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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). 


Kim completed her Honours Bachelor of Science at McMaster, majoring in Molecular Biology and Genetics in the co-op stream. She joined the MacNeil lab as a Master's Candidate September 2017 and transferred into the PhD program January 2019. Kim's project focuses on investigating the impact of human microbiota species on Alzheimer's Disease, using C. elegans as a model. She focuses particularly on the transcriptomic profiles of AD models to uncover microbiota-induced mechanisms that influence Tau-induced neurodegeneration and Aβ-induced cytotoxicity.

Fun fact: Kim is an avid escape room go-er! She and her friends have successfully escaped most rooms in the Hamilton-west GTA area and were even previously invited to beta-test new rooms!

Kim Pho, PhD-Candidate (she/her)

Hiva completed her Honours Bachelor of Science at McMaster, majoring in Biochemistry. She joined the MacNeil lab in 2018 as an MSc. Candidate and transferred into the PhD program in January 2020. Her project focuses 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.

Fun fact: Hiva participates in a dance showcase at least once a year!

Hiva Mesbahi, 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! Her project focuses on the identification of natural products that decrease survival of C. elegans to find compounds that are potentially toxic to pathogenic worms. Using C. elegans as a model of pathogenesis, she hopes to discover treatment options for helminthiases.

Fun fact: Sommer is allergic to things that look like brains! (walnuts and pecans)
Sommer Chou, PhD-Candidate (she/her)
Sophie completed three years of her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto before being accepted into the McMaster University Medical School in 2018! She then transferred into the MD/PhD program in 2019 and joined the MacNeil lab. Her project is investigating the impact of microbiota species on neurodegeneration in 
C. elegans models of Parkinson's disease. 

Fun fact: Sophie collects reference materials with her most prized possession being the landmark ninth edition or “Scholar’s Edition” of the Encyclopedia Britannica, published in 1876 and the first edition to mention the theory of evolution.
Sophie Ngana, MD/PhD-Candidate (she/her)

Alex completed his PhD studies at the University of Western Ontario. His thesis focused on cellular mechanisms impacted by proteotoxicity in yeast models of Huntington Disease. Alex joined the MacNeil lab in 2019 and his project is focused on elucidating the role of an uncharacterized target of the p38/PMK-1 signaling pathway in C. elegans models of Alzheimer's disease.
Alex Jiang, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow (he/him)

Salah completed his PhD work at the University of Saskatchewan where he studied how microbial interactions affect the abundance of Gardnerella spp. in the vaginal microbiome. Salah recently 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)

Mercedes completed her Honours Bachelor of Science at University of Waterloo, majoring in microbiology in the co-op stream. She joined the MacNeil lab in 2019 and her project focused on the pathogenesis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and identifying microbiome components that reduce P. aeruginosa virulence in C. elegans. Throughout her Master's, Mercedes worked to characterize mechanisms underlying C. elegans stress responses triggered by PA14 virulence factors. After successfully defending her Master's thesis in December 2021, Mercedes is continuing on as a lab technician in the MacNeil lab!

Fun fact: Mercedes loves to bake! Her favourite dessert to make is a peach upside-down cake.
Mercedes Di Bernardo, MSc, Lab Technician (she/they)

Alejandra is a fourth year undergraduate thesis student majoring in Biochemistry at McMaster. Alejandra's project focuses on identifying kinases and phosphatases that cause or prevent neurodegeneration in a C. elegans model of tauopathies.

Fun fact: Alejandra has watched Breaking Bad at least 10 times!!! She's also a big fan of the spin-off Better Call Saul.
Alejandra Picon Moreno, Undergraduate Thesis Student (she/her)
Past Lab Members
Victoria Leon Guerrero, MSc
Biochemistry and Biomedical Science MSc. Graduate 2021

Vicky completed her Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology Engineering at ITESM in Mexico City. She joined the MacNeil lab in 2019 and her project focused on how metabolism and intestinal signaling in C. elegans affect development. During her studies, Vicky worked to characterize the functions of C. elegans intestinally expressed SHC proteins. Vicky proceeded to successfully defend her Master's work in September 2021. Congratulations, Vicky! 

Sabih Rashid, MSc 
Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences MSc. Graduate 2018

Sabih completed his undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics at McMaster University in 2016. His interest in C. elegans began through working with Dr. Bhagwati Gupta during his undergraduate degree.  During Sabih's time as a graduate student at the MacNeil Lab, his project focused on looking at the development of
C. elegans on different microbiotal bacteria. Sabih began his Master's degree in September 2016, and in 2018, became the first Master's Graduate from the MacNeil Lab! Congratulations, Sabih!

Natalie Mari, Research Lab Technician
Natalie was the go-to person in the lab if you're looking for a reagent, need something to be ordered, or even just a helping hand! Natalie is now a lab technician for the Department of Biology at McMaster University. She is missed every day, but we know she's killing it!
More past members....
Yejin Kang - Undergraduate thesis student/Co-op student
Dami Shittu - Undergraduate thesis student
Alyshia Laidlaw - Undergraduate thesis student
Dennis Weber - Undergraduate thesis student
Meghan Kates - Undergraduate thesis student
Anita Singh - Undergraduate thesis student

Rabia Fatima - Undergraduate thesis student
Kiana Karimpoor - Undergraduate thesis student
Jamie Clark - Undergraduate thesis student
Jonathan Ong - Undergraduate thesis student
Lamia Hossain - Undergraduate thesis student
Eduardo Rojas - Undergraduate thesis student
Bryanna Meikle - Undergraduate thesis student/Co-op student
Scott Amon - Post-doctoral fellow 2017-2018
Tammy Lau - Undergraduate summer student 2017
Andrea Tench - 3rd year project and 4th year thesis student 2015-2017
Michelle Lohbihler - 3rd year project student & volunteer 2016-2017

Blake White - Researcher 2015-2016
Treden Simon - Thesis student 2015-2016
Sophia Duong - Thesis student 2015-2016
Dennis Ng - Thesis student 2015-2016
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