Current Lab Members

Niko Geldner, Full Professor e-mail

Niko1_1Niko Geldner studied biology at the Universities of Mainz, Bordeaux 2 and Tübingen. In Tübingen, he started to work in the lab of Gerd Juergens and did his diploma thesis (1998) and PhD thesis (1998-2003) in the same laboratory, working on the role of GNOM in Arabidopsis embryogenesis and the polar localisation of the PIN1 auxin efflux carrier. He left Tübingen in 2004 to do a Postdoc as an EMBO and HFSP fellow at the Salk Insitute in La Jolla, California, in the lab of Joanne Chory. There, he worked on the endosomal trafficking of the plant steroid receptor kinase BRI1 and developed the WAVE set of sub-cellular compartment markers. In summer 2007 he started as an Assistant Professor at the University of Lausanne in September 2007, where he was promoted to Associate Professor in 2012. He was awarded a Starting grant of the European Research Council (ERC) in 2007 and a Consolidator grant in 2013. In 2011 he became an EMBO Young Investigator and was elected EMBO member in 2017. Niko Geldner is now Full Professor at the UNIL, since 2018.


Valérie Dénervaud Tendon, Lab manager email

IMG_4453Valérie Dénervaud-Tendon joined our lab in October 2007 and enjoyed the shopping in order to set up the lab. She began her professional life in Nestlé Research Center where she obtained her professional diploma. To continue her studies, she studied at an Engineering in Food technology and Biotechnology in Sion, Switzerland. She went to University of Lausanne and started in Dieter Haas’s lab in the Department of Fundamental Microbiology (DMF). There, her research was focused on the virulence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and the role of the quorum sensing regulatory network. She then enjoyed Irish life style while working in University College of Cork, Ireland in the lab of Fergal O’Gara.



Tonni Grube Andersen, Postdoc e-mail

Tonni Picture
Tonni is from Denmark. He obtained his Masters and PhD at University of Copenhagen at the Center for Dynamic Molecular Interactions (DynaMo). His previous work includes elucidation of transport and biosynthetic mechanisms of the defense compounds glucosinolates in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. After his PhD he continued his work, and investigated protein-protein interactions in glucosinolate biosynthetic pathway using Y2H and FRET-FLIM analyses. Tonni received a Marie Curie grant to join the Geldner lab in February 2014. Tonni’s project revolves transcriptional identity of individual cells in the endodermis and molecular identification of the non-suberized “passage cells”. He aims at characterizing molecular markers for passage cells that will allow us to study the behavior of endodermis cells during a variety of abiotic stresses. To unravel this, he will employ single-cell transcriptomics, functional genomics and live-cell imaging.


Inês Barbosa, Postdoc email

Inês is from Portugal. She studied Biology at FCUL (Lisbon) and did her Master’s thesis on the impact of last century CO2 increase on alpine meadows water-use efficiency, in the group of Prof. Hans Schnyder, TUM (Munich). Later, she discovered Arabidopsis genetics in the group of Dr. Paula Duque at the beautifully located and active research institute IGC (Oeiras, Portugal). For one year, she investigated the role of RNA splicing regulators, SR proteins, in abiotic stress responses. Curious on auxin transport and plant development, she was back in Munich to do her PhD in the lab of Prof. Claus Schwechheimer, TUM. There she studied the polarity and trafficking of an auxin transport regulating kinase, D6PK. She discovered D6PK plasma membrane targeting is very dynamic and essential in maintaining PIN phosphorylation and active auxin transport and, that D6PK is anchored to membranes by ionic interactions with phospholipids. She joined Niko’s group in May 2017 where she will dissect the molecular mechanisms behind CASP proteins recruitment to the Casparian strip, their membrane domain organization properties and role in establishing the lignin polymerizing complex.


Satoshi Fujita, Postdoc e-mail


Satoshi is originally from Kobe, Japan. He obtained his bachelor analyzing one of the receptor-like kinases in tobacco suspension cells under the supervision of Prof. Toru Matoh in the faculty of Agriculture Kyoto University, Japan. By this experience, he was motivated to start the plant cell biology, so he decided to move to NAIST (Nara Institute for Science and Technology), where is located one of the most active research institutes for plant biology in Japan. During his Masters and PhD, he worked with Prof. Takashi Hashimoto’s group, which focuses on the organization of microtubules and their function. During his PhD, he found a novel atypical kinase domain, which can destabilize the inter-phase cortical microtubules through alpha-tubulin phosphorylation under the hyperosmotic stress. After finishing his PhD, he found an interest in how cells and tissues can properly coordinate the structures in the context-dependent manners. He joined Niko’s group in May 2014. He has just started to clarify functional relationships among various Casparian strip-forming genes, especially from phosphorylation pathways.


Yan Ma, Postdoc e-mail

Yan is originally from Suzhou, China. Following her interest in plants from a young age, she moved to the UK in 2009 to study Plant Science at the University of Manchester, and later obtained a PhD on plant disease resistance genes. In the group of Prof. Jonathan Jones in The Sainsbury Laboratory (Norwich), she investigated how a resistance gene pair from Arabidopsis recognizes different bacterial pathogens in order to activate defense. Her PhD thesis (2016) and follow-up work unravel functional mechanisms of these resistance proteins at molecular level: from perception of pathogen molecules to the subsequent conformational changes that initiate defense signalling. Yan joined Niko’s group in July 2018, because she is fascinated by the ‘integrity surveillance’ signalling pathway in plant roots, which functions to establish a continuous water tight barrier (the Casparian Strip) rather than to monitor pathogen invasion. She was awarded a FEBS long-term fellowship to exploit this powerful system to uncover missing signalling modules and potential cross-talk with defense signalling.


Peter Marhavy, Postdoc e-mail

Peter comes from Slovakia, where he obtained his Bachelor (2006) and Master’s (2008) degree in Comenius University, Faculty of Natural Sciences in the department of Molecular Biology with specialization on Acetobacter Identification. For his PhD studies he joined group of Eva Benková VIB Department of Plant Systems Biology, Ghent University, Belgium. During his PhD Peter was studying, how cytokinin a crucial regulator of plant development through PIN1 lytic degradation enhancement, not only to control the auxin transport capacity, but also possibly to be part of a mechanism determining the auxin stream directionality. After obtaining his PhD degree (2012) Peter continued as a postdoctoral researcher in the group of Eva Benková at the Institute of Science and Technology IST Austria. Peter received a FEBS grant to join the Geldner lab in February 2015. In the Geldner group, his work will focus on the mechanism(s) of CASPs localization, as well as the mechanisms by which internal and external signals are integrated into the distribution of CASPs in order to generate a coordinated, multi-cellular tissue.


Robertas Ursache, Postdoc, e-mail

DSC_0012Robertas is from Lithuania. He studied Molecular Biology at the Vilnius University, Lithuania. He obtained his Masters and PhD at the University of Helsinki, Finland, in the group of Professor Yrjö Helariutta. During his PhD he studied vascular development in Arabidopsis thaliana and he was particularly interested in xylem specification, as well as in uncovering novel mechanisms of phloem sieve plate formation. After his PhD he continued his work, focusing particularly on phloem development and symplastic communication. Robertas joined the Geldner lab in August 2015 and he aims at uncovering the mechanism of Casparian strip remodelling during lateral root emergence. To achieve that, he will employ functional genomics, live-cell imaging and advanced electron microscopy.


Feng Zhou, Postdoc e-mail

??Feng comes from China. Since August 2006, under the supervision of Prof. Jianmin Wan, he studied at Nanjing Agricultural University and the Institute of Crop Science, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) in Beijing. His graduate work focused on exploring the molecular mechanism of strigolactone signaling. Using a gain-of-function rice mutant displaying a increased-tillering and dwarf phenotype, he identified a new protein DWARF 53 which acts as a repressor of strigolactone signaling in rice. Feng obtained his PhD at Nanjing Agricultural University in June 2014 and then received an EMBO Long-Term Fellowship to join the Geldner lab in January 2015. In the Geldner group, his work will focus on elucidating the role of the endodermal barrier in root immune and stress responses. To reveal this, a set of sensitive, cell-type specific immune response marker lines will be established. Feng is also interested in the understanding of the role of strigolactone distribution and signaling in the endodermal cell layer growth and development.


Aurélia Emonet, PhD student e-mail

Aurélia gIMG_5576ot her bachelor degree at the University of Fribourg, where she carried out a short project on C.elegans sex determination in the group of Alessandro Puoti. Determined to study plants rather than worms, she joined ithe MSc in Molecular Life Sciences at the University of Lausanne in 2013. There, she integrated into the Geldners lab, working on the characterization of superoxide dismutases and laccases involved in Casparian strip lignification. Staying in the same department, she did her master project in the group of Philippe Reymond, where she analysed how the eggs of Pieris brassicae are able to highjack plant defences through an antagonistic interaction between salicylic acid and jasmonate pathways. After a short internship in the lab of Enrico Martinoia (University of Zürich), where she was interested in the impact of PDR1 strigolactone exporter overexpression on mycorrhization of petunia, she returned in September 2015 in Niko Geldner’s lab as a PhD student. The aim of her project is now to analyze the flg22-induced immune response in the different cell layers of the root, as well as to investigate the role of the endodermis in defense.


Andreas Kolbeck, Phd student e-mail

Andreas obtained both his Bachelor (2012) and Master (2015) degree studying at the Heidelberg University in Germany. During his studies, he focused on plant biology and acquired a background in various imaging techniques, ranging from subcellular EM-analysis to live-imaging and large-scale phenotyping. For his Master thesis, he performed a functional characterization of a receptor-like protein as part of a newly found cell wall feedback pathway in Arabidopsis thaliana. Having finished his studies, Andreas decided to continue working in plant sciences and joined the Geldner lab as a PhD student in September 2015. Here, his projects include the investigation of the physiological roles of the Casparian Strip as barrier for ion transport.


Nelson Rojas-Murcia, PhD Student e-mail

NelsonNelson has a bachelor’s degree in Agronomic Engineering. To pursue his interest in fundamental biology, he left his original Colombia to move to Switzerland where he then completed an MSc in molecular life sciences at the University of Lausanne. After a short master’s project in the Geldner’s lab, working in the characterization of proteins involved in the establishment of the Casparian strip in Arabidopsis, he went downstairs in UNIL’s Biophore building to work in microbiology. There, he focused his project to understand how the multidomain, large-size proteins named non-ribosomal peptide synthetases are able to produce small non-ribosomal peptides in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These peptides usually display biologically activity and some of them are used as antibiotics and as agents to treat cancer, yet how they are synthesized is not fully understood. After several experiments involving protein radio-labeling and mass spectrometry Nelson decided to come back to work in Arabidopsis to deploy biochemistry along with in vivo experiments to understand how lignin is produced in the Casparian strip.


Kian Hematy, Visiting scientist e-mail

KianVersailles Kian discovered plant science during his undergraduate (1998-2000) with a part-time technician training in the laboratories of Loïc Lepiniec and Jan Traas (IJPB-INRA Versailles, France) studying respectively seed biology and meristem function in Arabidopsis. He obtained his Master at the University of Orléans and performed his training internship during a semester (2002) in the laboratory of John Mundy (Copenhagen University, Denmark) working on programmed cell death. He performed his PhD thesis (2003-2006) studying cell wall integrity signaling under the supervision of Herman Höfte (IJPB-INRA Versailles). He then went to California for a joint-postdoc in the laboratories of Chris and Shauna Somerville working on different aspects of cellulose biosynthesis and mechanisms of non-host resistance toward powdery mildew (in Stanford 2007 then UC Berkeley 2008-2009). In 2010 He obtained a permanent research scientist position at the IJPB-INRA Versailles in the team of Jean-Denis Faure working on lipids synthesis and its role in membrane organization and during plant development. He is currently performing a sabbatical in Niko’s team working on the establishment of the Casparian-Strip Domain and of cell polarity in the endodermis.


Catherine Schwab, Technician e-mail

Catherine is educated as a medical assistant. Her first job was in medical center in Geneva, where she gained experience from a medical laboratory in care and medical treatments. After a few years, she was recruited to Philip Morris in Neuchatel as a Lab Technician. Here she worked in the Control & Quality laboratory for many years, mainly doing GC/MS-based chemical analysis in tobacco. After that, she worked as a «Cigarette Specification Administrative», where she established technical sheets concerning the products and packaging of cigarettes. At the end of 2011, she was recruited by the University of Lausanne as a technician for the DBMV. She joined The Geldner lab in october 2014 as technical assistant, helping the group, as well as aiming to learn new techniques.