Graduate Students

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. Fiona graduated with a PhD in May 2017.


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 was 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. Ryan  graduated with MSc in June 2017 and is currently attending medical school at McMaster University.

Josie 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. Josie graduated with a PhD in December 2016.

Michelle P Michelle Mendonca graduated with a PhD in December 2016.

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. Karissa graduated with a MSc in Aug 2015.


Monica Faria-Crowder completed her BSc in Microbiology at the University of Calgary in 2006 and joined the laboratory of Dr. Douglas Storey where she completed her MSc in 2009 studying the role of the CFTR defect in modulating the P. aeruginosa population in the lungs of adult CF patients. During her MSc she had many encounters with the Surette lab while they were discovering how SMG play an important role in the polymicrobial lung infections. These encounters sparked an interest in learning more about polymicrobial infections and how the microbiota plays a role in various infectious diseases. As such, Monica joined the Surette lab in Calgary in the Fall of 2009 and she transferred into the PhD program in 2011. Monica’s research transitioned from studying lung microbiota in CF to developing methods to examine the microbiota in acute infections involved in sepsis including bacteremia. Currently Monica works with the Alberta Sepsis Network where she applies molecular community profiling techniques to examine infections in sepsis patients. She has since joined the MD/PhD program at the University of Calgary with the goal of becoming a clinician-scientist. Outside of science Monica enjoys snowboarding, running, and spending time with her husband and two dogs. Monica graduated with a PhD in June 2014.

_MG_4121Anne-Marie Lacroix received her Bachelor of Science at the University of Calgary. It was there her love for research started. As an undergrad she spent her summers at home in Toronto working in various labs. These projects sparked her interest in Streptococcus and the microbial world and lead Anne-Marie to do her undergraduate thesis in the Surette lab at the University of Calgary where she worked with Margot Grinwis. When Mike moved the Surette lab to McMaster University Anne-Marie enroll there as a Master’s student in the Surette lab. In 2012 Anne-Marie transferred to the pHD program where she is investigating the peptide signalling systems in the Streptococcus milleri group. In her spare time she loves to run and completed numerous marathons and races. She also enjoys squash and almost all other sports and reading about space. Anne-Marie graduated with a MSc in May 2014.

_MG_4099 Akshita Puri completed her undergraduate degree in Biotechnology at Panjab University (India), and Microbiology at the University of Guelph. She fell in love with infectious disease research while pursuing an undergraduate thesis project at University of Guelph. She then decided to pursue her Master’s degree and became a part of the Surette lab to gain an understanding of the clinical aspects of disease. In the Surette lab, she develops different methods to culture complex microbial populations, which also lets her investigate polymicrobial interactions and their effects on the host. Outside of lab she loves to learn different dance styles, play squash and read books. Akshita graduated with a MSc in August of 2013.

workbench Julie Kaiser came to us from McGill University where she completed a B.Sc. in Microbiology and Immunology and a thesis project with the recently tenured Dr. Samantha Gruenheid on pathogenic E. coli. Since she’s fascinated by how bacterial phenotypes interact with the immune system, her Master’s thesis research in the Surette lab has focused on the inflammatory properties of the Streptococcus milleri group (SMG), and she’s applied a non-reductionist attitude to studying bacterial colonization and infection in collaboration with other members of the lab. She will soon be leaving us, however, to do her doctorate research on pathogenic Staph aureus, in Dr. David Heinrichs’ lab at the University of Western Ontario. Julie secretly loves ecology thanks to David Attenborough and volunteers to play piano for hospital patients when she’s not running marathons.  Julie graduated with a MSc in August 2013 and is now conducting research towards her PhD thesis in David Heinrichs’ lab at the University of Western Ontario.


Post-Doctoral Fellows

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.

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.

_MG_4293Preethi 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!


Jeffery Jeffery Ye  was a 2 year Health Sciences student when he joined the Surette lab in the Fall of 2015. He was 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. Jeffery is currently in medical school at UBC.

Richa Richa John is currently attending medical school at McMaster University.



Kim Ng is currently attending medical schoool at McMaster University Kim




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.

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.

Abhira Srikantha Abhira

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.

_MG_4070Susie 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.

Archana Patel

Isiri Isiri Herath completed her undergraduate degree at McMaster University in Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences in 2013. She joined the Surette lab for her senior thesis and her project focused on gut microbes from the Ruminococcaccea family. During the summer of 2013, Isiri worked on multiple projects ranging from generating a library of gut isolates to testing compounds on gut microbial growth. Beyond the lab, she enjoys reading and biking.

Jenny Gubala

Courtney Hum

Kevin Hooton 

Jessica Tsalikis

Ranjini Nair

 Varun Dave 
is a student joining the lab from University of Waterloo and is completing his fourth year in Computer Engineering. He is helping the Surette lab with sequencing pipeline as well learning a great deal about Bioinformatics. Outside of the lab, he can be found playing squash, swimming, reading, playing cricket, or working on a image processing related project.

High School Students

_MG_4307Eisha Ahmed is a recent high school graduate, and will be attending McGill University to study immunology this Fall as a Loran Scholar. She won the IIDR internship at the 2013 Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair for her project studying peanut and parasite proteins, which she took to the International Science and Engineering Fair. Eisha spent her summer working in both the Bowdish and Surette lab gaining valuable research experience, and under Fiona’s guidance, beefing up her computer science skills.