Ali Erturk

Dr. Ali Erturk, Director

Dear visitors, I obtained my undergraduate degree from the Bilkent University in Ankara in 2003, then moved to Munich for my Ph.D. I worked at the Max-Planck-Institute of Neurobiology, focusing on axon regeneration in the injured spinal cord by developing and using in vivo imaging and tissue clearing methods. In 2009, I moved to Genentech in S. San Francisco for my postdoc, where I worked on non-apoptotic caspase-3 actions in spine degeneration, traumatic brain injury and whole brain tissue clearing to assess neurodegeneration. Besides chasing breakthrough science with my amazing team, I enjoy sports, photography, reading and cooking (Photo credit: Christiane Kappes). 


Mayar Ali, Ph.D. Candidate

I grew up in Cairo, where I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the German University in Cairo. Afterwards, my passion for neuroscience led me to pursue my Master’s degree in Computational Neuroscience at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience (BCCN) in Berlin, where I focused on neuroimaging and applying deep learning approaches for the detection of psychiatric and neurological disorders. Before joining Erturk lab, I worked for 6 months as a data scientist at a neuroscience startup in Berlin. But my passion for science led me again to join the Ertürk lab for my PhD. My work focuses on applying deep learning approaches on proteomics data. In my spare time, I enjoy cycling, travelling and playing American Football.


Rami Al-Maskari, Ph.D. Candidate

I am from Munich, did my B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Information Systems at the TUM. For my Master’s thesis on segmenting the peripheral nervous system of mice I got in touch with the Ertürk Lab.  The work on the thesis convinced me to pursue my Ph.D. here, together with Bjoern Menze’s Image-Based Biomedical Modeling Group. In my spare time I like to do Muay Thai, photography and reading.



Dr. Harsharan S. Bhatia, Omics Technologies Team Leader

I received my Bachelor’s in Biology from Punjabi University, India and my Master’s in Biotechnology from Dehradun University. Afterwards I moved to Freiburg, Germany to undertake a PhD at Albert-Ludwigs University. Here I studied the role of antioxidants in regulating microglia driven inflammation in vitro. Since completing my PhD I’ve worked as a Postdoc at UCLA, California, studying how dietary manipulations during gestation affects synaptic plasticity, and behaviour. Then back to Freiburg where I was a Research Associate at University Clinic examining how epigenetic factors regulate microglial function in chronic neuroinflammation. I joined the Erturk lab as a Postdoc in 2017 to elucidate underlying molecular mechanisms in chronic neuroinflammation associated neurodegeneration. I love Cricket, cooking Indian cuisine and Bollywood songs.


Karen Biniossek, Team Assistant

Hi, my name is Karen. After qualifying in the early 90’s in the UK (London) as an Anaesthetist I decided to use my skills in Saudi Arabia. After meeting my husband and travelling all over the world I settled eventually in Munich in 2001 where I live with my two children and husband. In 2010 I returned back to work at Helmholtz which was a very interesting return into Medicine with science. Since mid 2019 I am lucky to have joined a wonderful new enthusiastic and dynamic team such as iTERM.


Marin Bralo

Marin Bralo, Technical Assistant

I was born in Livno, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I attended elementary and high school. I obtained my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Biology and Chemistry from University of Split in Croatia. In my Master’s thesis the biochemical study was performed on the first module of tyrocidine synthetase, tyrocidine synthetase 1 (TycA), after three single point TycA protein variants were constructed. Tyrocidine synthetase belongs to the group of nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPS) and the product of its activity is antibiotic tyrocidine. I also worked as a biology and chemistry teacher. Besides doing and teaching science I enjoy hiking, weightlifting, good music, movies and meeting new people.


Dr. Suheda Erener, Co-deputy

I obtained my Master`s degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Heidelberg, completing my thesis work at the European Molecular Biology Laboratories (EMBL). Thereafter, I moved to Switzerland to pursue my doctoral studies at the University of Zurich working on genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of inflammation in conditions such as sepsis and metabolic syndrome. I continued my academic career as a post-doc and then as a Research Associate at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, to develop cell therapies and biomarkers for diabetes while collaborating with the pharmaceutical industry and clinicians. I returned to Europe to work as a project team leader at the Helmholtz Research Centre in Munich. I recently became more interested in the managerial side of science and joined iTERM as a Scientific Manager. Besides research, I enjoy running, mountain biking, skiing as well as cooking for friends and family.


Dr. Farida Hellal, Co-deputy

I studied Biochemistry in Paris at Pierre & Marie Curie University, where I received a master’s degree in Neurosciences. I completed an industrial Ph.D. in Pharmacology on drug development for traumatic brain injury. Then as a postdoc, I joined the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology Munich and DZNE in Bonn, where I uncovered the relevance of manipulating cytoskeleton to promote axonal regeneration after spinal cord injury and contributed with Ali Ertürk to the development of tissue clearing and imaging by light-sheet microscopy. I moved to the Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research to investigate neuronal network remodeling after stroke. I am fond of not only Science but also Social Anthropology, philosophizing on the meaning of life over a glass of wine and French cooking & baking for others.

Izabela Horvath, Ph.D. Candidate

I was born and raised in Romania. I got my Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Politehnica University of Timisoara, then I spent one year at CERN doing hardware tests to study superconducting wires. Later on, my interests led me to pursue a Master’s degree in Biomedical Computing at TUM, where I enjoyed focusing on medical imaging technologies and machine learning. For my Master Thesis, I worked on the topic of Machine learning-based reconstruction for MR Fingerprinting. Before joining Erturk Lab, I spent 6 months in Tokyo using deep learning for the study of typhoons, and now I am back in Munich, looking forward to pursue a PhD here, in cooperation with prof. Bjoern Menze’s Chair for Image-Based Biomedical Modeling (IBBM). I like to unwind doing activities related to plants, traveling, animals and sports.


Luciano Höher, Intern

Hi, I’m Luciano Höher. I’m from Munich and am finishing my bachelors degree in biology at LMU. I looked for an internship before choosing my Masters Program and got a place here at ITERM at the Helmholtz Institute. I’m glad I can work here with nice people on their innovative projects.

Besides science, I enjoy playing the guitar, video-games with friends and reading good books.


Dr. Saketh Kapoor, Mass Spectrometry Unit In-Charge

I started my research career at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, India. To pursue my Ph.D., I moved to Yenepoya (Deemed to be University) that is nestled in the beautiful city of Mangalore along the Arabian Sea coast. I worked on the isolation and molecular dissection of Stem cells antigen-1+ (Sca-1) adult stem cells in mouse tissues using FACS and characterized their proteome map under ex vivo and in vivo conditions using high resolution mass spectrometry. I received the European Molecular Biology Organization Short-Term Fellowship to University of Bari, Italy where we characterized novel antagonists of LPAR6 to inhibit hepatocellular carcinoma. I trained at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences, Bangalore and contributed to setting up the first testing facility for SARS-CoV2 virus at the Yenepoya Hospital, India. To further pursue my academic career, at Ertürk’s Lab I am setting up the ultra-high sensitive mass spectrometers timsTOF Pro and timsTOF TrueSCP and combining it with cutting-edge technologies such as DISCO clearing and leveraging it to characterize proteomes of single cells and to understand mechanisms of metastasis and drug resistance in cancers. I am an enthusiastic motorcyclist, love travelling and meeting new people, an avid reader and have a fetish for collecting non-fiction books!


Doris Kaltenecker

Dr. Doris Kaltenecker, Postdoc

I am from Vienna. For my BSc and MSc degree I studied Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Applied Sciences. Afterwards, I did my PhD at the Medical University of Vienna. During that time, I worked at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Cancer Research, where I focused on the role of JAK-STAT signaling in adipose tissue and how it influences whole body energy metabolism. I moved to Munich to pursue a Postdoc at the Institute for Diabetes and Cancer (Helmholtz Zentrum München), where I am working on a co-project with the Ertürk Lab. Apart from science, I really enjoy going to concerts, travelling and watching good movies. 


Karoline Kadletz, PhD. Candidate

I am Viennese and moved to Munich a few years ago to study Biochemistry at the Technical University. After an exchange semester in India at the IIT Delhi, I came back to Munich for my Master (also in Biochemistry), specialising in Biophysics and Bio-organic Chemistry. 
I’ve worked on different DNA origami projects since my Bachelor’s Thesis at the Dietz Lab. For my Master’s Thesis I developed logic gate controlled DNA origami capsids, that could one day be used as smart drug delivery vehicles. Building DNA origami for future clinical applications will also occupy me in my PhD here at iTERM. In collaboration with the Dietz Lab, I will work on DNA origami based nanocarriers, that are able to cross the Blood Brain Barrier. In my free time I love being in the mountains (especially with skis on my feet!), making and eating desserts and playing in an orchestra. 


Ilgin Kolabas, Ph.D. Candidate

I am from Istanbul, where I got my bachelors degree in Molecular Biology, Genetics and Bioengineering with a minor in Psychology from Sabanci University. Before graduating, I went to Hong Kong for an exchange semester, which I still consider as one of the best decisions of my life. Following this adventurous period, I got my masters on Cognitive Neuroscience at the Donders Institute in Radboud University, The Netherlands, and graduated with a minor in Neurophilosophy. I completed my thesis studies in Erturk lab studying the effects of chronic inflammation after stroke. I enjoyed the work so much that I accepted a PhD position here in the Graduate School of Neurosciences (GSN). I am passionate about learning about life and the brain as well as travelling, reading and doing yoga.


Louis Kümmerle, Ph.D. Candidate

I grew up in a small village close to Heilbronn, Germany. I obtained a B.Sc. in Biochemistry and a B.Sc. in Physics from University of Würzburg. Afterwards I moved to Tübingen, Germany, to obtain a M.Sc. in Neural Information Processing at the Graduate Training Center for Neuroscience. In January 2020 I started my Ph.D. in the Ertürk Lab and Theis Lab. My work focuses on developing and applying machine learning methods on single cell transcriptomics and spatial transcriptomics. In my spare time I like playing the guitar and doing sports like running and badminton.


Dr. Jie Luo, Postdoc

I am from China. Before I joined Ali’s group as a postdoc researcher, I did my doctoral research at faculty of chemistry and pharmacy of LMU Munich from 2016 to 2020, focusing on the nucleic acids’ delivery for cancer therapy. My current favorite topic in the lab is related to message RNA delivery in whole mouse body using our vDISCO. Besides work, my interest are hiking, travelling, music and cooking.


Hongcheng Mai, Ph.D. Candidate

Hello, I am Hongcheng Mai, and I grew up in the southern part of China. Before I joined Ali’s group as a Ph.D. student, I have spent 8 years for a medical study at Jinan University. My passion in the lab is developing technologies for human tissue clearing, also clarifying the mechanism of ischemic stroke and traumatic brain injury. Besides science, I like swimming and basketball.


Muge Molbay

Muge Molbay Ph.D. Candidate

Originally from Turkey, I obtained my Bachelor’s degree from Izmir Institute of Technology on Molecular Biology and Genetics and my Master degree from Akdeniz University, Medical School, Histology and Embryology Department, focused on the effects of human trophoblast progenitor cell treatment on angiogenesis and neurogenesis after focal cerebral ischaemia. I joined the group of Ali Ertürk at the ISD labs in 2018 as a PhD student. Here, I work on the the combining cutting-edge technologies; DISCO clearing and DNA Origami nanotechnology for deliveries through blood-brain barrier into central nervous system. In addition to my passion on science, I enjoy football and basketball games, going to concerts and oil-painting.


Furkan Ozturk, Ph.D. Candidate

Hi, I am a mechanical engineer originating from Istanbul Technical University. I enjoy understanding how things are connected to each other and how they work. I was interested in many branches of engineering and developed a versatile skill-set. Visiting Sabanci University Nanotechnology Research and Application Center for a year, I have developed a direct write stereolithography system to generate 3D microstructures on a wafer. Later on I got my Master’s Degree on medical technology engineering at Technical University Munich and developed an additive manufacturing solution for liquid aluminum jetting during my studies. Before joining this amazing team I was working at iThera Medical as a mechanical design engineer. Now I am working towards my PhD and looking forward to the hard times of it everyone warned me about.


Johannes Paetzold

Johannes Paetzold, Ph.D. Candidate, Artificial Intelligence Team Leader

My name is Johannes, I am a the leader of the AI Team at iTERM. I am also a third year PhD student in Machine Learning. My main interest is the development of deep learning and graph learning methods for large biological networks such as vessels and neurons. Most of the applications I work on concern Medical Imaging and Microscopy with some extension to Remote Sensing. Further research interests include topology aware machine learning and generative models. In my free time I enjoy playing and competing in (Beach) Volleyball.


Zhouyi Rong

Zhouyi Rong, PhD Candidate

I was born and raised in Hubei province of China. I graduated from Wuhan University with a major in Life Science and Biotechnology, and obtained my Master’s degree from Xiamen University, where I focused on the role of TREM2 mediated microglial function in Alzheimer’s Disease. I started my PhD studies at LMU in October, 2018. In my spare time I Iike playing volleyball, cycling and travelling. And I really enjoy good music and movies.​


Mihail Todorov, Postdoc

I was born in Bulgaria and I grew up in Hungary. After obtaining my Master degree as a Biologist (specialisation in Neuroscience and Human Biology) from the Eötvös Loránd University I did my PhD at the Graduate School of Systemic Neurosciences. My former research focus was in vivo rodent visual and in vitro electrophysiology, single-cell PCR, patch-clamp and batch data analysis using several scripting languages. Now I’m focused on the vascular network of the brain during health and disease.
My interests are: travelling, electronics, and hiking.


Denise Jeridi

After graduating from high school, I first completed a voluntary social year in the emergency room at the hospital. During my science propaedeutic seminar, I studied sport and it’s influence on the brain as part of the nervous system. This is why I also decided to train as a biology lab technician here at Helmholtz Zentrum München, what finally led me to work on interesting topics with an amazing team. I will finish the vocational training in February 2022. In my free time I enjoy to listen to music, go to concerts or juggle.


Selin Ulukaya, Master Student

Hi, I am Selin. I was born in Izmir, Turkey. I am studying in the Master’s Program Molecular and Cellular Biology at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and I am doing an internship in Ertürk Lab. I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Molecular Biology, Genetics & Bioengineering in Sabanci University at Istanbul. During my Bachelor’s, I visited Munich for a summer internship in Klinikum Rechts der Isar of TUM. Experiencing the research environment in Munich encouraged me to come back for my Master’s. Now, I spend my time in Munich learning up-to-date research methodologies and traveling.



Ana Toman Fabjan


Alison Wright

Lamia’a Bahnassawy 

Francesca Paola Quacquarelli 

Rupinder Kaur 

Karen Stanic

Benjamin Förstera

Tzu-Lun Ohn

Ph.D. Students: 

Marika Ruiyao Cai

Shan Zhao

Oliver Schoppe

Chenchen Pan

Master’s Students:

Louiza Ignatiou

Leander Mrowka

Christoph Dehner

Madita Reimer