclusion of the S-epimers into global food and feed guidelines for the protection of human and animal health.


Oluwabunmi Peace Femi-Oloye, PhD program

Supervisor: Dr. John Giesy (Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences)

Thesis title: “Individual and combined effects of selected emerging safeners: mefenpyr di-ethyl and cyprosulfamide and their co-herbicides, fenoxaprop-p-ethyl and isoxaflutole on Daphnia magna and Danio rerio

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Herbicides and safeners have been formulated together to help protect crop plants from the injurious effects of herbicides while maintaining the ability of the herbicides to selectively remove targeted weeds. These groups of compounds became important as agriculture increased to sustain the world's ever-increasing population. The study used selected emerging safeners (SESs), mefenpyr di-ethyl and cyprosulfamide, and their co-herbicides (fenoxaprop-pethyl and isoxaflutole), which are used during pre- and post-emergence of cereals and grains. Key findings were that even if SESs contributed to mitigating the effects of herbicides on the animal models, there are sublethal effects associated with it, and the adverse outcome is still a cause for concern. Also, safeners categorized as inert should be re-evaluated to account for all their toxic potential.