Graduate Program: Microbiology & Immunology
Year of Entry: 2014
PhD Supervisor: Dr. Thien-Fah Mah
I grew up on a farm south of Ottawa, and I completed my B.Sc. in Biomedical Science at the University of Ottawa. I was exposed to research very early during my undergraduate degree thanks to an Undergraduate Research Scholarship from the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Science. For three summers, I had the opportunity to work on the creation of mice lacking receptors that are important for natural killer cell function in Dr. Andrew Makrigiannis’ laboratory. I then completed my honours research project in Dr. Thien-Fah Mah’s laboratory, where I investigated the transcriptional regulation of biofilm-specific antibiotic resistance genes in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic Gram-negative pathogen. I am continuing my graduate studies with Dr. Mah. My extracurricular interests include curling and agriculture.
Biofilms are surface-attached microbial communities that are many times more resistant to antimicrobial agents than free-swimming planktonic cells. Biofilm-based infections, such as the chronic lung infections caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa in cystic fibrosis patients, are therefore extremely difficult to treat in spite of aggressive antibiotic therapy. Although cells living in the planktonic and biofilm phases share identical genomes, they have remarkably different transcriptional profiles. In P. aeruginosa, several genes that are expressed preferentially in biofilm cells act via a variety of mechanisms to contribute to the higher degree of antibiotic resistance that is observed in biofilms compared to planktonic cells. The goal of my research is to elucidate the regulatory elements responsible for the biofilm-specific expression of these antibiotic resistance genes. In the future, regulators of biofilm-specific antibiotic resistance genes could serve as targets for novel drugs that would render biofilm-based infections more responsive to treatment with antibiotics, thereby improving patient outcomes.
2015 - MD/PhD Program Grant 2014 (CIHR)
2015-2016 - Admission Scholarship (FGPS, University of Ottawa)
2016-2019 - Excellence Scholarship (FGPS, University of Ottawa)
2016- - Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (CIHR)