Lab Members


Dr. Collins and Dr. Bercik have worked together for over 20 years during which time they have shared numerous publications and grants.

Dr. Collins obtained his medical training at Imperial College, London, UK and his research training at the Digestive Diseases Branch of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda Maryland, USA. He has been on faculty at McMaster since 1981 and currently holds the rank of Distinguished University Professor.

Dr. Bercik obtained his medical training at Charles University Prague in the Czech Republic and his research training at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland and subsequently at McMaster University. He has been on faculty at McMaster since 2007 and holds the rank of Professor.

Research Associates

Giada De Palma trained at the University of Bologna Italy and obtained her PhD in Valencia, Spain, followed by post-doctoral fellowship in Bercik-Collins’ lab. She joined Bercik-Collins’ lab in 2011 and is research associate since 2016. Since 2020 Giada has joined the faculty at McMaster as Assistant Professor (Part-time) in 2020.

Chiko Shimbori obtained her PhD at Shimane University, Japan and followed by post-doctoral fellowship at McMaster University studying pulmonary fibrosis and mast cells. Her multiple research projects investigate the effect of gut bacteria on neuro-immune system with expertise in immunohistochemistry, imaging techniques and gene expression analysis.

Lab Manager

Jun Lu obtained her medical degree at Capital Medical University, China, followed by MSc from McGill University. She has over 25 years of research experience in gastrointestinal physiology.  She oversees daily function of the lab, supervises technical training of the students and the postdoctoral fellows, and supports multiple projects.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Julien Pujo obtained his PhD at INSERM  Toulouse, France, studying effects of bacterial metabolites on visceral pain and immune homeostasis. He was awarded the CIHR fellowship to investigate the role of microbial phospholipids as triggers of visceral hypersensivity.

Yuichiro Nishiharo obtained his MD and PhD at Kyushu University, Japan. He was awarded the MITACS fellowship to investigate the role of macrophages in models of intestinal dysmotility.

Narjis Kraimi obtained her MSc and PhD at INRAE Tours, France. She studies the role of gut microbiota in behavior and brain function initial bacterial colonization, as well as during senescence using gnotobiotic mouse model.

Fernando Vicentini obtained his M.Sc. at the State University of Maringa, Brazil, followed by Ph.D. at the University of Calgary. He was awarded the MITACs and CIHR-TRIANGLE fellowships to investigate the role of microbial metabolites in abdominal pain, inflammation and altered behavior.

Gastón Rueda completed his MD at the Universidad Nacional de La Rioja, Argentina. He was awarded the MITACS fellowship to conduct clinical trials investigating effect of dietary interventions on the gut microbiota and immune homeostasis in patients with type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and IBD (in collaboration with Verdu’s lab).

Zarwa Saqib obtained her BSc at McMaster.  She was awarded the Ontario Graduate and MITACS scholarships for her project investigating the microbiota-mediated mechanisms in postinfective  gut dysfunction and its therapeutic dietary interventions.

PhD Students

Jumanah Alawfi obtained her BSc(Hons) in Clinical Nutrition from Taibah University in Medinah, Saudi Arabia, and is classified as a clinical dietitian by the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties. Then, she got her MSc (Merit) in Human Nutrition from the University of Surrey in Guilford, England where she is also awarded as an Associated Nutritionist (ANutr) by the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN). In England in 2022, she won the student competition by The Yakult Science Team UK & Ireland with the Nutrition Society.

She works as a Clinical Dietitian at the Family and Community Medicine (FAMCO) center at Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (IAU), as well as a demonstrator at (IAU) Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

Mohan Vidhyalakshmi “Vidhya “ obtained her MSc in Systems Biology and Microbiology, National Institute of Technology, Bhopal, India. She was awarded the MITACS studentship to examine the role of gut microbiota in IBS using large data sets from our longitudinal patient cohort.

Caroline Seiler obtained her BSc at Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto. She was awarded the Ontario Graduate Scholarship and CIHR Doctoral Research Award to study the role of wheat antigens in IBS.

Virginia Rabbia obtained her MSc from Universidad de Concepcion, Chile. She was awarded the CONICYT (Chile) Graduate scholarship to investigate the role of the microbiota in anxiety disorder and depression .

MSc Students

Taylor Ross obtained her BSc in Microbiology and Neuroscience at the University of Guelph. She was awarded the Farncombe Institute Studentship to investigate the role of histamine degrading bacteria in visceral hyperalgesia.

Mikayla Hall-Bruce obtained her BSc in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Western Ontario. She was awarded the Farncombe Institute Studentship to study the role of microbial lipids on intestinal homeostasis and brain function.

Undergraduate Students

Dana Taghaddos is a current medical student at the Michael G. Degroote School of Medicine, McMaster University, at the Hamilton Campus. She completed her undergraduate degree with an Honours Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology at Western University in 2022. Dana’s research experience is in the areas of gastroenterology, exercise nutrition, and dermatology. Outside of medical school, Dana enjoys weightlifting and calisthenics, music, and exploring new cities. She is working with Drs Collins on the clinical consequences antibiotic-treated Clostridium difficile infection.

Clinical Trial Coordinators

Andrea Nardelli obtained her MD in University of Cordoba, Argentina, and PhD at Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. She is currently conducting a clinical study investigating beneficial effects of B. longum on anxiety, depression and IBS symptoms.

Rajka Borojevic obtained her MSc in Medical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine from University of Zagreb, Croatia. She is conducting a clinical trial investigating the interactions between the inflammation, microbiome, diet and mental health in patients with IBS and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)  (SPOR IMAGINE).