McMaster University

Medical Sciences
Graduate Program

Scope of Search

Jennifer Stearns

Jennifer Stearns

Assistant Professor

Research Interests

Our microbial partners, living on and within us, are essential to our health and provide us with countless benefits from food digestion to protection from pathogens. They interact intimately with our bodies, especially in the first years of life, educating the immune system, establishing metabolic set points and impacting developing gut physiology. Understanding healthy normal microbial colonization in early life is essential to the study of healthy infant development, as well as for the design of effective translational interventions aimed at the microbiota. Research in my lab aims to uncover the core processes, such as colonization, succession and stability, involved in microbial establishment within the human body. My approach involves human cohorts and animal models and uses molecular methods, microbial culture and bioinformatics, with the ultimate goal of understanding how the microbiota contributes to infant development and long term health.


Research interests in the lab:

Microbial community maturation within the context of a maturing host environment. My lab is developing and applying computational, molecular and culture based methods to study human associated microbial communities longitudinally.

Early infant nutrition choices on bacterial succession. By combining molecular profiling, with in vitro and in vivo experiments we are exploring how the infant diet helps to shape microbial communities.

Microbial contribution to early life origins of disease. By studying large populations of individuals we are connecting the gut microbiome and microbially derived metabolites in early life with evolving phenotypes of human disease, such as obesity, metabolic syndrome and atopy.


McMaster University
The Farncombe Family Digestive HealthResearch Institute

Phone: 905-525-9140
ext: 26966


Metabolism & Nutrition
Infection & Immunity

Research Areas

Microbial Succession of the Infant Micorobiome


Selected Publications

  • Pirbaglou M, Katz J, de Souza R, Stearns JC, Motamed M and Ritvo P. Effects of Probiotic Supplementation on Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms in Humans: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. In Press. Nutrition Research.

  • Stearns JC, Davidson CJ, McKeon S, Whelan FJ, Fontes ME, Schryvers AB, Bowdish, DME, Kellner JD, and Surette MG. (2015) Culture and molecular-based profiles show shifts in bacterial communities of the upper respiratory tract that occur with age. ISME Journal 9:1246-1259.

  • Stearns JC and Surette, MG. Microbiology fo Dummies (2015) John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken NJ.
  • Whelan FJ, Verschoor CP, Stearns JC, Rossi L, Luinstra K, Loeb M, Smieja M, Johnstone J, Surette MG and Bowdish DME. (2014) The loss of topography in the microbial communities of the upper respiratory tract in the elderly. Ann Am Thor Soc 11: 513-521.

  • Stearns JC, Lynch MDJ, Senadheera DB, Tenenbaum HC, Goldberg MB, Cvitkovitch DG, Croi- toru K, Moreno-Hagelsieb G and Neufeld JD. (2011) Bacterial biogeography of the human digestive tract. Sci Rep 1:article170.

  • Bartram AK, Lynch MDJ, Stearns JC, Moreno-Hagelsieb G, Neufeld JD (2011) Generation of multi-million 16S rRNA gene libraries from complex microbial communities by assembling paired-end Illumina reads. Appl Envrion Microbiol 77:3846-52.