Prof. Dr. Ali Maximilian Erturk, Director

Dear visitors, I obtained my undergraduate degree from the Bilkent University in Ankara in 2003, and my Ph.D. in LMU Munich. I worked at the Max-Planck-Institute of Neurobiology, focusing on axon regeneration in the injured spinal cord. In 2009, I moved to Genentech in S. San Francisco as a postdoc, where I worked on non-apoptotic caspase-3 actions in spine degeneration, traumatic brain injury and whole brain tissue clearing to assess neurodegeneration. Currently, I am very excited about developing and implementing technologies to enable personalized treatment of complicated diseases. Besides chasing breakthrough science in that regard 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.


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. 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, Master Student

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.

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.


Dr. Ilgin Kolabas, Postdoc

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.

Johannes Paetzold

Dr. Johannes Paetzold, 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.​


Dr. 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, Lab Technician

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.

Xiaoshan Hu, Team Assistant

I am from Mainland China. Before I settled down in Munich, I had worked as civil engineer in construction design company more than 10 years in Beijing after I obtained my Bachelor’s degree. In February 2022 I joined Ertürk Lab as team assistant and I am fascinated by the group research work of imaging and molecular analysis. In my free time I enjoy metal music and traveling, I am also interested in architecture and interior design.

Stefanie Reitinger, Project Coordinator

Hi, my name is Stefanie. After obtaining my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Communications, I started working in various companies across Europe to gain professional experience, while at the same time exploring new places and cultures. I joined Ertürk Lab in January 2022 because I wanted to be part of a team that strives for a better future. When I’m not working my day job, I’m a writer and a huge book nerd in general. I also enjoy baking and working out (just so I can eat more sweets)!

Dr. Jennifer Modamio, Postdoc

Originally from Spain, I obtained a B.Sc. in Molecular Biology from the University of Salamanca during which I enjoyed an internship at the IMIB (Würzburg, Germany). Afterward, I got a M.Sc. in Biomedicine applied to cancer research from the University of Barcelona where I analyze lncRNAs expression in the progression of follicular lymphoma. I obtained my Ph.D. in Systems Biomedicine from the University of Luxembourg, exploring alpha-synuclein toxicity in patient-derived midbrain organoids to understand the mechanism underlying Parkinson’s disease. I joined the Ertürk lab in 2022 as a postdoc to set up a screening pipeline for cancer organoids. This will help us to investigate the mechanism driving treatment resistance and metastasis, as well as, develop new cancer therapies. In my spare time, I enjoy long hikes in sunny weather, live music, reading, and cooking.

Dr. Markus Elsner, Co-deputy

I studied biochemistry at the University of Frankfurt (Germany) and the University of Bath (UK) as an undergraduate. For my graduate work, I moved to EMBL in Heidelberg (Germany) and the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) where I characterized protein dynamics in living cells. As a postdoc at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda (USA), I investigated the mechanisms of lipid and protein sorting during membrane transport events in mammalian. In 2008, I became an editor at Nature Biotechnology focusing on genome engineering, imaging and cancer therapy papers. Since 2022, I am a Deputy Director of iTERM.
Outside work, I am a bit of a history buff and enjoy cycling and traveling.

Ying Chen, PhD Candidate

I was born and raised in Sichuan Province of China. I obtained my Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from Beihang University on pattern recognition and intelligent system. My main research focus was developing deep learning methods for cerebral arterial segmentation in magnetic resonance angiography volumes. In October 2022, I started my PhD studies at LMU and joined Ertürk Lab. My main interest is introducing deep learning methods into biomedical data processing and analysis. In my spare time, I like to play badminton, swim and cook.

Dr. Ceren Kimna, Nanotechnology Team Lead

I was born in Izmir and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at Ege University. Later, I earned a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the Izmir Institute of Technology where I additionally worked as a research assistant for 2 years. In addition, I also have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Master’s degree in Pharmacognosy. In summer 2018, I moved to Munich to begin my PhD studies at the Technical University of Munich, where I focused on the development of targeted drug delivery systems. My expertise in this area led me to join the Erturk lab in February 2023, where I am now working to develop novel lipid nanoparticle formulations and targeted delivery strategies. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, traveling, diving, and spending time with my two cats, Bulut and Midas.



Paul Paetzold, Master Student

Hi, I am Paul. I was born in Munich, where I am also currently studying in the Physics Master Program at the Ludwig Maximilian University. After finishing my Bachelor’s of Physics, also at the LMU, I did an internship at the Engert lab at Harvard University, where I delved more deeply into biophysics especially Light Sheet Microscopy. Now I am working as a student assistant at the Ertürk lab. Here my work focuses mainly on improving and maintaining current Light Sheet Setups. Outside of work, I like to play basketball, go hiking or skiing and playing guitar.



Dr. Peng Wei, Postdoc

I come from Henan Province, China. I completed my undergraduate degree in Applied Chemistry at Henan University of Technology. For my master’s degree, I studied at the College of Science at Northwest A&F University, focusing on Chemical Biology. My research areas included the selective protection of monosaccharides and the construction of supramolecular carriers used for drug and gene delivery. At the end of 2015, I moved to Germany to join Prof. Ulrich S. Schubert’s research group at the University of Jena to pursue my Ph.D. After obtaining my doctorate, I moved to the University of Hong Kong to conduct postdoctoral research in Prof. Weiping Wang’s group. A year and a half later, I transitioned to the industrial sector and became the leader of the polymer team in the Chemistry Department at Abogen Bioscience, Suzhou. . In July 2023, I joined the Erturk lab, mainly responsible for the development of the next generation of targeted LNPs, including new polymers, ionizable lipids, formulation development, as well as evaluating the in-vivo and in-vitro performance of the formulations. I will also utilize the lab’s whole-body clearing technique and high-resolution microscopy to extensively study the performance of LNPs at the cellular level in the body. In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, taking walks with my family, and playing the guitar.

Miro Kolenic, Master Student

I grew up in South Africa, where I initially pursued a career in Computer Animation, during which I was lucky to work with amazing people telling stories for kids. But a love of math, science, and programming drove me to switch career paths and head to university. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, Information Technology and Computer Engineering from the RWTH Aachen, and now I am excited to be working as a student assistant at the Erturk lab while doing my Master’s in Electrical Engineering and Information Technology at TUM. The work everyone is doing here combines my interests in imaging and AI in the biomedical field, and I feel very lucky to be a part of it! In my spare time I love stories (in all forms), dancing, and learning new things!


Carolina Cigankova, Master Student

I am a Molecular Biotechnology student at TUM with a fascination for the potential of future technologies and the pursuit of pushing the boundaries of what is possible. It’s exciting to witness the collaboration between biotechnology and AI, and I am eager to contribute as a small part of this evolving landscape. Working within an inspiring team from diverse nationalities and educational backgrounds, I am fortunate to expand my horizons.

In my spare time, I enjoy social dances, galleries, and reading.


Serhat Kalkan, Master Student

Hello there! I’m Serhat Buğra, a master’s student at the Technical University of Munich and a mechanical engineering enthusiast turned biomedical whiz at the lab. Originally from the lively streets of Istanbul, I found my way to the lab through a summer internship two years ago and decided to stick around part-time. My days are filled with the fascinating world of biomedical devices, where I channel my mechanical background into cutting-edge projects. When I’m not immersed in the lab, you can catch me indulging in various exercises, keeping up with sports, and nurturing a passion for music. Excited to contribute to the innovative work here and explore the intersection of mechanics and biology!

Dr. Kubilay Doğan Kılıç, Postdoc

I was born and raised in Türkiye. I received my B.Sc. from Ankara University Faculty of Science (Biology) as valedictorian in 2014 and received the TEV Scholarship during my education. During my undergraduate education, I studied at the Universita degli Studi di Milano with the Erasmus program for one year and at the Istanbul University with the Farabi program for one year. I have been working at Ege University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Histology and Embryology since 2015. I completed my master’s and doctoral studies at the same institution, and was awarded with Tübitak 2210 and 2211 scholarships during my education. I worked at Leibniz Institute (MfN) and Humboldt University with a DOSAP scholarship as a guest researcher for six months. I give lectures at Ege University Faculty of Health Sciences. Outside my home university I gave lectures at Universidad Autonoma de Madrid Faculty of Medicine. I have joined iTERM at January 2024 with the support of Tübitak 2219 programme. My interests are; histotechnics, comparative histology and embryology, and histopathology. As a culture, travel and nature enthusiast, I visit historical sites and natural wonders in my freetime.


Jie Zhan, Ph.D. Candidate

I’m from Xinjiang, China, I studied bioengineering at the Hubei University of Technology after I got my bachelor’s degree, I continued to complete my master’s degree in biological and Pharmaceutical at Northwestern Polytechnical University where I mainly focused on polymer-based delivery systems to achieve highly delivery efficiency in RNA, In April 2024, I started my PhD studies at LMU and joined Ertürk Lab. My work is mainly on exploring different conditions to accelerate the process of tissue clearing. In my free time, I like hiking, swimming, and traveling


Şebnem Çam, Bachelor Student

My name is Şebnem Çam. I am currently in the last year of pursuing my Cognitive Science Bachelor’s degree at the University of Osnabrück. I am planning on doing my Master’s in AI & ML and since CogSci is quite interdisciplinary, I was looking for an internship to further develop my skills outside of classes. Helmholtz, specifically ITERM, seems like the perfect place to do so. It’s exciting to get to work alongside so many experienced and skilled people. In my free time I enjoy going out with friends, reading and going to the gym. I am trying to collect as many hobbies as possible as time goes on.


Jakub Grzejdak, Bachelor Student

I grew up in Poland. After graduating from high school, I moved to Germany to study Molecular Biotechnology at TUM. I am particularly interested in the new therapeutic possibilities that arise through the use of synthetic biology. Therefore, I was excited to join the Ertürk Lab to work on lipid nanoparticles as a potential drug delivery system. Studying their biodistribution in the body will keep me busy during my bachelor’s thesis at iTERM. Besides science, I enjoy hiking, visiting art galleries and traveling by train.



Moritz Negwer

Ana Toman Fabjan

Karen Biniossek

Dr. Suheda Erener

Leone Njeramba


Safiah Olabi

Alison Wright

Lamia’a Bahnassawy

Francesca Paola Quacquarelli

Rupinder Kaur

Karen Stanic

Benjamin Förstera

Tzu-Lun Ohn

Arnaldo Javier Parra Damas

Ph.D. Students:

Furkan Öztürk

Müge Molbay

Hongcheng Mai

Marika Ruiyao Cai

Shan Zhao

Oliver Schoppe

Chenchen Pan

Master’s Students:

Selin Ulukaya

Basabdatta Gupta

Louiza Ignatiou

Leander Mrowka

Christoph Dehner

Madita Reimer

Undergraduate Students:

Simge Duman

Serhat Kalkan

Inés Hojas García-Plaza