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Sep - Jennifer Gardy

Speaker: Jennifer Gardy

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Talk Title: “Investigation of a tuberculosis outbreak in a BC homeless shelter: from bunk bed maps to bacterial genomes to Bayesian phylogenetics”

Event Details


Thursday, September 25, 2014. 6:00pm

Affiliation: Senior Scientist (Genomics & Molecular Epidemiology), BC Centre for Disease Control.

URL: Jennifer Gardy


Dr. Jennifer Gardy is both a scientist and science communicator. By day, she is fulfilling her childhood dream of being Dustin Hoffman in “Outbreak”, working at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control. As Senior Scientist, Jennifer leads BCCDC’s Genome Research Laboratory, where she uses genome sequencing to understand how outbreaks of infectious disease begin and spread. Her group was the first to use genomics to reconstruct a large outbreak of tuberculosis, and she is continuing to apply this novel technique to other outbreak scenarios. Jennifer completed her B.Sc. in Cell Biology and Genetics at the University of British Columbia (2000), and her PhD in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University (2006), and is currently an Assistant Professor in UBC’s School of Population and Public Health, where she holds a Canada Research Chair in Public Health Genomics.

By night (well, on days off work, really) Jennifer works in science communication. She’s hosted an 8-part science documentary series for CBC Television, multiple episodes of CBC’s The Nature of Things, and is a regular guest host on Discovery Channel Canada’s flagship science newsmagazine, Daily Planet, in addition to recurring appearances as a guest scientist on shows like The Social and CTV Morning Live. She’s also blogged and written for the Globe and Mail, wrote the children’s book “It’s Catching! The Infectious World of Germs and Microbes”, is a member of OWL Magazine’s Advisory Board, and runs a series of workshops on how to communicate science effectively. In 2014, she was named a YWCA Woman of Distinction in the Science, Technology, and Research category for her work in both science and science communication.


In early 2008, an outbreak of tuberculosis began in a BC homeless shelter, with many early cases traced to a highly infectious index case. Since 2011, we have been investigating this outbreak using a variety of approaches. In this talk, I’ll describe three of the studies we’ve pursued. In one, we used a unique set of records kept by the regional health authorities and the shelter to examine TB transmission, looking at whether sleeping distance from the index case, duration of exposure to the index, or a combination of both put shelter clients at higher risk of being infected. In the second, we used whole genome sequencing of the bacterial isolates from the outbreak patients combined with detailed epidemiological data to identify individual transmission events and the clinical risk factors associated with being a transmitter. In the third – a spin-off study from the second – we explored how well genomic data alone captures transmission events, in other words, can genomics alone tell us who infected whom, even for an outbreak with no associated epidemiological data.

Please note:

Trainees are invited to meet with the VanBUG speaker for open discussion of both science and career paths. This takes place 4:30-5:30pm in either the Boardroom or Lunchroom on the ground floor of the BCCRC

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Introductory Speaker: Tyler Funnell (Shah Lab, BC Cancer Agency)

Title: “Transcriptomic consequences of RNA processing disruption by a novel kinase inhibitor”