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  • Emma Allen-Vercoe, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Guelph

    "My microbes told me to do it"

    Emma obtained her BSc (Hons) in biochemistry in 1993 from the University of London, and her PhD in molecular microbiology through an industrial partnership with the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, conferred through the Open University in 1999.  Her PhD studies focused on virulence determinates of Salmonella enterica, and her postdoctoral years (in the UK at the Centre for Applied Microbiological Research (now Public Health England)) as well as at the University of Calgary expanded this work and provided an opportunity to work on a range of different bacterial species, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Campylobacter jejuni, and enterohemorrhagic E. coli.

    In 2005, Emma won a Fellow-to-Faculty transition award through the Canadian Association of Gastroenterologist/AstraZeneca and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research that allowed her to start her independent career in Calgary in 2006.  She chose to study the normal microbes of the human gut, at that time an emerging area of interest, however, she bucked the trend and instead of simply jumping on the high throughput sequencing bandwagon, she chose to as well try to culture these so-called 'unculturable' microbes in order to better understand their biology.  To do this, she developed a model gut system (dubbed "Robogut') to emulate the conditions of the human gut and allow communities of microbes to grow together as they do naturally.

    Emma moved her lab and this system to the University of Guelph in late 2007, and has been a recent recipient of the John Evans Leader's Fund (through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation) that has allowed her to develop her specialist anaerobic fermentation laboratory further.  She currently runs a lab of 11 people with projects that are broad in nature, but united under the banner of human microbiome research.  These projects include studies of Clostridium difficile infection, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Colorectal Cancer, and Neonatal Necrotizing Enterocolitis, and also include characterizing how different food substrates affect both healthy and diseased gut microbial ecosystems.  

  • Sonya Kupka, MAdEd, RD [Moderator]

    Regional Executive Director of Dietitians of Canada

    Sonya Kupka is a Registered Dietitian and is currently the Dietitians of Canada Regional Executive Director for British Columbia. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia, interned at Victoria General Hospital in London, Ontario, and completed her Masters in Adult Education at St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

    Sonya has held several Director positions within the BC healthcare system and was also the inaugural Director of the Secretariat for the BC Healthy Living Alliance. As a contractor, she worked with Dietitians of Canada on the Pan Canadian Task Force on Public Health Nutrition and with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences on national policy recommendations for transforming care for Canadians with chronic health conditions.

    As the Regional Executive Director of Dietitians of Canada, Sonya is committed to promoting the health of British Columbians through good food and nutrition, as well as access to dietitians. With that intention, she has presented to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and to the Liberal Caucus, and made a submission to the Select Standing Committee on Health. Learn more about Dietitians of Canada here.