Siyun Wang Kazun

Associate Professor

Research Interests

Agri-food Transformation Products
Bioactive Molecules
Food microbiology
Food safety

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Research Methodology

molecular biology


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These videos contain some general advice from faculty across UBC on finding and reaching out to a potential thesis supervisor.

Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


Siyun is 100% dedicated to the success of her students. She always encourages us to follow our own path and is happy to provide whatever support is needed to accomplish our goals. She is also committed to fostering a cooperative team atmosphere, which makes working in her research group a real pleasure. She is a major driving force behind many of my successes.

Justin Falardeau (2019)


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Probing the interaction between bacteriophages and of Salmonella enterica (2024)

The full abstract for this thesis is available in the body of the thesis, and will be available when the embargo expires.

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Formulating a broad-spectrum bacteriophage cocktail against pervasive poultry-associated Salmonella enterica serovars (2023)

Poultry products are the largest food category linked to foodborne salmonellosis. A small subset of serovars within the subspecies Salmonella enterica are the most prevalent sources of human disease, causing a substantial burden of illness in Canada. Barriers along the poultry production continuum favour the survival of these serovars due to niche-specific genes which encode resistance to selective pressures such as host defenses and industrial antimicrobial practices. Bacteriophages (phages) have been proposed as novel antimicrobials in the poultry industry due to their documented safety, ubiquity, and unparalleled target specificity. This research explores the usefulness of environmentally isolated phages, for application in free and encapsulated forms, to target prominent poultry-associated S. enterica serovars in Canada.Fifty S. enterica isolates, representing seven pervasive serovars, were procured by the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture from environmental and diagnostic poultry sources. The quantity and diversity of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes, virulence factors, Salmonella Pathogenicity Islands, and plasmids, across our S. enterica library, were identified for each bacterial isolate using whole genome sequences. Serovar-specific differences were identified that likely play a role in the recent shift in Salmonella serovars across the Canadian poultry sector. AMR profiles were confirmed in vitro by minimum inhibitory concentration testing.A library of 78 phages, isolated from environments in British Columbia, Canada, was evaluated against S. enterica strains. Host range testing followed by relative host efficiency narrowed down candidates to six best phages for cocktail formulation. Promising phages were characterized using one-step growth curves and transmission electron microscopy. A broad-spectrum cocktail containing three phages was successfully produced with high killing efficacy across all 50 poultry-associated S. enterica isolates in vitro. This cocktail produced a 3.21 log reduction when sprayed directly onto chicken breast challenged with a mixture of S. enterica serovars. Phage cocktail protected in a microemulsion and ingested by mature broiler chickens, resulted in a 1.50 log Salmonella reduction in birds challenged with a mixture of S. enterica serovars. Lastly, 16S rRNA gene sequencing indicated that the upper, middle, and lower gastrointestinal tract of broilers had negligible differences in microbiome composition across phage treatment groups.

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Investigation into the mechanisms behind the differential inhibition of Listeria monocytogenes in soft-ripened cheeses (2022)

Soft-ripened cheeses (e.g., Camembert; SRC) are at risk for the growth of the Listeria monocytogenes due to favourable moisture and pH compared to other cheeses; however, the L. monocytogenes growth is not uniform across all SRC. The cheese microbiome, which is influenced by the farm and processing environments, may affect L. monocytogenes growth. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis was to investigate how the taxonomic and functional profiles of SRC microbiomes may affect the growth of L. monocytogenes. Forty-three SRC were inoculated with L. monocytogenes, and pathogen growth was monitored over 12 days at 8°C by select plating. Cheeses were produced from both raw (n=12) and pasteurized (n=31) milk. The taxonomic and functional profiles of the cheeses microbiomes was investigated using 16S rRNA targeted amplicon sequencing, shotgun metagenomic sequencing of 39 and 15 cheeses, respectively. L. monocytogenes growth differed significantly between cheeses (ANOVA; p
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Comparative analysis of Salmonella-infecting bacteriophages and characterization of bacteriophage-host interactions (2020)

Numerous outbreaks in North America have been attributed to non-typhoidal Salmonella enterica. Bacteriophages (phages), viral bacterial predators, represent agents that could be used for controlling Salmonella; yet, relatively little is known about phages and their host interactions. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis was to characterize phages of Salmonella on their phenotypic and genomic determinants and phage-host interactions. Salmonella phages (n=97) were isolated from sites within British Columbia, Canada. Host range analysis revealed diverse patterns of lysis, with several broad host range phages identified. Initial screening demonstrated that phage SI1 exhibited remarkable stability at a variety of pH and temperature values. Artificially- contaminated sprouting alfalfa seeds treated with SI1 resulted in a significant (p98% nucleotide identity), yet between clusters, genomes exhibited a span of diversity (
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Elucidation of novel physiological and genetic elements associated with the cold adaptability and survival of Listeria monocytogenes in the food processing continuum (2018)

Novel physiological and genetic factors associated with the survival of Listeria monocytogenes in the food-processing continuum were investigated, with an emphasis on its cold-growth ability. Food-related L. monocytogenes strains (n=166) were sequenced and subsequently evaluated on their ability to tolerate cold (4°C), salt (6% NaCl, 25°C), acid (pH 5, 25°C), and desiccation (33% RH, 20°C) stress. Stress tolerances were associated with serotype, clonal complex, full-length inlA profiles, and plasmid harbourage. Notably, strains possessing full length inlA (as opposed to a truncated version) exhibited significantly (p1,000-fold) of differentially expressed (e.g., >2-fold, p
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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Investigation of antimicrobial sensitivity in bacteriophage-insensitive mutants of Salmonella enterica (2024)

Non-typhoidal Salmonella is a leading cause of foodborne diarrheal disease. The prevalence of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) isolates is rising, and the overexpression of the AcrAB–TolC efflux pump is one factor often linked to multidrug resistance. We propose a targeted strategy to elicit structural changes in the TolC protein via bacteriophage (phage) infection. We hypothesize that these alterations in TolC structure will restore antimicrobial sensitivity of the host Salmonella. The purpose of this thesis was to assess changes in AMR of bacteriophage-insensitive mutants (BIMs) of Salmonella Typhimurium resistant to chloramphenicol and tetracycline, following infection with a TolC-binding phage.Using a collection of newly-isolated phages (n=72), TolC dependence was determined via relative efficiency of plating using a ΔtolC mutant of S. Typhimurium ATCC 14028. BIMs were generated by co-inoculating S. Typhimurium with TolC binding phage in tryptic soy broth (TSB) in triplicate. Every day for three days, 5 µL of co-culture and an additional 5 µL of phage lysate (~10⁹ PFU/mL) was transferred to fresh TSB. Cultures were isolated on streak plates and ten colonies selected at random; which were confirmed as phage resistant over five rounds of subculture via spot test. Minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of BIMs to chloramphenicol and tetracycline were determined via broth microdilution. Additionally, the ability of this phage to alter the frequency of AMR within populations of S. Typhimurium was investigated by a serial co-culture method.One phage, SeKF 80, showed reliance on TolC. Host resistance to this phage arose after three days. Of the ten randomly selected BIMs, #1, #5, and #9 displayed twofold increases in tetracycline resistance compared to the parental strain. In contrast, nine of the ten BIMs had unchanged MICs of chloramphenicol, with only BIM 5 showing a twofold reduction in chloramphenicol resistance. Phage SeKF 80 had minimal effect on the frequency of AMR when used to infect populations of S. Typhimurium.This study demonstrates that forced evolution of the TolC receptor through phage infection can lead to evolutionary trade-offs related to antimicrobial resistance; however, the phenotypes of bacteriophage-insensitive Salmonella mutants are complex and potentially specific to the host-phage pair.

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Inactivation of Salmonella Enteritidis in liquid eggs using bacteriophage cocktails (2023)

The full abstract for this thesis is available in the body of the thesis, and will be available when the embargo expires.

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Characterization and application of bacteriophages for the biocontrol of Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (2021)

Shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) have been implicated with numerous outbreaks associated with the contamination of food products. Fresh produce, a minimally processed commodity, may become contaminated during production, processing, and distribution. Bacteriophages are viruses that specifically target and utilize bacterial hosts for replication. The availability of phage-based antibacterial strategies has provided the food industry with a sustainable, natural, and cost-effective method to control contamination. Although phage products for biocontrol are currently available, the risk of potential bacterial resistance mandates continuing the characterization of new strains for future formulations.Previously isolated phages (n = 13) were sequenced and assembled de-novo. Sequences were then probed for their phylogenetic origin and annotated for the identification of potential integrase genes, and virulence or pathogenic genes. Phages (n = 3) were selected based on their ease of propagation and ability to target STEC O157. Select phages were tested for their efficacy against four strains of STEC O157 both in broth culture and on fresh Romaine lettuce at a temperature of 10°C. Whole-genome nucleotide alignment based on the large subunit of the terminase gene identified that phages were closely related, clustering into three distinct clusters and two singletons. The lack of integrase, virulence, and pathogenic genes demonstrated their suitability for the food industry. Of the three phages tested for efficacy against STEC serogroup O157 strains, all were equally effective in reducing STEC populations significantly compared to the control in liquid culture (P
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Genomic associations of Listeria monocytogenes adhesion at 8?C (2020)

Listeria monocytogenes, a highly virulent foodborne pathogen, remains a threat to the food system and has led to numerous foodborne outbreaks worldwide. L. monocytogenes can establish itself in food production facilities by adhering to surfaces, resulting in increased resistance to environmental stressors. The aim of this study was to evaluate the adhesion ability of a collection of L. monocytogenes at 8°C and to analyse associations between the observed phenotypes and genetic factors such as internalin A (inlA), stress survival islet 1 (SSI-1), and clonal complex (CC). L. monocytogenes isolates (n=184) were grown at 8°C and 100% relative humidity. Growth was determined by measurement of optical density at 600 nm. Adherent cells were stained using crystal violet and quantified spectrophotometrically at 595 nm. Genotyping of inlA and SSI-1, multi-locus sequence typing, and a genome wide association were performed to elucidate the phenotype-genotype relationships in L. monocytogenes cold adhesion. Among all inlA genotypes, truncated inlA isolates had the highest mean adhered cells (ANOVA; P
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Colonization and bacteriophage biocontrol of Salmonella on fresh produce (2019)

Multiple outbreaks caused by Salmonella have been linked to fresh produce. Washing in sanitizing solutions has been shown to reduce microbial populations by
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Determination of the antibiotic resistance and bacteriophage infectivity of verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (2019)

Verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) are bacteria that have been implicated in foodborne outbreaks, and may be transmitted to food by contaminated irrigation water. Antibiotics are not generally used in VTEC infection treatment, however the presence of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria and genes in the environment pose a threat to human health due to the potential for horizontal gene transfer.The broth microdilution technique was used to determine if VTEC strains (n = 15) isolated in 2014-2016 from irrigation water in British Columbia (BC) were resistant or susceptible to the following antibiotics: ampicillin, ceftriaxone, chloramphenicol, gentamicin, nalidixic acid, streptomycin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and tetracycline. Compared to VTEC isolated from 2012-2013, strains from 2014-2016 had overall lower rates of antibiotic resistance. Whole genome sequences of VTEC strains (n = 67) isolated from 2012-2016 were queried against the ResFinder database and acquired AMR genes such as aph(3”)-Ib, aph(6)-Id, blaTEM-1b. dfrA8, sul2, tetA and tetB were identified in antibiotic resistant VTEC. Bacteriophages (phages) are viruses that use bacteria as a host cell, and their use as an antimicrobial against pathogens has been examined. Phages (n = 15) that target VTEC were isolated from sewage and their spotting host range was determined. Further characterization of four VTEC phages was done to determine if they had characteristics that are suitable for use in the food industry. The four phages had similar morphology to the Myoviridae family from transmission electron microscope images, had latent periods ranging from 35-55 minutes, burst sizes ranging from 15 to 57 phages per cell, and were stable over 31 days at pH 8, 10 and at 4°C, varied stability at pH 6 or at -20°C or 22°C, and not at pH 2, 4 or at 37°C. The potential for Salmonella phages (n = 34) to infect VTEC was examined by the spotting and plaquing host range assays. Nine Salmonella phages were capable of lysing VTEC, however only six were able to form plaques on VTEC. This research provides insights into AMR patterns in VTEC isolated from irrigation water in BC, and about novel phages for potential use for VTEC biocontrol in the food industry.

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Impact of antimicrobial treatments on sprouting alfalfa seed contaminated with Salmonella enterica (2018)

Consumption of alfalfa sprouts has increased worldwide due to the nutritional value and health benefits of sprouts. However, alfalfa sprouts contaminated with Salmonella enterica (S. enterica) have been the source of many foodborne outbreaks in Europe and North America. Antimicrobial treatments for sprouted seeds are recommended by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency but the influence of different antimicrobial sanitation seed treatments on the behaviour of S. enterica during seed germination remains unclear. The goals of this study were (1) to investigate the ability of S. enterica to grow on sprouting alfalfa seeds after three different sanitation seed treatments to reduce microbial load, and (2) to understand how colonization by S. enterica and different antimicrobial treatments affect metabolites released by sprouting alfalfa seed.Alfalfa seeds inoculated with five strains of S. enterica were subject to three different seed treatments: (1) sodium hypochlorite (NaClO), (2) hydrogen peroxide (H₂O₂), and (3) an organic treatment involving a hot water dip, treatment with H₂O₂ and acetic acid. The disinfected seeds were sprouted to identify the growth characteristics of S. enterica after sanitation stress (n = 3). The populations of all five S. enterica strains which were present at
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Investigating factors contributing to the survival of Salmonella enterica on mini cucumbers (2017)

Cucumbers have been associated with recent Salmonella enterica (S.enterica) outbreaks. The ability of S. enterica to attach or internalize into produce may be a factor that make these produce items more likely to be sources of S. enterica contamination. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the survival capability of S. enterica on mini cucumbers and explore the factors contributing to the survival of this foodborne pathogen on the surface of cucumbers.Five strains of S. enterica representing different serotypes were individually inoculated onto mini cucumbers and subsequently incubated at 22 ± 2 °C for 8 days or at 4 ± 2 °C for 19 days respectively. Crystal violet assay was performed to quantify the biofilm formation and attachment capability based on the value of optical density at 595 nm of the destaining crystal violet at the specific interval time (0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 24, 48, 72, 96 hours). The phenotypic evaluation of red dry and rough (rdar) morphotype formation of S. enterica were conducted on Luria-Bertani (LB) agar complemented with Congo red (40 μg/mL) and Coomassie brilliant blue (20 μg/mL). The results suggested different S. enterica strains showed differential survival rates at both temperatures. S. Poona exhibited the strongest survival ability at 22 ± 2 °C with the highest Δlog CFU and maximum achieved density (Nmax) of 0.84 ± 0.01 and 6.72 ± 0.05, respectively. However, at 4 ± 2 °C, S. Enteritidis survived better compared with S. Poona due to the least cell density decrease of -0.91 ± 0.01 Δlog CFU and maximum achieved density of 6.04 ± 0.09. Besides, survival behaviors of S. enterica were found to be associated with biofilm formation ability and the biofilm ability differed among different strains. This means that biofilm formation contributes to the survival ability of S. enterica on mini cucumbers. Lastly, different strains exhibited specific morphotypes on Congo red agar, indicating that both curli and cellulose contribute to biofilm formation of S. enterica. Unique survival characteristics among S. enterica reveal that corresponding interventions need to be applied to eliminate contamination of produce with specific S. enterica strains.

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Occurrence and potential predictors of verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC), Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes in surface water used for produce irrigation in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada (2017)

Foodborne pathogens such as verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC), Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes may be present in surface waters, thus having the potential to contaminate fresh produce during crop irrigation. The objectives of this study were to determine the occurrence of VTEC, Salmonella, and L. monocytogenes in surface waters used for produce irrigation in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, and to investigate potential predictors of their presence.Water samples (n = 223) were collected from three and four irrigation ditches in both the Serpentine and Sumas watersheds, respectively, between February 2015 and August 2016. VTEC colonies on water filters were detected using a verotoxin colony immunoblot developed for the detection of all VTEC serotypes, and isolates were confirmed via multiplex PCR for virulence genes vt1 and vt2. Detection of Salmonella and L. monocytogenes was completed using Health Canada Methods MFHPB-20 and MFHPB-30, respectively. Generic E. coli (EC) and fecal coliforms (FC) were enumerated using 3M™ Petrifilm™ Count Plates, and by membrane filtration with growth on m-FC agar with 0.01% rosalic acid; this was followed by transfer to nutrient agar containing 4-methylumbelliferyl-β-D-glucuronide. Meteorological data were collected from Environment Canada records, and agricultural data were collected from the British Columbia Agricultural Land Use Inventories.The most commonly occurring pathogen was L. monocytogenes (11.2%), followed by VTEC (4.93%), and Salmonella (2.68%). Pathogen recovery was more common in the Serpentine watershed (p
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Environmental adaptation and stress response of Salmonella enterica in peanut oil, peanuts and chia seeds (2015)

In North America, outbreaks of Salmonella in recent years have been linked to low-water activity (aw) foods, such as tree nuts, peanut butter and chia seed powder. The unusual emergence in microenvironments that should otherwise limit bacterial survival highlights the need for the elucidation of mechanisms that enhance Salmonella survival in low aw foods, which are currently poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the response of Salmonella enterica to two stressors commonly encountered in low-aw food processing, desiccation and heat treatment. Five strains representing different serotypes of S. enterica were inoculated onto food matrices with varying aw: peanut oil (aw 0.521 ± 0.003), peanuts (aw 0.321 ± 0.20) and chia seeds (aw 0.585 ± 0.003) to identify survival characteristics in low-aw environments. To assess the effect of stress pre-adaptation on survival, peanut oil-desiccated cells and/or cells shocked at 45°C were subsequently subjected to 70°C. Lastly, the relative expression levels of five stress response or virulence genes (i.e. invA, fadA, otsB, rpoE and dnaK) were assessed following heat treatment or desiccation using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). S. enterica exhibited long-term survival in the low-aw foods (up to 105 days) and showed a strain-specific response. S. Hartford and S. Thompson were identified as persistent in these low-aw foods, while Typhimurium was identified as the least persistent serotype. Furthermore, cells pre-exposed to six days of desiccation in peanut oil and/or 45°C heat for three minutes exhibited significantly (p
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