The lab turns 10!

By , September 4, 2019

Hi All. We are celebrating our 10th year at York University this summer. Where did the time go… I still have vivid memories of the first year, the first experiment, the pre-tenure marathon, the random lab certificates, the epic battles with reviewer 3, the coffee runs, the spontaneous celebrations, and the infamous SDI all-nighter… I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had the pleasure of working with many fabulous people that have helped me and the lab grow over the past 10 years. Thanks a million!!!

For fun, here are a few fun pictures of our journey over the past decade…

2009 – the OG crew! Clement was the first to join the lab, followed by 3 promising undergrads

Zayed Lab, Nov 2009














2010 – First colonies and first honey crop 🙂

2011 – crew getting bigger, Amro still has hair, and the birth of the ‘Bee Unit’

2012 – A bit of an epic year for us…first, we put in a lot of work to do this crazy experiment, which totally fails … “Why do you look so serious Brock… we still have next year?”

still 2012 – the famous SDI all-nighter.  Note to self, pulling SDI all-nighters is a terrible idea.

but the after party was fun…

Not everything failed miserably in 2012… we entered into the lovely world of population genomics… little did we know  that this genomics stuff was going to shape our lives for years to come…

we also got to eat sweet PNAS cake in 2012… ahhh, the look on the cake lady’s face when i asked her to draw fig. 1 🙂

Brock also published this little paper in 2012… it was … ahem … not controversial at all…  😉

We also graduated our first two students in 2012 – yay! 

2013. The calm before the storm…
lab is still getting big. Many fabulous undergrads here! Brock stayed for his PhD and we welcomed 2 new MSc students (Nadia and Daria). Also, legends of the ‘Lior 1000’ started popping up everywhere in the building… Lior – now in med school – managed to extract DNA from 1000 bees in near record time!  That is a lot of phenol chloroform folks!




Dr. Alivia Dey also joined the lab in 2013 – yay!

2014 was a really big year. hmmm, where to begin…Our population genomic study go published in PNAS, which meant that we got to taste PNAS cake again; Cake lady at Longos thinks i am officially mad now.

Nadia launched us into the world of NNIs and bee health… Children of the Corn!

I got tenure

Tenured Card

Samir Kadri brought us some ‘killer’ bees from Brazil. #funguy

Samir and his ‘killer’ bees

and some colleagues from across Canada started plotting for a mega honey bee health genomics project – BeeOMICS!

then, there was the famous “Breaking Bee” portrait… Go ahead… Ask me for an extension on your assignment… 😉

2015 – Sweet STAYbbatical for me. Lab is still getting bigger


We got to celebrate and help launch the BeeOMICs project!


We also replaced Lior with a Robot, which we called the Lior 3000 🙂 [no Liors were harmed during this]

2016 – Realizing the potential for comedy, I finally said goodbye to my receding hair line… and boldly went bald 

in 2016, we also witnessed the creation of a masterpiece in photography: Katie contemplates the meaning of life while watching Alivia pipette 6x dye… transcendental?  why not?

We had a fun time at ICE 2016 in Florida

Brock, Nadia, Katie and myself, along with a few colleagues at ICE 2016

– we started the year with celebrating Brock and Katie’s graduation

The picture below also documents the birth of the tremendous trio! Stephen + Tanu + Harshil = 2+2 -1 = quick maths!

We also initiated some new students into honey bee research


and Nadia published her PhD study on bees and pesticides in the journal Science… it certainly made for an interesting (and exhausting) few months! 

2018 – this first pic here really took me by surprise. My son came back from school yelling  “Dad, Dad, you are in my science homework!”… sure enough, some of the work he was doing in his class had referenced Nadia’s PhD research on bees… published just a few month back… crazy eh?

Then came one of the funniest exchanges during a committee meeting… ever!
Stephen – in a very bold move, presented me and his advisor with a roll of tissue paper ahead of his progress report meeting; He told us that his report was so awesome that we were going to ‘poop our pants’; after a few seconds of shock (and a bit of admiration – no body can pull off something like that except for Stephen), the perfect reply presented itself… i returned the tissue paper roll back to Stephen, and jokingly said “thanks, i don’t need this, i plan to wipe [] with your thesis later”. Tou Ché 🙂 This was the only time i managed to stump Stephen; his report was indeed awesome

We also had a really fun outing at Cold Spring Harbor in the spring of 2018

I co-organized the Cold Spring Harbor meeting on social insect genomics with wonderful colleagues Dr. Sarah Kocher (Princeton) and Dr. Seirian Sumner (University College London)

And when you get that choice, to sit it out or dab… I hope you dab! I hope you dab!

2019 – i think 2019 will go down in the books as another big year for us
Here is an early pic from January after Dr. Rodney Richardson joined the lab… we are still eating cake! 

Oh Captain, My Captain, where art though spirit ?

I had a fun time ‘being’ the entertainment for the first ever CRAM festival. 

and because Genome Canada’s grants are like M&M’s – you can’t have just one –  I spent about 9 months working with colleagues on developing another major proposal, called BeeCSI… Here is part of the team preparing in Toronto before the final showdown – a dragon’s den / shark tank type interview that determines our success or failure… i haven’t gotten so nervous about giving a talk since… ever!

Team BeeCSI – L->R: Steve Pernal, Miriam Bixby, Leonard Foster, Rob Currie, Ida and myself


and here is a picture of us after the big interview in Calgary in May …  yes I borrowed  Laurence Packer’s Bee tie for the big interview… #Lucky Tie

Then, a few days before our 10th anniversary in July, came one of the most epic days in the history of the lab. It started with 2/3rds  of the tremendous trio graduating and the whole crew vigorously celebrated over an extended lunch.


and just when we thought that the celebrations were done, I got a call from Ontario Genomics telling me that our BeeCSI proposal just got funded… Clement snapped these candid pics… Needless to say, the lab went nuts. I can still hear #beethenorth bellowing across the halls of Lumbers and Farquharson! 

So, thanks to all current and past members of the Bee Unit – you’ve made ‘going to work in the morning’ one of my favourite parts of the day! Also, a big thanks to our collaborators – for sharing the fun of discovery with us!



3 Responses to “The lab turns 10!”

  1. Cindy Bell says:

    Congratulations on your amazing journey. You deserve to ??? proud of all of your accomplishments Cindy

  2. Clement Kent says:

    Fantastic assortment of pics! Brings it all back….

  3. Alivia Dey says:

    Lovely trip down memory lane. Very happy and grateful to have been a part of this journey! To years ahead for #beethenorth, Cheers!

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