PhDs/PostDocs

Ramya Ramani, PhD student Brinkmann lab

Technische Universität Braunschweig (P01)

I have a long-standing interest in studying host-pathogen interactions and inflammation. My first experience was a short research project for my Master´s degree in BITS-Pilani, India, where I worked on the Apicomplexan parasite Plasmodium vivax. My Master thesis focused on the bacterium Salmonella, where I studied the role of Sirtuin2 during pathogenesis of Salmonella enterica ser. Typhimurium. This enhanced my knowledge on cellular signaling pathways and compartments that are often used by bacteria to evade the host immune response. For my PhD, I decided to explore new avenues and went to Germany to study Herpesviruses and innate immunity in Braunschweig. The fact that Herpesviruses are so well adapted and can stay conspicuous in the human body for a lifetime makes it an intriguing research area for me.
I am studying two proteins of Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) that exist as a complex and modulate signaling of pattern recognition receptors, thereby downregulating the innate immune response. Towards deciphering their mechanism of action, we will deploy basic molecular biology techniques, high throughput sequencing technologies and further examine the structure of the complex and its interaction partners.
Badminton is my regular sport. During my time in Braunschweig, I have developed a strong inclination to hiking in the mountains and biking activities during my leisure time.

Hella Schwanke, PhD student Brinkmann lab

Technische Universität Braunschweig (P01)

I am a molecular biologist, interested in the interplay between viruses and the cell-intrinsic innate immune defence. During my studies in molecular life sciences at the University of Lübeck, the virology lectures fostered my curiosity for the mechanisms deployed by viruses to remodel the host cell according to their needs. I think it is striking that many cellular processes were first discovered because a viral protein interfered with them, and there is still a lot we can learn about both the viruses and our own cells.
For our research at the TU Braunschweig, I want to find out how a single viral protein enables a herpes virus to modulate the complex pathways of the innate immune response. To do this, I am investigating the structure and interactions of this protein with other molecules, and based on this, its influence on the processes in the host cell.
In my spare time, I like to garden on the balcony and to explore the nearby Harz mountains.

Patrick Fischer, PhD student Dölken lab

JMU Würzburg (P02)

I am a doctoral researcher in the virology department in Würzburg looking into yet another way of how viruses subvert the human immune system. I finished my bachelor and master of biochemistry in Würzburg, where I was also first introduced to virology. There I worked on herpesviruses, which really fascinate me for their incredible evolutionary adaptability to their hosts. I think viruses are a great tool with which we can investigate all kinds of processes in our own cells by seeing how they are disrupted by the virus.
In this research unit, I want to elucidate the role of two human proteins (DTX3L/Parp9) that seem to play a role in the innate immune system as well as in DNA damage. These functions are disrupted by a herpes-viral protein, which we can use to gain insight into the role of DTX3L and Parp9. For this endeavor, we will be using high-throughput sequencing and an exciting tool that allows the rapid degradation of proteins while not fully deleting them.
In my free time I like to do sports like jogging or bouldering or basically everything else where you are active and move around. And if I am not doing that, you can most likely find me reading something.

Teresa Rummel, PhD student Erhard lab

JMU Würzburg (P02)

I am a bioinformatician, interested in the regulation of the immune defense upon virus infection and viral counter-regulation. It fascinates me how viruses adapted to their host and manage to evade many of the highly sophisticated immune defense mechanisms. Analyzing big data sets as well as modeling important biochemical processes interest me since my biochemistry studies at the University of Würzburg.
In this project, I want to find out how the transcriptional bursting kinetics in the immune response are regulated and how herpes simplex virus I modulates them. To achieve this goal, I will model the bursting kinetics and analyze a lot of high throughput data.
In my spare time, I like to play piano and I am always up for a nice walk or hike.

Niclas Barke, PhD student Landthaler lab

MDC Berlin (P03)

Since the very beginning of my studies in molecular life sciences, I was interested in understanding molecular mechanisms of biological processes, their (epi-)genetic basis, and their regulation on different levels. It fascinates me how small biological entities like viruses interfere with cellular homeostasis and thereby cause severe diseases with fatal consequences. It is truly astonishing which strategies viruses evolved to manipulate cell functions to their advantage and to evade immune responses. Therefore, I have a strong scientific interest in uncovering the causative pathogenic factors and their effects on important cellular functions.
The major aim of our research project is to identify host and viral RNA-binding proteins that play a role during Herpes simplex virus-1 infections. Since RNA-binding proteins are important regulators of gene expression, we want to investigate their action in the context of viral infections.
Outside the lab, I am very passionate about sports and also spend time playing football in a small club.

Dr. rer. nat. Emanuel Wyler, PostDoc Landthaler lab

MDC Berlin (P03)

I am a molecular biologist, and my main research interest are the consequences following the infection of cells, organoids or entire organisms with viruses. Specifically, I investigate the transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression based on high-throughput methods. For Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), we found a widespread induction of antisense transcripts from the host cell genomes in infected human fibroblasts, which could lead to downregulation of the apoptosis inducer BBC3/PUMA and thus enhance survival. Furthermore, we identified the Nrf2 pathway as a regulator of HSV-1 infection based on single-cell RNA-Seq data. In SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 research projects, we contributed to investigations into mechanisms of pathogenesis using single-cell RNA-Seq in a wide range of model systems, from cell lines to animal models and patient data. By that, we identified aspects of pathogenic processes such as aberrant activations of macrophages or neutrophils, and inflammatory events in endothelial cells.
Outside work, I enjoy reading, watching films and random low-level outdoor activities.

Dr. rer. nat. Manja Czech-Sioli, PostDoc Fischer lab

University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, UKE (P04)

My research interest focuses on human tumor viruses. I am especially interested how viruses manipulate their host cells and how a persistent viral infection can lead to transformation and development of cancer. I studied Molecular Life Sciences at the University of Lübeck. As a PhD student with Nicole Fischer I investigated the life cycle of Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV), a human tumor virus that is the major cause for a rare but very aggressive type of skin cancer. As a postdoc I used different next generation sequencing techniques to analyze mechanisms of MCPyV integration in the host DNA, a prerequisite for MCPyV induced tumorigenesis. My current research focuses on the interaction of MCPyV proteins with host chromatin prior to viral integration.
In my spare time I like to spend time with my cats and do sports.

Denise Ohnezeit, PhD student Fischer lab

University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, UKE (P04)

Infectious diseases and the interplay of pathogens with the immune system have fascinated me since I started studying Biology in Hamburg and shortly in Montpellier. Therefore, I moved to Lübeck to study Infection Biology and gained a deeper insight into all kinds of infections and host-pathogen interactions. I appreciated the internationality of the program and was reinforced to invest more time in research, so I became a PhD student in the lab of Nicole Fischer, working with a very fascinating albeit elusive virus – the Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV). Most of us are infected with MCPyV without developing any symptoms, but in rare cases the virus can induce the formation of a very aggressive skin tumor. I am particularly interested in the question how MCPyV exploits cellular molecular processes to establish persistent infection or induce tumorigenesis. These include for example the innate immune response or transcriptional regulatory processes that might be targeted by MCPyV during its life cycle. I am sure that there is still a lot to discover when it comes to host-pathogen interactions on the molecular level.
In my free time I enjoy cooking with friends, reading a good book and playing the piano or the guitar. Most refreshing for me is being by the sea and a perfect vacation should always include some surfing sessions.

Dr. rer. nat. Simon Weißmann, PostDoc Grundhoff lab

Leibniz-Institut für Experimentelle Virologie – HPI (P05)

My main interest has always been how chromatin landscapes are shaped by histone modifying enzymes, as well as their contribution to gene transcription. During my doctoral thesis at the BRIC in Copenhagen, I became intrigued how these enzymes can induce altered states of cell identity that support cancer development. I am using my background in chromatin biology to unravel the fascinating and intricate steps of maturation and chromatinization of herpesvirus genomes during the early phase of infection. I think it is especially interesting to understand the many ways in which herpesviruses exploit the host machinery to ensure controlled viral gene expression programs and latency establishment. I am convinced that by comparing strategies of different herpesviruses to direct chromatin regulators of the host cell to their own viral genomes, we will not only learn about their role in the viral life cycle but we will also identify new therapeutic avenues to disrupt viral latency.

Anna Katharina Kuderna, PhD student Stamminger lab

Universitätsklinikum Ulm (P07)

I studied biology in Tübingen and Ulm with focus on molecular biology and human genetics. I am fascinated how well regulated and interdependent the molecular processes in nature and the human body function. This is exactly the part where my PhD research takes place: the complex interplay between the intrinsic human immune system and the highly adapted evasion mechanisms of the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV). Since there are neither adequate therapies nor high awareness of this virus in the population, but infection can have serious consequences, I am happy to be part of this important research topic. I am especially interested in cellular proteins (KAP1, SPOC1 and the HUSH complex) that act either pro- or antivirally and aim to elucidate their way of action during infection. Also, the ability of HCMV to establish a lifelong latency in the host is part of my research where I analyse different cellular factors that may play a role for viral re-activation.
Outside the lab, I love exploring Europe with my self-build camper van and hiking or skiing in the mountains.

Dr. rer. nat. Myriam Scherer, PostDoc Stamminger lab

Universitätsklinikum Ulm (P07)

After studying molecular medicine at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, I started my PhD at the Institute of Virology where I investigated the mechanisms by which effector proteins of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) counteract intrinsic and innate immune defences. Since I was very impressed by the diverse strategies that herpesviruses have evolved to efficiently overcome cellular immune mechanisms, I continued working on restriction factors and viral antagonists during my postdoc in Erlangen and afterwards in Ulm. My current research focuses on the ways of how PML nuclear bodies – these are very dynamic multiprotein structures in the cell nucleus and it’s fun to study them by fluorescence microscopy – inhibit different steps of HCMV infection.
Outside the lab, I enjoy going up the mountains for skiing or down the ocean for scuba diving as well as trying out new bars and restaurants in Ulm together with my great colleagues.

Enrico Caragliano, PhD student Bosse lab

Center for Structural Systems Biology, CSSB (P09)

I am a molecular biologist and virologist by training. I am interested in studying the formation of virally induced compartments and the interplay between cellular and viral factors in their formation. My interest in studying Herpesviridae started while performing my master thesis at Messina. At that time, I was investigating the role of a viral protein in the modulation of apoptotic pathways during Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1) infection. As an intern at the University of Rijeka in the department of Prof. Stipan Jojnic, I worked on a murine congenital infection model of Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV). In 2018, I started my PhD at the Leibniz Institute for experimental virology (HPI) in Hamburg, working on a joint project between Jens Bosse´s and Wolfram Brune´s labs on HCMV replication compartments (RCs). Now I am continuing my thesis work at the Center for Structural Systems Biology (CSSB) in Hamburg. I investigate how HCMV can exploit liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) to form its RCs directly at the viral genome, ensuring its replication. Specifically, we are interested in understanding the molecular composition of the compartment using cutting-edge live microscopy approaches and novel cross-linking methods.
During my free time, I like to cycle in the surrounding of Hamburg, playing video games and reading historical books.

Elena Weiß, PhD student Friedel lab

LMU München (Z01)

Since school I have loved science and languages. Computer language has also always fascinated me and I wanted to know how it works. The bioinformatics presentation at the LMU’s Open Day showed me how interesting and exciting interdisciplinary science actually is and finally convinced me. That is how I became a bioinformatician. During my studies I learned all the necessary basics from computer science and life sciences. In my bachelor thesis, I entered the field of proteomics and dealt with peptide identification. In my master’s thesis, I studied how data analysis decisions affect the robustness of scientific results. This experience revealed how important correct handling of biological data is. As a graduate student, I have begun to study herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) infection. Here, I am investigating the effects of viral disease primarily at the transcriptional level. In this project, I will extend the analysis to the chromatin level to find out which host cell mechanisms are manipulated by the virus and what the effects are. This may help to better understand the arms race between viruses and immune defenses.
Outside of work, I am drawn to sports (from fitness to ball sports to swimming). This is my perfect balance to sitting in front of the computer for long periods of time.

Dr. rer. nat. Nicole Andrée-Busch, PostDoc Brinkmann lab

Technische Universität Braunschweig

Scientific coordinator FOR5200

During my biology studies at the Technische Universität Braunschweig, I became interested in the fascinating interplay between pathogen and host. Already in my bachelor thesis and during a stay abroad at the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) of the University of Pretoria in South Africa, I dealt with various plant pathogenic fungi, and in my master thesis at the Julius Kühn Institute with plant pathogenic viruses. For my PhD, I switched to the field of genetics and worked on the process of pre-mRNA splicing in fission yeast. In Melanie Brinkmann´s group I am diving deeper into the exciting field of virus-host interactions and how herpesviruses manipulate their host’s immune system to establish lifelong infections. Besides planning and conducting experiments in the lab and supervising theses, I am involved in teaching by giving lab courses and lectures. As scientific coordinator of the DEEP-DV research unit, I am responsible for the scientific administration of this group. This position allows me to combine the exciting research in the lab with project management and public outreach.
In my free time, I enjoy being active in our garden and spending time outside in nature with my horse Donatello (‘Dickie’).

Dr. rer. nat. Denise Heim, PostDoc Fischer lab

University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, UKE

Scientific coordinator FOR5200

After completing my degree in biology at the university in Kiel, I came to Hamburg for my PhD and studied the molecular mechanisms of inflammation-associated liver cancer development at the I. Department of Medicine, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. I then left academic research and joined a molecular diagnostics company. A start-up that emerged from the Johns Hopkins University environment and whose core competence is liquid biopsy for the detection of tumor DNA in blood. After a few years in industry, my professional path has led me back to UKE. In the diagnostic laboratory of the Institute of Medical Microbiology, Virology and Hygiene, I am supporting the implementation of the IVDR guidelines according to the EU regulation for in vitro diagnostics. I am also taking care of improving the general quality management in all areas of the diagnostic lab. I particularly enjoy establishing new innovative molecular diagnostic methods. In the DEEP-DV research group I am responsible for the scientific administration, whereby public relations is a new exciting task for me.
In addition to my professional tasks, I am interested in yoga philosophy and I try to deepen my spiritual practice while traveling through Asia, my favorite continent.