Assistant Professor in Pathogenomics and Disease Informatics to conduct microbiology, bacterial genetics and bioinformatics research

Wed, 16, January, 2019 by Food from Thought

The University of Guelph is pleased to welcome Dr. Nicole Ricker as Assistant Professor in Pathogenomics and Disease Informatics. Her role began on December 3, 2018 with the Department of Pathobiology in the Ontario Veterinary College.

Ricker’s knowledge in bacterial genetics and the application of big data techniques to the study of microbial communities will support enhancing food and livestock safety at the micro-scale, one of Food from Thought’s three key research missions.

Ricker contributes specific expertise in comparative bacterial genomics, metagenomics, horizontal gene transfer and antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens. Her research within Food from Thought will focus on utilizing big data techniques to predict food borne disease outbreaks in agriculture.

Ricker will also be involved in the development of bioinformatics tools aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of mitigation strategies against antibiotic resistance, ranging from nutritional changes to manure management.

“We are excited to have Dr. Ricker sharing her microbiology expertise in both a research and teaching capacity at the University of Guelph,” says Dr. Malcolm Campbell, vice president (research). “Prof. Ricker’s research will leverage data science on the micro-scale to improve livestock health in collaboration with other faculty, contributing to Food from Thought’s goals for sustainable agriculture.”

Ricker’s academic studies trained her in microbiology, biotechnology, and environmental science, and she has presented both nationally and internationally on her research. She has been a research assistant for both the University of Guelph and University of Toronto while completing her academic training. Her post-doctoral work was carried out at both the USDA National Animal Disease Center and Iowa State University and utilized metagenomics to assess the impact of mitigation strategies on antimicrobial resistance in bacterial communities associated with swine (pigs).

Ricker will contribute to teaching the bacterial pathogens course within Pathobiology and within the bioinformatics graduate program. Her prior teaching experience in microbial ecology, sustainable food production, and bioinformatics will provide interdisciplinary perspective and reinforce the importance of a One Health approach for the University’s Ontario Veterinary College students.

“We are very fortunate that were able to recruit Dr. Nicole Ricker, who is an expert in microbial genomics, especially antimicrobial resistance genes in food producing animals and dissemination of these genes in the environment,” says Dr. Shayan Sharif, chair of OVC’s Department of Pathobiology. “Dr. Ricker will collaborate with other Food from Thought new hires to harness the power of big data to understand how antimicrobial resistance evolves in microbes and she will do this using a One Health approach. This unique and cutting-edge research program will contribute, in a very meaningful manner, to raising the reputation of our university as Canada’s Food University.”

Ricker is the fifth of several professors to be hired by the University through the Food from Thought program, which is funded by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF). The researchers will be directly involved in CFREF-supported research, and the development of an integrated research and innovation platform for accessing and applying big data in the agriculture and agri-food sector. They will have varying expertise across numerous departments, and contribute to Food from Thought’s goal of increasing our ability to leverage big data for the benefit of food production while maintaining the health of our ecosystems.