Announcing Dr. Denuja Karunakaran as 2016 Institute Trainee of the Year

We are pleased to announce that Denuja Karunakaran, PhD, has been awarded 2016 Trainee of the Year! Dr. Karunakaran will be receiving her award and presenting her research on Research Day, May 30 2016.

Dr. Denuja Karunakaran is a postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Katey Rayner in the Cardiometabolic microRNA Laboratory at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI). Her postdoctoral research focus is on macrophage-driven mechanisms in atherosclerosis. Prior to joining the Institute, Dr. Karunakaran completed her PhD at Monash University in Australia where she studied novel mechanisms of platelet activation in thrombus formation.

Dr. Karunakaran has been a trainee “tour de force” in the Rayner lab as well as at the Institute. In the three short years since joining the group, she has demonstrated excellent research productivity and leadership. She has begun to establish her independent research program through initiating collaborations with the Interventional Cardiology group at the UOHI and Australia to better understand macrophage and platelet function in atherothrombosis. She has also developed an independent project within Dr. Rayner’s research program looking at the mechanisms of exacerbated atherosclerosis and macrophage cholesterol accumulation in patients with psoriasis in collaboration with Dr. Girish Dwivedi.

Dr. Karunakaran has supervised and mentored several junior trainees in the lab, and hosted high school students as part of the CIHR “Gene Researcher for a Week” program. She also helped establish the UOHI Trainee Committee and served as Co-Chair from 2014-16.

Highlights of Dr. Karunakaran’s achievements in 2015-16:

  • Three first-author papers in leading journals, including a Circulation Research publication, “Macrophage Mitochondrial Energy Status Regulates Cholesterol Efflux and Is Enhanced by Anti-miR33 in Atherosclerosis
  • Four oral presentations at prestigious, international scientific meetings including the American Heart Association and Experimental Biology.
  • Received peer reviewed funding including from CIHR to present at international meetings.
  • Session Chair at the Experimental Biology Scientific Meeting 2015 and a member of the Program Committee for the American Society of Investigative Pathology as part of Experimental Biology.
  • Hosted Dr. Rosanne Crooke, VP Drug Discovery at Ionis Pharmaceuticals, in a UOHI Trainee Committee Invited Lecture.
  • Co-inventor on a provisional patent application identifying necroptosis as a biomarker of vulnerable lesions.



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