Thomas Gervais, Ph.D.

Assistant professor of engineering physics and biomedical engineering;
Engineering physics;
École Polytechnique de Montréal, Institut de Génie Biomédical, CRCHUM (associate researcher) et Institut du cancer de Montréal.


Key words: Microfluidics, Lab-on-a-chip, Transport phenomena, Mathematical modeling, Surface-based sensors, 3D cell culture, spheroids, Microdissected Tissue (MDT), Popular Science Writing, Science Communication

2000  B. Ing., École Polytechnique de Montréal, Engineering Physics

2006  Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Bioengineering (Course 20), with Profs Peter K. Sorger and Klavs F. Jensen

  • 2016-2019 (co-PI), FRQS

    "Stratégies multimodales pour le traitement ciblé de cancers à haut risque"

  • 2016-2018 (PI), Individual Grant, FRQNT

    "Sonde microfluidique multipolaire pour le marquage de haute précision de tissus in vitro"

  • 2015-2017  (co-PI), Operating Grant, 
    “Translating molecular science to soft-tissue sarcoma treatments”

  • 2015-2017  (co- PI), Operating Grant, Cancer Research Society (CRS), 

    “Ovarian tumors on-chip : quantitative tools to predict chemoresponse using patient-specific proliferation assays”

  • 2015  (co-PI), Innovation Fund, Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), 

    "Infrastructure for micro-imaging and optical glass processing (#33372)"

  • 2014-2019  (PI), Discovery Grant, National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), 

    “Open microfluidic platforms for the in vitro assessment of tumor response to drugs”

  • 2014-2016  (co-PI) Innovation operating grant, Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute (CCSRI), 

    “Microfluidic based empirical testing versus predictive biomarkers to stratify cancer care in ovarian cancer patients.”

  • 2013-2015  (co-PI) Movember discovery grant, Prostate Cancer Canada,

    “Validation and use of a microfluidic platform to test prostate cancer response to targeted therapies »

  • 2013-2014  (co-PI) Explore grant, Consortium Québécois de Développement du médicament. 

    “Circumventing the need for predictive biomarkers in personalized ovarian cancer therapies: empirical chemosensitivity testing using a microfluidics-based multiplex platform"


Awards and prizes

2016  Student award, Best graduate level instructor in biomedical engineering, Polytechnique Montréal

2013  Student Award, Best instructor in engineering physics, Polytechnique Montréal

2012  Best audio audio/video report award, Gala de l’Association des Journalistes Indépendants du Québec (AJIQ)

2011  Student award, Best instructor, Polytechnique Montreal

2011  Best audio/video piece award, Gala de l’Association des Journalistes Indépendants du Québec (AJIQ)

2006  Prix de la relève, Bourse de Journalisme Scientifique Fernand-Seguin, Radio-Canada

2000  Da Vinci Profile, École Polytechnique de Montréal

Tumors-on-chip, Open microfluidics, Mathematical modelling of reagents, nutrients and metabolites transport on-chip and in microtumors.

Theoretical fluid mechanics and analysis of transport phenomena

My research interests are in the design, characterization and fabrication of microfluidic systems, or Lab-on-a-chip, for applications in cancer research, drug discovery and personalized medicine. In the past 10 years, lab-on-a-chip technology was at the core of several innovations in cancer research, notably to identify and quantify circulating tumor cells (CTC), to synthesize and grow 3D synthetic tumor models, and as a tool to perform immunostaining in pathology. The inherent advantage of miniature systems are their low cost and portability, the ability to use minimal amounts of samples and reagents to perform assays, their fast analysis time, and their ability to run several assays in parallel (multiplexing).

In this somewhat vast field of research, our group has contributed directly to the development of a new type of 3D cancer model for  drug discovery and treatment response analysis called microdissected tumors (MDT). These tumor samples are extracted through surgery or biopsy, cut to submicroliter sizes, and loaded in specially designed microfluidic chip for culture and analysis. Our results have revealed that they can be maintained alive on-chip for several days, a period sufficient to perform drug response assays.


Our group is also actively involved in mathematical modelling of complex Stokes flow in open microfluidics geometries. These flows are a the core of several technologies including microfluidic probes, hanging drop spheroid culture platforms, orthogonal flow mixers, etc.


Our research relies on strong collaborations with cancer biologists and clinicians at the CRCHUM and Institut du Cancer de Montreal to ensure its direct translation into clinical applications.


A few of our undergoing projects are listed below:


  • Development of microdissected tissue (MDT) as an ex vivo model for personalized medicine and treatment response assessment (Guay-Lord, Rousset; collaborations with A-M Mes-Masson, F. Saad, D. Provencher)

  • Development of a fluorescence spectroscopic imager for the quantitative on-chip analysis of tumor response to drugs (A. St-Georges-Robillard ; collaborations with A-M Mes-Masson and F. Leblond)

  • Development of an on-chip culture environment to study the effect of chemotheraphy and radiotherapy treatment on 3D tumor samples (MDTs and spheroids) (Brunet, Patra, Bairos, St-Georges-Robillard; collaboration with A-M Mes-Masson, P. Wong)

  • Mathematical modeling of multipolar flows and applications to the design of novel microfluidic probes (Boulais, Goyette; collaborations with D. Juncker (McGill))

  • Design, fabrication and testing of microfluidic probes (Guay-Lord, Goyette)

  • Mathematical modeling of biochemical transport in microfluidic surface-based sensors.

  • Fundamental microfluidics (seeking new applications to store, deliver reagents and exploit new transport processes at the micro and nanoscale) (S. Castonguay, O. Gökçe; collaboration with E. Delamarche (IBM research – Zurich))


Associated websites:


  1. Amélie St-Georges-Robillard, Ph.D. Candidate,

  2. Alexandre R. Brunet, M.Sc. Candidate,

  3. Étienne Boulais, Ph.D.. Candidate,

  4. Robin Guay-Lord, M.Sc. Candidate,

  5. Pierre-Alexandre Goyette, M.Sc. Candidate,

  6. Samel Castonguay, Ph.D. Candidate,

  7. Maeva Bavoux, M.Sc. A. Candidate,


Former students:

  1. Mélina Astolfi, M.Sc.

  2. Dr Mohana Marimuthu, Ph.D. 

  3. Nassim Rousset, M.Sc. 

  4. Dr Bishnubrata Patra, Ph.D.

  5. Julia Bairos, M. Eng. 

  1. Rousset N, Monet F, Gervais T. “Simulation-assisted design of microfluidic sample traps for optimal trapping and culture of non-adherent single cells, tissues, and spheroids”. Scientific Reports, 7: 245, pp. 1-12, 2017, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-00229-1

  2. Astolfi M, Péant B, Lateef MA, Rousset N, Kendall-Dupont J, Carmona E, Provencher D, Saad F, Mes-Masson AM, Gervais T, “Micro-dissected tumor tissues on chip: an ex vivo method for drug testing and personalized therapy”, Lab Chip, 2016;16:312-325 

  3. Safavieh M., Qasaimeh M.A., Vakil A., Juncker D., Gervais  T, “Microfluidic probes as flow dipoles: theory and applications”, Scientific Reports, vol 5, p. 11943, 2015, DOI: 10.1038/srep11943

  4. Tawil N., Altef A., Sacher E., Maisonneuve M., Gervais T, Mandeville R., Meunier M., « Surface Plasmon Resonance Determination of the Binding Mechanisms of L-Cysteine and 11-Mercaptoundecanoic Acid on Gold », J. Phys. Chem. C, 2013

  5. Das T, Meunier L, Gervais T, Barbe L, Guenat O, Provencher D, Mes-Masson AM, “Empirical Chemosensitivity Testing in a Spheroid Model of Ovarian Cancer using a Microfluidics-based Multiplex Platform”, Biomicrofluidics, 2013;7(1):11805.

  6. Qasaimeh, M. A., Gervais T., Juncker D. « Microfluidic quadrupole and floating concentration gradients », Nature Communications, 2:464, 2011.

  7. T. Gervais, J. El-Ali, A. Günther, and K. F. Jensen, Flow-Induced deformation of shallow microfluidic channels, Lab Chip, 2006, 6, 500–7.

  8. T. Gervais and K. F. Jensen, Mass transport and surface reactions in microfluidic systems, Chem. Eng. Sci., 2006, 61, 1102–1121.