The Bowdish lab cleans up at the IIDR trainee day!

The winning team!

The winning team!

Well it was an impressive show even for our over achieving lab! Bowdish lab undergraduates (Netusha Thevaranjan, Dessi Loukov, James Han), graduate students (Kyle Novakowski, Mike Dorrington, Fan Fei), post-docs (Dr. Chris Verschoor) and associates (Fiona Whelan, Dr. Jennifer Stearns, Michelle Pinto) all got selected to present posters at the IIDR trainee day. James Han won the IIDR Award of Excellence for best poster by an undergraduate and Dr. Jennifer Stearns brought home the award for best poster by a post-doc.  Avee Naidoo was selected to give a talk only 6 weeks into her graduate degree and Dr. Chris Verschoor won the Gulliver award ($1000!) for the best oral presentation by a post-doc.  What a great day!

For a complete album of photos, click here.

Avee Naidoo gives her first talk on her project - 6 weeks into grad school!

Avee Naidoo gives her first talk on her project – 6 weeks into grad school!

Dessi Loukov presents her poster and gets lots of compliments on her story.

Dessi Loukov presents her poster and gets lots of compliments on her story.

Dr. Chris Verschoor wins the Gulliver award for best presentation by a PDF.

Dr. Chris Verschoor wins the Gulliver award for best presentation by a PDF.

Dr. Jennifer Stearns and James Han win IIDR awards of excellence for their poster presentations.

Dr. Jennifer Stearns and James Han win IIDR awards of excellence for their poster presentations.

Alumnus update: Former Bowdish lab undergraduate, Keith Lee, receives a CIHR MSC scholarship!

Keith Lee, who will be attending the University of Toronto for medical school starting August 2013 has received a very prestigious CIHR MSc graduate award. He has chosen to decline to pursue his medical studies and potentially re-apply as an MD/PhD student next year. Congratulations Keith!

PhD candidates Alicja Puchta and Mike Dorrington win at the 2013 FHS Research Plenary

Congratulations to both Alicja Puchta and Mike Dorrington for winning at the 2013 FHS research Plenary! Mike was the recipient of the Best Poster Presented by a Doctoral Candidate award. Alicja was the recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award, which recognizes graduate students in their final year of a Master’s or Doctoral program who have made outstanding achievements, based on the opinion of their graduate program.  This award can be given to a maximum of 10-15% of all students in the final year of a Master’s or Doctoral program affiliated with the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Congratulations and keep up the awesome work!

Bowdish Lab Cleans Up at the 53rd Annual Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair (BASEF)!

On Thursday May 21st, Bowdish Lab members were not only working hard as judges at the 53rd Annual BASEF fair, but also actively participating in presenting our research. Our high school students Jason Fan, winner of the IIDR summer studentship in 2012, and Leonard Rivet, a high school co-op student, both created fantastic posters and engaged judges in discussing their projects. Jason Fan (Right) received a Gold Merit Award and $100 for his poster entitled “Saving the World — One Ligand at a Time:  Novel Streptococcus pneumoniae Ligands for Macrophage Receptors”. Leonard Rivet (Left) received a Silver Merit Award and $80 for his poster entitled “Expression and Post-Translational Trimerization of MARCO in E.coli”.

Bowdish lab members Leonard Rivet & Jason Fan present their award winning posters at BASEF 2013.

Bowdish lab members Leonard Rivet & Jason Fan present their award winning posters at BASEF 2013.

Jason went on to win a silver award at the Canada wide Science Fair and to be accepted to McMaster’s prestigious Bachelor of Health Sciences program.

Congratulations to both our fantastic young scientists!


Dr. Dawn Bowdish receives a research award from the Ontario Lung Association and Pfizer Canada (and gets to attend a swanky event to receive it!)

Dawn was thrilled to attend the annual Breathe! gala event hosted as a fundraising event for the Ontario Lung Association to receive an award donated by Pfizer Canada and administered by the Ontario Lung association. Not only did it give her a chance to dress up and go out (a rare event!) for an evening of good food and drink but she was inspired to meet some of the spokespeople of the event, including Helene Campbell, who spent her time waiting for a double lung transplant starting an immensely successful social media campaign to increase organ donation, Ann Marie Cerato, a lung cancer survivor and Kayla Baker, a young sarcoidosis patient on a waiting list for a lung transplant. Not only was it inspiring to meet these brave, bold heroes but it was humbling to be in a room full of people whose lives were all touched by the research funded by the Ontario Lung Association.

Dawn standing beside the real heros of the event, Helene Campbell, double lung transplant recipient and idiopathic fibrosis patient, Ann Marie Cerato, lung cancer survivor and Kayla Baker sarcoidosis patient waiting for a lung transplant.

So what did Dawn win her award for? You can take a look at the YouTube video here or read on…

President of Pfizer Canada, John Helou (L) and Dr. John Granton, chair elect of the Ontario Lung Association (R) present Dr. Dawn Bowdish with the OLA-Pfizer Research Award.

Description of research funded by the Ontario Lung Association-Pfizer Ca award

neumonia is the sixth most common cause of death in Canada.  The incidence of pneumonia rises steeply in individuals over the age of 65 years and approximately 90% of deaths due to pneumonia occur in the elderly (>65 yrs).  Current prevention strategies are inadequate as the vaccination does not prevent pneumonia in most elderly individuals. Recent research from the Bowdish lab demonstrates that one of the reasons the elderly are so susceptible to pneumonia is that their immune systems cannot control the bacteria that normally live in our sinuses. The immune systems of healthy adults can keep the bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae) in the sinuses (“pneumococcal carriage”) and eventually clear them, but for reasons we don’t understand, the immune systems of the elderly cannot and as a result the bacteria break through the immune barriers of the sinuses and spread to the lungs, which results in pneumonia.

Although most people think that the elderly get sick because their immune systems “just don’t work”, in fact our data demonstrate that they recruit more white blood cells to the sinuses when they encounter the bacteria that cause pneumonia than healthy adults. Even though they have more white blood cells in the sinuses they don’t seem to be as good at recognizing and killing bacteria. Our goal is to figure out why they have overactive recruitment of white blood cells and why they aren’t as good at killing bacteria as white blood cells from healthy adults.

We have developed what we believe to be the world’s only Aged mouse model of colonization by pneumonia causing bacteria. This allows us to study how the immune system responds to the presence of bacteria in the sinuses in real-time. In addition we have a bank of white blood cells from adults and elderly patients that allow us to confirm the importance of our mouse studies in people.

Hospitalizations and deaths due to pneumonia are unacceptably high in the elderly. This is likely because vaccination of the elderly only does not protect against pneumonia. New methods for preventing infection are urgently required. Our recent data demonstrates that containment and clearance of pneumococcal carriage is impaired in age and results in increased susceptibility to pneumonia; however the mechanisms by which immune control of the sinuses fails remain to be discovered. Prevention of colonization of the sinuses will therefore be essential for control of pneumonia in this population. In order to develop novel therapeutic interventions for the elderly it will be necessary to discover the mechanisms by which bacterial recognition, killing are impaired in the sinuses.

Helene Campbell, conceivably, the most charming woman alive and the recipient of a double lung transplant, leads a dance with the Hon Deborah Mathews (MPP). The music failed so I held my iPod up to the Mike and we played Metric's "Sympathy".

Bowdish lab cleans up at the IIDR trainee Day!

Congratulations to Keith Lee for winning the IIDR Award of Excellence for best undergraduate poster and Julie Kaiser for winning the best graduate poster. Alicja Puchta gave an excellent talk and Mike Dorrington, Preethi Jayanth, Kyle Novakowski, Charles Yin, and the BASEF/IIDR summer internship award winner, Jason Fan all presented excellent posters. Way to go team!

Keith Lee, a 4th year BHSc student, wins the IIDR Award for Excellence for "Best Undergraduate Poster".


A blurry Julie Kaiser, presents her work on elucidating host-pathogen interactions of the SMG family.

Jason Fan, a grade 11/12 high school student, and BASEF/IIDR summer internship winner presents an excellent poster on isolating pneumococcal cell wall components.


Alicja Puchta makes Dr. Brian Coombes repeat the question after her (very professional, very well received) talk.


Dr. Preethi Jayanth presents her work on understanding why the elderly are susceptible to post-influenza pneumonia.

Photo credits to Chantall VanRaay.

Alicja Puchta recognized for teaching excellence.

Alicja Puchta (PhD candidate) was recognized for her excellence in graduate teaching at the Faculty of Health Sciences Research Plenary. Alicja has been a dedicated and passionate teaching assistant for both anatomy and immunology courses during the course of her MSc and PhD degrees. She has been asked for by name by multiple instructors and is a clear favourite with her students. Congratulations Alicja!

Alicja Puchta recognized for her excellent TAing

Alicja Puchta recognized for her contributions to teaching. D. Bowdish, Alicja Puchta and Catherine Hayward, Dean of Graduate Studies.

Congratulations to Keith Lee on winning an undergraduate summer studentship from the Canadian Society of Microbiology!

Congratulations to the Bowdish lab’s newest summer/thesis student, Keith Lee on winning a summer studentship from the Canadian Society of Immunology. These competitions are increasingly competitive and it is an honour to be recognized. Well done, Keith!

May 2nd update – Keith also won a BHSc summer scholarship. Great start, Keith!


Chris Verschoor & Alicja Puchta to attend the CIHR Summer Program in Aging.

Congratulations to Dr. Chris Verschoor and Alicja Puchta on being sponsored by the CIHR to attend their Summer Program in Aging.

The annual Summer Program in Aging (SPA) is designed to offer students and post-doctoral fellows involved in aging research, and those doing post-graduate clinical training that includes a program of research in aging, an advancd research training program that crosses disciplines, sectors, institutions and geography and that addresses one or more of the CIHR Institute of Aging’s research priorities in Fundamental research,Clinical research, Health services research and Social research.

Way to represent the Bowdish lab, Chris & Alicja!

Dr. Chris Verschoor’s award winning work on pneumonia in the elderly profiled.

To read about the work which won him the prestigious M.G. DeGroote post-doctoral fellowship, see this article…

Dr. Verschoor is tackling an issue of grave importance to Canada’s aging population – the high toll of infectious disease. As an example, 90% of pneumonia deaths in Canada occur in the elderly at tremendous cost to our health care system. Pneumonia is often the result of a period of decreased mobility (e.g. hip fracture and hospital stay) and the beginning of a decline in health. Preventing infections would keep the elderly healthy for longer and provide increased independence, decrease the cost of care and result in longer, happier lives.