May 30, 2024

Humans of LMP: Joseph Zeppa

Programs: Postgraduate, Agile education, Inclusive community
Three people are standing indoors. The person in the middle, Joseph Zeppa holding a certificate, is flanked by two others, Myron Cybulsky and Janice Robertson. Behind them is a digital screen displaying "LMPRC 2024," event details, and an image of a crowded meeting room. They are at the awards ceremony of the LMPRC.
LMP Vice Chairs Research Dr. Myron Cybulsky and Dr. Janice Robertson, present Dr. Joseph Zeppa with his best poster award at LMPRC 2024

Each month we speak to a member of the Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology community and find out more about them as part of an initiative from our Wellness, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee (WIDE).

This month we feature Dr. Joseph Zeppa who is a first-year Clinical Microbiology Postdoctoral Diploma Fellow. Joseph won "Best poster: Postgraduate Medical Education" at this year's LMP Research Conference.

Visit the Humans of LMP page to read more stories and nominate yourself or others to be featured.

What are you studying at LMP and why are you interested in studying it? 

I am a first-year fellow studying Clinical Microbiology. I am interested in studying it because it allows me to both be involved with exciting clinically focused research while also learning how to run a diagnostic laboratory which has a direct positive impact on patient care.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen, or got involved with while at LMP? 

The most interesting thing I have been involved with thus far has been a whole genome sequencing project involving Streptococcus pyogenes (the bacteria responsible for both strep throat and ‘flesh eating’ disease!). This was a bit of a full-circle moment for me as I spent over six years studying this organism during my undergraduate and PhD training, and to return to it was a lot of fun!

What was the best career advice you ever received?  

The best career advice I ever received was to do as much as you can to make yourself the best candidate for whatever profession you’re interested in.

Before I decided to apply to the clinical microbiology fellowship, I contacted as many microbiologists as I could to get a better understanding of what it is they do and to better understand the pros and cons of the job. I also asked to shadow the University of Toronto program and attend the same clinical rounds that I would be in as a fellow. Additionally, I was able to tour numerous microbiology labs in the Greater Toronto Area to see the working environment I would potentially be entering. All these experiences were paramount in my decision to apply to the program, and the fact that I had gone above and beyond in my preparation I believe was a key contributing factor to me being accepted into the program.

What has been an important learning experience in your life?  

An important learning experience I have had is that you won’t always get things right the first time when it comes to deciding what you want to do as your career.

After completing my first postdoctoral fellowship I decided to change thing up and I applied for scientific-adjacent position in industry. I was fortunate enough to get the job and was really excited for the opportunity. Within months I realized that this was not the role for me, and I was able to pivot back to a research position at the University of Toronto. It was here that I had the opportunity to more fully explore the clinical microbiology role that I am in today, and if it were not for that first failed industry experience, I would not be where I am today!

Who is an influential person in your life and why?  

One influential person in my life would be my previous postdoctoral mentor JoAnne Flynn. Her passion, work ethic and rigorous approach to all things science really helped mold me into the researcher I am today. She was truly inspirational in that she was able to balance an incredibly successful research program, a great family life and lots of extracurriculars (running marathons, reading a book a week, being president of an international scientific society, traveling, etc.). I always enjoyed chatting with her, be it about the latest data we’d generated or the most recent Pittsburgh Penguins game. I truly cherished my time working for her and I still use a lot of the lessons she taught me to this very day.

What would it surprise people to know about you? 

I still have a baby tooth!

What activities do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

I love travelling with my fiancé, playing and watching sports (namely hockey, soccer and volleyball) and I enjoy spending time with my niece and nephew!

What is your favourite album, film and novel? 

Album: Because the Internet by Childish Gambino

Film: Spirited Away

Novel: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Who would be your dream dinner guests? 

Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Alex O’Connor and Jared Diamond

Where/what is your favourite place? 

My old cottage on St. Joseph’s Island near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

If you were stuck on a deserted island but had all your basic needs taken care of (i.e. food and water), what two items would you bring with you and why?

I would bring a telescope to look at the stars and a microscope to visualize all of the cool microorganisms around me!

Learn more about our Postdoctoral Diploma Programs

We offer programs in Clinical Microbiology and Clinical Chemistry
a clinical laboratory