ESR01 – Aravind Sankar – based in Cambridge

Project Title: The prioritisation and functional validation of genetic variants that contribute to melanomagenesis.

As a computer science student in school, I was interested in studying the applications of computers in addressing real-world problems, especially biological ones. This led me to pursue my Bachelor’s degree in Bioinformatics at SASTRA University, India. During this period, I got the opportunity to complete my final year project at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany where I worked on the development of web-based platforms used for storing and visualizing experimental microscopy assays. To further refine my understanding of the field , I did my Master’s degree in Bioinformatics at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Concurrently, I worked for a year and a half at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology as a research assistant. My work involved the design, development and evaluation of a bioinformatics method used to identify bacterial strains in a mixed sample and estimate their individual abundances. The experience I got during this project, which eventually became my thesis, reaffirmed my interest in pursuing a career in bioinformatics research, with a graduate degree being the natural next step in the process.

When I am not working, I like to relax by reading books, playing football and quizzing. I also like to travel extensively whenever possible.

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ESR02 – Eirini Christodoulou – based in Leiden

Project Title: Using functional studies to explore potential high penetrance melanoma susceptibility genes identified using whole exome and genome sequencing.

A journey in scientific research is my dream career pathway! My passion to study Biology developed when my mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. During my Undergraduate course at Swansea University I was fascinated by the multi-factorial and complex mode of Cancer Development and undertook my research project in Cancer Chemo-prevention. I then pursued my Master’s degree at The University of Manchester in Cancer Research where I completed two research placements enhancing my laboratory techniques and scientific critique. I also organized my own vacation work experience at Larnaca General Hospital and Karaiskakio Foundation where I became familiar with diagnosis and processing of clinical samples. A highlight of my University life is being the president of Swansea University Dance Society with more than 400 members. Our contribution to charity events was a success with our donations to different organizations and our end-of-year show being dedicated to the Cyprus Anticancer Society, a charity organization dear to me and my mother. I am a young, passionate researcher ready to undertake my PhD project in Melanoma Genetics and I am highly excited to join MELGEN training network and collaborate with fellow scientists! My future goals are to complete my PhD successfully, contribute to the success of MELGEN and discover my opportunities as a Post-Doc!

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ESR03 – Marina Juraleviciute – based in Oslo

Project Title: iPSC derived melanocytes as in vitro melanoma models

Hi everyone! I am Marina Juraleviciute and I was born and raised in a wonderful city of Vilnius. My interest in natural sciences arose in the high school and after finishing it I entered bachelor studies of Modern Technologies Physics at Vilnius University. As my enthusiasm only grew I finished my master’s in Biophysics at the same alma mater. During the study years I participated in Erasmus student exchange program and went for one semester to study to Ljubljana (Slovenia). I took the chance and participated at Erasmus+ graduate programme. It was a six months placement at The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Institute for Cancer Research. Those were an extremely beneficial and inspiring experiences. Quite recently I became a part of MELGEN network which I am very excited about.

Science is fun and interesting, but there are other things that I enjoy as well. Whenever it is possible I travel and explore new destinations. I am passionate about the photography so these two activities often complement each other. I like reading, there is no particular literature genre I prefer, but I’m hung up on Haruki Murakami’s novels now.

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ESR05 – Joanna Pozniak – based in Leeds

Project Title: Gene expression variation in primary melanoma in immunological pathways related to survival.

I have obtained a BSc degree in Molecular Biology, and an International Master degree in Medical Biotechnology, co-funded by the European Union within the European Social Fund, at the Adam Mickiewicz University (AMU) in Poznan, Poland.

I have been interested in cancer since I started my studies. Therefore, I took part in many activities to gather and share knowledge about cancer. I have taken part in conferences in Poland and abroad. I founded a Student Association Section of Molecular Cancer Research aiming at informing students and teenagers via organizing lectures/quizzes/laboratory performances in various science festivals.

There is not only science, which amazes me in this world. I love to explore nature gifts such as wind and snow by windsurfing and snowboarding. I enjoy spending time at the sea side and in the mountains with my friends and family, especially with my one-year-old son Hugo. Additionally, from time to time I try to play drums, which raises many protests from my family members.

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ESR06 – Sathya Muraldihar – based in Leeds

Project Title: Establishing the role of smouldering inflammation in suppression of adaptive immunity and therefore survival from melanoma.

I have been fascinated by cancer ever since I realised that it is caused not by foreign germs, but by rogue cells within our own selves. This fascination led me to major in Cancer Biology at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg, thus helping me understand the disease better. Fascination eventually became an obsession, motivating me to conduct cancer research as part of my PhD. Being part of MELGEN, my research aims to understand how melanoma is influenced by genetic factors as well as our own immune system, thus leading to the possibility of more effective detection and treatment choices for melanoma patients.

When I’m not dabbling with science I enjoy cooking, painting, travelling and practicing yoga. I am also a movie buff and an ardent science fiction fan, which often help me realise that facts and fiction are not very far apart!

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ESR07 – Sofia Chen – based in Cambridge

Project Title: Dissecting the role of the immune system and stroma in melanoma development

I am Swedish, but originally from China, and currently doing my PhD in David Adam’s group at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK. Before starting my PhD, I completed a M.Sc in biotechnology engineering at Lund University in Sweden, followed by a 2 year industrial research graduate programme (IMED) at AstraZeneca.

Research is my biggest passion, and I am particularly interested in the connection between cancer and immunology. I want to understand how tumours manage to escape the immune system, and my hope is that this knowledge can lead to development of new drugs for treatment of cancers.

Outside of science, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, experimenting with new recipes or exploring different combinations.What also gives me lots of energy and positive endorphins is exercising; whether it is the gym, classes, running or spinning.

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ESR08 – Catarina Salgado – based in Leiden

Project Title: Examining tumour cell heterogeneity in melanoma metastasis using single cell genomic technologies.

I was born in Porto, Portugal’s 2nd largest city, best known for its unique historical landscape, exquisite cuisine and world-renowned wines.

Back when I was 8-years old, my teacher brought a book with biographies of historical characters. That day, my homework was to do a summary of Marie Curie’s life. This homework brought to life my dream of becoming a scientist in awe of Curie’s perseverance. Eventually, the dream came true, and I applied for a First Degree in Biology and afterwards to a Master Degree in Molecular Oncology granted by University of Porto. In 2011, I joined Ipatimup as a trainee, to develop my master’s thesis, focused on familial thyroid carcinoma. Alongside I have also contributed to other oncobiology research projects at Ipatimup. These first steps into scientific research showed me how challenging yet fulfilling this world can be. Consistent with my professional goals, I applied and was accepted into MELGEN network as a PhD student.

Apart from science, spending time with family and friends and finding new and quaint restaurants are my favourite hobbies. I also enjoy travelling and reading. Sports are also an essential part of my life as a way of managing the daily stress.

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ESR09 – Shamik Mitra – based in Lund

Project Title: Establishing the clinical relevance of gene expression phenotypes identified in melanomas

I am a Marie Curie ESR fellow in Melanoma Genomics under Prof. Dr. Göran Jönsson at Lund University, Sweden. A bioinformatician by training, my research interest lies in the field of data science and its application to solve clinical research problems. I am particularly interested about investigating links between genetic and epigenetic modifications associated with cancer.

My bachelor studies in Biomedical Engineering familiarised me with the impact of medical science and technology on daily life. At postgraduate level, I wanted to go deep into the cellular and molecular level understanding of clinical research problems from computational perspective. My postgraduate studies in Bioinformatics (a one year diploma and a subsequent master’s programme) have provided me the suitable platform for that.

Apart from my academic activities, I enjoy reading both International and Indian literature (Franz Kafka to Dan Brown, whichever I can get hold of!). Poetry has been a long time love for me, especially poems of John Keats. And last but not the least, I am a gourmet and always try to experiment with dishes from different cuisines!

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ESR10 – Adriana Sanna – based in Lund

Project Title: Establishing the role of MITF and related genes in melanoma survival and development

I’m Adriana and I come from the beautiful island of Sardinia, in Italy. I got my bachelor in Biology in Milan, and afterwards I spent some great time in London while applying for universities abroad. In 2013, I was delighted to receive the acceptance at the Leiden University Medical Center, where I’m graduating in Biomedical Sciences Research. As one of the most prestigious universities in The Netherlands, I personally appreciated its diverse and excellent environment, without to mention that is an astonishing country.

For my final thesis I also had the chance to work in the popular city of Los Angeles (US); I had great time in lab as well as visiting California during spare time. Such stimulating environment reinforced my propensity to continue as PhD in a foreign country. So, once back to Europe, I was particularly proud to have been chosen as member of MELGEN, which is giving me the exciting possibility to keep on working in Lund, Sweden, for the next years of my career.

Of course, I couldn’t do anything without the constant support of my loyal travel-buddy, MaryJane; who, after an year of full summer time in California, is still quite in doubt about how Swedish winter looks like..!

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ESR11 – Rita Cabrita – based in Lund

Project Title: Transcriptional modules exposing related therapeutic vulnerabilities in melanoma

I am from a country where you can taste the greatest custard pastry, listen to Fado, get crazy about football and enjoy great weather all year round: Portugal.

I did a Masters in Molecular Biology and Genetics in the Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon. I developed my thesis in the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Italy, in chromosomal instability and aneuploidy.

I bumped into science because of my dad, who surrounded me with biology books and scientific magazines, allowing me to realize how amazing this field is. From then onwards my academic and professional career have been developing like a snowball, until I ended up having the great opportunity to join MELGEN network.

I am passionate about almost all kinds of science, but molecular science and particularly cancer amaze me.

But my life is not only about science and I like to enjoy whatever it has to offer. In my free time I like to travel, hang out with my family and friends, play sports, such as basketball and swimming, go to the movies, read, and, coming from Portugal, it would be impossible not to say this part: eat good food!

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ESR12 – Rohit Thakur – based in Leeds

Project Title: Developing statistical and bioinformatic analysis of genomic data from tumours

Deploying the concepts from mathematics and applying to understand biological pathways and expression networks is an interesting concept. This interest grew in me while pursuing the undergraduate course in Bioinformatics at VIT University, India. An aspiring computational biologist also require interdisciplinary knowledge of biochemical concepts as well as, needs to be adept in computational and programming proficiency. Research experiences at Alpha Net Technologies (India), IISER Pune (India) and EMBL-EBI (UK), provided me with the opportunity to acquire this proficiency.

I always look forward to become part of intellectual discussion groups and had the experience of working for an initiative called RSG India that promotes networking amongst computational biologists in India. I am an active sports player and play cricket and basketball. I also seek to help humanity and have been a part of the NGO named “MAD” (Make A Difference) helping underprivileged students by guiding them to pursue their dream. Experiences inside and outside the lab helped me recognize my ‘driving force’ and career aspirations. My research interest lies broadly in the area of cancer genomics. I look forward to a career as a researcher developing algorithms and designing virtual diagnostic systems which would impact healthcare treatments in the long run.

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ESR13 – Joey Mark Diaz – based in Leeds

Project Title: Genomic Copy Number Alterations in Melanoma and Patient Survival

In 2016, I joined the Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology (now Leeds Institute of Medical Research at St. James’s), School of Medicine in the University of Leeds for a PhD study on analysis of genomic copy number alteration and melanoma survival as one of the selected 17 Marie Skłodowska-Curie research fellows under MELGEN.

I finished BSc in Statistics in Central Luzon State University, Philippines in 2010 as a government scholar with an undergraduate work on multiple imputation using Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) method. I then worked as research assistant in the National Genetic Program Unit of the Philippine Carabao Center in 2010 and as biostatistician in the University of Sto Tomas Center for Drug Research, Evaluation and Studies, Inc in 2011. I was awarded an Accelerated Science and Technology Human Resource Development Program (ASTHRDP) in 2011 by the Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to study MSc in Health Informatics-Bioinformatics in the University of the Philippines Manila. My graduate work focused on the classification of lung cancer using statistical and machine learning methods applied to transcriptomic data.

Aside from science, I have more than three years of corporate experience working on statistical financial risk models as credit scoring specialist in the RCBC Savings Bank and as retail modelling analytics manager in the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited.

I look forward to taking part in improving patient treatment in my home country through personalised and stratified medicine using genomics.


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ESR14 – Sonia Leonardelli – based in Essen

Project Title: Evaluating clinical implications and prognostic value of less frequent somatic mutations in melanoma, and understanding the role of senescence.

I am an Italian student who graduated from University of Trento (IT) with Master degree in Cellular and Molecular Biotechnology. Since my strong motivation in cancer research, I was selected to be part of this amazing group of young researchers and contribute with my work towards a most extensive knowledge on melanoma.

Apart from studying, I love traveling and seeing the beauty of the world, going to the most beautiful beaches and the most famous cities. I also love good food, therefore I never miss out the possibility to have a good dinner with friends, cooking for everyone or ordering delicious meals. Finally, I enjoy watching movies. In fact, I look forward to every years’ nominations for the Academy Awards, to guess who the winners will be.

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ESR15 – Renata Varaljai – based in Essen

Project Title: Exploring circulating free DNA (‘liquid biopsies’) from melanoma patients for prognostic biomarkers

I am a young scientist from Hungary. I graduated with an MSc in Biology from the University of Debrecen. My main research interests include cancer biology, cell biology and epigenetics.

I received my cell biology training from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest where I was part of the Membrane Research Group. Throughout the last years I have worked at the University of Illinois at Chicago. My research centralized around the role of epigenetic enzymes – KDM5s and EZH2 in multiple cancers. I investigated the requirement of the histone lysine demethylase KDM5A for coordination of mitochondrial metabolism during differentiation. I have published research papers in these topics and presented my results at multiple conferences.

Currently I am pursuing my PhD at the Department of Dermatology of the University Hospital Essen in Germany within the MELGEN ETN, where I am investigating cancer drug resistance in melanoma. My research is focusing on the establishment of prognostic and predictive circulating cell-free DNA profiles of patients with metastatic melanoma.

When I am not researching, I like to spend time outdoors. I love biking and hiking, and find them a great way to connect with nature and decompress. I am interested in homemade natural remedies and cosmetics.

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SWISS1 – Sabrina Hogan – based in Zurich

Project Title: Immune profiling of melanoma patients undergoing immunotherapies

Since my childhood I have always been fascinated by the human body. When I started my Bachelor in Biology at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) I had the opportunity to deepen my knowledge in a wide variety of subjects. For my Masters I decided to focus on Medical biology, namely Cancer and Immunology. I find this field extremely interesting and motivating, as the end goal of the studies is to help to improve thousands of patient’s lives.

Following my MSc, I had the opportunity to work for 7 months in a large and reputable pharmaceutical research organization (Nestlé Research Center) as a Junior Research Assistant. Then, I moved to the UK where I undertook a MRes in Biomedical Research at the University of Reading and carried out an 8 months research project on the regulation of metastasis in Rhabdomyosarcoma. I am currently pursuing a PhD aimed at profiling immune responses in melanoma patients undergoing immunotherapy at the University of Zürich Hospital (Switzerland). This position will also help improve my level of German as I was born in the west part of Switzerland and my first language is French.

Regarding my extracurricular activities, I enjoy travelling and doing all kinds of sports, which I like to teach as well. I have done a season as a ski/snowboard instructor and taught tennis for many years. I enjoy coaching, I find it very rewarding.

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SWISS2 – Ishani Banik – based in Zurich

Project Title: Functional in vivo screening of novel oncogenic driver mutations in a zebra fish melanoma model

I am a PhD student at ETH, Zurich. I am a biotech engineer from the silicon city of India-Bangalore. I went on to pursue my master degree in molecular medicine at the University of Ulm, Germany. I graduated with my thesis on “Epigenetic regulators in normal and malignant development of skin” while working with Prof.Dr.Karin Scharffetter-Kochanek. Having realized my passion for the same and determined about improvising medical treatment for melanoma cancer I am now working on “Functional in vivo screening of novel oncogenic driver mutations in a zebrafish melanoma model” under the guidance of Prof. Levesque Mitchell Paul. When I’m not glued to the bench work in lab I like travelling and am always up for a sensible conversation. I can now be found admiring the beauty of the Alps in Zurich and am only an email away at

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