Group Polymenidou

new group pic 2016
Our group in November 2017. From left to right: Marian Hruska-Plochan, Julien Weber, Katharina Hembach, Eva-Maria Hock, Zuza Maniecka, Magdalini Polymenidou, Manuela Pérez Berlanga, Aurélie Zbinden and Sonu Sahadevan. Group member Mélanie Jambeau is currently working in Boston.

Principal Investigator

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

Postdoctoral fellows

Pierre De Rossi, PhD 


Pierre is a French neuroscientist. During his Ph.D. at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, he studied the role of VEGF in the regulation of NMDA receptor trafficking at the synapse. After his Ph.D., Pierre did a short postdoc on deciphering cellular mechanisms involved in limbic encephalitis before starting a new position at the University of Chicago. As a postdoc in Chicago, Pierre joined Pr. Gopal Thinakaran’s team to work on the cellular biology of Alzheimer’s disease. Pierre’s project was focused on exploring the role of BIN1, the second genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. He described for the first time the physiological expression of BIN1 in the brain of human and rodents, and the association of BIN1 with amyloid deposits. Pierre also worked on the role of BIN1 at the synapse and the role of BIN1 during myelination in maturating oligodendrocytes. During his postdoc, Pierre used various animal models to explore cellular and physiological questions. In the Polymenidou group, Pierre plans to develop a new animal model to study the seeding and the proliferation of TDP-43 pathology using human-TDP-43 extracts in vivo. Such a model would bring new insights on the pathological processes involved in frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), two fatal neurodegenerative diseases for which no treatment to cure or slow down disease progression is yet available. This model will offer opportunities for testing new potential treatment(s). Outside of the lab, Pierre likes to play music, watching tv-shows, hiking, biking, swimming and traveling, and have fun.

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phone: +41-44-635-6626 

building/room: Y32-J-36

email to: Pierre


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.

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phone: +41-44-635-6626 

building/room: Y32-J-36

email to: Marian  


PhD Students

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. 

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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: +41-44-635-4895 

building/room: Y32-J-36

email to: Melanie


Katharina Hembach
Katharina Hembach


Katharina was born in Germany and studied Bioinformatics at the Ludwig-Maximilian University and Technical University Munich.  She started her PhD in November 2015 as a collaboration between the Polymenidou and Robinson labs. She helps the people contributes to several projects in the lab with the analysis of different types of RNA sequencing data. She also develops a method for the identification and correct quantification of cryptic exons from RNA-seq data. 
In her free time, Kathi likes to go on bike/hiking trips and she enjoys reading and cooking.

phone: +41-44-635-****

building/room: Y32-J10

email to: Kathi
Manuela Perez Berlanga 
Manuela Perez Berlanga

Manuela was born in Spain and studied Biochemistry at the Autonomous University of Madrid. During this time, she came to Zurich for a summer as part of the Biology Undergraduate Summer School (BUSS). She then moved to Germany in 2015 to continue her studies with a Master in Biology at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. She finished her Master Thesis in the lab of Prof. Ulrich Hartl, where she worked on protein aggregation in ALS and FTD. After a year working as a research assistant, she joined the Polymenidou lab in September 2017 to start her PhD on the mechanisms of TDP-43 toxicity in neurodegeneration. Outside the lab, she enjoys movies, series, books and good food.

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phone: +41-44-635-4883

building/room: Y32-J-36

email to: Manuela


Aurélie Zbinden
Aurélie Zbinden


Aurélie comes from Zurich, Switzerland. She studied Biochemistry at the University of Zurich. After an internship at the Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics at the University of Oxford she decided to search for a master thesis that combines her two passions: Biochemistry and Neurobiology. Aurélie is interested in determining the full structure of TDP-43, to gain further understanding on how and why the protein misbehaves in ALS patients.

After successfully defending her master thesis, Aurélie decided to stay with us for her PhD starting in December 2018.

Outside the lab, she enjoys different kinds of sports and time with her friends and family.


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phone: +41-44-635-4883

building/room: Y32-J36

email to: Aurélie
Elena Tantardini
Elena Tantardini


Elena is originally from Italy where she studied Pharmacy at the University of Pavia. In her final year she decided to pursue a career in scientific research, which is the reason why she spent a year at Imperial College London working for her master’s thesis in the field of sciatic nerve and spinal cord regeneration. After graduating, she moved to Barcelona for two years and worked at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) investigating the molecular mechanism of axonal injury and regeneration using state-of-art techniques such as PMDS compartmentalized culture and super resolution microscopy (nSTORM). In January 2019 she joined the PolyLab as a PhD student where she tries to elucidate mechanisms of toxicity of TDP-43 and FUS in neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and FTD. Outside the lab she likes playing volleyball and working out at the gym, but she also loves watching TV series and movies on lazy days.

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phone: +41-44-635-4885

building/room: Y32-J36

email to: Elena

Master students

Lab Manager

Julien Weber
Julien Weber


Julien was born in the small town of Epinal in France. He studied Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Lorraine, Nancy likewise Mélanie. After several months of experience in different laboratories in Paris and in the USA, he moved to Zurich in September 2009. Since then, has worked in several labs at UZH and in the CovalX company, where he enriched his knowledge in multiple techniques (proteomics, molecular biology, animal experimentation) as well as in lab organisation. In May 2017, he joined the Polymenidou group as a Lab Manager. Outside the lab he enjoys reading, going to the movies with his friends, running, swimming and crocheting cute amigurumis.

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phone: +41-44-635-4895

building/room: Y11-J-06

email to: Julien


Franziska Heinzel


Franziska was born in Zurich, Switzerland. She studied psychology at the University of Zurich and  is working at UZH since 2009.

Since February 2016 she is on the team of group Polymenidou as administrative assistant. Outside the office she enjoys running, reading.

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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.