The Zach Hall Lab at the University of Alberta

Author: Zach Hall

A near year of updates by a responsible, timely supervisor

The starting up of the lab with a full set of grad and undergrad students has made quite the busy year. I also taught my first course, Ethological Mechanisms (ZOOL 370), which spoke for much of my Winter semester in 2023.

That all being said, in the middle of a weather-confused summer seems like as great a time as ever to celebrate some of the wonderful things to come out of the lab.


A wonderful highlight of our last semester of 2022 was a second-year thesis student, Olivia, joining our lab for a BIOL 298 project. Olivia was a great addition to the lab and worked hard to uncover some interesting impacts of embryonic development of the peripheral nervous system. She capped off the semester with a great poster as part of the BIOL 298 class.



As mentioned above, I taught my first course at UofA this semester. It was a lot of fun and made easier by the fantastic topics I got to teach (the neurobiology and physiology of predatory and prey behaviours in a huge variety of animals) and a great class of students.

Outside of the classroom, The Department of Biological Sciences held its annual celebration of student work, the R.E. Peter Conference. Several students attended, including Kayla with her fantastic poster on FPW run-off and zebrafish development. Also:

Gabriel presented in one of the poster sessions with an outline of his ongoing work addressing the development of peripheral sensory neurons in zebrafish. Since this presentation, his work has taken leaps and bounds, culminating in an impressive amount of data and promising future paths.

And masters student, Shelby, delivered a presentation on her dual-approach paradigms to studying neural input that may drive developmental neurogenesis. Most impressively, Shelby was awarded best Masters talk of the conference!



As things have been ramping up over the summer, I thought it best to post about how we started it. The whole lab (missing Shelby who was very tragically under the weather) went to a board game cafe. This meeting doubled as a farewell to Parya, who has been an undergrad researcher in the lab since we began and is off to pursue medical school. We will miss her!

A Poster so nice, Kayla gave it twice and our End of Summer Celebration

As the last couple days of August disappear, the Hall lab has survived our first Summer Term! Kayla Lottin, a wildly talented undergraduate chemistry student in our lab, finished her I-STEAM pathways summer internship by presenting her work on the impact of flowback-produced water (FPW) on zebrafish brain and behaviour development at the I-STEAM end of Summer Celebration.

But it doesn’t stop there! Kayla, still eager to share her new discoveries, presented her work again at the Faculty of Science Undergraduate Research Symposium later that same day!


After breaking the news to Kayla that there were no more venues she could present a poster in, the whole lab got together that evening, including our new PhD candidate, Gabriel, to celebrate together for the first time outside of the lab at the MKT Beer Market.

As a supervisor, I have had an incredible summer realizing how lucky I am to work alongside such a great group of trainees. Even more fortunately, everyone will be staying on board as we begin the Fall Term. Micaiah, after an impressive summer of cloning, will begin his Masters degree in the lab and both Parya and Kayla will continue their work as undergraduate thesis students. Arash continues to chip away at the end of his PhD and Gabriel will begin his own! It is difficult not to be excited for all of the great work to come.

Parya’s URI award, Kayla’s I-STEAM award, the Team and the upcoming Summer of Research!

The labspaces are renovated, the equipment purchased, the fish are growing up, and maybe winter will end in Edmonton someday–we are ready to truly kick off our research program this summer!

Some of our very first trainees have already secured stipends and awards that will pay for their work throughout the summer in the Hall lab:

Parya Pourbehi was awarded an University of Alberta Undergraduate Research Initiative (URI) award to begin testing whether muscular disease, by impairing movement early in life, has indirect impacts on concurrent brain development.

Kayla Lottin will be working in the lab this summer on a collaborative project with Dr. Tamzin Blewett looking at the effects of hydraulic fracturing wastewater exposure on nervous system development in embryonic and larval zebrafish.

Micaiah Achtymichuk will be working in the summer as a research assistant, flexing his molecular biology knowledge to help develop, test, and rear some new transgenic zebrafish strains central to future research projects.

I am also very proud to announce that Gabriel Dillenburg was accepted into the University of Alberta Graduate Program and will be moving to Canada to begin his Ph.D. program in our lab in the fall, studying the importance of movement on postembryonic development of the peripheral sensory nervous system.

Finally, and more immediately, I am helping co-supervise Arash Shahriari from Dr. Keith Tierney’s lab as he pivots his Ph.D. work on the effects of odourant complexity and aging in adult zebrafish olfaction towards anatomy. Arash will be investigating age-dependent changes in the anatomy and function of the olfactory epithelium over the coming summer!

We are fortunate to have such a wonderful group of trainees starting in the research program. As well, I am still looking for new trainees at an undergraduate/graduate level to start from Fall 2022 onward. If you are interested or know someone else who might be, check the Contact page for ways to reach out to me!

Lab (Re-)Opened, October 2021! Looking for students.

Both my dog, Zeke, and I have made the move back to Edmonton and the lab space is open for business (science)!

Don’t worry if the lab looks a little empty–over the coming weeks, I will be outfitting our space with new equipment to enable the many different, exciting approaches my lab will use to investigate the role of sensory experience in early brain development in zebrafish.

But lab equipment is nothing without students to use it! Accordingly, I am actively looking to recruit students of all levels (undergraduate, MSc, PhD) to help start up my research program at U of A.

Are you interested in the mechanisms through which the things we sense early in life guide ongoing brain development, but need a supportive supervisor eager to study the same thing? Check out the “Research” and “Opportunities” sections of my website and reach out to me (see “Contact”) to see if we could be a good fit in research using exciting, new approaches to experience-dependent brain development.