Tell us about yourself

I was born in Kuwait in the Middle East and had to flee to India during the gulf war in 1990. My family went back to Kuwait after the war, then immigrated to Toronto, Canada in 1998.

I have always been interested in infection and finding a cure to help people. It’s amazing that such tiny organisms can cause such havoc!

In my spare time, I love to paint, work out, and take walks.

Petri dish of Michelle's research

What is your research about?

My research is about how bacteria in the body interact with each other and how this could affect health. Some bacteria get along well, while others compete with each other. Sometimes, one's health depends on which bacteria are found in the body (their microbiome). In such cases, it is important to know who the key players are and how they interact.

What have you enjoyed the most about your research?

I enjoy the thrill of designing my own experiments and trying them out. It is exhilarating when an experiment works! It is the culmination of deep thought and hard work.

What have you found most challenging about your research?

Research requires perseverance. Nothing great ever came easy. My work has taught me to be meticulous and hard-working. I have learned to troubleshoot and analyze critically.

How has your research experience influenced your career path?

My research experience has built my character. I will always carry that analytical mind into everything I do. I enjoy different aspects of science and I would like to use my passion in science communication in addition to research.

How has your research impacted the world?

My project identified short proteins that can be used to inhibit certain bacteria. This has therapeutic potential in individuals infected by these bacteria.

What do you predict will be the next big breakthrough in your field of research?

Bacteria found on and in humans are so diverse, and scientists have only touched the surface in knowing what they do. We need to do more research in order to understand how these bacteria impact health as we’ve seen in so many clinical cases. Understanding the role and impact of the microbiome has huge therapeutic potential. In certain cases, by changing a person's microbiome, we can save their lives.

What motivates you to do research?

When I was in elementary school, my mom brought home a microbiology textbook with pictures of various gross infections. I was both grossed out and fascinated! The textbook showed which bacteria was associated with each disease. Seeing the impact of these tiny organisms made me want to study them and help cure infections.

Tell us about your 'Eureka' moment

New revelations are exciting. They can be the culmination of months of work, which makes the victory that much sweeter. I will never forget the sense of success and satisfaction of showing something that no one has ever seen before. It cannot be compared to anything else.

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