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FIVM Seminar Series: Testing the limits of DNA sequencing

The potential of next generation DNA sequencing to monitor bacteria and viruses in the natural environment

Dr. Herb Schellhorn, Department of Biology, McMaster University

Water monitoring is a key surveillance activity, within the mandate of government agencies at the federal, provincial and municipal levels, to ensure water safety and high water quality.

On Friday, January 15, Dr. Herb Schellhorn will describe his team’s efforts to augment monitoring activities using next-generation sequencing (NGS) of environmental samples. He’ll also discuss the development of new sensor technologies that can make sample analysis less expensive and more comprehensive. Working directly with water quality decision makers, Dr. Schellhorn and other researchers have identified key areas that can benefit from comprehensive water monitoring and analysis, including microbial source tracking and pathogen identification.

Dr. Herb Schellhorn is a Professor in the Department of Biology and is an associate member of Biomedical Engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. His principal interests are the study of bacterial adaptation and natural environment focusing on Escherichia coli (E. coli) —a pathogen that continues to be an important human health problem. His work focuses on large transcriptome studies (the full range of messenger RNA, or mRNA, molecules expressed by an organism) to simultaneously examine the expression of thousands of genes that contribute to bacterial adaptation and virulence.

Recently, Dr. Schellhorn led a water research group funded by the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, the MacWater Diagnostic Research Initiative (, to develop new environmental sensors and to evaluate new DNA markers for monitoring pathogens in the environment.