Our Symposium Co-Chairs

Jonathan Lai

Jonathan Lai, Ph.D. - Co Chair

Department of Biochemistry
Albert Einstein College of Medicine


Jonathan Lai received his B. Sc. Hons. in Biochemistry from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 1999. One of his first experiences with laboratory science was a summer research project purifying natural product antibiotics in Prof. John Vederas's lab at the University of Alberta in 1997. He received his Ph.D. in Biophysics and Chemistry in 2004 with Prof. Samuel H. Gellman at the University of Wisconsin where he studied peptide structure, function, and engineering as a Canadian National Sciences and Engineering Research Council Scholar.

From 2004-2007, he was Helen Hay Whitney Post-Doctoral Fellow with Prof. Christopher T. Walsh in Biological Chemistry at Harvard Medical School where he worked on the structure, function, and engineering of non-ribosomal peptide synthetase assembly line enzymes. In 2007 he completed an additional post-doctoral fellowship with Prof. Stephen C. Harrison at Harvard where he focused on structural virology and X-ray crystallography. He began his independent career at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 2007, where he is currently Associate Professor of Biochemistry.

His lab has worked on a broad range of topics in peptide and protein structure, function, and engineering for biomedical applications. His group has defined the role of pH-dependent conformational changes in viral glycoproteins for the entry mechanisms of Ebola, Marburg, and arenaviruses. In addition Dr. Lai described the first and only human scaffold protective antibodies against the Sudan virus, and the first engineered cross-protective filovirus antibodies. His work has resulted in over 40 peer-reviewed publications and 8 patent applications. He was recipient of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Young Investigator Award in 2009 and the Irma T. Hirschl/Monique Weill-Caulier Career Scientist Award in 2015

John C. Vederas

John Vederas, Ph.D., Co Chair

Department of Chemistry
University of Alberta


John C. Vederas is Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry since June 2000 at the University of Alberta. He obtained a B.Sc. in Chemistry from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry, synthesis, with the late George Büchi from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His postdoctoral work at the University of Basel, with Christoph Tamm, and at Purdue University, with Heinz Floss, inspired a continuing interest in application of organic chemistry to understanding of biological mechanisms, especially in polyketide and peptide biosynthesis.

He joined the University of Alberta as an Assistant Professor in 1977 and subsequently held the Canada Research Chair in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry from 2001 to 2015. He has received recognition for research and teaching from the University of Alberta, including the Rutherford Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the University Cup for Research and Teaching, the J. Gordin Kaplan Award for Excellence in Research, the Killam Award for Excellence in Mentoring, and the Klawe Prize in Teaching Large Classes.

John is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Alberta Centennial Medal recipient. He has received the Merck Sharp Dohme Award, the John Labatt Award, the R. U. Lemieux Award, and the Alfred Bader Award from the Canadian Society for Chemistry for his research. In 2008 he was awarded the Chemical Institute of Canada Medal, the society's highest honor, and in 2009 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, London. He received the 2010 Leadership in Science Award from the Alberta Science & Technology Foundation. In 2014 he was made a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. He served in numerous scientific organizations, was President of the Canadian Society for Chemistry, 2002-2003, a Member of Council of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Chair of the 2008 Annual Conference of the Canadian Society for Chemistry, and Chair of the Chemical Institute of Canada for 2015-2016.


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