GIsele LaPointe, dairy microbiology professor.

Gisèle LaPointe is passionate about our relationship with food.

“I am fascinated with the idea that whatever we feed to our gut microbes can have an influence on every part of our body,” says LaPointe, recently appointed the Dairy Farmers of Ontario Professorship in Dairy Microbiology. “That interest is leading me to a very ambitious research plan.”

If anyone is ready to launch ambitious research, it’s LaPointe. After completing her undergraduate studies in biology at the University of Prince Edward Island, she earned her masters and PhD in microbiology at Laval University. She completed two post-doctoral fellowships, one at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the other at Health Canada, before returning to Laval as a professor and then director of the Food Science and Nutrition Department.

“I was hired at Laval for my expertise in molecular microbiology, which I have applied to dairy science over the past 20 years ” she says.

Coming to the University of Guelph was a logical next step for LaPointe — she loved the Laval community, but was eager for new challenges.

Her research is aimed at providing a link between dairy production, processing and health, with an emphasis on sustainability, which LaPointe says is a hot topic within the dairy community.

“We want to reduce the impact on the environment, increase efficiency, while adding value to dairy processes,” she says.

From LaPointe’s microbiology point of view, improving product quality and shelf life includes finding new ways to control molds and fungi along with sustainable packaging options.

She is excited to join with experts on campus in the fields of nutrition and health in order to expand our understanding of how food can modulate gut microbial communities.

“We are looking at adding microbes and other bioactive components such as peptides, lipids and polysaccharides that can contribute new technological and health functions to our dairy food choices.”

When not working on new ways to transform milk, LaPointe says she loves to hike and cycle, and looks forward to exploring Ontario’s parks. She’s also an enthusiastic cook who enjoys trying to reproduce foods she’s tasted from other countries. “I’m always experimenting on my family with my attempts to tweak recipes,” she says.