Oana Birceanu


Assistant Professor

BSc Wilfrid Laurier University 
MSc Wilfrid Laurier University, Integrative Biology
PhD University of Waterloo, Animal Biology
Post-Doctoral Fellowship McCall MacBain Postdoctoral Fellow in Teaching and Leadership – McMaster University. NSERC PDF McMaster University

Office:  MSB 206
p. 519.661.2111 x. 83474
e. obircean@uwo.ca

Why Science?

I grew up in the Romania and spent my summers in the countryside, at my grandparents’ farm. My grandparents had a large influence on the scientist that I am today. In fact, my grandpa was the first person to put a lab coat on me, when he asked my help with his beehives. My first experience with science involved using a manual centrifuge to spin the honey out from the wax frames (running around that centrifuge is still a fun childhood memory). I moved to Canada as a teenager and started my undergraduate education soon after. In my second year, I became a teaching assistant for a first-year chemistry course and realized that I had a passion for teaching. At the end of my third year, I started volunteering in a research lab and got introduced to toxicology. My passion for research only grew after that summer and I completed a fourth-year thesis in fish toxicology and an M.Sc. in fish physiology in the same laboratory at Wilfrid Laurier University. Next, I started a Ph.D. in Animal Biology at University of Waterloo, where I got introduced to molecular biology, epigenetics and aquaculture. I still collaborate with colleagues that I met during my Ph.D. and these collaborations continued to grow even after I completed my degree. During my post-doctoral fellowship at Wilfrid Laurier University, I worked on studying the mode of action of pesticides in fishes and non-target animals, collaborating with the same groups that supported me throughout my M.Sc. and Ph.D. After my tenure at Wilfrid Laurier University, I then completed a second post-doctoral fellowship at McMaster University, where I was able to study the mode of action of the type II diabetes drug metformin, through the support of an NSERC post-doctoral fellowship. At McMaster, I was also awarded a McCall MacBain Postdoctoral Fellowship in Teaching and Leadership, which further strengthened my skills as an educator. Throughout my career, I really enjoyed developing new research questions, developing and strengthening collaborations and mentoring students.

Teaching Goals
When I get asked about teaching, I immediately think of teaching in a classroom and mentoring students on their research projects. To me, the two are interlinked: I use the principles from one to guide the other and vice versa. When I walk into every classroom, my goal is to teach in such a way that will instil a passion for learning and for science into my students. Why? Because teaching and science are my passions and when you love something, you want to share it with the world. As a student mentor, I work with students to develop their critical thinking skills, to feed their inquisitiveness and search of knowledge. I often find myself having debates and discussions with students on science topics, sharing knowledge and exchanging ideas. My goals as a mentor are to support the students who are working with me in their training, whatever that may look like, so that they can find a career that they are passionate about and one where they can thrive in. I hope to create a training environment where we work together as a team, support each other as a research group and grow together as scientists.

Undergraduate Teaching:

Physiology 1021

PhysPharm 3000E

Physiology 3120

Most Rewarding Moments

I still remember the moment my first paper was published, so I would say that this is one of the most memorable moments for me as a student. It was rewarding because I had worked so hard to get it out there. I had spent numerous hours in the laboratory to complete the project; English was and is my second language, and I had no experience writing a journal article. It was a challenge, but with the right support, I did it! I want to be that support for my students when the time comes. As a researcher and educator, some of the most rewarding moments of my career are seeing students start to build up confidence in the laboratory and lead their own experiments. It is so great to be a part of their learning progress! The same goes for the courses I teach (remember how I said that teaching and mentoring are intertwined in my mind?). Seeing students grow throughout the course, start to integrate and apply the material that I am teaching and see its value in the real world is fantastic!

Advice to Students From A Professor’s POV:

It is hard to narrow it down to just one piece of advice. If I were to choose, I would tell my students that it is ok to be wrong and not have all the answers. Do not be afraid to ask questions and share opinions. Learning and research are built on asking questions and finding ways to answer them. Sometimes, the answer is not obvious, and it takes a while to get to it, but not giving up the search is where it’s at. I strive to build an environment in my classroom and my lab where students feel empowered to ask their questions and be active participants in their learning. I think we should also normalize being wrong and making mistakes. If we know it all, then what is there left to learn?

Interests outside of Academia:

I enjoy playing tennis and running. My goal is to run 10 km one day. I have managed 7 km to date, but I am working on it. I used to play tennis competitively as a teenager, so hitting the ball on a wall or playing with my husband takes me back. I hope my children will have the same passion for their sport as I do. I am also an avid reader and enjoy sci-fi books (the Dune series are by far my favourite books).

Awards and Recognitions

NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship

Project title: The mode of action of metformin and guanylurea in zebrafish: Physiological end-points, generational effects and genome altering techniques

Project Date: September 2019 – August 2021

Project location: McMaster University, Hamilton, ON

Project advisor: Dr. Joanna Wilson

McCall MacBain Postdoctoral Fellow Teaching and Leadership

Project title: Horizontal curriculum integration within a Biology program

Project date: January – May 2020

Project location: McMaster University    

Project advisor: Dr. Rosa da Silva

NSERC Alexander Graham Bell CGS-D Scholarship - graduate student scholarship

University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, CA – September 2009–May 2014

Project: Generational effects of bisphenol A on growth and stress performance in trout

Project Supervisor: Dr. Matt Vijayan

Delay in productivity: Maternity leave – September 2012 – May 2013 (8 months)

Visiting Fellow – NSERC Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement 

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany – March–May 2011

Project: Impact of bisphenol A on hormonal and cell cycle rhythms in zebrafish

             Project Host: Dr. Thomas Dickmeis

Highlighted Publications:

  1. +Hepditch, S., Birceanu O., Wilkie, M.P. (shared first authorship). 2021. A toxic unit and additive index approach to understanding the interactions of two piscicides, TFM and niclosamide, in rainbow trout. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 40(5): 1419-1430.
  2. Birceanu, O. and Wilkie, M.P. 2018. Post-exposure effects of the lampricide 3-trifluromethyl-4-nitrophenol (TFM) on the stress axis of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). PLoS ONE 13(7): e0200782. 
  3. Birceanu, O., #Mai, T., Vijayan, M.M. 2015. Maternal transfer of bisphenol A impacts the ontogeny of cortisol stress response in rainbow trout. Aquatic Toxicology, 168: 11-18.
  4. Birceanu, O., Sorensen, A.L., Henry, M., McClelland, G.B., Wang, Y.S., Wilkie, M.P. 2014. The effects of the lampricide 3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol (TFM) on fuel stores and ion balance in a non-target fish, the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part C: Toxicology and Pharmacology, 160: 30-41.
  5. Birceanu, O., McClelland, G.B., Wang, Y.S., Brown, J.C.L., Wilkie, M.P. 2011. The lampricide 3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol (TFM) uncouples mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation in both sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part C: Toxicology and Pharmacology, 153(3): 342-349.