The Team

This page lists our current and honorary members. Perhaps you’d like to see our growing list of amazing Alumni?

Graduate Students:

Christian Bellissimo (PhD student – co-supervised with Dr. Deborah Sloboda) got inspired to study immunology and pregnancy after taking Advanced Immunology. He studies how the immune cells of the placenta change when the mother is exposed to stress. Early life stress influences how well or how poorly you age and so Christian’s work may help develop strategies to give all babies a healthy start. Distinctions: Ontario Graduate Scholarship 2017. Canada Graduate Scholarship-MSC, 2018, Canada Graduate Scholarhsip-Doctoral 2019. Best Poster Presentation in Placental Biology at the Canadian National Perinatal Research Meeting(2019). 

Dominika Boron (MSc student, 2020-) graduated from the University of Windsor and joined the Bowdish lab to study how the airway microbiome changes with age and whether these changes are one of the reasons older adults are more likely to get sick with respiratory infections. In collaboration with Dr. Michael Surette’s lab she aims find the ‘probiotics of the nose’ that might be a novel way to keep us from developing respiratory infections. Distinctions: Ontario Graduate Scholarship (2020/21), Award for best short talk at the Medical Sciences Graduate Program Virtual Research Day (March 2021), CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarship (2021-2022). Selected talk for the Mildred Gulliver award competition – IIDR trainee day 2021. 

Kevin Zhao (MD/PhD student, 2021-) did his undergraduate at McMaster and was accepted into the MD/PhD program in his third year. He joined the Bowdish lab to study the pressing problem of why macrophages lose their ability to phagocytose (‘eat’) and kill microbes with age. By looking at the specific molecular pathways that stop working, we should be able to find drugs and treatments that turn them back on again and help older adults resist infections. Distinctions: Winner of the McMaster Institute of Research on Aging Pitch Your Project “People’s Choice Awards” 2021. MIRA-IIDR PhD scholarship 2022. Ontario Graduate Scholarship 2022. First place PhD short presentation at the 8th Annual Perey Symposium (2022). 

Jenna Benoit (PhD student, 2021-) did an MSc in the lab of Dr. Mansour Haeryfar at Western University where she studied how the microbiota alters circulating immune cells and ultimately clinical outcomes. She’s come to us to join our efforts to fight COVID. She is studying how well vaccines work in people with autoimmune conditions and who are on immunosuppressive drugs. In addition to helping patients understand how protected they are from COVID, this will this teach us how diseases and drugs alter immune responses to vaccination. Distinctions: Ontario Graduate Scholarship (2022). Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health Travel grant to present selected abstract (oral presentation) at the Canadian Society of Immunology conference 2022.Poster award at the Canadian Society of Immunology (2022).  McMaster Global Experiences Travel Award present chosen abstract at FOCIS 2022. Second place for best PhD presentation at the 2022 Perey Symposium. 

Sofya Ermolina (MSc student, 2021-) did her undergraduate degree at Brock University and worked as a technician in McMaster’s CAF. She brings that wealth of skills to our team that will be essential to uncover the role of the microbiome and inflammation in healthy and unhealthy aging. She’ll be working primarily in the PreClinical Studies in Aging Lab to find new avenues of intervention to improve the aging trajectory. Distinctions: CIHR funded scholarship to attend the Summer Program on Aging. 

Lab Manager & Manager of the PreClinical Studies in Aging Lab:

Erica de Jong (MSc  2018-2020) did a BSc project with Dr. John McCormick at Western University and an MSc in the Bowdish lab entitled “Unhealthy Aging and themicrobiota”. She is helping us uncover how the microbes that live in and on us conspire against us as we grow older, manages our biobank and industrial and academic collaborations. She is also the lead scientist in the PreClinical Studies in Aging Lab. Distinctions: Ontario Graduate Scholarship (2019/2020). Certificate of Excellence from the Summer Program in Aging, CIHR (2019).

Post-doctoral fellows:

Dr. Candice Quin (PDF 2020-) joins us after having done a PhD on interactions between the diet and the microbiome during early life at UBC. She is pivoting from early life to help us understand how the aging microenvironment alters the development and function of immune cells. This is the first step to understand if we can manipulate inflammation to improve immune function in older adults. Distinctions: CIHR Fellowship (2020-2023). Mildred Gulliver Post-doctoral fellow award 2021. Best poster at the IIDR trainee day (2020). Winner of the Perey Symposium postdoctoral fellowship award for best oral presentation (2022). 

Dr. Jessica Breznik (PDF 2020-) was a PhD in the Bowdish lab (see her many distinctions under our ‘alumni’ section). She is contributing to our team’s efforts in the fight against COVID-19 by leading our study on cellular immune correlates of protection to COVID-19 vaccination in long-term care. These data will help us understand how long and how well our most vulnerable residents will be protected. Distinctions: MIRA fellowship (2021-2022). Best PDF poster- IIDR Trainee Day 2021. Poster award in Maternal & Fetal Medicine at the 2022 Canadian National Perinatal Research Meeting. 

Dr. Kate Kennedy (PDF 2021-) is an expert on the microbiome and early life after having done a PhD in Dr. Deborah Sloboda’s lab. She joins our team to understand how the airway microbiome changes with age and whether this contributes to susceptibility and protection from respiratory infections. Distinctions: Award for talk at the 2022 Canadian National Perinatal Research Meeting. Molly Towell Perinatal Research Foundation (2022). 

Research Coordinators & Technical Staff:

Alex Chan (2021-)

Sussan Kianpour (2020-): is a long-time member of the McMaster Immunology Research Centre where she’s filled a number of important roles. Sussan started as a research coordinator for one of our studies on the microbiome and aging but lately has turned her significant technical skills to helping us understand how well residents of long-term care respond to COVID vaccination. The data she has helped generate has been immensely informative in understanding how to best protect this vulnerable population.

Braeden Cowborough (2019 – ) got an MSc from the McMaster Immunology Research Centre with Dr. Matt Miller in 2017. After working briefly in industry he joined the Bowdish team. Braeden’s portfolio is extensive, he is leading our labs serological studies of antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 infections and vaccinations.

Lucas Bilaver (2021-June 2022)


Fearless leaderDawn‘s project is – in theory – pushing back the boundaries of macrophage biology. Dawn-feeding-data-wall-smIn practice she spends a lot of time writing grants, writing more grants, filling out interminable paperwork, and basically keeping all those macrophage shaped balls in the air. She is pictured here doing what she loves best – keeping the data gods fed and happy with exciting new discoveries. An office covered with figures from papers planned and in progress is a happy office.