Graduate Students

 Gayatri Nair completed her Honours BSc degree in Life Sciences program at McMaster University. She joined the Surette lab in the fall of 2017 as a MSc student. She had previously volunteered in the lab during high school, where her initial interest in microbiology was parked. Throughout her undergraduate career, she became particularly interested in microbial cell biology and cellular mechanisms that underlie disease pathogenesis. She spent the summer of 2016 contributing to a clinical drug trials for severe asthmatic identification and characterization of bacteria associated with cystic fibrosis exacerbation in the lungs. Specifically, she will be investigating the presence and prevalence of SMG bacteria and identifying virulent strains. Apart from lab work, she loves to dance, bop to her spotify playlist and go on nature hikes. One day, she will make it to the bottom of Tews Falls.

 Paul Naphtali completed his MSc Biology degree at McMaster University pinpointing sources of fecal contamination in rural groundwater wells. He joined the Surette Lab in the fall of 2017 to develop his interest in characterizing microbial interactions and using metagenomics to examine the human microbiome in a clinical context. His project focuses on delineating active and dormant microbial populations in sputa collected from cystic fibrosis patients using flow cytometry and fluorescence microscopy. By teasing out these population, Paul will work towards understanding the role that lung pathogens and commensals play in advancing or alleviating chronic infections and pulmonary exacerbations in cystic fibrosis patients.

Daphnee Lamarche


Jen LJennifer Lau  completed her undergraduate degree in microbiology at the University of Victoria. She joined the Surette lab to explore her interest in the trillions of bacteria that inhabit the human gastrointestinal tract. Her project currently focuses on cultivating these ‘unculturable’ bacteria and determining the role they may play in Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Shahrokh Shekarriz completed his undergrad in molecular biology and came to McMaster in September 2014 to do a Master’s in Brian Golding’s lab, where he studied environmental monitoring using CO1 metagenomics and built a database of eukaryotes from environmental samples. Sharok joined the Surette lab in December 2016 to pursue his interest in utilizing microbiome profiling, comparative metagenomics, and culture-enriched metagenomics to investigate the human gut microbiome. He’s working on developing a bioinformatic technique to detect microbial engraftment in fecal transplants for patients with ulcerative colitis, and will soon be conducting a study on a large dataset of IBD patients that are extensively phenotyped for disease characteristics from across Canada. Although he currently spends his days at the computer, Sharok is hoping to get a chance to get his hands dirty in the lab before he graduates. When he’s not working, Sharok enjoys his morning workout, playing basketball, and camping in Ontario’s provincial parks.


Pat Schenck joined the symbiosis of the Surette lab in Fall 2014. He completed an undergraduate degree in Pharmacology at McMaster before getting the bug to move west, enrolling in an MSc in Gastrointestinal Sciences at the University of Calgary, under the supervision of Dr. Paul Beck and Dr. Justin MacDonald. Looking into the role of the gut microbiota in Clostridium difficile, Pat formed a mutualistic relationship with bacterial communities research. Thus, he took the opportunistic path back to McMaster, where he is now studying the role of the respiratory microbiome in health and disease, utilizing animal models. Pat is also an avid sports enthusiast, infected by his love for the Chicago Blackhawks.

 Bryan Wu




SaadSaad Syed is a third year Arts & Science and Biochemistry student at McMaster University. Joining the Surette lab in the summer of 2014, he is working with Fiona Whelan on examining the lung microbiome of Cystic Fibrosis patients. Saad’s interest in microbiology comes from his work in second year when he undertook a project with Dr. Paul Harrison (McMaster University) focused on natural product mutasynthesis from Streptomyces aburaviensis. During this project, he heard Mike discuss the work done in his lab, further cementing his desire to delve into microbiology.

Picture Ophelie

Ophélie Quillier completed her BSc in Microbiology and Immunology at McGill University. There, she discovered her love for the many roles of the microbiota in health and disease. She worked with Dr. Corinne Maurice to uncover the proportions of active and damaged cells in the microbiota using flow cytometry. She then joined the Surette lab in September 2016 in order to further her knowledge on the subject. Combining passion for the microbiota and immunology, Ophélie works on discovering new molecules produced by the microbiota in association with the host that could replace antibiotics in the hope to participate in the effort to solve the antibiotic resistance crisis.

Rachelle Szymkiewicz completed her undergraduate degree in Engineering Technology at McMaster University specializing in Biotechnology. Her final year technical report focused on the creation of biosynthetic silver nanoparticles using dry-active yeast as a source. In September 2016 she joined the Surette lab seeking to explore the fields of comparative genomics and metagenomics research. Rachelle is using her computational and wet-laboratory skills to investigate population dynamics and evolution of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in Cystic Fibrosis airways.

Post-doctoral Fellows

Kim Chau completed her PhD at the University of Toronto in Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology. While preparing for her PhD defense, Kim discovered an interest in microbiome research & joined the Surette Lab in September 2017. She is a member of the study team investigating whether probiotics can prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea. More specifically, Kim is leading the MAID (Microbiome & Antibiotic-Induced Dysbiosis) study, exploring the composition of children’s microbiome after antibiotics and whether probiotics can correct dysbiosis.


Research Associates

Steve Bernier

 Research Assistants

Michelle ShahMichelle S joined the Surette lab in 2010 as a research assistant, balancing bench work and administration. She completed her BSc in Biology at the University of Waterloo in the co-op program, allowing her to complete numerous science related co-ops. Her experience led her to a job in the research department at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, where she worked in a breast cancer lab and the clinical microbiology lab. She later moved to Boise, Idaho, furthering her scientific expertise in the fields of breast cancer and asthma. In 2005, Michelle started working in the Elowitz lab at Caltech, where she was involved in projects on single cell gene expression and signalling in Bacillus and mammalian cells. She returned to Canada to join the Surette lab, where she currently collaborates with researchers on various microbiome studies. Despite the extensive list of projects, Michelle’s expert organizational skills keep the Surette lab running smoothly.

_MG_4104Laura Rossi  comes to the Surette Lab to continue her love of research and bench work. She is McMaster trained having done her B.Sc. and 10 years of lab work here. She is excited to be a part of the Surette Lab where research is closely linked to clinical aspects of understanding and treating disease. Outside of the lab she enjoys yoga and books but often just ends up chasing after her two kids.

JakeJake Szamosi’s  initial interests began in Linguistics and Math at McGill but she finished her Bachelor’s degree at University of Toronto studying Biology. In her final year she fell in love with the computational side of life from one Computer Science course. She pursued this interest by completing her Master’s degree in the Dushoff Lab at McMaster University in Computational Biology. She brings her vast skill set in computational biology and statistics and merges it with the bacterial genome analysis and sequencing part of the Surette Lab to bridge the gap between biology and bioinformatics for us. She will often be found with either knitting needles or a book in hand and when not at her computer she enjoys a run or ride outdoors.


Jonathan Ong joined the Surette Lab in the fall of 2016. Having spent the summer of 2016 studying circadian rhythms and adult hippocampal neurogenesis in mice at the Mary Cheng Lab (UTM), he was interested in learning how to phenotype our microbes in more ways through the use of the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism. As such, he also works closely with Lesley MacNeil and her lab of worm lovers. He quickly became very impressed with the accessibility of C.elegans due to its easy maintenance, short life span and cycle, and well annotated biology. He is interested in the roles that bacteria can play as food, pathogens and modulators of cell systems for the nematode, especially in terms of gut barrier function, growth and development. In his spare time, he enjoys fishing, gaming, cooking, listening to old J-pop, watching MMA and a whole bunch of hipster things like reading books on psychology, philosophy and spirituality, as well as mediation. 

Hailey Wright is a 3rd year Arts & Science student who discovered an interest in research as a child after volunteering in her father’s lab. This led her to join the Surette lab in the summer of 2017, to undertake her own research project in collaboration with the MacNeil lab. Hailey’s work involves co-creating the WormBox, a 3-D printed box with a Raspberry Pi computer attached to camera lenses, used to capture images & video of C. elegans for her Independent Study Course


Hiba Shareefdeen Hiba

ChristineChristine Chow joined the Surette lab as a volunteer in the summer of 2016.  After taking an introductory microbiology course the previous year, she became fascinated with the extent to which many microorganisms play a role in the human gut and lung microbiomes. Christine is excited to begin her independent research project with Dr. Surette in the fall of 2016 as a third year Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization McMaster student. When she isn’t helping characterize S. milleri isolates, she often daydreams, enjoys non-academic writing, and takes extra care to make sure she doesn’t set anything – including herself – on fire.