Student Researchers







Claudia Dominguez Valls

I was born in Barcelona, Spain where I studied Biology at the University of Barcelona and got my specialization in Biomedical sciences. Before finishing my Degree, I obtained an international exchange scholarship to perform an internship at University of Chile where I joined the research group of Prof. Julio Alcayaga in the laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Neurobiology. After graduating, I continued working in the Lab for 2 years evaluating the effect of hypoxia in petrosal ganglion neurons in rabbit. In September 2013, I started my master in Genetics and Genomics at the University of Barcelona. During my M.Sc. thesis I studied the effect of Juvenile Hormone on Insulin-Like peptides (ILPs) expression levels in Blatella germanica in the laboratory of Dr. Jose Luis Maestro situated in the Institut de Biología Evolutiva (IBE),CSIC-UPF, in Barcelona, Spain.

 In September 2015, I joined the ZENCODE Marie Curie Initial Training Network as a Early Stage Researcher.  I am pursuing my PhD at Zebrafish Development and Disease Model (ZDDM) Lab in GIGA at Université de Liège (Belgium). Under the supervision of Dr. Bernard Peers, the main goal of my PhD is to study the transcriptomic and epigenomic modifications of pancreatic beta and alpha cells in response to the metabolic status in Zebrafish.




Ana Lopez


Ana Lopez

I grew up in Alfaro, a town in the north of Spain. I always was interested in Sciences, so when I was 18 I decided to move to Pamplona to study Biology and Biochemistry at University of Navarra. During the first year they offered us the opportunity to obtain a Diploma in Bioinformatics and I decided to do it. I spent 6 years purchasing these three degrees at Pamplona. Besides, I decided to be involved in the Erasmus network and I did the 5th year in Rome, at La Sapienza University. When I finished all my degrees, I decided to do a master, so I moved to London. I spent one year there obtaining my MSc in Applied Biosciences and Biotechnology at Imperial College London. During that year I decided to continue my career in research in something related to the developmental biology. Last September, I started my PhD at GIGA Research Center that belong to the University of Liège (Belgium). 

 My project is focused on the analysis of the transcriptome and epigenome of the zebrafish embryonic endodermal cells during their specification towards a pancreatic fate. Incubation of zebrafish gastrulae with retinoic acid drives endodermal cells mostly into a pancreatic or hepatic fate. Inversely, incubation of zebrafish gastrulae with the RA antagonist BMS493 triggers anterior endoderm and blocks pancreatic and hepatic fate. I will use this tricks to analyze the modifications of the transcriptome and epigenome during the specification of endodermal cells towards mid-truck identity fate.




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Andrea Mariossi

Originally from Italy, Andrea completed his marine biology Masters degree at the University of Padova in 2014. He focused on aquatic toxicology and ecotoxicology and during his final year he studied the effects of different pollutants on detoxifying systems and antioxidant defense systems in three-spined stickleback in Joachim Sturve’s lab at university of Gothenburg. After graduating he won a Leonardo da Vinci scholarship under the Project Unipharma Graduates 10 and spent six months at the Institute of Ecopreneurship (FHNW) where he focused on identification of proteins involved in the degradation of sulfonamides antibiotics by Microbacterium strain BR1. Following the completion of the placement, he started his PhD at King's College London under the ZENCODE-ITN programme, studying transcriptional regulation during endoderm formation in zebrafish applying next-generation sequencing techniques. The focus is on the network of genes downstream of the Sox family members, Sox32 and Sox17, ChIP-seq will identify sites of transcriptions factors binding and histone modifications and RNA-seq will profile gene expression levels. Integration of the different data will help understand the relationship of DNA elements and their protein regulators and how they work in conjunction during different stages of zebrafish development.

 The main objective of the project is to identify direct targets of key Sox family members, Sox32 and Sox17, during endoderm formation in zebrafish. ChIP-seq will identify sites of transcriptions factors binding and histone modifications and RNA-seq will profile gene expression levels. Integration of the different data will help understand the relationship of DNA elements and their protein regulators and how they work in conjunction during different stages of zebrafish development.


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Swarnima Joshi

Presently I am employed as a PhD student (ZENCODE-ITN) in Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany. My research focuses on characterizing different zebrafish mobility mutants. Mutated zebrafish strains will also be examined by genome sequencing to identify the mutation leading to the observed phenotype, further the examination will be done to elucidate the role of the mutated gene during zebrafish development. I obtained my master degree in Molecular biology and biotechnology from Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania. Erasmus+ EU programme gave me an opportunity to go to Julius Maximillian’s university of Wuerzburg, Germany where I did my master thesis entitled Microscopic analysis of serotonergic input onto the Mauthner neuron in Zebrafish brain. I did my bachelors in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Banasthali University, India.


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Sanamjeet Virdi

Joined Prof. Straehle group as a PhD student in Institute of toxicology and genetics at KIT in October 2015. Currently pursuing research on the topic of development of a pipeline for identification of mutations in ENU mutants in Zebrafish. Graduated as Master of Science in Bioinformatics from University of Tampere, Finland, in October 2014. Master’s thesis was on Mutational analysis of non-coding genome in Prostate Cancer using whole genome sequencing under the supervision of Prof. Matti Nykter. Previous education includes a Bachelor of Engineering from Panjab University, Chandigarh, India in Biotechnology. Research technique expertise consists of analyzing next generation sequencing data (WGS) using various open source tools and ability to work on other types DNA or protein sequences data using Python and R.  

The aim of my project is to focus on development of a software pipeline for data analysis, and validating it by sequencing of 3 previously uncharacterized myogenesis mutants which mimic myopathies and neuropathies of humans. The indentified mutations will be further characterized by transcriptional profiling using RNA sequencing. Confirmation of the results by biological means will be performed in collaboration with researchers working on myogenesis mutations in the laboratory of Prof. Uwe Strähle.


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Sanjana Pillay

I have a Master’s in Biotechnology. Before joining the University of Birmingham, as an Early Stage Researcher, I worked as a research fellow in CSIR- Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology, Delhi (India) for two years. There, my study focussed on the role of DNA methylation on gene expression and it’s impact on disease development. My stay at CSIR-IGIB has given me a first hand introduction to cutting-edge research like Next Generation Sequencing. I worked on some excellent projects and been part of scientific discussions which have lead to my overall development as an effective researcher. My project here at Birmingham focusses on the role of non-coding RNA’s in zebrafish development. Non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) have been shown to be involved in chromatin modification, cell fate determination and X chromosome inactivation. A few of them have been shown to play a role in regulating the expression of the protein coding genes. However the function of vast majority of these ncRNAs still remains unknown. Our aim will be to identify ncRNA’s association and modification of chromatin and study their function in regulating the expression of protein coding genes during different developmental stages in zebrafish.

 Apart from being a hardworking person, I interest myself in reading all kinds of books, mostly intellectual, which helps in my overall growth as a person. Traveling is my other passion and I welcome the opportunity to work with people from all kinds of cultures. 



Goutham Alta


Goutham Atla

I have a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy and masters degree in "Pharmacoinformatics" from National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), Kolkata, India. During my master's degree, I have studied bioinformatics along with the computational approaches for drug discovery. I learned the computational techniques for analyzing the High Throughput Sequencing data during my stay as a Bioinformatics Associate at Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) @ NCBS, Bangalore India. I joined Prof. Jorge Ferrer's lab at IDIBAPS, Barcelona, Spain with an aim of understanding the human genome regulation in diabetes.

 Genome regulation in insulin producing pancreatic islet cells is central for our understanding of human diabetes. My focus in Zencode-ITN project is to use the high throughput sequencing data in a panel of human islet samples exposed to different glucose concentrations and employ integrative analysis to show how environmental and genetic factors modulate promoter usage. Other sub projects includes understanding the role of regulatory sequence variants in diabetes and understanding how regulatory defects can impact 3D chromosomal structure and gene transcription in human islets. I will use the Zebrafish as a model organism to validate the findings.

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Abdul Kadir Mukarram

I am a PhD student in the research group of Carsten O. Daub at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. My research focus is mainly in the area of genome annotation and comparative genomics to strengthen zebrafish as an attractive model organism to answer medically relevant problems in human. To achieve this goal, I will analyse and integrate various next-generation sequencing data (including RNA-seq, ChIP-seq, CAGE, ATAC-seq and methylation data) of zebrafish and relate them to corresponding genomic features in human. My educational background is Bachelor of Pharmacy from Airlangga University, Indonesia, followed by Master of Bioinformatics from University of Malaya, Malaysia.


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Matthias Hörtenhuber

Before coming to Sweden, I studied mathematics as well as biomedical engineering in Vienna, Austria. As I liked the analytical approach in mathematics and the cell biological aspect in biomedical engineering, bioinformatics became the next logical step. Besides investigating the genome function using statistical methods, I am also interested in visualizations as a discovery tool for bioinformaticians as well as non-bioinformaticians.

My project is split into two parts. The first one consists of developing a zebrafish genome database (available at, including its database schema, data input design, data views/visualizations and genome annotation. In the second part I use this platform to study gene regulation in early developmental stages and compare it to human data.

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Benjamin Hernandez

I have a strong interest in the function and structure of the genome. Specifically, in the regulation of the genomic activity that takes place during embryonic development, which in an extraordinarily organized and robust fashion ensures the coordinated arousal of entirely different cell types from a yet common genetic background.

I am under the supervision of Dr. Juan M. Vaquerizas at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine. As part of the ZENCODE network, I currently analyze the extent and functionality of monoallelic gene expression during the early stages of embryonic development.

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Dunja Vucenovic

I am a PhD candidate in the Computational Regulatory Genomics group at Imperial College London, UK. Before starting my studies here, I carried out both my undergraduate and M.Sc. degrees in Molecular Biology at The Faculty of Science, Croatia. For a long time I have been interested in computational biology, and it was this interest which initially led me to take part in a project aimed at characterising the mechanisms of formation and evolution of chimeric transcripts. Following on from this, I became interested in the interplay of different OMICs technologies; due to their ability to assemble a range of information formats into a single picture, overall affording us a better understanding of disease. This underlying concept formed the foundation of my my Master’s thesis - where I used genomic, epigenomic and glycomic data from 4000 patients in an attempt to identify potential biomarkers of lower-back pain.

Being able to meet likeminded people, pursue my interests, learn a lot and apply gained knowledge, I am looking forward to the three-year research training within the ZENCODE-ITN.

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Fabio D'Orazio

I am a PhD student in the Ferenc Muller's group based at the University of Birmingham. Previously, I have got a Bachelor's degree in Biotechnology and a Master's degree in Molecular Biology (2010-2015) at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. During my Diploma thesis I worked in Francois Spitz's lab at EMBL in Heidelberg, where I focused on enhancer-promoter interactions by studying a mouse genetic disease. This experience allowed me to develop a strong interest in how histone modifications and chromatin architecture can influence gene expression. For these reasons, I decided to pursue my postgraduate studies in the field of epigenetics, by joining my current group.

Within the ZENCODE network, my project aims to better understand the mechanisms behind the flow of information through zebrafish generations 


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Michael Dong

Michael Dong

As a Bioinformatics Technician, I will be involved in the collection and annotation of ZENCODE-ITN genomics and transcriptomics datasets as well as their storage in databases. These datasets will be quality controlled, structured, annotated and shared in the consortium and ultimately opened to the public. I will also be involved in the development and maintenance of the database and the web interface related to this project.The final objective of this project is to produce a web resource of immediate utility in the domain of comparative genomics, presenting zebrafish as a “bench mark” research model to study vertebrates, giving a new point of view to human disease-based researches.






Quirze Rovira

As a biologist interested in all kinds of ‘omics' data I am interested in approaches that shorten the bridge that connects Life Science and Bioinformatics. To contribute in filling in that gap, I studied a Master Degree in Bioinformatics in the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

 My research interest is focused on the study of mobile elements in the genome. I was first introduced to transposable elements (TEs) as a research topic in the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE-CSIC-UPF) under the supervision of Josefa Gonzalez, where I studied the TEs related to stress response in fruit fly genome. Afterwards, I moved to the lab of Manuel Irimia in the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) to study the role of TEs in the regulation of alternative splicing during early development stages of mammalian genomes.

 Within ZENCODE-ITN I aim to characterise regulatory mechanisms involved in the control of TEs expression in the zebrafish genome. To explore this interesting biological challenge, I’ve joined the lab of Dr. Juanma Vaquerizas at the Max Plank Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Münster, where I’ll be using different next generation sequencing data.


Kings-college-london-logo-2Amanda Evans







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Irene Stevens


Amanda Evans

 I have a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences with an honours specialization in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. There I completed my undergraduate thesis project developing a bead-based model in vitro assay to study the signalling pathway of phagocytic receptor CD16A using fluorescent microscopy. Continuing at the University of Western Ontario, I completed my Master’s degree in Microbiology and Immunology with a specialization in Molecular Imaging. In my project, I identified two rapidly adapting domains through bioinformatic analysis in phagocytic receptor MERTK, and used in vitro assays to demonstrate this rapid adaption to be a form of antagonistic coevolution to evade viral hijacking by enveloped viruses such as Ebola. Apart from my education, I worked as a research assistant throughout my undergraduate degree in a physiology and pharmacology laboratory focusing on G protein signalling, and an immunology laboratory studying phagocytes. I also completed a co-op placement at the London Regional Cancer Program in a laboratory studying prostate cancer metastasis using in vivo imaging of avian embryo models.

The main objectives of my project at King’s College London are to develop a low cell ChIP-seq method to enable identification of regulatory elements involved in zebrafish endoderm development, and develop a single cell CAGE method using developing zebrafish to enable TSS-based promoter reconstruction. 


I have a Bachelors in Biological Sciences from Hunter College in New York. I studied organic chemistry at Yale University for two semesters. I also have a background in preclinical medicine.

 My research interests span several areas, from computational to experimental biology. I am interested in algorithmic approaches for integrative analysis of NGS data, but also in epigenomics and the role of enhancers during development and aging.