Early Stage Researchers (ESRs)

Eva Rohlova


I am Ph.D. student at The Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) in Prague. I am a microbiologist and I work for TATAA Biocenter AB in Sweden. The main objective of our project is to develop a new method for methylation analysis based on quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR).

Supervisors: Mikael Kubista, Robert Sjöback.

Richa Gupta


I received an engineering degree in Biotechnology from Jaypee University in India followed by an MSc in Bioinformatics from King’s College London. I moved to Helsinki to pursue my current PhD position at the University of Helsinki in the Department of Public Health. My research work entails identification of individual and joint effects of genetic and epigenetic alterations on common disease progression and risk by studying trait discordant monozygotic twin pairs (Finnish Twin Cohort).

I’ve completed my secondment at the Department of Biological Psychology at the VU University Amsterdam, where I worked on smoking discordant twins (Netherlands Twin Register). My research interests include large scale data analyses, genome/epigenome-wide association studies, and genetic epidemiology. 

Supervisors: Prof. Jaakko Kaprio, Dr.Miina Ollikainen.

Sarah Marzi


I joined the EpiTrain network as a PhD student in Jonathan Mill’s lab, based at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King’s College London. Our group studies epigenomics of complex diseases and is distributed between the IoP and the University of Exeter Medical School. Prior to my PhD studies I completed a Master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Freiburg in Germany, specialising in medical statistics and biometry as well as a BSc in psychology with focus on behavioural genetics and psychoneuroendicronology.

In course of my PhD, I am investigating associations between DNA methylation and other epigenetic marks, genotype, gene expression and neuropsychiatric disease. My research involves the application and development of novel quantitative and bioinformatics methods to conduct epigenome-wide association studies and other types of epigenetic epidemiology as well as characterise the human (brain) epigenome. More specifically, my projects are concerned with allele-specific DNA methylation, tissue-specificity of epigenetic marks, epigenomics of Alzheimer’s Disease and effects of early childhood deprivation on epigenetic marks.

I am an organiser of the Quantitative Genomics 2016 student conference

Supervisors: Prof. Jonathan Mill, Dr. Chloe Wong, Prof. Leonard Schalkwyk

Leonie Roos


I am a PhD student in the EpiTrain network and my research project within the network is all about exploring the role of DNA methylation in cancer and cancer risk factors in twins. What interests me most, is identifying to what extent DNA methylation varies within genetically identical individuals and how this can help us in cancer research. Part of my project investigates the use of DNA methylation in whole blood samples as a potential biomarker that can predict or detect cancer in twins (multiple projects). Another part of the project is how DNA methylation and the environment are associated (project 2) where the environment are known risk factors for developing cancer such as sunlight and the amount of nevi for certain aggressive skin cancers. The results of this have the potential to help elucidate the molecular basis of tumour development and can contribute towards the identification of future biomarkers of cancer

Prior to joining this network I completed a BSc and a MSc in biomedical sciences with a specific focus on immunology, genetics, and epigenetics. In addition I did various projects based in the lab and working with large datasets to develop computer skills. These projects have allowed me to combine both my bioinformatics skills and medical biology background to a great level and provided me with the opportunity to travel to other and meet up with other fellows within this training network.

Supervisors: Dr. Jordana Bell, Prof Tim Spector

 Sailalitha Bollepalli


I am a doctoral student at the Twin study group, Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki. I hold a B.Tech in Biotechnology and an MSc in Computational Biology. My project aims at investigating and understanding the role of histone modifications in complex diseases and traits, by studying trait discordant monozygotic twin pairs. I am currently undergoing my secondment at Diagenode, performing ChIP- sequencing to study histone modifications associated with obesity.

Supervisors: Prof. Jaakko Kaprio, Dr.Miina Ollikainen.

Charles Breeze


I studied Biochemistry and Bioinformatics at the University of Navarra, Spain, graduating in 2013. During my studies at university I was awarded two research placements at the University of Oxford, with Prof. Charles Lawrie (Ballabio et al, 2012) and Prof. Alison Banham (LLR studentship). I have joined Prof. Stephan Beck’s group at University College London (UCL) to work on the study of the epigenetics of complex traits and diseases. 

I completed my secondment at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI),where I worked on developing eFORGE (http://eforge.cs.ucl.ac.uk/), a bioinformatics tool for the analysis of data from Epigenome-Wide Association Studies. My research interests include bioinformatics data analysis, genome/epigenome-wide association studies, and chromosome conformation capture techniques.

I am an organiser of the Quantitative Genomics 2016 student conference

Supervisors: Prof. Stephan Beck, Prof. Nicholas Luscombe

Rute Loureiro


I performed my Biology graduation (BSc) in the University of Coimbra, Portugal. Since the beginning my preference relied in fields like physiology and cellular biology, focus in the cellular signaling pathways complexity. My fascination and motivation arises from the complexity and the synchrony of these pathways and the extremely fine tune of the cellular functions. Already in the research scope quickly cancer became my main focus of interest. The multitude of physiological differences between a cancer cells and normal ones are incredible. As there are so many factors accounting to these differences, It can be seen as an orchestration of a malignant melody.

After finish my BSc in Biology I performed a MSc in Biochemistry. During the MSc I worked in mitochondrial toxicology. When finished I continued at the same laboratory working with mitochondria but at this time, studying their role on cancer development specially focused in cancer stem cells. I could say that this was the time where I really realized what I wanted to do in my all life: Science!  When I realize it I thought that for the future, it was mandatory a deeply knowledge, so … I went to perform a PhD.

That is, I start to look at some well know institutes in Europe. I applied to some of them for PhD projects that take my attention. At the end I was selected to EPITRAIN team, for working with Dr. Manel Esteller in the IDIBELL’s Cancer Epigenetics and Biology Program (PEBC) in Barcelona. 

I confess that I was a bit scary about living a new life, in a new city… having a new home and working in a field completely unfamiliar for me. At the present I am perfectly used to this new life. During this year and half I grow-up a lot, psychologically, scientifically and so on. Living outside your own country is an experience that allows you to raise the value of your traditions and let you know another one that helps you to open your mind in every way.  Accounting for all of these we also take the opportunity to know EPITRAIN team colleagues which coming from different parts of the world and always have something new to share. 

Supervisor: Prof. Manel Esteller

Mario Lucariello


I am an Italian PhD student at the Cancer Epigenetics and Biology Program of Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) in Barcelona, Spain. I am working on different projects about Rett Syndrome (RTT), a severe neurodevelopmental disease, primarily affecting young girls, that represents the second cause of mental retardation after Down syndrome. In the majority of cases, the principal cause of RTT is represented by mutations in the gene encoding methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2), a global transcriptional modulator that is strongly expressed in the Central Nervous System. Although much progress has been made in the identification of the multiple roles of MeCP2, many mysteries still remain in understanding the precise mechanisms of how MECP2 mutations affect protein function and contribute to the pathogenesis of Rett syndrome. So, the principal aim of my project is to identify new genes and pathways implicated in Rett Syndrome, focusing my attention on the implication of MeCP2 in alternative splicing mechanism and also analyzing atypical Rett families from a genetic point of view. 

I am really happy to be part of EpiTrain Marie Curie Initial Training Network, because it is giving me the opportunity to work outside of my country in a very exciting and stimulating working place. Moreover, I am having the possibility to travel and join scientific congresses all over Europe, to know and interact with people of the network for an exchange of ideas and discussions. I think it is a good starting point for a motivated young researcher that wants to grow professionally.            

Supervisors: Prof. Manel Esteller, Dr. Sònia Guil.

 Juan  Castillo Fernandez


I studied Biotechnology Engineering at Monterrey Tech, Mexico. I joined the EpiTrain network as a PhD student at the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, King’s College London. My research project investigates the genetic and environmental influences on DNA methylation variation. Part of my project has focused on the effects of in vitro fertilisation on DNA methylation on a genome-wide scale. 

Supervisors: Dr. Jordana Bell, Prof. Tim Spector

Aileen Bahl


I did my Bachelor’s and Master’s studies at the Free University of Berlin, Germany graduating in 2013. Currently, I am a PhD student in the Twin Research Group, Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki. My research in the EpiTrain network focuses on the investigation of epigenetic changes in complex diseases and traits. In order to reach this goal, I study within-pair differences in DNA methylation patterns in trait discordant monozygotic twin pairs in the Finnish twin cohort. In my projects I look at various traits related to public health. Among others, I study hormone replacement therapies, physical activity and different anthropometric measures and how these influence the process of aging.

During my secondment at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia starting in fall 2015, I will try to replicate previous findings from the Finnish cohort within their Peri/Postnatal Epigenetic Twins Study (PETS) cohort to further investigate early establishment of certain methylation patterns potentially causing disease onset in later life.

Supervisors: Prof. Jaakko Kaprio, Dr. Miina Ollikainen

Experienced Researchers (ERs)

Teodora Ribarska

teodora 1

Coming from Bulgaria, I completed my Bachelor, Master and PhD studies in Germany. During this time I’ve gained knowledge and practice in the fields of molecular and cellular biology, immunology, cancer and epigenetics with special focus on prostate cancer and imprinted genes.

Currently in my first postdoc position, I was recruited by Diagenode as an experienced researcher and work in the Research and Development department whose task, as the name suggests, is to develop new methods, tools and products for epigenetic research. My tasks in this team focus on development and optimization of ChIP-Seq methodologies for use of lower cell numbers and native chromatin from tricky cell sources. Furthermore, I work on adapting these methods on our automated and semi-automated systems – the IP-Star robot and the ChIPettor electronic multi-channel pipette. Other methods that I also work on include library preparation for NGS and chromatin accessibility assays.

In my first year as an Epitrain fellow at Diagenode I participated in the development and release of several new products, I even took part in two marketing videos. I visited several interesting conferences on twins, epigenetics and NGS, where I participated with scientific presentations and a poster.

My second year will start with two compelling collaborations with my MC fellows Sailalitha Bollepali from Helsinki and Sarah Marzi from London. We optimize together ChIP using blood cells from obesity discordant twins and brain tissues from Alzheimer’s patients, respectively. I am also looking forward to validate the results of our Epitrain partners and provide them with training and technical support.

In the following April I will do a secondment in the Norwegian Sequencing center in Oslo. Together with Robert Lyle and Gregor Gilfillan I will learn the know-how of native (non- crosslinked) ChIP using primary blood cells and start to optimize the procedure for low cell numbers. Furthermore, I will learn to analyze next-generation sequencing data with focus on ChIP-Seq data normalization.

Additionally, I hope to participate in trainings of novel epigenetic techniques, bioinformatics, and complementary skills.

Bentolhoda Fereydouni


I received my PhD in biology from university of Goettingen, Germany and did my PhD project at the stem cell biology unit, German Primate Center (DPZ), Leibniz Institute for Primate Research. During my PhD study I aimed to find female germline stem cells in postnatal ovary of common marmoset monkey. During my PhD study for the first time I introduced the marmoset monkey as a suitable non-human primate model to experimentally study aspects of primate primitive gonad development, follicle assembly, and germ cell biology in vivo and could establish a non-human primate cell culture system that allows the long-term culture and development of oocyte-like cells from a non-human primate species.

Currently I am doing my post doc in TATAA Biocenter AB in Goetenburg, Sweden as an experienced research of a Marie Curie Initial Training Net (EpiTrain) program. My project is to find and establish a method to evaluate methylation profiles in single cell material.