Lab Members

Postdoctoral Fellows

Leticia Hernandez-Galan


Leticia is a postdoctoral researcher from Mexico, specialist in Food Science. She obtained her PhD in Food Engineering under co-joint supervision between the Tecnologico de Monterrey (Mexico) and the Universite Paris-Saclay – AgroParisTech- INRA (France). During her thesis she worked with the human microbiota and developed an interest in the positive relationship between diet, bacterial metabolism and intestinal diseases. At Verdu Lab, Leticia´s research focusses on the protective role of specific amino acid metabolism and microbiota-derived components in celiac disease.

Alba Santiago Badenas


Alba completed her PhD degree in October 2018, on the role of the gut microbiome in the progression of cirrhosis, at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in association with the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute. At Verdu lab, her project will be focused on the investigation of the role of gut bacterial proteolytic activity in ulcerative colitis.

  • Young Investigator Award by the European Society of Neurogastroenterology & Motility
  • Farncombe Family Post-Doctoral Research Award 2019

Josie Libertucci, PhD


Josie joined the Verdu Lab as a postdoctoral research fellow in August 2019. Before joining the Verdu Lab she completed a fellowship at the University of Michigan where she studied how the microbiota and diet influence Clostridium difficile infection using a murine model. Josie obtained her PhD at McMaster University, where she investigated the intestinal microbiome in IBD and its response to therapy, under the supervision of Dr. Michael Surette. Prior to that, Josie completed her MSc at the University of Calgary where she investigated microbe-microbe interactions between cystic fibrosis isolates. In the Verdu lab, Josie is leading a study that investigates the relationship between proteolytic bacteria and mucosal inflammation in Crohn’s disease patients.

    Graduate Students

    Alexandra Clarizio

    Masters Student

    Alex’s project investigates the role of the Aryl Hydrocarbon receptor in mouse models of gluten sensitivity that transgenically express the celiac risk genes HLA-DQ8 or -DQ2.

    • 2017 CCC-CAG Summer Student Scholarship Award
    • 2019 Ontario Graduate Scholarship and Queen Elisabeth II Award

    Sara Rahmani

    PhD Student

    Sara joined the Verdu lab as a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering, co-supervised by Dr. Tohid Didar (Mechanical Engineering). Sara graduated from Amirkabir University of Technology (Tehran Polytechnic) in Iran, with a BSc in Chemical Engineering. She then obtained her MSc in Chemical Engineering from University of Waterloo working in the ‘Laboratory for Functional Colloids and Sustainable Nanomaterial’. For her PhD project, Sara applies microengineered organ-on-a-chip technology to develop an in vitro model of celiac epithelium.


    • Queen Elizabeth II Gradate Scholarship in Science and Technology, 2017
    • Clifton W. Sherman Graduate Scholarship, 2017
    • Biomedical Engineering Graduate Student Award, 2016-2019
    • McMaster University Dean’s Excellence Engineering Doctoral Award, 2016-2019

    Research Assistants

    Jennifer Jury, MSc

    Research Assistant and Lab Manager

    Jennifer Jury is our lab manager. She oversees all technical procedures, ensures lab safety and supports the AGU activities, such as embryo isolation and freezing. She is the Farncombe team captain for CCC fundraising activities.


    • McMaster’s President Award for Outstanding Service in 2015

    Marco Constante, PhD

    Research Assistant

    Marco obtained his PhD in systems biology from the Pompeu Fabra University in Spain and did a postdoc where he studied the microbiota in the context of inflammatory bowel diseases at Montreal University. At McMaster, Marco is investigating the potential therapeutic effects of probiotics on gut and behavioral dysfunction induced by microbiota from patients with irritable bowel syndrome and co-morbid anxiety.

    Research Associates

    Heather Galipeau, PhD

    Research Associate

    Heather obtained a PhD degree from McMaster University in 2015 and currently holds a position as Research Associate. Her research focusses on the role of commensal bacteria in modulating gluten-induced immuno-pathology. Work performed during her PhD studies showed that the small intestinal microbial background influences the degree of immuno-pathology triggered by dietary antigens such as gluten. Heather also investigated potential new therapies to support a gluten-free diet. She discovered that elafin expression in the intestinal epithelium of celiac patients was lower than in patients one year after the gluten free diet and than in non-celiac people. Her team found that elafin could delay the rate of deamidadion by human tissue transglutaminase 2 (TG2) of the immunogenic gluten peptide 33-mer.

    Undergraduate Students

    AGU Staff

    Sarah Armstrong
    AGU Staff. AGU-research lab liaison.

    Joe Notarangelo
    AGU Staff. AGU equipment curator.

    Mike Rossatti
    AGU Staff

    Xuan-Yu Wang
    AGU Staff

    Dr. Carolyn Southward
    AGU Microbiology control


    Post Doctoral Fellows

    Alberto Caminero, PhD

    Alberto completed his PhD in microbiology at the University of Leon, Spain. The central aim of Alberto’s research is to investigate the impact of the gut microbiota alterations in celiac disease. At Verdu lab, he identified opportunistic pathogens in the small intestine of patients with celiac disease that, through elastase production, increase the immunogenicity of gluten. From July 2019, Alberto has joined the faculty of the Farncombe Institute, Department of Medicine at McMaster University as Assistant Professor.

    • Short Fellowship EMBO 2013
    • CIHR Fellowship 2013
    • JA Campbell Research Award from Canadian Celiac Association 2016
    • Farncombe Family fellowship award 2017
    • Basmajian Award for Excellence in Post-Doctoral Research Work 2018

    Manuel A. Silva, MD

    Manuel trained as Post-Doctoral Fellow with Dr. Mary Perdue and later in Verdu lab, where he also worked in the Axenic Gnotobiotic Unit. He led and developed projects in innate immunity and epithelial barrier function. He then worked as Lab director in Roche, Germany. He is now a Director in Histopathology at Merck, Germany.

    Bruno Lamas, PhD

    Bruno obtained his PhD at Auvergne University, France and later trained as a post-doctoral fellow UPMC University in Paris and MICALIS Institute at INRA, France. Bruno investigated the role of the gut microbiota metabolism on the inappropriate intestinal immune response observed in celiac disease patients. Bruno has returned to his native France, where he holds an Assistant Professor position at Toulouse (INSERM).

    • Michael G. DeGroote Fellowship Award in Basic Biomedical Science

    Miriam Bermudez Brito, PhD

    Miriam obtained her PhD in microbiology at Complutense Madrid, Spain. At Verdu lab, she investigated the role of bacterial proteolytic activity in inflammatory bowel disorders. She isolated and characterized the bacterial proteolytic activity isolated from patients with ulcerative colitis, and used these communities to colonize germ-free mice. Miriam is now a group leader and research scientist at a major Pharmaceutical company in The Netherlands.

    • MITACS Elevate PDF award

    PhD Students

    Jane Natividad, PhD

    Jane studied the cross-talk between gut bacteria and host tissues. Using gnotobiotic mice she demonstrated that although intracellular bacterial sensors are important in the regulation of colonic paracellular permeability and susceptibility to colitis, changing the intestinal microbiota composition results in normalization of colitis susceptibility. Jane identified that specific components of the microbiota differentially regulate RegIII expression. Her studies revealed that colonization of germ-free mice with a microbiota low in the core family of Firmicutes derived from patients with severe and active ulcerative colitis, promoted a molecular Th17 pro-inflammatory signature that increases colitis severity. After successful post-doctoral training at INRA, Paris (France) funded by a CIHR fellowship, Jane obtained a Research Scientist position at Nestle Research Center (Switzerland).

    • Ontario Graduate Scholarship
    • Insititut Rosell-Lallemend Probiotics Challenge
    • Canadian Association of Gastroenterology/Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada Student Research Prize
    • McMaster Graduate Programs Excellence Award
    • McMaster Outstanding Thesis Award

    Christina Hayes, PhD

    Christina graduated from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology with a BSc in Biological Sciences and a specialization in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. She explored the effects of probiotics on colitis in a murine model. She successfully transferred from the an MSc program to a PhD and later investigated microbe hosts interactions with special focus on barrier function.

    • Travel Award (Society if Mucosal Immunology) to attend the 2016 Mucosal Immunology Course & Symposium to present “Role of Gut Microbiota in Structure and Function of the Intestinal Barrier.”
    • Farncombe Studentship (Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute) 2016/2017, for research on “Role of Gut Microbiota in Structure and Function of the Intestinal Barrier.”
    • Honourable Mention & Poster of Distinction (Canadian Digestive Diseases Week) 2015, for “Effect of Microbiota on Maturation of Intestinal Barrier Structure and Function.”
    • Travel Award (Medical Sciences Graduate Program, McMaster University) for Canadian Digestive Diseases Week 2015.
    • Myra Baillie Academic Grant (Medical Sciences Graduate Program, McMaster University) 2014
    • Myra Baillie Academic Grant (Medical Sciences Graduate Program, McMaster University) 2012

    Justin McCarville, PhD

    Justin graduated from the University of Ontario Institute of technology in with a BSc, pursuing an MSc at the same institution. He joined the Verdu lab in 2012 as a PhD student, and investigated the role of the gut microbiota as a modulator of the immune responses to gliadin. Justin defended his PhD thesis in 2017 and is now a post-doctoral fellow training on tolerance to infection during aging, at Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California.

    • Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship in Science & Technology (2012)
    • JA Campbell Young Investigator Award from the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) (2014)
    • Dr. Jordan Page Harshman Bursary (2015)
    • Certificate of recognition from the AGA for contributions to the field for an early investigator (2016)
    • Boris Scholar Studentship (2016)
    • McMaster Outstanding Thesis Award

    MSc Students

    Michelle Wiepjes, MSc, MD

    Michelle Wiepjes joined the Verdu lab in 2009 as an undergraduate student and went on to complete her senior thesis investigating the intestinal paracellular permeability defect in HLA-DQ8 mice. In 2010, Michelle began her graduate studies in the lab, focusing on the protease inhibitor elafin and its potential protective role following gluten exposure in animal models of gluten sensitivity. Michelle completed her MSc in 2012 and has since graduated as MD in 2016 from Queen’s University in Kingston. She currently trains in paediatrics.

    • JA Campbell Young Investigator Award from the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) (2011)

    Jasmine Dong, MSc

    Jasmine completed an undergraduate degree in the Molecular Biology & Genetics program at McMaster and an undergraduate thesis in Verdu Lab. She later enrolled in an MSc program, also in Verdu Lab. In 2017, Jasmine successfully defended her MSc thesis the role of serpin producing bacteria in celiac disease. For the future, she would like to pursue a career in health care.

    • CIHR MSc award

    Exchange Students

    Romina Elizabeth Araya, PhD

    Romina Elizabeth Araya trained as PhD at the Instituto de Estudios Inmunologicos y Fisiopatologicos (IIFP-CONICET, Argentina). She visited Verdu lab as an exchange student in the summer of 2010 and returned in 2012 under a Canadian Association of Gastroenterology Latin American Student Research Award for a 6-month international student exchange. In Verdu lab she studied the effect of poly I:C and gliadin-derived peptides in the induction of enteropathy in gluten-susceptible NOD-DQ8 mice. Romina is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at CIP/CCR/NCI/NIH (Bethesda, US) where she is studying the interplay of microbiota, myeloid cells and innate lymphoid cells in tumor progression and antitumor therapy.

    Undergraduate Students

    Liam Rondeau, BSc

    Liam studied the role of FimH expressing bacteria in mouse models of gluten sensitivity.

    • 2019 Farncombe Family Summer Studentship Award

    Desiree D’Souza, BSc

    Desiree studied the role of FimH expressing bacteria in patients with celiac disease.

    Carolina Duque, BSc
    The project involved isolation of bacterial strains from the colon of patients with ulcerative colitis and determination of bacterial proteolytic activity. She graduated from Cornell University in 2018 and is currently applying to Medical School.

    • 2017 CCC-CAG Summer Student Scholarship Award

    Joo Jung (Jeff) Park

    Jeff studied the gluten metabolic capacity of bacteria isolated from the duodenum of healthy subjects and patients with celiac disease. He is currently a medical student at the University of Toronto.

    • 2017 Ivan Beck Memorial Summer Studentship Award

    Conor Sheridan

    Conor investigated the effects of microbial colonization on intestinal barrier structure and immune maturation. His study of changes in cellular morphology and proliferation combined with markers of immune response in murine models help characterize the mechanisms underlying intestinal barrier structure post-colonization. Conor is currently enrolled in a MSc at the University of Toronto in the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute.   

    Daniel Sinclair, BSc, Production Scientist at Affinity Biologicals
    After high school, Daniel Sinclair spent 1 year at McMaster University in the Life Sciences program after which he transferred to the University of Guelph and finished a Bachelor of Science in their Human Kinetics program. During a couple of the summers of his BSc he was a Student Fellow at Verdu Lab where he worked on intestinal permeability measurements in animal models and compared Ussing chamber ex vivo techniques with in vivo measurements using metabolic cages. After graduation, Dan got a job at Affinity Biologicals. He began as a Quality Control Technologist, was promoted to Production Scientist, and recently as Manufacturing Team Leader. Daniel has participated in educational activities at the Canadian Digestive Disease Week to inform science trainees about possible career paths in industry. He acknowledges that at Affinity, he draws on the experiences he had during his undergraduate thesis and volunteer summer work in Verdu Lab.

    Previous Undergraduate Students

    • Owen Litman (2013-2014, Medical School)
    • Laurie Suhr (2010, Nutriceutical Industry, France)
    • Lauriane Egron (2012, Nutriceutical Industry, France)
    • Greg Armstrong (2008-2009, Medical School, Scotland)
    • Andrew Collins (2008-2009, Resident in Internal Medicine, McMaster University)
    • Deepti Chopra (2008-2009, Resident in Gastroenterology, McMaster University)
    • Christine Le (2008-2009, Family Medicine)
    • Simon Van Sickle (2006-2007, Teacher’s College)