Contact Information
Public Health Genomics Applied Research Ottawa
Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine
Faculty of Medicine - University of Ottawa
451 Smyth Road,
Ottawa, ON
K1H 8M5 Canada
Tel.:(613) 562-5800
Fax: (613) 562-5452


Students and Trainees


Stuart Nicholls PhD

Post-Doctoral Fellow

I received my PhD in Applied Social Statistics from Lancaster University in 2010. My thesis used a mixed methods study to analyse the factors influencing parental perceptions of decisional quality in the context of newborn screening. This involved conducting and analysing interviews, developing a survey and then modelling survey responses using structural equation modelling.

In general my research can be classed as quantitative sociology with a public health ethics perspective, although I have a special interest in genetics and associated technologies. In particular I am interested in public or patient experiences, how technologies can be evaluated and how people make decisions regarding their acceptability.

I am an advocate of mixed methods approaches and interdisciplinary research and bring with me experience and training in both qualitative and advanced quantitative methods. Methodologically I have a keen interest in latent variable methods.

You can find out more about me on my page, or at where I am the associate editor.

Curriculum Vitae


Masters Students

Christina Catley

Supervisor: Dr Brenda Wilson

I received my Ph.D degree in Electrical Engineering from Carleton University. My dissertation focused on designing Web services-based approaches for integrating obstetrical databases and developing clinical decision support tools for risk assessment, specifically in the area of premature birth. Recently I have been working on techniques for integrating data mining and temporal abstraction to analyze multi-dimensional clinical data in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and applying health informatics techniques to quantify and improve patient information flow within NICUs. For my Master’s thesis, I will be exploring and validating the role of family history in patient care, although the specific topic is yet to be determined.

Hoda El-katerji

Supervisors: Dr Julian Little, Dr Zahra Montezeri

Thesis title: "The impact of smoking sheesha on mucosal gene expression."

Abstract: Recently, Western countries witnessed an unexplained sharp rise in sheesha use especially among young adults. The increase in popularity of sheesha among young people is possibly attributed to the belief that sheesha smoking is the healthiest way to smoke tobacco. So far we don’t have solid knowledge about the
adverse health effect of sheesha. What is known is still not enough to inform policy makers or health promoters. In order to gain a panoramic view on the effects of sheesha smoking we proposed this study with three aims.

Aim one is to assess the effect of sheesha tobacco smoking on cancer gene expression (under- or over-expressed genes) in the buccal mucosa among young smoker in Ottawa. By doing so, we can map the present gene performances with the risk of future cancer development.

Aim two is to conduct a systematic review to assess the impact of sheesha smoking on cancer development.

Aim three is to generate a framework used to recruit hard to access people for aim one, and highlight the main characteristics of sheesha smokers, by developing and pilot testing a questionnaire that could be used in the future to conduct and analyze quantitative studies.

Rachel Fernandes

Supervisor: Dr Julian Little

Research Interests:  I am interested in infectious diseases, primarily influenza. I am also interested in chronic diseases, including human papillomavirus related diseases, such as cervical cancer. My interest in the latter is primarily in the Gardasil and Cervarix HPV vaccines and their uptake in young women.

Gillian Gresham

Supervisor: Dr Julian Little

Degrees held: Hon. BSc in biochemistry, MSc. Candidate 

My research interests include genetic and cancer epidemiology with special interest in gastrointestinal cancers. I will be involved in the review and interpretation of genetic association studies on colorectal polyps. It is of interest to identify the genetic risk factors associated with colorectal polyp development and recurrence as well as their subsequent progression to malignancy. Genetic associations between dietary factors, such as folate and vitamin D consumption, will also be evaluated.

Leigh Jonah

Supervisors: Dr Brenda Wilson, Dr Beth Potter

Education: BA(Hons.) Health Science and Psychology from Queen's University, MSc candidate

Research Interests: genetic epidemiology, family history, and disease screening. I am interested in the use of genetic information or family history as a tool for disease screening, how family history is used in practice, as well as family history as a motivator for screening or disease prevention behaviour.


Denise Landry


BSc (hons), MD, MSc candidate

Supervisors: Dr Julian Little, Kathryn Williams

Thesis title: "The association between body composition and vitamin D using the Canadian Health Measures Survey."

Abstract: Vitamin D is responsible for bone health and possibly has a role in autoimmune diseases, immunity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and all cause mortality. 60% of Canadians have low vitamin D. Body weight is a potentially modifiable risk factor for low vitamin D status. This study will analyze cycle 1 of the Canadian Health Measures Survey in which over 5000 Canadians aged 6 to 79 had direct measurements of height, weight, waist circumference and vitamin D levels. The hypothesis is that underweight and overweight will be associated with low vitamin D due to sequestration of vitamin D in body fat in the former and insufficient intake and stores of vitamin D in the latter. Results will have clinical and public health significance.

Tanya Navaneelan

Supervisors: Dr Brenda Wilson, Dr Julian Little

Thesis title: "Informed Decision Making and Normalization in the Implementation of Health Technology: The Human Papillomavirus Vaccine and Canadian Public Health Policy."

Laure Tessier

Supervisors: Dr Brenda Wilson, Dr Beth Potter

Education: Hon. BSc in Biology, MSc candidate
Research interests: I am interested in exploring the value and the use of genetic information in prenatal and pediatric settings, as well as how people perceive and understand the functioning of genetics and the clinical impacts of genetic information.


Jodi Wilson


Supervisors: Dr Julian Little, Dr Nick Birkett, Dr Ken Johnson

Thesis Title: Lifetime physical activity and the risk of colorectal cancer: A population-based case-control study using data from the Newfoundland Colorectal Cancer Registry

Although the association between physical activity and colorectal cancer is well established, there are several factors which may affect this association. The use of non-relevant time periods for the measurement of
exposures including physical activity is a source of potential bias in the literature. We aim to assess the methodological quality of recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses on the association between physical activity and colorectal, colon, or rectal cancer, and to address some gaps in the literature by conducting a population-based case-control study.

The case-control study will investigate whether regular recreational physical activity performed at three different life periods (i.e. during the participant’s 20’s, 30-40’s, and since turning 50) and across the lifetime is associated with CRC, and to determine if familial risk status modifies this association. A case-only analysis will also be performed to estimate the multiplicative interactions between microsatellite status and physical activity .

Research Interests: Physical activity, injury prevention and rehabilitation; cancer epidemiology; genetic epidemiology


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Last updated: 2016.11.15