and collaborators
Equality and Diversity
At the Worm Lab we are fully committed to diversity and gender equality. Come as you are and bring whom you want. We also know how difficult it is to work in a job like ours when having kids. Thus we offer very flexible working models and regardless of their gender, all parents will be encouraged to take parental leave.
Philipp Schiffer (ORCiD)
Emmy Noether Fellow
Originally from just outside of Cologne, I have now returned here after more than 3 years in beautiful London (until 2019). Being interested in almost anything in evolution, I have become associated with roundworms by chance when planning my PhD-project on the evolution of sex. Since then I am somehow stuck to work on all kinds of vermiform animals, the incredibly diverse nematodes being my focus of course.
In my private life, I do a lot of Aikido, I mean, I DO A LOT OF 合気道. Additionally, I do a bit of rock climbing, outdoor recreation, and love many water sports. Already now I am looking forward to sail the 7 seas on my own boat in the future.
Reading about history, philosophy, politics, or just a good novel complement my free time. Very often you will find me listening to classical music when you come to my home or office, in particular to Wagner or Beethoven. And every now and then I go to the opera or a music rendition.
Tarja Hoffmeyer
I am excited to be postdoctoral researcher in the Worm Lab. I have a diverse background, having explored the fields of molecular ecology and evolution, transcriptomics and protein biochemistry.

I pursued both my bachelor's and master's in biology at the University of Cologne. In the working group of Prof. Dr. Hartmut Arndt and under the supervision of Dr. Frank Nitsche, I studied the impact of predators on cell differentiation in choanoflagellates – the single-celled relatives of animals, and later the molecular basics of the capacity of some choanoflagellate species to adapt to both marine and freshwater conditions.

For my PhD, I joined Dr. Pawel Burkhardt in his lab in the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, UK, and later moved with him to the Sars Centre for Marine Molecular Biology in Bergen, Norway. There, I continued working on choanoflagellates and mainly focussed on the characterisation of protein complexes that were prerequisites for the evolution of synapses in animals.

Now, I am eager to broaden my knowledge about evolutionary and developmental Biology, by moving to nematodes, allowing me to explore an exciting question in an animal context: Why does a group as diverse as nematodes have such a conserved Bauplan? Having a passion for ecology, one of my favourite aspects of the project is that we explore the molecular diversity of nematodes. We will sequence the genomes of a variety of nematodes and perform single-cell transcriptomics to compare the gene expression at key developmental stages in different species to then finally investigate their function.

I am happy joining the team, bringing my lab expertise and hoping to learn a lot about bioinformatics. Apart from science, I love hiking and exploring new places. I am training Tae Kwon Do and enjoy reading.
Nadège Guiglielmoni
Postdoc (shared with Bast lab)
Joseph Kirangwa
PhD student
Education and training background in Biomedical Laboratory Technology, Molecular Genetics, Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics from Makerere University, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm University and University of Skövde respectively.

Originally from Uganda and having enjoyed the gorgeous view of the Baltic Sea and multicultural diversity environment of Stockholm, Sweden (4 years), I have now moved on to join the excellent worm-lab research group as a full time research assistant and a PhD student at the prestigious University of Cologne, Germany. I see it as a spring board for me to launch a dream career take off.

My stellar interests are in uncovering evolutionary developmental constraints on the highly conserved nematode Bauplan using methods such as DNA and RNA sequencing and employing molecular genetic engineering methods for gene knockouts.

I am also passionate about computational analysis of obtained RNA/DNA sequence data as well as streamlining workflows and methodological details both at wet and dry lab stages.

In my free time, I play soccer, go kayaking, jogging in the woods while listening to instrumental music in the background. I also enjoy learning about nature and doing outdoor activities. At home you will find me watching National Geographic.

Vicky Hellekes
PhD student
Originally from Russia and growing up in the southwestern part of Germany I came to Cologne for my Bachelor's and Master's degree where I worked mostly with molecular methods in non-model nematodes under the supervision of PD Dr. Michael Kroiher.I also had a job as a student assistant for Prof. Dr. Schierenberg and did an internship at the Bowerman lab in Eugene, OR, USA. Altogether I gained lots of experience with nematodes and I am eager to learn even more about them.

Now I am really excited to become part of this working group and looking forward to acquire knowledge on bioinformatics and new techniques, but also hope to be an enrichment by bringing in my experience and soon to investigate the function of genes by performing knock out experiments.

Apart from that I enjoy to spend every second with my family, love being outside, take a nice walk, meditate, do yoga or sew.

Naïra Sarkis
MSc student
Following my great interest in evolutionary developmental biology, I've pursued my bachelor's degree in the working group of Prof. Dr. Siegfried Roth at the University of Cologne, where I was studying the regulatory network of the BMP signaling pathway in the spider Parasteatoda tepidariorum.
I am excited that I got the oppurtunity to gain insights into bioinformatics and learn how to apply it in an evodevo context to study the Bauplan conservation in the phylum of nematoda here in the Wormlab. For my master's thesis, I am analyzing the embryonic developmental progression in understudied nematode species using transcriptomics.
Apart from science, I do enjoy all kinds of creative activities. In my free time, I like to draw, sing and make music with my band. Usually you will find me at every rock & metal show in town.
Laura Villegas
MSc student
During the final year of my undergraduate degree in biology in Colombia, where I come from, I took two exchange semesters in Germany and was amazed with the broad range of research opportunities it had to offer.

I was really happy to have the opportunity to start my master's degree at the university of Cologne where I got first insights into understanding omics data in the context of evolution and development. After working mostly with bacteria during my undergraduate degree and doing my thesis on metabolomics of aquifers, I am really exited to (learn how to) work with genomic data of nematodes and learn more about this interesting taxa.

In my free time I like to do Zumba, yoga, reading novels and, of course, drink a nice cup of coffee.
Svenja Wulsch
WHB /student assistant
I completed my bachelor's degree at the University of Mainz and started to work on organismal and molecular evolutionary biology. Here we investigated the influence of tRNA fragments on RNAi-like behaviour using bioinformatics prediction.
For my Master's degree, I moved to Düsseldorf and continued to work on the evolutionary development of algae into higher land plants. As I became more and more interested in evolutionary research, I decided to do an external master thesis at the Zoological Institute in Cologne, where I am now working in the Bast group on the genomic sex determination of the ancient non-model organism Hermannia gibba.
In my freetime I like to be in nature and enjoy things like hiking, cycling, camping and climbing. I am also passionate about baking and drinking coffee accompanied by a good book or soul music.
Denise Claus
MSc student
True to the saying that new is always better, I am looking forward to starting a new chapter in my scientific career with my master's degree at the Worm Lab. Originally from Mainz, I completed my bachelor's degree at the University of Mainz, where I studied proteins and protein expression in the zebrafish Danio rerio. Moving to Cologne I not only found a new home but also my passion for genetics, where I gained first experiences working with nematodes. During my master's degree I am now performing genetic functional analyses in non-model nematodes and thus investigating in my favourite research area with my favourite organism. In this context, I am excited to expand my knowledge in the field of evolution and development.

In my free time I do bouldering, yoga and when the weather is right, I go surfing or skiing. Apart from sports I love game nights with friends, reading and watching good movies in the cinema.
Wer Würmer hat ist nie allein.
Some of the cool people we work with - check out the brilliant stuff they do.
Oleksandr Holovachov
Along with Alex Holovachov in Stockholm we go hunting for nematodes. Alex is on of the leading experts in nematode taxonomy, check out his work here:
Mark Blaxter
Mark Blaxter is a good friend and now leads the Darwin Tree of Life Project, which aims to sequence every single species on the British Isles and in its waters.
Max Telford
We retain close links to Max Telford and his team at UCL to exchange worm stories and work on EvoDevo projects.
Serena Ding
Serena and her team work on collective behaviour in nematodes at an MPI in Konstanz. This is super exciting work, something new for the field.
Rodrigo Mazorra Blanco
Rodrigo is a computer scientist turned entrepreneur based in London. Being passionate about making this world a better place for all people, we are collaborating on projects to fight parasitic nematodes and repurpose drugs.
Itai Yanai
We work with the Yanai lab at NYU. Itai Yanai is a pioneer in single cell transcriptome sequencing.
Jens Bast
A colleague at the University of Cologne Jens Bast works on the evolution of sex using ancient asexual mites as model system.
Luca Ferretti
Luca is a physicist turned population geneticist and currently works at the University of Oxford. Take a look here and in particular check out the cool stuff he does on virus genomics.
Ann-Marie Waldvogel
Ann-Marie does experimental population genomics on insects and other critters. She is a key contributor to the European Reference Genome Atlas initiative. Look up her work here.
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