Current Winners

Congratulations to our latest winners for each award!

2024 Award Winners

The Canadian Society of Microbiologists is pleased to announce the award recipients for this year. Congratulations everyone on your hard work and contributions to Microbiology across Canada!

CSM Murray Award for Career Achievement:
Dr. Caroline Duchaine, Université Laval, Laval, Quebec

This award is made possible by the financial support of Canadian Science Publishing (publisher of the NRC Research Press journals). Their commitment and service to microbiological research and teaching in Canada is greatly appreciated.

BIOGRAPHY

Dr. Caroline Duchaine is a full professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Bioinformatics at Université Laval and holder of the Tier-1 Canada Research Chair on Bioaerosols. Caroline initiated her work on bioaerosols during her doctoral studies, where she investigated the impact of hay inoculants on air quality in dairy farms, focusing on farmer’s lung disease. Subsequently, her postdoctoral internships allowed her to develop expertise in fungal bioaerosols in industrial settings and molecular approaches applied to human exposure contexts. She began her research program at the Research Center of the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute (IUCPQ) in 2000, following receipt of research fellowships from the CIHR and FRQS, and a faculty position at Laval University. Her work revolves around three main themes: improving tools for assessing exposure to bioaerosols and their effects on human and animal health, understanding the behavior of aerosolized microbial agents, and developing and applying bioaerosol mitigation approaches. Through over 140 funded research projects and the training of more than 150 student, interns and fellows as well as early career professors mentoring, Caroline has consolidated a unique expertise, both in its diversity and its applications. Her laboratory has designed and built several test benches for laboratory studies of aerosolized viruses and bacteria, works closely with physicians, dentists, engineers, bioinformaticians, physicists, industrial hygienists, and veterinarians, and has developed a transdisciplinary research program that has advanced bioaerosol research as well as teaching and knowledge transfer in the field. Her work on archaea in bioaerosols, aerovirology, biodefense, mitigation systems (antimicrobial filters, masks, air treatments), and occupational exposure are among the significant contributions of her laboratory.

AWARD LECTURE DETAILS

Date & Time: Wednesday, June 26th, 2024, 2:00 – 3:00 PM EDT

Title: Bioaerosols : from the farm to COVID-19 and beyond!

Abstract:

Biological content in the air has long been neglected, even though it was often the cause of unexplained work-related infections among lab workers. The methodological challenges associated with sampling and analyzing bioaerosols have likely hindered progress in research. However, size-selective and culture-oriented sampling advanced the study of bioaerosols in the agricultural context during the 1960s when Farmer’s lung disease was a frequent illness in Northern countries.

When DNA approaches became widely used in microbiology, researchers began to explore the diversity of bioaerosols. This led to the discovery that archaeal bioaerosols are abundant and play a role in lung inflammation. In the realm of biodefense, bioaerosol research has become crucial for developing real-time detection methods for potential biothreat agents, focusing on the autofluorescence of bacterial spores in bioaerosols, though interpreting these detection methods proved challenging.

Medical fields, such as dentistry and infection prevention, have also provided important opportunities to understand better the role of airborne particles in managing various infectious and non-infectious diseases. Additionally, agricultural and industrial contexts have been linked to respiratory diseases in both animals and humans. The combination of emerging molecular approaches, culture methods, engineering, and building sciences has led to a better understanding of the health impacts of exposure and the development of mitigation strategies.

Today, air is recognized as a significant route for the transmission of several diseases. The definition of aerosols was revised during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to open exchanges between various fields of expertise. While the airborne route is now considered a major way of disseminating antibiotic resistance genes, the scientific community continues to face significant challenges in interpreting data.

Bioaerosol research represents a dream playground for multidisciplinary research and meaningful interventions in our rapidly changing world.

Thermo Fisher Scientific Award:
Dr. Isabelle Laforest-Lapointe, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Quebec

This lecture is made possible with the financial support of Thermo Fisher Scientific. Their commitment and service to microbiological research and teaching in Canada is greatly appreciated.

BIOGRAPHY

Pr. Laforest-Lapointe joined the Department of Biology at the Université de Sherbrooke in January 2020 where she holds a Canada Research Chair T2 in Applied Microbial Ecology. She completed her BSc at Université Laval (Québec City), a MSc in Ecology at the University Autònoma de Barcelona, and a professional MSc in statistics at the University Politèchnica de Catalunya (both in Barcelona, Spain). She then came back to Montreal to complete a PhD in Biology on tree-microbe interactions with Pr. Steven Kembel, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Calgary with Pr. Marie-Claire Arrieta on the early-life ecological dynamics of the human microbiome. Pr. Laforest-Lapointe leverages this interdisciplinary expertise in microbiology, genomics, ecology, bioinformatics, and statistics to study host-microbe interactions and their role for host health / ecosystem functions. She leads a dynamic lab driven by the values of community and excellence.

AWARD LECTURE DETAILS

Date & Time: Tuesday, June 25th, 2024, 5:00 – 6:00 PM EDT 

Title: Host-microbe interactions: a journey from forest to human microbiomes through the lens of microbial ecology

Abstract:

In the last three decades, novel high-throughput sequencing methodologies have allowed microbiologists to improve the understanding of microbial communities: their identity, structure, diversity, dynamics, and functions. Most importantly, these microbial communities or “microbiomes” play key roles for their macroscopic host (e.g., plant, human) and at larger scales for ecosystem services and functions, especially in the context of accelerating global change. In this talk, I will present the results of my multidisciplinary research on the plant and human microbiomes in natural and urban environments, a journey that will take you from temperate trees to boreal mosses, to the early life human gut, and finally to the hearth of cities. Yet, much work, using culture-dependent and independent techniques, as well as on adapting theoretical models of macroscopic community ecology, remains to be done to understand, predict, and eventually manipulate the dynamics of microbial communities.

Armand-Frappier Outstanding Student Award:
Fares Saïdi, Aix-Marseille University, Marseille, France

This lecture is made possible with the financial support of Canadian Society of Microbiologists

BIOGRAPHY

Fares Saïdi first completed his BSc (Cellular Biology) and MSc (Microbiology, Plant Biology, and Biotechnology) at Aix-Marseille University.  He subsequently joined Prof. Salim Timo Islam’s lab at the INRS—Centre Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie (part of the Pasteur Network) in Laval in which he completed a MSc (Applied Microbiology) and a PhD (Biology).  His doctoral work elucidated the contribution of secreted polysaccharides to bacterial multicellularity, using the social predatory soil bacterium Myxococcus xanthus as a model developmental system.  Secreted polymers were found to coordinate behaviours within bacterial communities, through effects exerted at both the swarm and single-cell levels.  These effects were modulated by required disruption of cell-surface glycocalyx integrity through secretion of a novel biosurfactant polysaccharide.  This work also uncovered a new polysaccharide secretion paradigm common to most Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, and helped develop cost-effective click chemistry compounds for live-cell bacterial imaging.

AWARD LECTURE DETAILS

Date & Time: Monday, June 24th, 2024, 5:00 – 6:00 PM EDT

Title: Elucidation of the Roles of Secreted Polysaccharides in Bacterial Multicellularity

Abstract:

Recent advancements challenge the traditional perception of true “multicellularity” (involving cell specialization within a contiguous population) as exclusive to eukaryotes, revealing its presence in prokaryotes such as Myxococcus xanthus. Studied by the Islam laboratory, the bacterium M. xanthus exhibits adaptive multicellularity through a complex developmental cycle, forming distinct cell subpopulations within fruiting bodies (i.e. spores, peripheral rods, and forager cells) in nutrient-poor conditions. The intricacy of M. xanthus relies on polysaccharides from incompletely-annotated ABC-transporter-dependent (e.g. the O-antigen cap of lipopolysaccharide [LPS]) and Wzx/Wzy-dependent pathways (yielding major spore coat [MASC] and exopolysaccharide [EPS]). My PhD studies aimed to unravel the mechanisms behind these polysaccharide-mediated bacterial multicellular strategies, shedding light on their contributions to microbial organization.  In 2020, I first elucidated the remaining classically-defined Wzx/Wzy-dependent pathway proteins required for MASC and EPS production, including proteins assumed to mediate the final step of secretion across the outer membrane via α-helical OPX (outer-membrane polysaccharide export) pores; this work also uncovered a previously-unknown third such pathway, the product of which is a novel biosurfactant polysaccharide (BPS). Spatially-distinct EPS vs. BPS secretion in a swarm was found to influence swarm-level organization and expansion.  Then in 2021, I revealed the necessity of BPS secretion for functionally destabilizing the cell-surface EPS glycocalyx, showcasing the role of EPS–BPS interplay in shaping multicellular behavior through altered type IV pilus functionality, cell-surface hydrophobicity, biofilm packing, and single-cell gliding motility.  In 2022, I next investigated the effects of EPS glycocalyx integrity on cell permeability, demonstrating the complex role of the glycocalyx as a physical barrier and a molecular sponge for various toxic agents.  My paradigm-shifting work in 2022 then challenged long-standing beliefs, revealing that most polysaccharide secretion systems (either Wzx/Wzy- or ABC transporter-dependent) do not use an outer-membrane-spanning OPX α-helical pore, including the M. xanthus EPS, MASC, and BPS pathways; instead, they utilize β-barrel porins functionally coupled to truncated α-helix-less OPX homologues to mediate polysaccharide secretion to the cell exterior.  Finally, also in 2022, after elucidation of the M. xanthus LPS structure, I pioneered a method for live-cell imaging via metabolic LPS labeling using a cheaply-synthesized 8-N3-Kdo sugar and click chemistry.  Together, these studies (which formed the backbone of my PhD thesis) have foundationally altered our understanding of polysaccharide-dependent bacterial multicellularity and offer novel targets for antimicrobial development.

 

The Burrows Award for Womxn in Microbiology:
Ms. Rana Ahmed, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba

This award is possible because of support from Dr. Burrows, the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University and the Canadian Society of Microbiologists.


BIOGRAPHY

Mrs. Rana Ahmed, born on July 1, 1996, will transition from a Master’s to a PhD program at the University of Manitoba next fall. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from Suez Canal University, Egypt, and has completed diplomas in Human Physiology and Biochemistry, Bioinformatics, and Applied and Medical Microbiology. Supervised by Dr. Deborah Court, her research uses yeast to study toxin removal from mitochondria, contributing to the understanding of cellular detoxification and mitochondrial function.
Mrs. Ahmed has presented her research at major conferences and received numerous awards, including the MMEG Margaret McNamara Education Grants Award, the top poster award at the CSMB conference, the FGS Research Completion Award, and third place in the MHRE Competition. She was also a finalist in the TDS Science Spark 3K Pitch Competition.
Beyond academia, Mrs. Ahmed is an active volunteer, holding leadership roles in the Intercultural Leaders Program and the WUSC refugee program. She mentors students through the SSA and MiSC Mentoring Programs, manages undergraduate students in the MHRE Research Pitch Competition, and supports the University of Manitoba’s Food Bank. She also volunteers at Science Rendezvous, the Language Exchange Program, the International Centre, and participates in walkathons for childhood cancer awareness.
Her community contributions have earned her awards such as the Faculty of Science Award for Excellence in Teaching Assistance, the RBC Bright Future Award, the Most Involved in Community Award, and the Tony T.K. Lau Scholarship for Volunteer Services to International Students. These experiences have honed her communication, project management, and advocacy skills.

CSM Ambassador Award:
Alice Perrault-Jolicoeur, Université Laval , Laval, Quebec

This award is made possible with the financial support of Canadian Society of Microbiologists

BIOGRAPHY

After a brief career as a professional chef that brought me to London (UK), Montreux (CH) Montreal and Toronto (CA), I completed undergrad studies in food sciences. Specializing in cheese manufacturing during my training, I had the opportunity to work at Laura Chenel Chevre a goat cheese plant in California (USA). Since 2018, I am part of Professor Sylvain Moineau’s lab at Université Laval studying phage-host interaction in dairy fermentation facilities. I am hooked by phage biology and will move to postdoctoral fellowship upon completion of my PhD.