Lesley MacNeil, PhD (she/her)
I obtained my undergraduate degree in Microbiology from the University of Guelph. I continued my studies at McMaster University where I obtained a Masters degree studying tumor formation and mammary gland development with Dr. John Hassell. I completed my PhD at the University of Toronto where, co-supervised by Dr. Joseph Culotti and Dr. Jeff Wrana, I worked on regulation of axon guidance and cell migration. From Joe, I gained a love of genetics, neurons and all things C. elegans and from Jeff, I gained a love of signal transduction and molecular biology.
In 2009, I was lucky enough to be awarded a CIHR post-doctoral fellowship to work with Dr. Marian Walhout at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the Program for Systems Biology. During my post-doc I mapped out transcriptional networks that regulate gene expression in the C. elegans intestine. At the same time I was drawn back to my microbiology roots and began to explore the impact of bacterial diet on C. elegans development and metabolism.
In 2015, I started my own group at McMaster University where we study pretty much everything having to do with worms and bacteria (check out our research page). I am a member of the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute and the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR).
Hiva Mesbahi, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow (she/her)
Hiva completed both her Honours Bachelor of Science and PhD in Biochemistry at McMaster University. Her PhD project focused on the impact of Gram-positive microbiota species on neurodegeneration in C. elegans models of tauopathies. She is particularly interested in characterizing the role of C. elegans fat metabolism in the neuroprotective response to Rothia species. As a post-doctoral fellow, she is continuing her research into how lipids produced by microbiotal species can reduce neurodegeneration. Outside of the lab, Hiva enjoys learning new skills such as painting, crocheting, and embroidery!
Salah completed his PhD at the University of Saskatchewan where he studied how microbial interactions affect the abundance of Gardnerella spp. in the vaginal microbiome. Salah joined the MacNeil lab in 2021, and in collaboration with the Surette lab, Salah's project focuses on characterizing microbiota-host interactions in diabetes using C. elegans as a model of metabolic disorders.
Salah Uddin Khan, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow (he/him)
Sommer Chou, PhD Candidate (she/her)
Sommer completed her Honours Bachelor of Science in Integrated Science with a specialization in Biochemistry at McMaster University. She joined the MacNeil lab during her fourth year thesis project in collaboration with the Wright lab, and stayed for the start of her MSc studies. Sommer then transferred into the PhD program in January 2021, with her project focusing on the identification of natural products that kill, paralyze, or delay the development of C. elegans to find compounds that are potentially toxic to parasitic worms. Using C. elegans as a model of pathogenesis, she hopes to discover treatment options for helminthiases. Outside of the lab, Sommer can be found eating chocolate, but she is allergic to foods that look like brains! (walnuts and pecans)
Nial Navaratne, MSc Candidate (he/him)
Nial completed his Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology at the University of Toronto, where he gained an interest in host-microbiota interactions. His research in the MacNeil lab focuses on the impact human microbiota isolates have on neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s models of C. elegans. He’s particularly interested in Enterobacter isolates from the human gut, and how they impact the regulation of genes that contribute to tau-induced neurodegeneration. Prior to joining the lab, Nial spent his summers as a camp counsellor at the Tim Horton's Children's foundation.
Jacob Sutoski, MSc Candidate (he/him)
Jacob completed his Bachelor of Health Science in Biochemistry at McMaster, before continuing his studies in Biochemistry within our graduate department. In the MacNeil lab, Jacob is working to identify protein-protein interactions that facilitate signalling through a recently-discovered scaffolding protein in C. elegans, SHC-3. Outside of the lab, he can be found cheering on his favourite football and hockey teams, or working with the McMaster Intramurals as a referee.
Mercedes completed her Honours Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Waterloo, specializing in Microbiology. She joined the MacNeil lab in 2019 and her project focused on the pathogenesis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in C. elegans, as well as identifying microbiome components that reduce P. aeruginosa virulence. After defending their Master's thesis in December 2021, Mercedes is continuing on as a lab technician. Outside of the lab, Mercedes can be found playing Nintendo games with their pet cat, Mira.
Mercedes Di Bernardo, MSc, Lab Technician (she/they)
Rebecca Snow, Undergraduate Thesis Student (she/her)
Rebecca is a fourth-year Biochemistry student who first joined the MacNeil lab as a summer co-op student, where she worked on cloning a variety of C. elegans expression vectors. For her thesis project, she generating a number of GFP reporter constructs to elucidate the localization and expression patterns of Tau tubulin kinase genes in C. elegans.
Danielle Zak, Undergraduate Thesis Student (she/her)
Danielle is a fourth-year Life Sciences, Origins of Disease Specialization student who joined the MacNeil Lab in Fall 2023. For her thesis, she is working on understanding the mechanisms underlying Tau-mediated neurodegeneration, through microscopy-based and behavioural assays.
Jola Adeoye, Undergraduate Thesis Student (she/her)
Jola is a fourth-year Biochemistry, Biomedical Research Specialization student who joined the MacNeil Lab in Fall 2023. Her thesis work entails measuring neurodegeneration in worms lacking major immune and metabolic regulators, to understand how dysregulation of key signalling pathways impacts neurodegeneration in C. elegans.
Zahra Ridha, Undergraduate Project Student (she/her)
Zahra is an Honours Biochemistry student who joined the MacNeil Lab in Fall 2023 for her third-year research project. Zahra is working with Sommer to characterize the impact anthelmintic compounds have on C. elegans biology, using a variety of stress-responsive reporter strains.
Past Lab Members
Sophie Ngana, PhD
Biochemistry and Biomedical Science PhD Graduate 2023
Kim Pho, PhD
Biochemistry and Biomedical Science PhD Graduate 2022
Alex Jiang, PhD
Victoria Leon Guerrero, MSc
MSc. Graduate 2021
Sabih Rashid, MSc
Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences MSc. Graduate 2018