Lesley MacNeil, PhD
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 Pho, PhD-Candidate
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 December 2018. Kim's project focuses on investigating the impact of human microbiota species on Alzheimer's Disease, using C. elegans as a model. She is particularly interested in 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!
Hiva Mesbahi, MSc-Candidate
Hiva completed her Honours Bachelor of Science at McMaster, majoring in Biochemistry. She recently joined the MacNeil lab in 2018 as an MSc. Candidate, and her project focuses on the impact of Gram-positive microbiota species on neurodegeneration in models of tauopathies.
Fun fact: Hiva participates in a dance showcase several times a year!
Mercedes Di Bernardo, MSc-Candidate
Mercedes completed her Honours Bachelor of Science at University of Waterloo, majoring in microbiology in the co-op stream. She recently joined the MacNeil lab in 2019 and her project focuses on the pathogenesis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and identifying microbiome components that reduce P. aeruginosa virulence in C. elegans.
Fun fact: Mercedes loves to bake! Her favourite dessert to make is a peach upside-down cake.
Sommer Chou, MSc-Candidate
Sommer completed her Honours Bachelor of Science in Integrated Science with a specialization in Biochemistry at McMaster University. Her project focuses on the identification of natural products that decrease survival of C. elegans to find compounds that can be 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)
Victoria Leon Guerrero, MSc-Candidate
Victoria completed her Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology Engineering at ITESM in Mexico City. She recently joined the MacNeil lab in 2019 and her project focuses on how metabolism and intestinal signalling in C. elegans affect development.
Fun fact: Victoria did competitive recreational boxing during her time in undergrad! One time a match had to end because her nose was bleeding too much!!!
Meghan Kates, Undergraduate Thesis Student
Meghan is currently completing her Honours Bachelor of Science in Integrated Science with a specialization in Biochemistry. Her project focuses on using a library of compounds produced by Actinomycetes to screen for bacterial products that can protect against P. aeruginosa infection in C. elegans.
Fun fact: On her spare time, Meghan enjoys creative writing! She has written numerous short stories, and is currently working on a long fantasy piece!
Anita Singh, Undergraduate Thesis Student
Anita is currently completing her Honours Bachelor of Health Science in the Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization program. Her project focuses on identifying genes that are differentially regulated in response to microbiota species in C. elegans models of neurodegeneration.
Fun fact: Anita loves the Anne of Green Gables books. She had read and re-read the novels, watched the TV series and seen the live play!
Dennis Weber, Undergraduate Thesis Student
Dennis is currently completing his Honours Bachelor of Health Science in the Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization program. His project focuses on testing the effectiveness of a movement assay in identifying microbiotal factors that influence neurodegeneration.
Fun fact: Dennis genuinely enjoys drinking milk and Dasani water...
Alex Jiang, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow
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 investigating the role of up-regulated C. elegans genes in response to neuroprotective microbiota species.
Sophie Ngana, MD/PhD-Candidate
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.
Past Lab Members
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 recently became the first Master's Graduate from the MacNeil Lab! Congratulations, Sabih!