We are interested in a broad range of questions in microbial genetics and evolution. Broadly speaking, most of our research falls into two main areas of interest.

Effects of genetic background on the evolutionary process

Individuals of the same species, although sharing much of their genetic material, may differ by many mutations – thousands for bacteria, and millions for humans. Moreover, bacterial isolates of the same species can harbour very different sets of genes in their “accessory genomes”. This between-individual variation can have important evolutionary consequences. Notably, genetic interactions (epistasis) between mutations are thought to play important roles in┬ádetermining the trajectory of evolution, in the evolution of sex, and in determining rates of adaptation. Epistasis also has important implications for antimicrobial resistance: compensatory mutations that ameliorate costs of resistance often have genotype-specific effects, and there is promise in leveraging epistasis to develop new antimicrobials. We carry out targeted and high-throughput screens to characterize genetic interactions in E. coli, and we use laboratory selection experiments to investigate the evolutionary consequences of epistasis.

Pathogen detection and surveillance

Pathogen surveillance is an integral component of infectious disease public health. We are interested in developing and validating molecular-based methods for pathogen surveillance, particularly in environmental and food production settings. Current projects include investigation of the feasibility of metagenomics-based pathogen detection in food production (with Dr. Catherine Carrillo at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency), and environmental surveillance for SARS-CoV-2.