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Our team is dedicated
to empowering
women's futures.


Principal Investigator

Dr. Charu Kaushic

Dr. Kaushic completed her Ph.D. at National Institute of Immunology in New Delhi, India in the area of reproductive immunology and then spent a few years at Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire with Dr. Chuck Wira, learning all about mucosal immunity of the reproductive tract.


Her research interest is women’s reproductive health, specifically basic research examining susceptibility and immune responses to sexually transmitted pathogens, particularly, HIV-1 and HSV-2. Dr. Kaushic’s lab has been funded by CIHR, CANFAR and OHTN. Her lab’s research is currently funded by a CIHR grant focused on examining interactions between HIV-1 and HSV-2 in the female genital tract. ​ Dr. Charu Kaushic has served in the role of Scientific Director of the CIHR-Institute of Infection and Immunity (III) since July 1, 2018. In her role as the Scientific Director for CIHR-III, Dr. Kaushic is responsible for making decisions for CIHR strategic investments in the area of infection and immunity, nationally and internationally. She also represents CIHR and the Government of Canada at various national and international forums related to infectious diseases. In this capacity, she serves as Chair of the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R), a global consortium of funders in pandemic preparedness and emergency response research. She is also an Executive Committee Member of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, a national Task Force mandated to deliver a coordinated sero-survey agenda for the deployment of public health measures and work closely with a range of partners on SARS-CoV-2 vaccine surveillance across Canada. Dr. Kaushic also represents Canada on the Global AMR R&D Hub as well as the Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance (JPIAMR) Management Board.


Outside of the lab, Dr. Kaushic likes to spend time with her family. She has two sons and when she and her husband are not busy, they like to travel and see new places and experience different cultures. They also like camping, hiking, canoeing and throwing BBQ and pool parties at their house! ​ ​


Senior Research Associate

Dr. Aisha Nazli

Aisha received her MSc and MPhil from the University of Karachi, Pakistan and PhD from the University of Nottingham, England. Her PhD research examined gene expression and manipulation to study Listeria monocytogenes pathogenicity. She was awarded multiple accolades during her studies, including the Overseas Research Studentship (ORS), University of Nottingham Scholarship and Pakistan Commonwealth Scholarship. After completing her PhD, Aisha did a short postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Nottingham. In 2001, Aisha moved to Canada and accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at McMaster University, within the Mucosal Immunology in Intestinal Disease Research Program.


In 2005, Aisha joined the Kaushic lab as a postdoctoral fellow. Shortly thereafter, she was appointed as a Research Associate and later progressed to the position of Research Scientist in 2009. Her research in the Kaushic lab focuses extensively on different aspects of host-pathogen interactions and host immune responses against several sexually transmitted pathogens, including Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). In 2010, Aisha’s first HIV paper was published in a leading infectious disease journal, PLOS Pathogens. The novel impactful findings in this publication received international attention from both the news media and scientific community and has been accessed more than 21,231 times and cited more than 500 times.


Outside of the lab, Aisha enjoys spending time with family, along with painting, calligraphy, and gardening.


Senior Research Associate

Dr. Firoz Mian

Firoz obtained both a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and MSc from Bangladesh Agricultural University. He then completed a PhD in bacteriology at the University of Putra Malaysia while holding a prestigious World Bank scholarship. His doctoral thesis mainly focused on the molecular and phenotypic characterization of various strains of Streptococcus spp. Firoz was also awarded the Korean Science and Engineering Foundation (KOSEF) Postdoctoral fellowship at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea to work in the Signal Transduction and Proteomics lab under Dr. Pann-Gill Suh.


In 2005, Firoz joined the McMaster Immunology Research Centre (MIRC) where he worked in Dr. Ali Ashkar’s lab for 7 years, beginning as a Postdoctoral fellow and later transitioning to the role of Research Associate Academic. During this time his research was centered around better understanding pathogen-host interactions at the molecular and cellular level using mouse models, specifically examining the pathogenesis and immune responses for both the Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2) and influenza virus (H1N1). His research on the evaluation of therapeutic potentials of different TLR ligands was integral in the discovery of FimH, E. coli fimbrial adhesin as a novel TLR-4 ligand that provides strong protection against HSV-2 and H1N1. Following a short stint at the Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto engaging in a mouse model study of the co-pathogenesis of  H1N1 and MRSA, Firoz moved back to McMaster working with Dr. John Bienenstock at St Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton for 8 years. Here he explored the impacts of probiotics and their microvesicles on gut immunoregulation, stress, depression  as well as allergy and asthma prevention using mouse models. More recently, his research brought him back to MIRC to work in Dr. Brian Lichty’s lab where he generated and tested bioengineered exosomes targeting DEC205/DC and MARCO/macrophages both in vitro and in mouse models as a potential STING-based cancer therapy.


Firoz’s extensive experience combined with his interests in infectious diseases and microbiome research has led him to join the Kaushic lab where he has begun as a Research Associate as of August 2022. Firoz will be involved in exploring the role of the human vaginal microbiome with and without the influence of female sex hormones or contraceptives in pathogenesis and immune regulation within the female genital tract using mouse models of HIV-1 and HSV-2 infections. 


In his free time Firoz loves spending time with family, watching sports (cricket, soccer), travelling and gardening. 


Research Assistant

Dr. Sailaja Pirati

Dr. Sailaja Pirati Joined the Kaushic lab in February 2024 as a Research Assistant. She is an experienced research professional with a diverse background spanning over a decade in the industry. She holds a Doctorate (PhD) degree in Biotechnology from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, focusing on the bioconversion of castor oil for the production of γ-decalactone by obligate aerobic yeast S. salmonicolor. This research led to the isolation of mutant strains with enhanced production capabilities. Sailaja also holds a Master's degree in Biochemistry from Bangalore University and Bachelor's degrees in Microbiology, Biochemistry, and Chemistry from Osmania University.

Sailaja is a seasoned professional with expertise in mammalian cell culture, T-cell production, immunological assays and in vivo experiments. She held roles such as Senior Research Associate at Triumvira Immunologics. Previously, she worked at Charles River Laboratories as a QA Document Reviewer, gaining experience in quality control and compliance. She also has a background in toxicology research at ITR Laboratories Canada Inc., overseeing animal studies and ensuring GLP compliance.

Outside the lab she likes spending time with family, explore and visit new places, enjoy partying with family and friends in their home.


PhD Student

Nuzhat Rahman, M.Sc

Nuzhat joined the Kaushic lab in Fall 2020 under the Medical Sciences graduate program and is currently a second-year PhD student. Her project is focused on creating human vaginal microbiota associated mouse models that can be used to assess the effect of the vaginal microbiota composition on outcomes associated with viral sexually transmitted infections. Currently, she is looking at the effect of eubiotic and dysbiotic vaginal microbiota on HSV-2 and HIV infection and working on determining the mechanism of how the vaginal microbiota affects STI infection.

Nuzhat graduated from the University of Alberta in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science with Specialization in Immunology and Infection. During her degree, she completed an undergraduate project in Dr. David Evans' lab looking at the role of the H3L protein in poxvirus plaque size and infectivity.

In her free time, Nuzhat enjoys trying new recipes, reading, and travelling.

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PhD Student

Shreya Joshi, M.Sc

Shreya graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology and a Master’s degree in Biological Sciences from Mumbai, India securing first rank and a gold medal. She also interned at Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute for Research in Reproductive and Child Health (ICMR-NIRRCH), Mumbai, where she assessed the immunomodulatory potential of different vaginal community state types.

Shreya joined the Kaushic Lab in January 2024 as a Ph.D. student under the Medical Science Graduate Program. She is currently exploring a research topic for her doctoral work in the broad field of vaginal microbiome, female sex hormones and HIV which is one of the key research areas of the lab.

In her free time, Shreya likes to paint, explore new places, watch movies and spend time with friends.

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Masters Student

Lauren Jirik

Lauren recently joined the Kaushic Lab in January 2024 as a Masters Student under the Medical Science graduate program.


Lauren graduated from McMaster University in 2023 with a Bachelor Health Science degree from the Biology and Pharmacology co-op program. During her undergrad, she completed her thesis under the supervision of Dr. Juliet Daniel looking at the role of Kaiso depletion in increased susceptibility to chemotherapeutics in triple-negative breast cancer.


In her free time, Lauren plays on McMaster Women’s Flag Football team. She also enjoys going to the gym, thrifting, and playing with her cats, Fuji and Daisy.


Undergraduate Student

Deepikaa Jeevananthan

Deepikaa joined the Kaushic lab in Fall 2022 and is currently in her third year of the Biochemistry program at McMaster, specializing in Biomedical Research. Her project is focused on the impact of extracellular DNA on susceptibility to pathogens in the vaginal microbiome.


In her free time, Deepikaa enjoys reading, swimming, playing basketball, and spending time with her friends and family.

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Undergraduate Student

Natalie Chu

Natalie joined the Kaushic Lab in Winter 2023 and is currently in her third year of the Arts & Science program at McMaster, pursuing a combined honours degree in Biology. Her project is focused on the role of Antigen-Presenting Cells in the lower female reproductive tract during vaginal microbiota colonization.


In her free time, Natalie enjoys illustration, making soup, thrifting, and reading.

Clinical Team & Alumni

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Jenna Ratcliffe

Research Coordinator

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Junic Wokuri

Research Nurse

Post Doctoral Fellows

Dr. Fangming Xiu 

Dr. Uladzimir (Vova) Karniychuk 

Dr. Matthew William Woods 

Dr. Jocelyn Wessels 

Dr. Allison Felker

Lab Technicians

Dr. Amy Gillgrass

Jillian Wong

Dr. Hong Jiang

Erin Walters

Maeve Cooper

Kristen Mueller

Sussan Kianpour

Dr. Christina Hayes

PhD Graduates

Dr. Kristy Roth

Dr. Jessica Kafka

Dr. Victor Ferreira

Dr. Varun Anipindi

Dr. Puja Bagri

Undergraduate Students

Yung Lee

Padmaja Sreeram

Lianna Braham

Alexia Kim

Oscar Chan

Ghaznia Khan

Chris Gunst

Olivia Chan

Karen Ho

Nishant Heryani

Emma Yu

Ryan Chow

Ingrid Schwecht

MSc Graduates

Sudha Bhavanam

Sameer Kassim

Sherie Fernandez

Erin MacDonald

Sara Dizzell

Danielle Vitali

Jeffrey Lam

Andrew Rempel

Philip Nguyen

Ramtin Ghasemi

Haley Dupont

Tushar Dhawan

Sidney Pa

Amanda Bakke

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