Concordia professor Nadia Chaudhri dies at 43, leaving a historic legacy

Amid her fight against ovarian cancer, the neuroscientist inspired hundreds of thousands on the internet

Dr. Nadia Chaudhri, an award-winning neuroscientist, Concordia professor, and beloved mother and wife, passed away on Oct. 5 due to ovarian cancer. While dealing with a terminal diagnosis during the pandemic, Chaudhri demonstrated nothing but courage and inspiration to an audience of over 150,000 on Twitter.

Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, Chaudhri attended Franklin & Marshall College in the U.S. from the age of 17, where she was recognized for outstanding academic and extracurricular achievements. With a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh, Chaudhri has taught at Concordia University since 2010.

The professor had become a role model for the representation of women and minorities in neuroscience research — a cause for which she raised over $630,000 from thousands of donors, setting a record-breaking fundraiser at Concordia. Much of this support had emerged from Chaudhri’s popularity on social media, achieved by inspiring thousands with her personal stories about her fight against cancer, including the highs and lows of her difficult journey.

“Truth time! I can’t get out of bed without help anymore. But I’m gathering my strength for one more Shuffle down the palliative care floor tomorrow. I know I’ve got one more in me,” Chaudhri tweeted on Sept. 11 in an effort to raise funds for the Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award.

“I am not afraid,” Chaudhri added two days later, while spending her final weeks of life at the McGill University Health Centre.

For Dr. Alexandra Chisholm, now a postdoctoral fellow at New York’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Chaudhri played a key motivational role in the early stages of her career.

Chisholm shared with The Concordian that Chaudhri provided exemplary guidance and support when she began teaching the fundamentals of animal learning to undergraduate students in the Department of Psychology at Concordia. The neuroscientist also sent a warm congratulations email to Chisholm for her PhD thesis defense in experimental psychology — which Chaudhri could not attend as cancer complications had already begun.

“She was always the first to volunteer her help and expertise because she genuinely cared about her students’ development, wanted us to feel supported and wanted to push the limits of our critical thinking skills,” said Chisholm. “She helped me to build the confidence I now have today as a course instructor.”

Besides inspiring and funding her students for their success in neuroscience, Chaudhri also raised awareness about ovarian cancer through Twitter. She shared her early symptoms, which were not diagnosed correctly until six months later, in order to help her followers detect any potential complications of their own sooner rather than later. She highlighted how crucial it is to listen to one’s own body, while also stressing the need to fund cancer research as current chemotherapy treatments do not always manage to save lives.

“[Dr. Chaudhri] enriched us. Our entire community grieves her death and offers deeply heartfelt condolences to her son, Reza, and husband, Moni — whom she lovingly called her Sun and Moon — her family, friends, colleagues and the thousands of supporters to the Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award who embraced her cause,” said Concordia President and Vice-Chancellor Graham Carr for a Concordia article.

On Oct. 7, the University lowered its flags to half-mast to commemorate Chaudhri. Despite an early end to her inspiring journey, Chaudhri’s contributions to neuroscience and cancer awareness will not be forgotten by the Concordia community and her international supporters.


Photo courtesy of Nadia Chaudhri’s six-year-old son.


Concordia PhD candidate reaches new heights in bioprinting development

After years of research and development, Hamid Ebrahimi Orimi and his team have made great strides in researching and developing new bioprinting technologies

How has illness impacted you and your loved ones? Every year, millions of people are affected by health issues relating to their organs. While the industry surrounding organ donation saves thousands of lives, it simply isn’t enough. Although the field of bioprinting is nowhere near the stage of the reprinting and transplantation of organs, progress is being made incrementally in the eventual recreation of human tissue here at Concordia by PhD candidate Hamid Ebrahimi Orimi and his team.

Among those in the field of bioprinting, Orimi stands out. As he earns his PhD in mechanical engineering at Concordia, he is also part of a team of bioprinting experts in Montreal. The team is composed of researchers and supervisors from Concordia’s Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science, as well as from the Université de Montréal. The team has been working on a new and innovative approach that could have massive impacts in the field.

So what is bioprinting? Bioprinting technology utilizes biomaterials to replicate natural tissues, like those found in human organs. The process involves a special method of layering to simulate biological tissues. These materials are referred to as bio-inks. Based on Orimi and his team’s technological advances, their newly developed equipment can synthesize droplets of these bio-inks at much quicker rate than other kinds of bioprinters. 

What makes the developments of this team so unique is that they have been able to “validate the feasibility of bioprinting primary adult sensory neurons using a newly developed laser-assisted cell bioprinting technology, known as Laser-Induced Side Transfer (LIST).” Through the team’s research, a type of bioprinting technology has been created through the use of lasers. Their paper on the subject was published in the scientific journal Micromachines. The development of this laser has been a game-changer.

As Orimi himself put it, “I’ve been working on this for the past five years — my PhD work has led me to all these discoveries. I’ve spent years on the development of this auto-mechanical device, which will be able to develop cells needed for bioprinting.”

Since the start of this project, the team has come a long way. “One of our main challenges was about developing the capillary cells properly through the LIST. However, we’ve seen progress in other areas. My colleague, for example, has used the laser technology to work on the cells of the cornea, where there are no blood vessels”, said Orimi.

Because capillaries are the smallest of blood vessels, recreating their cells through the LIST is quite challenging at the moment. The development of tissues that don’t contain capillaries has been sped up because of this.

Since the publication of their paper in Micromachines earlier this summer, further developments have been made. While the paper from July mentioned that the viability of the neuron cells was around 87 per cent on average, “we are now looking at a viability rate of around 93 to 95 per cent,” Orini stated.

For those less familiar with the terminology, there is a distinction to be made between the viability of cells and their functionality. As Orimi put it, “the viability refers to whether or not the cells can survive in the proper substrate (proper substrate: a surface where an organism grows). Functionality is about if they communicate with other cells and mimic behaviours found in human tissue.” While functionality seems to be the bigger concern at the moment, the viability of the bioprinted cells is only improving as research continues.

According to Orimi, the development of their LIST will only accelerate bioprinting technology. What the team hopes to do is to use their laser to assist in the manufacturing of medication. 

“Currently, labs primarily use mice and other animals when doing their research. By the advancements of bioprinting, they would be able to test on manufactured human tissue, which would be better for the accuracy of the drugs.”

The prospects of bioprinting, thanks to the work of dedicated researchers across the world, are looking bright. While there is still a long way to go, Orimi and his team are positive that their laser technology will be of great use as they continue their research.


Photograph by Oona Barrett

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