Principal Investigator

Antonio Giraldez, Ph.D.

Antonio studied Chemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Cadiz and the University Autonoma of Madrid. As an undergraduate, he worked with Gines Morata at the CBM in Madrid. Antonio did his PhD with Stephen Cohen at the EMBL (Heidelberg) (1998-2002) and a post-doc with Alex Schier at the Skirball Institute (NYU) and Harvard (2003-2006).

Antonio joined the Genetics Department at Yale University in 2007. He is currently the Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Genetics and the Chair of the Genetics Department. Antonio is a member of the Yale Center for RNA Science and Medicine, Yale Stem Cell Center, Yale Cancer Center, and is an HHMI Faculty Scholar.

Biosketch | Curriculum Vitae

Video of Antonio describing the lab’s research.


Charles Vejnar, Ph.D.

Charles studied Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the Université Pierre et Marie (Paris, France), and then earned his Masters at the Université Denis Diderot (Paris, France). He studied the evolution of transposable elements under the supervision of Prof Hadi Quesneville. His did his PhD with Prof Evgeny Zdobnov at the University of Geneva (Switzerland) working on miRNA target prediction. He joined the Giraldez Lab as a Postdoctoral Associate in March 2013, and he is using gene expression and ribosome footprinting to understand the mechanism that regulate translation during embryogenesis. Charles received a prestigious Swiss National Science Foundation fellowship to undertake this research.

Valerie Tornini, Ph.D.

Valerie earned a B.S. in Biology and A.B. in Religion from Duke University in 2010. She was a NSF Graduate Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Kenneth Poss at Duke University in the Department of Cell Biology, where studied the cellular and molecular mechanisms of tissue regeneration. She joined the Giraldez Lab in February 2017, and was awarded a Hartwell Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship for her work studying the code of specification in vertebrate CNS development.

Read more about Valerie at

Liyun Miao, Ph.D.

Liyun studied Biology at Qingdao University. She did her PhD with Jian Zhang studying translational regulation during oogenesis in zebrafish at the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Liyun joined the Giraldez Lab as a Postdoctoral Associate in April 2017 and is currently studying the regulatory mechanisms underlying the maternal-to-zygotic transition in zebrafish.

Yin Tang, Ph.D.

Yin studied computer science at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (Shanghai, China) and earned a master’s degree in Computer Software and Theory at Fudan University (Shanghai, China). Yin earned his PhD at Pennsylvania State University, University Park in Bioinformatics and Genomics, working on regulatory roles of RNA structures in plants. Yin joined the Giraldez Lab as a Postdoctoral Associate in August 2017 and is studying chromosome structure dynamics and the regulation of RNAs during the maternal-to-zygotic transition in zebrafish development.

Mina Kojima, Ph.D.

Mina received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University, where she majored in Molecular Biology and minored in Quantitative and Computational Biology. She then received her graduate training in the Department of Biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she joined the laboratory of David Page at the Whitehead Institute to study how mouse germ cells initiate meiosis. Her PhD training was supported by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Mina joined the Giraldez Lab in January 2019 to study zygotic genome activation in the zebrafish embryo. She is currently supported by the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research.

Curtis Boswell, Ph.D.

Curtis received his undergraduate degree from Queen’s University, where he majored in Biology. As an undergrad, he worked in the laboratory of Dr. Sharon Regan where he studied microRNA regulation of wood properties in trees. He then earned his PhD in Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto / Hospital for Sick Children in the laboratory of Dr. Brian Ciruna where he studied mechanisms of spine morphogenesis using zebrafish. His PhD training was supported by the Canadian Institute for Health Research. Curtis joined the Giraldez Lab in October 2019 to study vertebrate CNS development and disease.

Alice Sherrard, Ph.D.

Alice studied cell and molecular biology at the University of Bristol, where she was awarded her PhD. Her previous research investigated chromatin re-organization in the context of mitosis and stem cell differentiation. She joined the Giraldez lab in September 2020, where she was awarded an EMBO fellowship and is applying light and electron microscopy approaches to study chromatin structure during mouse and zebrafish development.

Caroline Hoppe, Ph.D.

Caroline received her undergraduate degree from Jacobs University in Bremen, where she majored in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. She was then awarded a Wellcome Trust PhD studentship at the University of Manchester, where she joined the lab of Prof Hilary Ashe. During her PhD, Caroline used live imaging to investigate how the BMP signaling gradient is decoded at single-cell resolution during Drosophila embryogenesis. Following up in a short postdoc, she imaged translation dynamics in real time and at single-molecule resolution in Drosophila. Caroline joined the Giraldez Lab in April 2021 to investigate promoter and enhancer interactions during zygotic genome activation.

Srikar Krishna Gopinath, Ph.D.

Srikar earned his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from the University of Madras (Chennai, India), following which he completed his Master’s degree in Biotechnology from VIT University (Vellore, India). After his Master’s, Srikar worked as a Junior Research Fellow in the laboratory of Yashoda Ghanekar at the Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine (inStem) (Bangalore, India), where he identified small RNAs in Hydra and studied their role in regeneration. In 2015, Srikar enrolled as a joint student between the laboratory of Dasaradhi Palakodeti and Srikala Raghavan at inStem for his doctoral studies. During his doctoral studies, Srikar investigated the functions of a new class of small RNA, tRNA-derived small RNAs (tsRNAs), in the regulation mouse embryonic stem cell differentiation. Srikar joined the Giraldez lab as a Postdoctoral Associate in April 2021 to investigate the molecular programs that maintain RNA homeostasis and identify mechanism that link RNA degradation and transcription.

Graduate Students

Cassandra Kontur

Cassie studied Biochemistry at the University of Chicago (2008-2012). After graduation she worked in the lab of Aaron Turkewitz at UChicago (2012-2014), studying secretory granule formation, phagosome maturation, and exocytosis. She entered the BBS graduate program in 2014 and joined the Giraldez lab in April 2015, where she investigates the role of RNA binding proteins in post-transcriptional regulation during zebrafish development.

Henry Shun Chan

Henry studied Biology and Biochemistry at University of Virginia. (2008-2012). He worked in the laboratory of Dr. Raymond Keller, where his research focused on investigating the molecular basis and cellular regulation of the morphogenetic process, convergence and extension during development. After graduation, Henry was a research assistant in the laboratory of Dr. Ira Schulman at University of Virginia, investigating the role of BRCA1 in the regulation of cholesterol metabolism and inflammation. Henry entered the BBS graduate program at Yale University in 2014 and joined the Giraldez Lab in June of 2015. He is currently studying the role of zygotic gene activation on different cellular behaviors during Maternal zygotic transition.

Damir Musaev

Damir was born and raised in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. His passion for development of new therapies for incurable human disorders lead him to pursue B.Sc. in Biomedical Sciences from Western Michigan University (2010-2014). After the second year in college he joined the lab of Dr. Donald Kane where he used zebrafish as a model organism to study ‘zombie’, an early arrest phenotype where embryonic cells fail to divide. He mapped the zombie phenotype to a small region on chromosome 2 which contains the important cell cycle gene CDC20. After graduation, Damir joined the lab of Dr. Joseph Gleeson at The Rockefeller University/UCSD (2014-2017) to better understand the genetic causes of inborn brain disorders in children around the world. During his three-year journey in the Gleeson lab, Damir linked mutations in more than 25 novel genes to inborn brain disorders. In 2017 he joined Yale’s BBS program and became part of the Giraldez Lab in March 2018. Damir is studying post-transcriptional regulation of mRNA in the context of organism development and aging.

Maria Benitez

Maria earned her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2017 where she studied Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. As an undergraduate, she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Edward M De Robertis studying anterior-posterior axis formation in Xenopus leavis embryos. In 2017, she entered the BBS graduate program and joined the Giraldez lab in 2018. She is currently interested in zygotic genome activation.

Mark Pownall

Mark studied Biology at the College of William & Mary (2014-2018). He worked in the laboratory of Dr. Margaret Saha, where his research focused on investigating plasticity in the developing nervous system and transcriptional gene regulation in polyploid vertebrates. Mark entered the BBS graduate program at Yale University in 2018 and joined the Giraldez Lab in March of 2019. He is currently interested in investigating the mechanisms of zygotic gene activation.

Ethan Strayer

Ethan graduated from Middlebury College in 2016 with a double major in Biology and Political Science. Upon graduation he worked at the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease in the Laboratory of Vector Biology under the direction of Dr. John Anderson and Dr. José Ribeiro. His research characterized the structure and function of the members of the SG7 family, proteins expressed in the salivary glands of female Anopheles mosquitoes, which inhibit the alternative pathway of the human complement. He entered the BQBS program at Yale in the fall of 2018 and joined the Giraldez lab in the spring of 2019. He is currently interested in understanding the regulatory framework of 5’ UTRs in zebrafish and humans.

Haejeong Lee

Haejeong received her undergraduate degree in Life Sciences and Master’s degree in Molecular Biology at Korea University. She worked in the laboratory of Dr. Sung Wook Chi, where she investigated post-transcriptional regulation on mRNA and microRNA and its impact on cardiac pathology. Haejeong entered the BBS graduate program at Yale University in the fall of 2020 and joined the Giraldez lab in the spring of 2021. She is currently interested in understanding transcription regulation mediated by mRNA degradation.


Donna Karpel

Before coming to Yale, Donna worked at Bayer Healthcare for 10 years as an Administrative Assistant in the Department of Quality Assurance and the Department of Drug Safety. Donna has been working at Yale since 2008 providing Administrative Support for Dr. Giraldez and his lab members, and for other faculty in the Department of Genetics.

Sarah Dube

Sarah Dube earned a B.S. in Biology from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2014. After graduation, she worked as a field technician for Maria Diuk-Wasser’s eco-epidemiology lab at Columbia University for two seasons. Sarah has also worked for the state of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection as a member of the trawl survey, where she helped to measure the biodiversity and species abundance of the Long Island Sound. Sarah joined the Giraldez lab in November of 2017. She is currently the lab manager and also manages our fish room.

Valeria Schmidt

Valeria received her undergraduate degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University in 2019. During her time at Princeton, she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Daniel Sigman where she studied nutrient biogeochemistry of coral reef systems. During her summers, Valeria conducted research for Dr. Samantha de Putron at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, Dr. Anne Cohen at MIT-WHOI-BIOS, and Dr. Hollie Putnam at URI-HIMB. She studied the eco-physiology and environmental epigenetics of reef-building corals. Particularly, she aimed to understand how immediate abiotic environment and biotic interactions drive organism phenotype, ecological patterning, and evolutionary processes through the interaction of genetics, and epigenetics. Valeria joined the Giraldez lab in June 2019 as a postgraduate associate.

Timothy Gerson

Timothy graduated from Roger Williams University in 2015 where he studied Communications and Aquaculture. In the summer after graduation, he worked as a Fin-fish Hatchery Technician at a Black Sea Bass farm in Virginia where he grew thousands of fish for human consumption. Timothy soon afterward joined the Knaut Lab at NYU as a Zebrafish Technician in 2016 and researched cellular migration in the primordium of zebrafish embryos. He joined the Giraldez lab in March of 2020 as a Research Associate.

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