Graduate Students

Mina Basiri, PhD Candidate

My research involves the plant-microbe interactions, with a specific emphasis on deciphering the functions and importance of genes in rhizosphere and root microorganisms particularly the Rhizobium. Through my research, I employ techniques such as INSeq and RNA-Seq.

Mina Shirazi, MSc Candidate

My research is focused around plant-microbe interactions, with a specific focus on the importance of genes related to erythritol catabolism and nodule competition in Rhizobium strains within legumes such as peas, lentils, and vetch. In my work, I cultivated these plants and employed various molecular methods to examine their interactions.

Ashton Sies, PhD Candidate

My research involves the study of bacterial plasmids in coastal marine ecosystems, with a focus on microbes associated with marine animals like shellfish and finfish. I aim to discover what genes are transferred between marine bacteria on plasmids, and if these pose potential threats to animal health and human health.

Priya Verma, MSc Candidate 

I am working on an interdisciplinary Masters in Kinesiology and Biology, co-supervised by Dr. Julia Totosy de Zepetnek and Dr. Andrew Cameron. My research examines the gut microbial communities, cardiometabolic health, mental health, and lifestyle factors in a cohort of healthy older adults. A secondary objective is to compare participants’ gut bacterial compositions to the literature to assess whether regular exercise and a healthy diet have attenuated age-associated gut dysbiosis in this cohort.


Zohra Zahir, PhD Candidate and Mentee

Zohra is in the final year of her PhD with Dr. Britt Hall and has collaborated with IMSS since the start of her program. She studies the biogeochemical cycling and methylation of mercury by microbes in prairie ponds. She is mentored by Dr. Cameron, who is on her committee. She considers herself a “permanent guest” of IMSS.

Laura Schnell, PhD Candidate

I study aquatic microbes. Currently, I am focused on early-detection of cyanobacterial toxin genes in dugouts. This project focuses on using RT-qPCR and isothermal amplification to detect toxin transcript levels. These will then be compared to toxin quantities over time to validate the predictive ability of transcript measurements.

Bere Mondragon, incoming graduate student