Graduate Students

Daphnee Lamarche


Me Karissa Giraldi traversed the prairies to attend McMaster after completing her B.Sc. in Biochemistry at the University of Alberta. A series of interesting Microbiology courses in her undergrad fostered a desire to study bacteria and their role in human health, which led her to the Surette lab for her M.Sc.. During her time here she will be focussing her research on host cell-microbe interactions within the context of Cystic Fibrosis. Between doing experiments and reading up on how chocolate agar is not, in fact, made of chocolate, she likes to play Ultimate Frisbee and read Fantasy novels.

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.


Post-Doctoral Fellows

Matthew WorkentineMatt_working_in_lab joined the Surette Lab as a postdoctoral fellow to explore the evolution and diversity of bacteria in chronic infections, with a particular focus on Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Matthew has long been interested in the ability of microorganisms to adapt to their environment since his graduate work at the University of Calgary where he explored how Pseudomonas fluorescens adapts to heavy metal stress in biofilms. Other projects and interests include microbe-microbe interactions in chronic infections and comparative genomics of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In the past Matthew has also spent time as the Chair of the Faculty of Health Sciences Postdoc Association at McMaster as well as the McMaster representative for the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars. When not doing science Matthew can often be found playing dinosaurs or trains with his active toddler.

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.

_MG_4293 Preethi Jayanth received her undergraduate degree from the University of Mysore (Karnataka, India) where she specialized in biochemistry, botany and microbiology. Following her undergraduate degree she completed her MSc at U of Mysore with a specialization in microbiology. She completed her doctoral studies at Queens University (Kingston, Ontario) under the tutelage of Dr. Szewczuk. Her dissertation focused on identifying a new sialidase enzyme that regulates tyrosine kinase receptor activation. Following her PhD she joined the Bowdish lab in 2011 where she completed a one-year postdoctoral fellowship. In 2012 she joined the Surette lab as a postdoctoral fellow and is currently working on creating a new mouse model to study polymicrobial infections with a specific interest in host response. When she is not researching, Preethi likes to take some time to sketch or tries a new recipe since she loves to cook!

 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 Elowits 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.


LeonoraLeonora Abdullahu is a fourth year Chemical Biology student completing her first co-op work term in the Surette Lab. Under the co-supervision of Dr. Surette and Dr. Fox-Robichaud, she is investigating molecular techniques for the rapid and early identification of pathogens in septic ICU patients with suspected tracheobronchitis or ventilator-associated pneumonia. Although this area of research deviates from her Chemistry background, Leonora did not want to pass up this wonderful opportunity of being on the front lines of sepsis research. She is very excited about the choice she made and the opportunities it has enabled her with.


Susie Son is currently a third year undergraduate student at McMaster University in the Honours Biochemistry program. She was first introduced to Dr.Surette through a course assignment, from which she discovered her love for research. This lead her to join the Surette lab in the summer of 2013. When Susie is not working on awesome science experiments, she is usually engulfed in her art projects.

SonyaSonya Dhanjal joined the Surette lab to combine her interests in biochemistry and microbiology as she completed her senior thesis focusing on the diversity of E. coli in the human gut. She recently graduated from the Biochemistry and Biomedical Science program at McMaster and is currently continuing with her project over the summer. Outside of the lab, Sonya enjoys chocolate, board games and TV.

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.