Sabrina Leslie

Associate Professor, Faculty of Science, Michael Smith Laboratories, UBC


My academic training began in 1998 as an undergraduate at UBC, where I immersed myself in the Combined Honours Physics and Mathematics Program, graduating as a Canada Scholar and recipient of the CK Choi Presidential Award. In 2002, I moved to UC Berkeley as an NSERC fellow to pursue doctoral studies in optical and atomic physics. Under the guidance of Dr. Dan Stamper-Kurn, I pioneered imaging experiments of disorder-to-order transitions of atomic vapours held in optical traps. My PhD work was published in top journals and provided me with extensive training in instrumentation, imaging, data analysis, and team-based science. 

In 2009, I made a significant transition, from visualizing atoms in vacuum chambers, to visualizing biomolecules in liquids; a transition by a desire to get a little closer to life in my research. My transition to the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University was made possible with a Mary Fieser postdoctoral fellowship, which was awarded to me with the mandate of exploring this inspiration. At Harvard I invented a single-molecule imaging technology called Convex Lens-induced Confinement (CLiC), which established me as a pioneer in single-molecule investigations.

 In 2012, I became an Assistant Professor at McGill University and founded my research group. I have developed CLiC into a platform technology and used it for new studies of nucleic acids, proteins, polymers, nanomaterials, biologics, cells, etc. My time at McGill has been productive and I was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2017. To expand, commercialize, and protect my technology and key applications, I co-founded a start-up company ScopeSys, with a technical and business team based in Canada. In 2021 I moved with my lab to UBC Vancouver as an Associate Professor in the Michael Smith Laboratories.

Areas of Specialization

Single-molecule biophysics, biotechnology, fluorescence microscopy, nucleic acid interactions, nanoscale devices, instrumentation and innovation, oligonucleotide therapeutics, nanoparticle interactions and dynamics


Jan. 2021 – now Associate Professor – Michael Smith Laboratories and Department of Physics, UBC 
June 2017 – Dec. 2020 Associate Professor – Department of Physics, McGill University
Quantitative Life Sciences Program, McGill University
Jan. 2018 – Dec. 2018 Visiting Professor (Sabbatical)
group of Corey Nislow, UBC, Pharmaceutical Science,
group of Zev Bryant, Stanford, Bioengineering and group of Alexander Dunn, Stanford Chemical Engineering
Jan. 2012 – May 2017 Assistant Professor – Department of Physics, McGill University
Mar. 2009 – Dec. 2011 Marie Fieser Postdoctoral Fellow
Group of Adam Cohen, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University
Sep. 2002 – Dec. 2008 PhD in Optical and Atomic Physics
Advisor: Prof. Dan Stamper-Kurn Dept. of Physics, University of California at Berkeley (UCB), Berkeley, USA (PhD Thesis)
Sep. 1998 – Apr. 2002 BSc (Hon.) in Physics and Mathematics – Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada



  • UBC Killam Accelerator Research Fellowship [link]
  • Member of the College of New Scholars of the Royal Society of Canada, Class of 2020 [link]
  • Young Investigator Award, Canadian Biophysical Society (2019)
  • Member of the 2019-2020 of the adMare Academy Executive Institute. [link]
  • Women Entrepreneurship Fund award (2019)
  • NSERC Accelerator Award (04/2017-03/2020)
  • Science Executive Leadership Fellowship, mini MBA (09/2016-12/2016)
  • Fourth prize, Dobson Cup, McGill Innovation Competition. (05/2015)
  • Integrative Biology Poster Prize (Top Prize), Gordon Research Conference on Single Molecule Approaches to Biology, Il Ciocco, Italy. (07/2010)
  • Mary Fieser Postdoctoral Fellowship. Harvard University (03/2009-03/2011)
  • Postgraduate Scholarship. NSERC (08/2004-08/2006)
  • Postgraduate Scholarship A. NSERC (08/2002-08/2004)
  • Department of Physics Fellowship. UC Berkeley (08/2002-08/2004)
  • Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation Graduate Award (05/2002)
  • CK Choi Scholarship. Presidential Award, University of British Columbia (11/2001)
  • Dorothy Gladys Studer Memorial Award Physics and Mathematics. UBC (08/2001)
  • WH MacInnes Award in Physics and Math Physics and Mathematics. UBC (03/2001)
  • NRC Women in Engineering and Science Award (2000-2002)
  • Science Scholar Designation and Dean’s Honour List. UBC (1998-2002)
  • Undergraduate Scholars Program UBC (1998-2002)
  • NSERC Undergraduate Summer Research Award. Dalhousie University (1999)
  • BC Science Council Award. Province of British Columbia (06/1998)
  • Governor General’s Award Bronze. Crofton House School (06/1998)