Voice and Upper Airway Research Lab

School of Communication Sciences and Disorders

McGill University

Dr. Li-Jessen’s VUA lab integrates in vitro, in vivo and in silico (computational) approaches to study laryngeal and upper airway health and diseases.

Larynx is critical to our daily breathing, communication and swallowing functions. The VUA research lab focuses on advancing personalized medicine in voice and upper airway dysfunctions through the development of biological computing, point-of-care diagnostics, regenerative biomaterials and Internet of Medical Things (IoMT).

Watch Dr. Li-Jessen's talk at the World Economic Forum


TThis project is to develop patient-specific computational models that will predict treatment responses of patients with vocal diseases. The models will help clinicians tailor their care for individual patients with enhanced clinical outcomes. Multiscale and hybrid modeling with parallel computing and 3D visualization are exploited.

Collaborators: Prof. Joseph Jaja (University of Maryland) and Prof. Luc Mongeau (McGill University)

Understanding of vocal fold cell response to mechanical stress and extracellular matrix environment

Macrophages and fibroblasts are central in wound healing from the control of infection and inflammation to repair of injury. This project is to investigate on vocal fold cell activities as a function of phonatory stress and extracellular matrix property using an in vitro bioreactor. The information will be useful in the design of biomaterial for vocal fold reconstruction.

Collaborators: Prof. Luc Mongeau (McGill University)


The diagnosis of laryngeal disease is confirmed by conventional histopathology or tissue biopsy before treatment can begin. This approach entails physical removal of a small tissue specimen from patients, which can cause irreversible vocal fold scarring. We endeavor to develop clinical multiphoton endoscope for in vivo visualizing vocal fold histology, minimizing the need of tissue biopsy. We also invent a rapid protein assay platform for laryngopharyngeal reflux detection and monitoring, without going through time-consuming laboratory tests.

Collaborators: Dr. Karen Kost (Montreal General Hospital), Prof. Susan Thibeault (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Prof. Luc Mongeau (McGill University) and Prof. Paul Wiseman (McGill University)

Our Motto:

Only the best is good enough

Ole Kirk Kristiansen, Founder of LEGO

If you share the same vision and research interests as of the VUA lab, we welcome you to join our dynamic and multi-disciplinary team. We currently have open positions (Ph.D. and post-doc) in our computational modeling/ simulation projects. Please send your CV, unofficial transcripts and a short description of why you're interested in our work to Dr. Nicole Li-Jessen.


Featured Articles

  1. Bouhabel, S., Park, S., Kolosova, K., Latifi, N., Kost, K., Li‐Jessen, N. Y. K., & Mongeau, L. (in press). Functional analysis of injectable substance treatment on surgically injured rabbit vocal folds. Journal of Voice.
  2. Ridgway C., Bouhabel S., Martignetti L., Kishimoto Y., & Li-Jessen N. Y. K. (2021) Pediatric Vocal Fold Paresis and Paralysis: A Narrative Review. JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery.
  3. Coburn P. T., Herbay A. C., Berrini M., & Li-Jessen N. Y. K. (2020) An in vitro assessment of the response of THP-1 macrophages to varying stiffness of a glycol-chitosan hydrogel for vocal fold tissue engineering applications. J Biomed Mater Res A.
  4. Kolosova, K., Gao, Q., Tuznik, M., Bouhabel, S., Kost, K., Wang, H. J., Li-Jessen, N. Y. K., Mongeau, L., & Wiseman, P. (2020). Characterizing vocal fold injury recovery in a rabbit model with 3D virtual histology. Laryngoscope.

Invited Book Chapters

  1. Li-Jessen, N. Y. K. & Ridgway, C. (2020). Neuroanatomy of voice and swallowing. In P. Weissbrod & D. O. Francis (Ed.), Neurologic and Neurodegenerative Disease of the Larynx (pp. 21-40). Cham: Springer International.
  2. Orbelo, D. M., Li-Jessen, N. Y. K. & Verdolini-Abbott, K. (2019). Lessac Madsen resonant voice therapy in a young woman with vocal nodules. In J. C. Stemple & E. R. Hapner (Ed.), Voice therapy: Clinical Case Studies (5th ed.). San Diego: Plural Publishing.
  3. Orbelo, D. M., Li, N. Y. K. & Verdolini, K. (2014). Lessac Madsen resonant voice therapy in the treatment of secondary muscle tension dysphonia. In J. C. Stemple & E. R. Hapner (Ed.), Voice therapy: Clinical Case Studies (4th ed.). San Diego: Plural Publishing.
  4. Li, N. Y. K. & Verdolini, K. (2013).  Contemporary voice research: a USA perspective vocal fold injuries and their management. In E. Yiu (Eds.), Multilingual aspects of voice disorders. (pp. 115-132). Clevedon Hall: Multilingual Matters.
View more publications


Conference Presentations

  1. Brown, M., Zhu, S., Tabrizian, M. & Li-Jessen, N. Y. K. (2021, November). Click small intestinal submucosa hydrogels for vocal fold tissue engineering. Paper presented at the 6th World Congress of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS 2021), Maastricht, The Netherlands.
  2. Brown, M., Tabrizian, M. & Li-Jessen, N. Y. K. (2021, April). Towards a bioinstructive design of scaffold biomaterials for vocal fold tissue engineering. Paper presented at the 13th Congress of the European Laryngological Society, Stuttgart, Germany.
  3. Yu, G., Coburn, P., Berrini, M. & Li-Jessen, N. Y. K. (2020, December). Computer simulation of cell-material interaction: influence of material stiffness on the interplay of macrophages and fibroblasts in a glycol-chitosan hydrogel. Paper presented at the 11th World Biomaterials Congress, Glasgow, United Kingdom.
  4. Seekhao, N., Yu, G., Garg, A., Yuen, S., JaJa, J. & Li-Jessen, N. Y. K. (2020, August). 3D agent-based simulation of vocal fold injury and repair. Paper presented at the Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) 2020, Paris, France.
  5. Granato, B. & Li-Jessen, N. Y. K. (2020, June). Sensitivity analysis for dimensionality reduction in agent-based modeling. Paper presented at the 24th European Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Invited Talks/Workshops

  1. Li-Jessen, N. Y. K. (2019, December). Towards a bioinstructive design of scaffold biomaterials for vocal fold tissue engineering. Invited lecture at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen, Erlangen, Germany.
  2. Li-Jessen, N. Y. K. (2019, November). Teaching and learning: a reciprocal effort. Invited keynote address at the McGill Learning to Teach Day, Montreal, Canada
  3. Li-Jessen, N. Y. K. (2019, April). How basic science improves our clinical practice in laryngology and voice therapy? Invited lecture at AQOA / QASLPA’s 7th Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.
  4. Li-Jessen, N. Y. K. (2018, November). How does computational modeling improve our clinical practice in laryngology? Invited lecture presented at the 11th East Asian Conference on Phonosurgery, Busan, Republic of Korea.
  5. Li-Jessen, N. Y. K. (2018, November). Computational medicine in voice research. Invited lecture presented at the 176th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America and 2018 Acoustics Week in Canada, Victoria, Canada
View more presentations

Lab Members

Patrick Coburn

Ph.D. Student

Mika Brown

Ph.D. Student

Christian Moya Garcia

Ph.D. Student

Colin Jones

Masters Student

Andrew Chao

Masters Student

Grace Yu

Graduate Research Assistant

Chelsea Ridgway

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Vivianne Landry

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Shirley Zhu

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Marta Kanne

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Zhengdong Lei

Post-doctoral Fellow

Lisa Marginetti

Research Assistant

Mattia Berrini

Lab Manager

Samson Yuen

IT Specialist

Alumni members

  • Emma Armitage - Undergraduate Research Assistant 2019 - 2020

  • Bianca Granato - QLS Rotation Student 2019 Fall

  • Miasya Bulger - Undergraduate Research Assistant 2019

  • Aziz Rehman - Summer Research Assistant 2018-2019

  • Emma Cawood - Summer Research Assistant 2019

  • Halle Demchuk - Summer Research Assistant 2019

  • Muhammad Abdullah Sumbal - Summer Research Assistant 2019

  • Huijie Wang - Research Associate 2017-2018

  • Samson Yuen - Research Assistant 2017-2018, Undergraduate Research Assistant 2015-2017

  • Aman Garg - Master Graduate Student 2016-2018

  • James Cui - Undergraduate Research Assistant 2016-2018

  • Evan Kennedy - Graduate Research Assistant 2016, 2018

  • Chelsea Ridgway - Undergraduate Research Assistant 2018

  • Joseph Szymborski - QLS Rotation Student 2018 Fall

  • Aziz Rehman - Summer Research Assistant 2018

  • Meghan Hollet - Summer Research Assistant 2018

  • Sandra Cortes - Undergraduate Reseach Intern 2017

  • Jesse Chevrier - Undergraduate Research Assistant 2017

  • Laurel Walfish - Undergraduate Research Assistant 2017

  • Marise Samaan - Undergraduate Research Assistant 2015-2016

  • Harry Tao - Undergraduate Research Intern 2016

  • Kimberly Trickey - Summer Research Assistant 2015

Contact Us

Voice and Upper Airway Research Lab

McIntyre Medical Sciences Building

3655 Promenade Sir William Osler
Montreal Quebec
H3G 1Y6
Directions on Google Maps

Rm 1003


School Of Communication Sciences and Disorders

2001 McGill College , 8th floor
Montreal, Quebec
H3A 1G1
Directions on Google Maps

Rm 815