People

Sara A. Wick­ström

Sara A. Wick­ström

Director. Sara studied medicine at the University of Helsinki, Finland and absolved a MD/PhD program receiving her MD in 2001 and PhD in 2004.  After postdoctoral training with Reinhard Fässler at Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried, she was in 2010 appointed as a Max Planck Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Ageing in Cologne, Germany. In 2018 she returned to Helsinki and became Sigrid Juselius Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at the Faculty of Medicine and Helsinki Institute of Life Science. In November 2021, Sara took up the post of director at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in a part-time capacity and assumed it full-time in April 2022.

E-mail: sara.wickstrom@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Leah Biggs

Leah Biggs

Group leader. Leah is a native Iowan and completed her BSc in Biology at Iowa State University. She obtained her PhD at the University of Iowa under the guidance of Dr. Martine Dunnwald, investigating keratinocyte differentiation and epidermal homeostasis. She then moved to the University of Helsinki for a postdoc in the Mikkola group to study hair follicle induction. Leah is interested in the signaling between stem cell niches to maintain skin homeostasis and developing technology to study and apply these principles. In September 2020 Leah started her own research group at the Stem Cells and Metabolism Research Program at the Medical Faculty, University of Helsinki.

E-mail: leah.biggs@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Anne Aalto

Anne Aalto

Postdoc. Anne studied biology in the University of Oulu, Finland and specialized in developmental biology during her MSc. She then moved to Münster and completed her PhD with Prof. Erez Raz studying the polarization of migrating cells in response to chemokine signaling. After her PhD she joined the lab of Prof. Wegner as a postdoctoral scientist and worked with 3D organoid cultures and light-controllable adhesion molecules. In February 2023 she joined the Wickström lab and her postdoctoral research focuses on the role nuclear mechanics in the developing epidermis. In her free time, Anne likes martial arts, reading books and playing board games.

E-mail: anne.aalto@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Fa­bien Ber­til­lot

Fa­bien Ber­til­lot

Postdoc. Fabien was trained as a physicist and obtained a PhD in Biological Physics from Institut Curie, France in 2017. After his PhD Fabien worked for 2 years as a data scientist in a startup developing digital pathology monitoring tools. During this time he got interested in developing clinical decision support systems. He joined the Wickström lab in 2020 as a bioimage research engineer. His goal is to develop bioimage analysis pipelines to study cancer heterogeneity in colorectal and head and neck cancers.

E-mail: fabien.bertillot@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Mirjam Binner

Mirjam Binner

PhD student. Mirjam received her BSc in Nutritional Science at the University of Vienna and her MSc in Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Applied Sciences of Vienna. During her master thesis in the Wickstöm lab at the Helsinki Institute of Life Science she investigated the role of different mutations involved in the development of colorectal cancer on nuclear mechanics and morphology. After a brief stop in the pharma industry Mirjam returned to the Wickstöm lab to start her PhD in the fall of 2022. Her project focuses on understanding the effect of specific mutations, which arise in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, on nuclear mechanics and cancer progression. In her free time she enjoys dancing, reading and traveling.

E-mail: mirjam.binner@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Louis Boylan

Louis Boylan

PhD student. Louis is from the UK, he obtained his BSc in Natural Sciences and his MSc in Biomedical Science from the University of Maastricht in The Netherlands. His initial scientific training took place at the MERLN Institute for Technology inspired Regenerative Medicine in 2019 and 2020. In this period, he worked on the development and characterization of cell supporting dynamic covalent hydrogels in the group of Dr. Matt Baker. For this work Louis was awarded the KHMW prize for the best biology Master Thesis of The Netherlands 2020. He subsequently began his PhD titled ‘Mechanical Regulation of Dermal Condensate Morphogenesis’ in Helsinki, Finland under the supervision of Dr. Leah Biggs. In 2022 Louis relocated to Germany where he will complete his PhD at MPI Münster.

E-mail: louis.boylan@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
 
Manuela Haustein

Manuela Haustein

Technician. Manuela came to the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Münster in 2016. There she first worked in the scullery. In 2019, she got the chance to work as a lateral entrant in Hans Schöler’s laboratory in histology. After its dissolution in 2023, she moved to Sara Wickström’s department. Outside of the lab, Manuela loves spending time with her family and friends, cooking, the mountains of her native Bavaria and nature.

E-mail: manuela.haustein@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
 
Sandra Heising

Sandra Heising

Technician. Sandra started her training as a biology lab technician in the pharmaceutical industry in 1989. From 1994 on, she worked in the field of developmental biology at the University of Bielefeld. In 2004, she moved to the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Münster to work in the laboratory of Hans Schöler and moved to the research group of Sara Wickström in 2021. Outside the lab Sandra spends a lot of time with do-it-yourself in her garden and house in the Teutoburger forest, her family and the two dogs Nika and Fio.

E-mail: sandra.heising@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
 
Windie Höfs

Windie Höfs

Postdoc. Windie completed in 2017 her undergraduate studies in Biochemistry at the University College London (UCL) UK, where her interest in protein structure, function and localisation originates from. After her Bachelors degree, curious about how the biophysical environment influences in-cell processes and architecture, she embarked in a collaborative PhD in the research groups of Nicolas Tapon (the Francis Crick Institute) and Professor Guillaume Charras (London Centre for Nanotechnology, UCL). Throughout her PhD, Windie investigated the dynamic localisation of the endogenous mechanosensitive protein YAP in epithelia at various mechanical conditions. Her work distinguishes the relative contributions of cell-cell junctions and focal adhesions in YAP mechano-localisation. Windie joined the Wickström lab in March 2023 and currently works on uncovering the role of cellular mechanics in the interconversion between the stem cells and more differentiated cells of the hair follicle stem cell niche.
Outside of her lab work, Windie enjoys organising and being involved in outreach events to bring science closer to the public, choreographing as well as baking.

E-mail: windie.hoefs@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Hunki Lee

Hunki Lee

PhD student. Hunki Lee received his BSc in Chemistry and MSc in Physical Chemistry at Chung-Ang University in South Korea. During his study at the Center for Chemical Dynamics in Living Cells, Chung-Ang University, he studied theoretical approaches to autoregulation in gene expression and non-renewal dichotomic process, and, in collaboration with Prof. Hyokeun Park at HKUST, he studied the dynamics of exocytosis of synaptic vesicle in hippocampal neurons. Hunki started his PhD studies in 2019 on synaptic vesicle recycling at the University of Muenster and moved to the Wickstrom lab in May 2023. His project focuses on gene expression under mechanical stress on the single-molecule level. Hunki enjoys coffee, jazz, cooking and cycling.

E-mail: hunki.lee@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Aarren Mannion

Aarren Mannion

Postdoc. Aarren completed his PhD in 2019 at the University of Leeds, UK where he investigated how metastatic cancer cells are disseminated to secondary organs via their interactions with the endothelium, the inner lining of blood vessels. Following this, he moved to the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden for a postdoctoral position in the research group of Professor Lars Holmgren. Here he studied how mechanical forces acting on endothelial cells of the aorta are transduced to the nucleus to regulate chromatin and transcription. This work outlined how mechanical forces are sensed through a junctional-cytoskeletal-nuclear connection to modulate transcription of the mechanosensitive protein YAP. Aarren joined the Wickström lab in November 2023 to further investigate nuclear mechanosensing in the vascular system. In his free time, Aarren enjoys playing niche sports such as canoe polo and Gaelic football as well as cooking, reading and trying out new cafes.

E-mail: aarren.mannion@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Kaitlin McCreery

Kaitlin McCreery

Postdoc. Kaitlin is an engineer and interdisciplinary scientist from North Carolina, USA. She completed her undergraduate degree in Physics with a minor in Education in 2017 from Duke University. She then earned her M.S. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and obtained an NSF-funded graduate certification in Interdisciplinary Quantitative Biology from the BioFrontiers Institute. Kaitlin completed her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering in 2022 under the guidance of Dr. Corey Neu developing techniques in atomic force microscopy to explore nanoscale biomechanics with the principles of physics. Kaitlin joined the Wickström Lab in 2023 to investigate how mechanical forces influence the cell nucleus, and how these signals are integrated with other cues in iPS cells to determine cell fate and promote regeneration.

E-mail: kaitlin.mccreery@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Anja Michelbach

Anja Michelbach

PhD student. Anja completed her BSc Biological Sciences and her MSc Molecular Biomedicine at the WWU Münster and did her Masters thesis work on non-muscle myosin in endothelial morphodynamics upon fluid shear stress. In June 2022 she joined the Wickström lab as a PhD student. Her research focuses on the role of nuclear transport and mechanical signaling in the regulation of genetic integrity. Besides biology, Anja enjoys inline skating, back packing trips and gardening.

E-mail: anja.michelbach@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
David Obridge

David Obridge

Technician. David completed his BSc in Animal Science and Management at Hull University. He then worked for Covance for a year before finally settling at the MPI Münster where he now works in the Wickström dept as a Technician.
In his spare time he likes to play guitar and drums, both as loudly as possible.

E-mail: obridge@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Claudia Ortmeier

Claudia Ortmeier

Technician. Claudia was born in Münsterland and completed her BTA in Osnabrück. She began her career at University of Munich and after a detour in biopharmaceutic research, she returned to her roots to the beautiful city of Münster in 2004 to work in the newly opened department of Cell and Developmental Biology headed by Hans Schöler at the MPI. Since his retirement in November 2021, she moved to the department of Cell and Tissue Dynamics. Her strength lies in molecular biology, but is also experienced in protein biochemistry, cell biology and planarian research during her many years as technician.
Outside the lab, Claudia has many interests. She loves the sea and the mountains, music, fitness, cooking and eating with family and friends and her two cats.

E-mail: ortmeier@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Fran­ziska Peters

Fran­ziska Peters

Postdoc – DFG Walter Benjamin Programm. Franziska is a clinician scientist. She obtained her specialization in Medical Microbiology, Virology and Infection Epidemiology and a second specialization in Dermatology and Venerology from the University Hospital of Cologne. Franziska investigates the role of sphingolipids in epidermal tissue homeostasis. She started on a collaborative research project of Prof. M Krönke (University of Cologne) and Prof. CM Niessen (University of Cologne) and then continued as a clinician scientist within the SFB 829 - Molecular Mechanisms Regulating Skin Homeostasis. In 2021 she joined the Wickström lab in Helsinki and now transitioned to the MPI for Molecular Biomedicine in Münster. Franziska elucidates the role of membrane sphingolipid compositions in orchestrating adult stem cell maintenance and fate. She aims at translating basic research findings into treatment concepts for lipid-associated skin barrier diseases. When not in the lab, Franziska loves traveling, being outdoors, preferably close to the sea side.

E-mail: franziska.peters@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Aki Stubb

Aki Stubb

Postdoc. Aki received his BSc and MSc degree in biomedicine and drug development science at the University of Turku, Finland, in 2015. After this, he started PhD work in Professor Johanna Ivaska’s group at Turku Bioscience center. In the main project, he studied the nanoscale architecture of focal adhesions in pluripotent stem cells and received his PhD in 2019. He then joined the lab of Professor Ewa Paluch in Cambridge, the UK, where he initiated his postdoctoral investigating the role of the cell environment and single-cell mechanics in the regulation of early fate selection in the mammalian embryo. He joined the Wickstöm group in 2021 and continues exploring the cell proximal environment in regulation of cell cytoskeleton and fate using developmental organoids. Outside of the lab, Aki loves traveling, cooking and spending time with his family and dogs."

E-mail: aki.stubb@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Clé­mentine Vil­len­euve

Clé­mentine Vil­len­euve

Postdoc. Clémentine received her MSc in Cancer and Cellular Biology at the University of Rennes, France, in 2015. She then completed her PhD in Cellular Biology in the laboratory of Dr. Philippe Chavrier at Institut Curie, Paris. She studied the role of the polarity protein aPKCiota on basally-oriented cell extrusion and early breast cancer cell dissemination. She joined the Wickström lab in 2020 where her postdoctoral work is focused on understanding mechanisms involved in epidermal stratification and how biomechanical signaling regulates cell fate and positioning during development. Outside the lab, Clementine likes cats, reading books and having fun with friends.

E-mail: clementine.villeneuve@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Sabrina Vinzens

Sabrina Vinzens

Postdoc. Sabrina graduated from the University of Zurich with a MSc in Cellular and Molecular Biology. During her undergraduate studies she became interested in the different facets of cellular decision making and cell fate, so she undertook a MSc thesis focusing on the role of cellular state on heterogeneous signaling response and its implications on cellular decision making in single cells. In October 2023, she joined the Wickström lab to study the role of cell division in cell fate decisions of the epidermal stem cells. When not in the lab, Sabrina loves to spend her time reading or watching movies from the 40’s and 50’s.

E-mail: sabrina.vinzens@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Hermann vom Bruch

Hermann vom Bruch

Technician. Hermann graduated in 1986 as a clinical chemical analyst from the Laboratory School Hengelo, The Netherlands. In 1989 he moved to Münster to work as a medical technical assistant, first at the University Hospital and later at the Institute of Chemo- and Biosensorics. In 2004 Hermann joined the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology a Max Planck Institute in Münster, where he has been responsible for protein production, lab safety and much more. In 2022 he moved to the new department of Cell and Tissue Dynamics. When not at the Institute, Hermann spends his time in his garden, trying to play guitar, enjoying whisky and listening to the music of Pink Floyd.

E-mail: hbruch@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Janis Andreas

Janis Andreas

Secretary‘s office.

E-mail: office-wickstrom@mpi-muenster.mpg.de
Martina Sinn

Martina Sinn

Technician, parental leave.

 

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