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Pathway to Independence Programme: our 2024 PI fellows


Visual to show transition from postdoc to PIFollowing a successful pilot year in 2023 with a fantastic set of postdocs, we are delighted to announce our second cohort of Pathway to Independence (PI) fellows. We had significantly more applications this year, making it an even harder decision than last year to select just eight candidates that we will support as they transition from postdoc to Principal Investigator. So we'd first like to thank all those who applied and to wish them luck in their future careers - we hope you will all go on to do great things! We'll be featuring some of these researchers in upcoming editions of our Development Presents webinar series, so do look out for these in the coming months. 

After much deliberation, we selected the eight individuals listed below to become our 2024 PI fellows and we're excited to be working with this talented group of researchers - providing training and mentorship - as they navigate the job market. You'll be hearing more from each of them in the journal over the course of this programme. 


Meet our 2024 PI Fellows


Marcella Birtele

Marcella BirteleMarcella obtained her Ph.D. in experimental and molecular science at Lund University, Sweden, where she focussed on dissecting the functional and transcriptional profile of dopaminergic neurons. Currently, she is working as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Quadrato's lab at the University of Southern California, USA, where she identified an unknown role for the SYNGAP1 gene in controlling human cortical neurogenesis using cortical organoids.  Marcella is interested in leveraging organoid models to dissect mechanisms underlying brain disorders.

You can follow Marcella on X at @MarcellaBirtele


Martina Cerise

Martina CeriseMartina is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of George Coupland at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany. She moved there having previously completed her PhD with Fabio Fornara at the University of Milan, Italy. Martina's research interests focus on the floral transition, which helps define plant architecture and leads to fruit and seed production, using both rice and Arabidopsis as model systems. 

You can follow Martina on X at @mCherry81197466


Lydia Djenoune

Lydia DjenouneLydia received her PhD from the French National Museum of Natural History under the mentorship of Dr. Claire Wyart and Prof. Hervé Tostivint studying cerebrospinal fluid-contacting neurons and the role of the polycystin channel Pkd2l1 in the zebrafish spinal cord. Following a first postdoc with Ian Drummond, she is now a postdoctoral fellow in Shiaulou Yuan's lab at The Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, USA. Lydia aims to decipher the role of cilia, polycystin channels, and mechanosensation in cardiac development. 


Girish Kale

Girish KaleGirish is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Steffen Lemke, which recently relocated from the University of Heidelberg to the University of Hohenheim, Germany. Prior to this, he was a graduate student at the Marseille Developmental Biology Institute (IBDM), France, working with Thomas Lecuit and Pierre-Francois Lenne, and a postdoctoral fellow with Satyajit Mayor at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, India. Girish's research interests lie in understanding the influence of elevated temperature on early fly embryo development.

You can follow Girish on X at @girish_kale_phd


Eirini Maniou

Eirini ManiouEirini is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions postdoctoral fellow working with Nicola Elvassore at the University of Padova, Italy. She untertook her PhD with Kees Weijer at the University of Dundee, UK, and then worked with Andrea Münsterberg (University of East Anglia, UK) and Gabriel Galea (University College London, UK). She is interested in the mechanical forces mediating neural tube morphogenesis, primarily using the chick embryo as a tractable vertebrate model.

You can follow Eirini on X at @EManiou 


Louis Prahl

Louis PrahlLouis completed his PhD with David Odde at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, USA. He is a postdoctoral fellow in Alex Hughes’ lab in the Department of Bioengineering and the Center for Soft & Living Matter at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA. Louis is interested in how epithelial cells organize into complex structures, such as branching kidney collecting ducts, and developing new engineering strategies to control tissue organization.

You can follow Louis on X at  @lsprahl


Keaton Schuster

Keaton SchusterKeaton is currently a postdoctoral researcher with Lionel Christiaen at New York University, USA. He obtained his PhD in cell and developmental biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, under the guidance of Rachel Smith-Bolton. Keaton is interested in understanding the cellular, developmental, and evolutionary origins of cardiovascular regeneration using the tunicate Ciona robusta as a model. 

You can follow Keaton on X at @KeatonSchuster


Clémentine Villeneuve

Clementine VilleneuveClémentine did her PhD in cancer biology at the Institut Curie, France, in the lab of Philippe Chavrier. She then joined Sara Wickström's lab, now at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Muenster, Germany. Her research focuses on understanding the integration of biochemical and mechanical signals that govern stem cell fate acquisition during tissue patterning and morphogenesis, using the mouse as a model system, with a particular emphasis on the development of skin and its appendages.

You can follow Clémentine on X at @Clem_Villeneuve

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