Graduate Students


Ryan Potts joined the Surette lab in Fall 2015. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology with a specialization in Microbiology at the University of Waterloo. Having initially been inoculated with a passion for microbiology in the lab of Josh Neufeld, Ryan came into contact with the Surette lab through a collaboration on his honours thesis work studying nitrogen cycling archaea. Under the supervision of Dr. Surette and Dr. Rebecca Anglin, Ryan is now focusing his studies on the gut microbiome, in particular in patients suffering from anxiety and depression. Combining classical culturing methods, next-gen sequencing and bioinformatics Ryan hopes to elucidate beneficial microoganisms that may one day help patients dealing with mental illness.

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.

Michelle Mendonca
Michelle P

Fiona Whelan joined the Surette lab after _MG_4169completing a MSc at the neighbouring Bowdish lab studying the evolution of a group of host immune receptors. Fiona joined the Surette lab in order to feed her love of DNA sequencing, the microbiome, and the use of bioinformatics to create testable, biological hypotheses. In Mike’s lab, Fiona hops between the computer and the lab bench in order to examine the lung microbiome of patients suffering from Cystic Fibrosis, as well as the bugs which inhabit the elderly upper respiratory tract.

 Josie Libertucci 
joined the Surette lab in May 2013 as a PhD student. She completed her BSc in Biology at York University, where a single course in microbiology gave her just the amount of exposure to get her hooked. Josie then decided to move to the University of Calgary to complete her MSc in the lab of Doug Storey where she studied interactions between the cystic fibrosis pathogens Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. Her current research focuses on the use of fecal biotherapy as a treatment for ulcerative colitis, investigating changes in the microbial community as well as host epigenetics before and after treatment. Josie is the national student representative for the Canadian Society of Microbiology and created a blog on their website. Outside of science, Josie enjoys running, playing squash, and any outdoor activity.


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.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Steve Bernier

Jennifer Stearns Jen S.hails from the town of Timmins in northern Ontario. She completed her B.Sc. at Waterloo in a broad science program with a focus on Biology. Jen’s graduate work focused on plant-microbe interactions, and in her post-doctoral work she has broadened her interest to host-microbe interactions more generally, and has been investigating interactions with human hosts both in silico and in vivo. Her current projects include studying the maturation of nasal microbiota in healthy people, and studying how Strep. milleri interacts with the immune system.

 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.


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.

Kim Ng Kim

Laura Hogg Laura H


Fanny Fanny Liu is a 4th year biochemistry student at the Surette lab completing her senior thesis. She was exposed to microbiology was at the University of Calgary, where she heard about the exciting microbiome work that the Surette lab was pursuing in McMaster University. Joining the Surette lab in her 3rd year, she is exploring how commensal organisms in the respiratory tract can modulate the phenotype of co-existing bacteria. When not putting out laboratory fires, she is either watching anime or doing graphics design.

JonathanJonathan Ho is a 4th year Integrated Science student at McMaster University. Joining the Surette lab in January of 2015, he is investigating the folate synthesis pathway of the Streptococcus milleri group.  When not in the lab, Jonathan enjoys photography and longboarding.


Jeffery Jeffery Ye if a 2nd year Health Sciences student who joined the Surette lab in the Fall of 2015. He is a volunteer working with Ryan Potts on investigating the role of the gut microbiome in patients with mental illness while developing his lab skills. His curiosity in microbiology stems from some excellent lectures on the topic from researchers here at McMaster, as well some memorable experiences with nasty gut bacteria. Naturally, this only made him want to explore further.

MarahMarah Hasan is a 4th year Biochemistry Student at McMaster University that joined the Surette Lab in the Fall of 2015. Her interest in the gut microbiome, introduced in one of her undergraduate courses, inspired her to pursue research projects that further explore the microbiome and its role in health and disease. In the Surette lab, she will be focusing her research on bacterial interactions that occur in the respiratory tract in hopes of better understanding the role of such interactions in health and disease.

IshMohammad Alam (Ish) is a fourth year Biochemistry Co-op student at McMaster University. During his summer co-op term at Sanofi Pasteur, where he was first exposed to microbiology, he read about a team oriented thesis opportunity to work with bacteriophages at the Surette Laboratory. After further discussion about the project with Dr. Surette, he was highly intrigued and excited about the opportunity for novel discoveries in a relatively unexplored area of research as well as its potentially large impact in medicine. He joined the Surette Laboratory and the Phage Team in the fall of 2015 where he began an effort to produce and sequence bacteriophages to create a Phage Host Library.

Hiba Shareefdeen Hiba

Abhira Srikantha Abhira


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  1. Pingback: Surette lab introduces new Undergradate and Graduate members. | Michael G. Surette Laboratory

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