Our Team

Current Members

Kathy McCoy, PhD

Professor, Dept. Of Physiology & Pharmacology, University of Calgary

Scientific Director of the International Microbiome Centre (IMC)

Professor Kathy McCoy obtained her PhD in Immunology from the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, Otago University, Wellington, New Zealand. She performed her postdoctoral studies and was a junior group leader at the Institute of Experimental Immunology in Zürich, Switzerland. In 2006 she joined McMaster University as an Assistant Professor where she held a Canada Research Chair in Mucosal Immunology. From 2010 – 2016 Kathy McCoy was an Assistant Professor in Mucosal Immunology in the Department of Clinical Research, University of Bern in Switzerland. In Sep 2016 she returned to Canada and is now a Professor in the Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary where she continues her research on host-microbial interactions with a focus on early life.


Michael Dicay  

Lab Manager

Michael manages the McCoy and Geuking labs. He investigates the role of the microbiome in many different disease states. He performs experiments and helps graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and staff with their projects while making sure the labs run smoothly. Michael has over 25 years of research experience with the University of Calgary; he started in Neuroscience, investigating stem cell neuroplasticity for several years working with Dr. Sam Weiss, and then worked in the field of inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract with Dr. John Wallace and Dr. Wally MacNaughton before joining the McCoy and Geuking labs.

Christina Ohland, PhD

Research Associate

Dr. Ohland is a Research Associate for the International Microbiome Centre (IMC). She conducts gnotobiotic and microbiome research at the IMC, as well as assisting with funding strategies, training, application development, and technical output from research projects. She received her PhD in Medical Science from the University of Calgary, followed by two postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Alberta and the University of Florida. Her research has spanned the fields of intestinal cell biology, dietary interventions, probiotics, animal behaviour, inflammatory bowel disease, and colorectal cancer. Outside of the lab, Christina enjoys biking, crafting, baking, and playing board games.

Carolyn Thomson, PhD

Research Associate

Dr. Thomson is a Research Associate in the department of Physiology & Pharmacology and the Snyder Institute of Chronic Diseases at the University of Calgary. Her current research is focused on establishing how maternal colonization impacts immune and metabolomic profiles in the offspring, from early life into adulthood, particularly in the context of autoimmune disease development. Dr. Thomson began her academic career at the University of Glasgow, where she completed a BSc and PhD in Immunology. Her first postdoc position, also at the University of Glasgow, brought her into the field of mucosal immunology. Here she identified and characterized a novel population of intestinal fibroblasts. She is not a fan of work without play. She is an avid gin enthusiast and spends her spare time camping, climbing, and hiking in summer, or shredding the slopes in the harsh Canadian winter.

Christopher Richmond, MSc

Lab Technician

As a laboratory technician, Chris supports our team by providing skilled technical procedures, which include conducting laboratory tests, experiments, and analyses to assist in the goals of the research team on projects for publication. Christopher is a graduate from St. Lawrence College (Kingston, Ontario), the Institute of Technology Sligo (Sligo, Ireland), and Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario), awarding him an advanced diploma in biotechnology, an honours degree in medical biotechnology, and a masters degree in the field of biochemistry and cellular biology, respectively.

Aline Ignacio, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Ignacio is a recipient of an Eyes High Postdoctoral Fellowship. She explores the crosstalk between the intestinal microbiota and mucosal immune cells under homeostatic conditions, which may provide insights into mechanisms responsible for dysregulated immune responses during disease. Dr. Ignacio also studies the early events in microbial-mediated immune education. She obtained her MSc from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, specializing in Microbiology, and her PhD from University of São Paulo, Brazil, specializing in Immunology. 


Marcela Davoli Ferreira, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Ferreira is a recipient of a Beverly Philipps Postdoctoral Fellowship and a Cumming School of Medicine PDF Fellowship. Her research focuses on defining how host-microbiota interactions can promote or prevent autism spectrum disease (ASD). She uses a diverse set of immunological approaches, next-generation sequencing, imaging screening, microbiota cultivation, and gnotobiotic models to further define the molecular mechanisms by which these specific commensals bacteria can influence ASD development. This research aims to develop novel therapeutic interventions for ASD based on the modulation of gut bacteria. Marcela obtained her MSc in Immunology at the University of São Paulo (Brazil). She was awarded a PhD in Immunology from the University of São Paulo where she studied the role of regulatory T cells in the development and maintenance of neuropathic pain after peripheral nerve damage.

Kirsty Brown, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Mesenchymal stromal cells were initially described as structural cells of the intestine, but are known to have multiple roles during homeostasis and inflammation. Kirsty studies how microbes influence intestinal mesenchymal stromal cell populations and the downstream effects on immunity. She enjoys using both wet-lab techniques and bioinformatics approaches to explore these interests. Prior to earning a PhD at the University of Calgary, Kirsty completed an MSc at the University of British Columbia and worked at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Line Wulff, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Wulff is a recipient of the Carlberg Foundation Internationalisation Fellowship. Her main research project focuses on the role of intestinal commensal bacteria in trained immunity induction from a data-driven point of view. Dr. Wulff has a background in bioinformatics with a M.Sc.Eng. in Bioinformatics and Systems Biology from the Technical University of Denmark, where she was later awarded a PhD in Mucosal Immunology. During her PhD she specialized in pipeline design and analysis of single cell multi-omics data sets with a special focus human intestinal mononuclear phagocytes.

Bruno Silva De Melo, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Silva de Melo is a recipient of the Beverly Phillips Postdoctoral Fellowship. His main research project focuses on the role of the microbiome in modulating sub-types of Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Silva de Melo is an Immunologist with a solid background in high dimensional flow cytometry and confocal microscopy. He obtained his Master’s degree (2017) and Ph.D. in Immunology (2023) at the prestigious Immunology Research Center in Latin America, Ribeirao Preto Medical School, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Dr. Silva de Melo did part of his Ph.D. in France (2019) and Switzerland (2021-2022). Dr. Silva de Melo received more than 10 prizes/honorable mentions during his Ph.D. including the biggest prize for young immunologists by the Brazilian Society of Immunology. Bruno believes that science needs to include people from different cultures, genders and colors. In his free time, Bruno likes to do physical activities, listen to music and have fun with friends.

Larisa Kovtonyuk, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Larisa Kovtonyuk obtained her PhD from University of Zurich in Experimental Hematology. She acquired research expertise in the field of intrinsic and extrinsic regulation of healthy and malignant Hematopoietic Stem Cell function. After her PhD, she did her first Postdoc in University Hospital Zurich within Medical Oncology and Hematology department with key focus on the role of microbiome and IL-1 in inflamm-aging of Hematopoietic Stem Cells. Currently, Larisa is investigating the role of microbiome in CAR-T cell based Immunotherapies of B cell malignancies. She uses diverse set of immunological techniques and approaches, including humanized mouse models that help to establish human immune system in mice to better understand the role of microbiome in the efficacy and toxicity of cellular immunotherapy of hematologic cancers. In her free time, Larisa enjoys creating watercolor paints from scratch from natural minerals and pigments, as well as hiking and watercolor paintings of local beautiful Alberta’s mountains.

Fabien Franco, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Immune checkpoint blockade therapy has revolutionized the way tumors are treated in the clinic. However, a large proportion of patients still do not respond to the treatment. Recent studies have found that the gut microbiome is a key modulator of immune checkpoint inhibitors efficacy. Dr. Franco's work focuses on understanding how gut microbes are able to modulate tumor infiltrating immune cells using mice models. Dr. Franco completed his PhD in Immunometabolism at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. During his time in Prof. McCoy's lab, he hopes to extend his scientific horizons and better understand how the microbiota is able to modulate the immune system.

Mahana Sabachvili, MSc

PhD Student

Mahana is a French PhD student specialized in immunology, co-supervised by Dr. Kathy McCoy and Dr. Lukas Mager. In her current project, she aims to identify the bacteria that drive inflammatory bowel disease and to understand the underlying mechanisms, in order to develop a precision therapy against this disease. She obtained her BSc and her French-German MSc in immunology from the University of Strasburg and the University of Saarbrücken. When she's not in the lab, she enjoys riding horses, hiking and spending time with her cats. 

Madeline Mellett, BSc

PhD Student

Madeline is a PhD student in the McCoy lab interested in exploring microbiome-immune interactions. Her current project focuses on exploring microbiome-driven immune functions of intestinal stromal cells. Prior to joining the McCoy lab Madeline completed a Bachelor of Science at McGill University in the Honours Microbiology and Immunology program. Outside of the lab, Madeline enjoys cycling, hiking and baking. 

Pardis Kiani, MSc

MSc Student

Pardis joined Dr. McCoy's lab in September 2022. Pardis holds a Bachelor's degree in Microbiology and has previously earned a Master's degree in Microbial Biotechnology. Driven by a passion for understanding the intricate relationship between microbiota and human health, her current research focus is on unraveling how host-microbiota interactions may play a role in promoting Parkinson's disease. Pardis is excited to be part of the Dr. McCoy team and to collaborate with fellow researchers in exploring innovative solutions to complex scientific questions.

Spencer Abbott, BSc

MSc Student

Spencer received his undergraduate degree from Queen’s University in Life Sciences with a specialization in Biomedical Sciences. Before starting his MSc at the University of Calgary, he worked at a small biopharmaceutical company in his hometown in Montréal, acting as a primary coordinator on the microbiology team. These experiences fuelled his passion for investigating how the gut microbiome can be used as means of treating disease. His project is focused investigating how the intestinal microbiome influences type 1 diabetes development by shaping the host immune responses.

Amy Shupe, BSc

MSc Student

Amy received a BSc in Immunology and Infection in 2022 from the University of Alberta. She joined the McCoy lab after doing an undergraduate research project looking at the immune response in colorectal cancer subtypes. Her current project focuses on the role of the host microbiota on the response to cancer immunotherapies, in particular immune checkpoint inhibitors and CAR-T cells. Amy is excited to be a part of a lab with a large amount of immunology and microbiome expertise. Outside of the lab, she enjoys crafting, hiking and spending time with family and friends.

Past Members

Lukas Mager, PhD

Cancer is one of the most common causes of death in Western countries. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination thereof are the standard tools for the treatment of cancer. More recently, the intestinal microbiota has been shown to modulate cancer development and even affect the efficacy of cancer therapies. Dr. Mager's postdoctoral research aim was to better understand the interaction between the host organism and the microbiota in the context of cancer development and therapy. Besides science, he deeply enjoys being out in nature. One of his favourite hobbies is hiking in mountains. He also enjoys reading and is a fan of strategy games.


Jenine Roslyn Yee, MSc

Jenine was a MSc student in gastrointestinal sciences studying the impact of the gut microbiota on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She received her nursing degree from University of Calgary before following her unanswered questions about gut health and its resident bacteria. When she isn’t culturing bacteria in lab, she spends time learning piano and cultivating the best tiny potatoes in clay soil.

Noah Cooke, MSc

Noah's MSc project in Gastrointestinal Sciences investigated the potential link between major depressive disorders (MDD) and the microbiome (co-supervised by Dr. Valerie Taylor). Through gut microbial analysis combined with gnotobiotic models, he aimed to further understand the mechanisms by which the gut microbes can impact MDD. Noah is a competitive cross-country skier and runner, and loves the mountains. He also loves politics and public policy.

Nicola Pett, BSc

Nicola was a laboratory technician in our lab. She supported the lab by assisting with experiments, procedures, and general laboratory duties. Nicola obtained her Honours degree in Biomedical Science from the University of Queensland, Australia, where she focused her studies on cell and molecular biology. After gaining experience in the field of cancer immunotherapy, her attention turned to the microbial world of the gastrointestinal tract when she joined the McCoy Lab. Outside of the lab, Nicola enjoys hiking around the Rockies, climbing, and any occasion to be active while enjoying sunlight! She resists the urge to hibernate through winter by learning to snowboard.

Gabriela Quiroz-Olguin, PhD

PhD Student 

Gabriela was a PhD student from Mexico. She visited the Geuking and McCoy's lab for 6 months (from Oct 2019 - Mar 2020) to learn microbiome sequencing and IgA-SEQ. While working as a certified dietitian in Mexico City, Gabriela completed a Master’s Degree in Education at the Universidad Tecnológica de Mexico. She then started a PhD in Clinical Nutrition at the Universidad Anahuac in Mexico City, studying the effect of fasting and enteral stimulation on the IgA concentration in saliva of patients pursuing a stomal reversal. Gabriela is a great singer and guitar player. She likes long distant running and has completed several half marathons.

Marcella Cipelli, BSc

PhD Student 

Marcella was a visiting PhD student from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. She aims to characterize the metabolism of Foxp3+RORgt+ T cells in the context of the colitis-associated colorectal cancer experimental model. To do so, Marcella is standardizing an experimental model, and using in vitro differentiation experiments.  She visited our lab for a two month internship to learn about intestinal-associated procedures in animal models.

Amanda Zucoloto, PhD

Amanda was a recipient of the Beverley Phillips Scholarship, the Cumming School of Medicine Scholarship, and the Frederick Banting & Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship. Amanda's PhD project aimed to understand the crosstalk between the gut microbiota and the intravascular immunity using intravital microscopy and gnotobiotic models. She obtained her MSc in Experimental Pathology from the Universidade Estadual de Londrina in Londrina, Brazil. During her undergraduate studies, she attended the University of Calgary as a visiting student. Here, Amanda was introduced to intravital microscopy, a cutting-edge technique she aspired to incorporate in her graduate studies. Amanda joined the McCoy and McDonald labs as a PhD student in 2019. In her spare time, Amanda enjoys running, hiking, reading, and camping.

Madeleine Wyss, PhD

Increasing evidence suggests that exposure to a diverse set of ‘friendly’ microbes in early life is important, to prevent the development of allergies. The aim of Madeleine's PhD project was to determine the minimal diversity of microbiota required that limits the induction of hygiene-mediated IgE and protects against immune dysregulation. Furthermore, she was particularly interested in the dynamics of early life microbial colonization and its impacts on immune development. Madeleine completed her BSc at the University of Guelph where she specialized in Microbiology. She then moved to Singapore, where she completed her MSc at the University of Singapore in the Department of Infectious Diseases, Vaccinology and Drug Discovery.

Shannon Pyke, MSc

Shannon's MSc project focused on studying the dynamic function of specific bacterial species in the gut and how they may play a role in anti-microbial resistance. Shannon is from Calgary and completed a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology at the University of Victoria. After graduating, she worked in the biotechnology industry in Vancouver before moving back to Calgary to pursue a Master's degree. In her spare time, she swims competitively and enjoys running, hiking, skiing, and reading.

Sonia Czyz, MSc

Sonia was a Master's student specializing in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. She obtained her BSc in the Biological Sciences here at the University of Calgary. Having had the opportunity to investigate advanced topics in immunology during her undergraduate studies, she became fascinated with the interplay between the microbiota and the immune system. Her project focused on investigating how the maternal microbiota shapes the newborn’s developing immune system during early-life. Her research aimed to better understand how we can target the maternal microbiome to promote healthy immune development in offspring. Outside of the lab, Sonia enjoys watercolour painting, golf, soccer, and taking her little Yorkshire terrier on long walks.