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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

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.


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.


Hiba Shareefdeen Hiba

Richa John Richa

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.



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

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