People

Marion Silies (group leader)

Marion is a professor for neurobiology and head of the 'Neural Circuits Lab' at JGU since the beginning of 2019. Before, she has been a group leader at the European Neuroscience Institute in Göttingen since the beginning of 2015. She trained as a Postdoc in Tom Clandinin’s lab at Stanford University where she mapped and characterized motion detection circuits and established the InSITE toolkit, a collection of driver lines that allows genetic access to in principle any cell type in the brain. Marion obtained her PhD in 2009 at the University of Münster (Germany), where she worked in the lab of Christian Klämbt on the migration of glial cells. She holds a diploma in Biology.

Short CV

 

Scientists

Miriam Henning (Postdoc)

Miriam obtained a Bachelor in Biology (2010) and a Master’s degree in Neurobiology, Behaviour and Evolution in 2016 at the University of Bielefeld. For the latter, she studied depth perception in the visual system of the blowfly by combining electrophysiological recordings and modelling in the Egelhaaf lab. Since 2017, she aims to understand the organization of neuronal circuits to extract and calculate behaviour relevant information from the visual input in Drosophila. She studies the neuronal circuit behind motion vision by combining forward genetics, brain imaging and behavioural approaches.
Miriam defended her PhD thesis "Mechanisms of local and global motion computation", and did so with excellence.

 

Madhura Ketkar (Postdoc)

Madhura takes interest in studying the strategies of a brain to encode behaviorally relevant visual stimuli, especially when the environment makes it challenging. For this purpose, she uses behavioral assays in combination with in vivo two-photon imaging and modeling approaches. During her PhD, Madhura found that luminance information is required for appropriate behavioral responses to contrast, in a variety of conditions that are challenging for both fly and human vision. She recently defended her thesis as a student of the International Max Planck Research School for Neurosciences, Göttingen. Previously, Madhura was a student of the Erasmus M.Sc. program in Neuroscience, Neurasmus. Her M.Sc. thesis focused on establishing a method to decode bistable perception in humans and was carried out in Prof. Philipp Sterzer's lab at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin. She holds a B.Tech. in Biotechnology from National Institute of Technology, Warangal (India).

Sebastian M. Molina Obando (Postdoc)

Sebastian is interested in how features from the environment are extracted by neuronal circuits in the Drosophila visual system. He joined the Silies Lab in Göttingen, where he did his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the International Max Planck Research School (2017-2021). During his Ph.D. he characterized the function of different circuit components that mediate selectivity to contrast polarity, using in vivo calcium imaging, neuro- and pharmacogenetics and behavioral experiments. He is currently using connectomics analysis and circuit manipulations to uncover the anatomical and functional design principles of robust feature detection. Sebastian is also passionate about education, and he is involved in teaching M.Sc. and B.Sc. students at JGU. He holds a diploma in Biomedical Sciences from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB).

 

Jonas Peper (Postdoc)

Jonas is a biochemist and molecular biologist who is now bringing his expertise to develop tools for the synapse-specific analysis of neural circuits. He obtained his PhD 2020 in Molecular Medicine at the Universitätsmedizin Göttingen. There, he established a tool to study native protein interactions in cardiomyocytes and analyzed their protein distribution using super resolution microscopy. In general, he is interested in understanding the functional relevance of protein interactions and networks.
Studying this at the level of synapses will help to develop specific tools for a targeted activity block, which will allow the manipulation of single neuronal connections within a network.

 

Annika Celine Bast (PhD student)

Annika is interested in the evolution of visual processing properties. Therefore, she aims to analyze the visual properties of different Drosophila species in behavioral studies and by in vivo calcium imaging. To achieve this, she is also generating novel transgenic tools. Annika is an associated student of the GenEvo program at JGU and thus part of the International PhD program (IPP) at JGU and IMB Mainz. where she is excited to interact with peers interested in the combination of evolution and gene regulation. She received her Bachelor's (2018) and Master's (2021) degrees in biology from JGU of Mainz. For the latter she studied the role of globins in Drosophila melanogaster in Prof. Thomas Hankeln's lab.

 

 

Jacqueline Cornean (PhD student)

Jacqueline is interested if and how variability of neuronal properties contributes to robust visual processing. Therefore, she studies the variability of specific neuronal cell types in Drosophila, as well as the origin of this variability, by characterizing neurons and their connectivity both functionally and anatomically.  Before joining the Silies lab in 2021, she studied Biology at the University of Freiburg. During her M.Sc thesis in the Straw lab, she investigated a possible link in the navigational circuitry between foraging and the internal nutrient state of the fly.

 

 

 

Burak Gür (PhD student)

Burak wants to understand how molecular mechanisms define aspects of neural computations. He is a student in the International Max Planck Research School for Neurosciences in Göttingen. During his M.Sc. thesis work, he identified genes that shape the properties of early motion processing using fly genetics, in vivo imaging and pharmacology. Furthermore he is interested in developing genetic tools for achieving specific circuit manipulations. He holds a B.Sc. in Molecular Biology, Genetics and Bioengineering from Sabanci University (Turkey) and also studied opera and musical theatre at the Istanbul University State Conservatory.

 

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 Freya Thurn (PhD student)

Freya is curious to understand what drives robust behaviors, and what perturbations can make them fail. She therefore studies the molecular mechanisms and neural circuits underlying robust contrast computation in rapidly changing conditions. Moreover, she holds a fellowship at the Mainz Research School of Translational Biomedicine (TransMed) at the University Hospital in Mainz. For this she designed a novel approach to “humanize” the fly genome using genetic engineering to study the pathology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Freya was the first student from Mainz to join the Silies lab for her MSc thesis where she used in vivo two-photon imaging and pharmacological approaches to elucidate the molecular “coincidence detectors” that combine luminance and contrast information to establish contrast constancy in a particular type of interneuron. Freya graduated with a master’s degree in Neurobiology in 2021 from JGU Mainz, and a bachelor’s degree in Biology in 2019 in Roland Strauss’ lab.

Juan Felipe Vargas Fique (PhD student)

Juan is currently a student of SmartStart2, the training program of the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, and works jointly with Julijana Gjorgjieva (MPIbrain) and Marion Silies (JGU).
He wants to understand the relevance of spontaneous neuronal activity during development. He aims to combine experimental and computational resources to understand how this phenomenon may influence the functionality of sensory neurons. As a Master's student of the International Max Planck Research School for Neurosciences in Göttingen, Juan investigated the role of ligand gated chloride channels on contrast selectivity using pharmacology, genetics and imaging techniques. Juan obtained a B.Sc. in Biology from Universidad De Los Andes (Colombia, 2015).

Neel Wagh (PhD student)

Neel is a student of the International PhD Programme, a doctoral programme with a focus on Gene Regulation, Epigenetics & Genome Stability, coordinated by the Institute of Molecular Biology Mainz (IMB). He aims to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the functional properties of neurons that extract different features from the visual environment. For this, he employs reverse genetics approaches in combination with in vivo two-photon brain imaging and behavioural assays.
Neel holds a dual BS-MS degree in Biology from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Pune (IISER), India. During his Master’s Thesis, he uncovered a maternal effect gene in Drosophila development and worked towards the functional characterisation of it during the embryonic development using genetic tools.

Students

Ellen Picard (B.Sc. student)

Sarah Mirabella (B.Sc. student)

Marwa Al Sakloul (M.Sc. student)

Technical Support

Christine Gündner (technician)

Christine joined the Silies lab adventure right from the start. She is a trained technician (BTA), who is taking care of the fly collection and lab organization, and is handling molecular biological tasks for the lab. Everyone is happy to have her around, even the butterflies.

 

 

 

 

 

Jonas Chojetzki (technician)

Jonas joined the Silies lab in 2017, after finishing his training as a technician (BTA). He is the go to person for all molecular biology questions, and the first to dare the move to Mainz. Despite having worked in a fly lab for three years, he still claims that he does not know how mites look like, which the lab is very proud of.

 

 

 

 

 

Simone Renner (technician)

Simone Renner is a "Mainzer Urgestein" (translates to "prehistoric rock", but that seems just wrong), which means that she already worked with flies, in Mainz, long before we did. So in a way, we joined her and not vice versa. She knows where everything in the lab can be found and makes sure it stays this way. Together with Jonas, she is currently generating a lot of transgenic fly lines.

 

 

 

 

Administrative Support

Sabine Schmitt

Sabine is the first friendly face that you will meet when you enter our premises. She also has been working at JGU Mainz for much longer than the rest of us, and knows everything and everyone (we think). In addition to handling all admin, she has an open ear for everyone in the lab and is actively fighting online-meeting-fatigue by smiling into the camera, which is contagious.

 

 

 

 

Lab alumni

Postdocs

Junaid Akhtar (until 2020, now Senior Research Scientist for RNA Biology, Evotec SE)

PhD students

Miriam Henning (2021), currently postdoc in the lab

Madhura Ketkar (2021), currently postdoc in the lab

Luis Giordano Ramos-Traslosheros (2019), now exploring artificial intelligence

Katja Sporar (2019), now postdoc in the Nordström lab at Flinder's University Australia

M.Sc. students

Freya Thurn (2021)

Tihana Hamzay (2020)

Georg Bullinger (2019)

Marwin Seifert (2018)

Juan Felipe Vargas (2018)

Cagatay Aydin (2018)

Elsa Steinfath (2018)

Deniz Yuzak (2018)

Burak Gür (2017)

Sebastian Molina-Obando (2017)

Teresa Lüffe (2016)

B.Sc. students

Philipp Berg (2021)

Leah Köth (2021)

Nathalie Grosse (2021)

Annalena Oswald (2021)