Group Polymenidou

Our group in January 2015. From left to right, back row: Tariq Afroz, Marian Hruska-Plochan, Magdalini Polymenidou, Zuza Maniecka, Eva-Maria Hock; front row: Sonu Sahadevan, Julia Lüdke, Florent Laferriere

Magdalini Polymenidou, PhD 

Magdalini is originally Greek and she studied Pharmacy at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. She did her PhD on prion diseases at the University Hospital of Zurich. In her thesis work she studied the efficacy of experimental prion immunotherapies, and defined a novel molecular classification for human prion diseases. Since 2008 she is studying amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). During her postdoctoral studies at the University of California in San Diego, she used genome-wide approaches to understand the function of TDP-43 and FUS, two RNA-binding proteins that are associated with ALS and FTD. Her work established wide and diverse roles of the two proteins in RNA processing within the nervous system, and determined TDP-43 and FUS RNA targets that are altered in disease. Since September 2013, she is an SNSF Assistant Professor, with a double appointment between the Faculty of Science and the Medical Faculty of the University of Zurich. She is also coordinator of the Gender Equality Committee of the Neuroscience Center Zurich. When not in the lab, Magdalini enjoys playing with her son Lennart, who was born in San Diego in September 2012.

phone: +41-44-635-3106

building/room: Y32-J-06

email to: Magda

Florent Laferriere, PhD

Florent was born in Paris, France. He is an Engineer in Agronomy with a Master of Science degree in Biochemistry. He did his PhD at the National Institute of Agronomical Research near Paris, working on prion diseases. He studied the links between prion protein aggregation and several pathological aspects of the disease, such as infectivity, replicative ability and interspecies transmission. Florent joined the lab in February 2014 and he focuses on the contribution of ALS-linked protein (SOD-1, TDP-43) aggregation and misfolding in the pathogenesis of the disease. Outside the lab, he plays handball, enjoys snowboard, food and wine.

phone: +41-44-635-4885 

building/room: Y32-J-36

email to: Florent

Marian Hruska-Plochan, PhD 

Marian was born in Trencin, Slovakia and studied Biology at the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra. He completed his master thesis during his Slovak Gas Industry (SPP) Foundation fellowship at the University of Copenhagen. Marian did his PhD at the Charles University in Prague and at the Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics, where he was involved in the generation and characterization of the transgenic Huntington’s disease minipig model. During his EMBO Short-Term fellowship at the University of Aarhus, he studied the first minipig brains expressing mutant huntingtin and was also involved in the mapping of the pig telencephalon. He was a visiting graduate student at the University of California in San Diego where he focused on the development of cell and gene therapies for ALS. After defending his PhD thesis in 2013, and a short postdoctoral work at UCSD, Marian joined the Polymenidou lab in August 2014. In his postdoctoral studies, he aims to understand the relative contribution of the different pathogenic mechanisms thought to cause ALS and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTD) in patients with C9ORF72 hexanucleotide expansions. He also aims to identify the molecular mechanisms involved in sporadic ALS using iPSC-derived motor neurons. In his free time, he enjoys traveling and recreational basketball and biking.

phone: +41-44-635-4883 

building/room: Y32-J-36

email to: Marian  

Tariq Afroz, PhD

Tariq comes from Roorkee, a small university town in the northern part of India. He studied Biotechnology at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai. To pursue his interest in RNA biology, he came to Switzerland for his PhD at ETH Zürich, where he followed a structural approach in order to better understand the role of sequence-specific protein-RNA interactions in translational regulation. Tariq joined the Polymenidou lab in November 2014 and focuses on delineating the role of TDP-43 and FUS/TLS in RNA processing, which when misregulated contributes to the ALS pathology. Outside lab, he plays tennis and enjoys skiing and fondue in the winter.

phone: +41-44-635-4883 

building/room: Y32-J-36

email to: tariq 

Zuzanna Maniecka

Zuza comes from Poland, where she studied Molecular Biology at the University of Warsaw. She did internships at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, and at the Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry and Biophysics Institute at the University Paris-Sud in Orsay, France. She was the first student to join the Polylab in November 2013, where she works on establishing a novel ex vivo model for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia. Her project aims to decipher the molecular mechanisms triggered by TDP-43 aggregation and mislocalization linked to these neurodegenerative diseases. In her lab-free time, Zuza enjoys trying out new recipes, snowboarding and discovering Switzerland with a fantastic group of new friends.

phone: +41-44-635-6626

building/room: Y32-J-36

email to: Zuza

Eva-Maria Hock 

Evi was born in Aschaffenburg, Germany and studied Technical Biology at the University of Stuttgart. After an internship at the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, she discovered her interest in Neurobiology. She joined the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Children’s Hospital in Boston for her Diploma Thesis in developmental Neuroscience, using electrophysiological and cell biological approaches. Evi joined the lab in January 2014 and she studies the spreading properties of the ALS-linked protein FUS/TLS, using organotypic slice cultures and iPSC-derived motor neurons. Outside the lab, she enjoys several outdoor activities including rock climbing, skiing and wakeboarding.

phone: +41-44-635-6626

building/room: Y32-J-36

email to: Evi 

Sonu Sahadevan M.K.

Sonu comes from Kerala, India where she completed her studies in Biotechnology at the Amrita School of Biotechnology. After defending her master thesis at the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem), she continued to work on a project on understanding the role of glycans in regeneration. Later, discovering her interest in molecular neuroscience, she joined the Centre for Brain Development and Repair at inStem and worked on understanding the role of fragile X mental retardation protein in posttranscriptional regulation and activity-mediated protein synthesis at synapses. She joined the Polylab in January 2015 and she is investigating the early synaptic dysfunction in ALS and FTD. In her free time, she enjoys meeting friends, travelling, watching movies and cooking. 

phone: +41-44-635-4885 

building/room: Y32-J-36

email to: Sonu

Melanie Jambeau

Melanie comes from France, Nancy, where she originally studied Physiotherapy. She loved practicing physiotherapy for 5 years and then decided to make a career change towards scientific research, something she had always wanted to do. She studied Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Lorraine, Nancy. She enjoyed a lot her training in Dr. Kurt De Vos’ lab in SITraN, UK (Sheffield Institute for Translational Neurosciences) during her first master project. She then joined Dr. Clotilde Lagier-Tourenne’s lab in the University of California, San Diego, where she focused on the role of FUS in the regulation of RNA splicing and expression. She started a collaborative PhD between the Poly lab and the Lagier-Tourenne lab at the Massachussets General Hospital in October 2015. Outside the lab, she loves spending time with her family and friends and is fond of backpacking, hiking and camping.

phone: +41-44-635-4885 

building/room: Y32-J-36

email to: Melanie

Larissa Gilhespy


Larissa comes from Switzerland and has dual citizenship (Swiss/English). She finished her Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Zurich in May 2015. She joined the Polymenidou Lab for her Master Thesis, which will be focused on the characterization of the biochemical and functional role of TDP-43 aggregates in the CNS, as well as their seeding ability in vitro. In her leisure time, she enjoys travelling, baking and exercising.

phone: +41-44-635-4895

building/room: Y11-J-06

email to: Larissa


Sarah Erni


Sarah comes from Switzerland and studied biology at the University of Zurich. She did her master thesis in the field of genetics at the Institute of Medical Molecular Genetics where she aimed to characterize sequence variations found in patients diagnosed with a specific eye disease. After her studies, she joined the Polymenidou Lab in April 2015 as a lab technician. In her free time she enjoys inline skating, hiking reading books and listening to music.

phone: +41-44-635-4895

building/room: Y1-J-06

email to: Sarah


Vanessa Orlowski

Vanessa comes from Switzerland and has a dual citizenship (Swiss/German). She is a trained chemistry lab technician and did her apprenticeship at the Carbogen Amcis AG in Bubendorf (Basel). She then joined the group of Regula Schmid-Hempel in Experimental Ecology, ETH, where she worked for one and a half year as an intern, studying the bumblebee Bombus terrestris and the beetle Tribolium castaneum. Soon after that, she joined the National Center for Retroviruses (Nationales Zentrum für Retroviren, NZR) under the supervision of Jörg Schüpbach in the Institute of Medical Virology, University of Zurich. She worked for two and a half years with HIV-1 and HIV-2 and also contributed to the studies of the Lars Hangartner group, focusing on influenza viruses. In 2015 she joined the Polymenidou group as Lab Manager, replacing Julia during her maternity leave. In her free time she likes to play videogames or board games, read, listen to music, play Lacrosse, practice Haidong Gumdo, travel, learn Korean and go diving.

phone: +41-44-635-4895

building/room: Y11-J-06

email to: Vani

Julia Lüdke

Julia was born and raised in Karlsruhe, Germany. She studied Biology at the University of Göttingen, where she became fascinated by Neurobiology during her Diploma thesis. In 2008 she moved to Switzerland and since then, she has worked in several labs at ETH and UZH, as well as at the FMI in Basel, where she gathered a lot of experience in lab organization. In January 2014, she joined the Polymenidou group as a lab manager. Outside the lab she enjoys going to heavy metal concerts, hiking, snowboarding and cooking. Recently she has also started learning how to fish.

phone: +41-44-635-4895

building/room: Y11-J-06

email to: Julia

Franziska Heinzel



Franziska was born in Zurich, Switzerland. She studied Psychology at the University of Zurich.

She is working at UZH since 2009.

Since February 2016 she is working for the Polymenidou group as administrative assistant. Outside the office she enjoys running, reading.


phone: +41-44-635-4825

building/room: Y32-J-12

email to: Franziska

You can also find us via the University of Zurich phone book.