Lab Members

Postdoctoral Fellows

Gastón Rueda


Gaston Rueda completed his MD degree at the Universidad Nacional de La Rioja, Argentina. He is currently a postdoctoral research fellow investigating the role of dietary interventions in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus, celiac disease and IBD, co-supervised in collaborative projects between the Verdu and Bercik-Collins labs.


  • CAG Trainee Award, 2021
  • SSCD Travel Conference Award, 2021
  • Mitacs Elevate Post-Doctoral Research Award 2022

Michael Bording-Jorgensen


Michael Bording-Jorgensen completed his PhD in Physiology at the University of Alberta, characterizing the role of the NLRP3 inflammasome activation in macrophage clearance of Citrobacter rodentium. He then did a Post Doc with Alberta Precision Labs developing molecular testing for non-O157 STEC outbreaks in Alberta. His second Post Doc was in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta looking at the role of diet and the gut microenvironment on the pathogenesis of pathobionts in pediatric IBD. In the Verdu lab he will be looking at the role of new generation probiotics in relation to proteolytic activity and colitis severity using mouse models.


  • Farncombe Family Post-Doctoral Research Award 2023
  • Mitacs Elevate Post-Doctoral Fellowship 2020
  • Graduate Student Teaching Award University of Alberta 2018
  • Department of Physiology Graduate Studentship University of Alberta 2016
  • AHFMR IBD Consortium Graduate Studentship 2013

Graduate Students

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.

  • Dr. J. A. Campbell Young Investigator Award (Canadian Celiac Association), 2022
  • 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

Mark Wulczynski

PhD Student

Mark completed his BSc in Biological Sciences, and MSc in Applied Bioscience (specializing in immunology) at Ontario Tech University. For his Master’s thesis, he investigated the impact of dietary resistant protein and starch on immune measures in Sprague-Dawley rats.
In his PhD thesis Mark will characterize the effects of long-term gluten immunopathology in different mouse models expressing celiac predisposing genes (HLA-DQ8 and -DQ2).

  • Dr. J. A. Campbell Young Investigator Award (Canadian Celiac Association), 2023
  • Ontario Graduate Fellowship (OGF), 2023
  • Douglas C. Russel Memorial Scholarship, 2023
  • Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship in Science and Technology, 2022
  • Mitacs Elevate PhD Student Award, 2021

Kyle Jackson

PhD Student

Kyle graduated from McMaster University with a BHSc in Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization with an emphasis on biotechnology and strategic business development. He completed his fourth-year thesis under Dr. Zeinab Hosseini-Doust (Chemical Engineering, McMaster University) where he assisted in the development of soft biomaterials comprised of bacteriophages. He joined the Verdu Lab as a master’s student in Chemical Engineering, co-supervised by Dr. Hosseini-Doust. He successfully transferred to a PhD program investigating the use of bacteriophages as a therapeutic intervention for inflammatory bowel diseases.

  • Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (PhD), 2022
  • The Robert B. Anderson Memorial Prize for Leadership and Excellence, 2022
  • CIHR Canadian Graduate Scholarship Masters, 2020
  • Ontario Graduate Scholarship, 2020

Utkarshini Nitin Kirtikar

PhD Student

Utkarshini, or “UK” as she likes to be called, graduated in Nutrition and Dietetics form the S.N.D.T Women’s University. She then went on to complete an MSc degree at the University of Leeds, United Kingdom and is currently pursuing her PhD at McMaster University, Canada. UK will participate in a study investigating tryptophan supplementation in non-responsive celiac disease. She will counsel the study participants to adhere to a tryptophan-controlled diet and would assess their dietary compliance using 3- day 24-hour dietary recall which would further be analyzed using the ESHA Food processor – a nutrition analysis software. 

  • MITACS Elevate Graduate Scholarship, 2022
  • Farncombe Institute PhD student award, 2022

Amber Hann

PhD Student

Amber graduated from the Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences program at McMaster University where she completed a 4th year thesis jointly between Dr. Didar’s and Dr. Verdu’s lab in the development of two dimensional, organoid-derived epithelium from humanized mouse models. Currently Amber is a PhD in medical sciences student in the Verdu lab training in the axenic gnotobiotic unit (AGU) to investigate mechanisms involved humanized mouse models of ulcerative colitis. She also participates in the analysis of biological samples from clinical trials in IBD.

    • Douglas C. Russel Memorial Scholarship, 2023
    • Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS), 2023
    • Mitacs Elevate MSc Student Award, 2021

Kelly Kan

MSc Student

Kelly graduated from Western University with a BMSc and an Honours Specialization in Biochemistry. Currently, Kelly is a MSc student in the Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences program in our lab and alsoco-supervised by Dr. Alberto Caminero. Her project aims to investigate the role of microbial protein metabolism in gastrointestinal diseases. In the Verdu lab she is investigating the therapeutic mechanisms by which a probiotic interacts with the gut microbiota in the context of celiac disease.

    • CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarship Masters, 2024

Janet Szeto

MSc Student

Janet graduated from the University of Toronto, completing a BSc. in psychology and biology. She joined the Farncombe Family Digestive Research Institute as a clinical research assistant under the supervision of Dr. Elena Verdu and Dr. David Armstrong in 2021, where she coordinated multiple clinical projects in inflammatory bowel disease research. Now transitioning to bench work in her role as MSc student, she is analyzing clinical samples and working with humanized-mouse models. Her project aims to investigate the mechanisms of host and bacteria interactions in mucosa-associated bacteria, in the context of IBD. 

    Research Assistants

    Xuanyu Wang, MSc

    Research Assistant

    With a histology and pathology background, Xuanyu Wang has expertise in morphological analysis of the gut. After joining Verdu Lab, her major tasks are measuring intestinal permeability in mouse models by Using Chamber technique and isolating/freezing embryos for embryo transfer procedures in the Axenic Gnotobiotic Unit. She is also in charge of lab safety training and equipment curator.

    Marco Constante, PhD

    Research Assistant, Molecular Biology

    Data Scientist & Bioinformatician 

    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.


    Undergraduate Students

    Miriam Goldstein

    Undergraduate Student (Life Sci)

    Miriam works under the supervision of PhD student Amber Hann on the role of proteolytic bacteria in IBD.

      Jasmeet Dhaliwal

      Undergraduate Student (Honours integrated Science)

      Jasmeet is supervised by Dr. Heather Galipeau and works under the guidance of Mark Wulczynski in a model of gluten sensitivity.


      • Farcombe Institute Summer Student Award 2023


      Luke Cammalleri

      Undergraduate Student (Biology)

      Luke works under the guidance of PDF Dr. Michael Bording-Jorgensen.

      AGU Staff

      Sarah Armstrong

      AGU Staff. AGU-research lab liaison.

      Joe Notarangelo

      AGU Staff. AGU equipment curator.

      Mike Rosatti

      AGU Staff

      Janet Szeto

      AGU week-end staff and Clinical Research Coordinator

      Erik Bercik

      AGU week-end staff

      Alumni & Past Lab Members

      Past Lab Members

      Jennifer Jury

      For 15 years, Jennifer managed, and kept the Verdu lab running smoothly. We will miss her dearly, and wish her the best in her retirement!

      Post Doctoral Fellows

      Alba Santiago Badenas, PhD

      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 focused on the investigation of the role of gut bacterial proteolytic activity in ulcerative colitis. Alba is currently the Research Scientist at the Instituto Oncológico de Vall d’Hebron, Barcelona, Spain leading projects on the role of microbiota in molecular oncology.

      • Young Investigator Award by the European Society of Neurogastroenterology & Motility
      • Farncombe Family Post-Doctoral Research Award 2019
      • Mitacs Elevate Post-Doctoral Research Award 2021

      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 led a study that investigated the relationship between proteolytic bacteria and mucosal inflammation in IBD patients, and the biogeographic differences in microbiota in patients with Celiac disease (published in Gastroenterology 2021). She is currently a Senior Policy Advisor in the Strategic Policy Unit – Infection Prevention and Control Branch at the Canadian Treasury Board Secretariat in Toronto.

      • CAG-CIHR-IMAGINE Postdoctoral Fellowship
      • 2020 McMaster Student Union (MSU) Faculty of Science Teaching Award

      Leticia Hernandez-Galan, PhD

      Leticia trained as a postdoctoral researcher in Verdu Lab. 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 focused on the protective role of specific amino acid metabolism and microbiota-derived components in celiac disease. Leticia is now Lab Manager at Allarta Life Science Inc., Ontario, Canada.

      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 senior scientist at ProDigest 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). Jane is now Translational Science Lead, Microbiome at Nestle Health Science, 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. Christina is now a research associate at the Kaushic Lab (McMaster University).

      • 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 pathogenesis in gluten-related disorders. Justin defended his PhD thesis in 2017 and began a post-doctoral fellow training on tolerance to infection during aging, at Salk Institute for Biological Studies. After his postdoc, he joined Novartis as a Principal Scientist, and is leading a group in the field of immuno-oncology.

      • 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

      Julie Godbout, MSc

      Julie investigated the impact of early life events in a humanized DR3-DQ2 mouse model of gluten sensitivity, to find ways to decrease the risk of celiac disease prevalence in genetically susceptible individuals. She graduated in 2022 and currently holds a position in industry.

      Alexandra Clarizio, MSc

      Alex characterized gluten immunopathology in mouse models of gluten sensitivity expressing the celiac risk gene HLA-DQ2. Throughout her training she received a CCC-CAG Summer Student Scholarship Award (2017), an Ontario Graduate Scholarship and Queen Elisabeth II Award (2019), and the 2020 Canadian Celiac Association Young Investigator Award. Alex successfully defended her Master’s in the summer of 2020 and is currently enrolled in Medical School at McMaster University.

      • 2017 CCC-CAG Summer Student Scholarship Award
      • 2019 Ontario Graduate Scholarship and Queen Elisabeth II Award
      • 2020 Canadian Celiac Association Young Investigator Award

      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. Michelle is currently a Paediatric Gastroenterologist, and Assistant Professor, at the Department of Pediatrics in Dalhousie University

      • 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

      Mahnoor Shahab (Health Sciences 3rd year course, HTHSCI 3H03)

      Manhoor trained under Dr. Josie Libertucci, PDF, on the isolation of bacterial strains from IBD patients.


      • Farcombe Institute Summer Student Award 2022
      • CAG Summer Student Fellowship 2022
      • Farncombe Student Fellowship 2022 (declined)
      •  BHSc Summer 2022 Research Scholarship

      Anna Fletcher, BSc (4th year thesis, Honours Biochemistry – Biomedical Research Specialization)

      Anna completed a 4th year thesis for her BSc in Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences focusing on the role of the microbiome in immune mediated disease, specifically celiac disease. As an undergraduate student during COVID times, Anna focussed on learning the pathophysiological basis of gastrointestinal conditions by regularly interacting with graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in the lab through online resources.

      Sean Lifshits, (Summer student, Biochemistry 3R06)

      Krista Antonio (Biochem 4T15 A/B – Senior Thesis, Honours Biochemistry)

      Krista characterized the recovery of mucosal lesions after the gluten free diet in a mouse model of celiac disease under the supervision of one of Verdu Lab’s PhD students, Mark Wulczynski.


      •  2021 Farncombe Summer Student Fellowship

      Maya Al Mardini, BSc  (4th year Thesis, Biochemistry-Biomedical Research Sp. Co-op, Biochem 4T15)

      Angad Hanjrah, BSc (BioPharm co-op)

      Lindsey Zhang, BSc  (Health Sciences)

      •  2020 CAG Summer Studentship Award – Funds returned to CAG due to COVID19 Pandemic. Studentship was completed virtually and supported by Farncombe Summer Student Fellowship.

      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 pursuing an MD/PhD at John Hopkins, Baltimore.

      • 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.

      Other 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)