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 now the Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Genetics and the Chair of the Genetics Department. Antonio is a member of the Interdepartmental Program in Developmental Biology, Yale Center for RNA Science and Medicine, Yale Stem Cell Center, Yale Cancer Center, and is an HHMI Faculty Scholar.

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Jean-Denis Beaudoin, Ph.D.

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Jean-Denis earned a B.Sc. in Biotechnology from Université de Sherbrooke in 2006. In 2009, he completed his Master degree, and started his PhD both in the laboratory of Dr Jean-Pierre Perreault at Université de Sherbrooke in the Department of Biochemistry. He earned his PhD in 2013, where he worked to characterize the ability of the G-quadruplex structure to modulate RNA activities. He joined the Giraldez Lab as a Postdoctoral Associate in April 2013 and is studying how RNA structures regulate post-transcriptional events in the oocyte to embryo and maternal-to-zygotic transitions in zebrafish. JD was awarded a prestigious Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé FRQS fellowship to undertake this research, and he is currently supported by an NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99).

Charles Vejnar, Ph.D.

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Charles studied Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the Université Pierre et Marie (Paris, France), and then earned his Master at the Université Denis Diderot (Paris, France). He studied 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.

Mario Messih, Ph.D.

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Mario Studied computer science at the The American University in Cairo (2005-2010), and he earned a masters degree in Bioinformatics at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (2010-2012) where he used statistical and probabilistic learning in order to predict protein functions (GO-terms annotations). Mario moved to Italy (2012-2016) where he earned his PhD from the Biocomputing Unit at Sapienza - Università di Roma under the supervision of prof Anna Tramontano. Mario joined the Giraldez lab at the Genetics Department at Yale University on Dec 2016 where he will be using Artificial Intelligence and machine learning in order to have a deeper understanding of the individual effect of different regulatory elements, their interactions as well as how they are orchestrated in the cell in order to control protein output and shape embryogenesis.

Valerie Tornini, Ph.D.

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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.

Liyun Miao, Ph.D.

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

Yin Tang, Ph.D.

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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.

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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 investigate molecular mechanisms that regulate the initiation of meiosis in mouse germ cells. 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.


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 employed as 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

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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 early arrest phenotype, zombie, where embryonic cells failed 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 has 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 three year journey in Gleeson lab, Damir has linked mutations in more than 25 novel genes to inborn brain disorders. In 2017 he joined Yale’s BBS program and became part of Giraldez lab in March of 2018. Damir is looking forward to further his knowledge about 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

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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.


Donna Karpel

Before coming to Yale, Donna worked Bayer Healthcare for 10 years as an Administrative Assistant for the VP of Drug Safety and The Research department. Donna now takes care of all the paper work in the Giraldez Lab, and her role is vital for Antonio’s sanity.

Nitya Khatri

Nitya earned her degree in Biology at University of Virginia in 2017. She worked in the laboratory of Dr. Noelle Dwyer where she was responsible for genotyping, PCR, gel electrophoresis, cryosectioning mice brain tissue, and neuron analysis. She also completed a small project with Dr. Raymond Keller investigating the change in body axis elongation through Nodal signal inhibition during the early stages of Xenopus embryo development. Nitya started her postgraduate position at the Giraldez lab in November 2017 and is an aspiring medical school student.

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 as a postgraduate associate.

Kim de Guzman

Kim de Guzman earned her degrees with honors in Biology and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies from Emory University in 2018. During that time, she worked in the Iain Shepherd lab to investigate potential genetic markers for the interstitial cells of Cajal, one of the key players along with the enteric nervous system that drives gastrointestinal motility. Her training comprised of RT-PCR, gel electrophoresis, mRNA extraction, immunohistochemistry, gut dissection, confocal microscopy, and microinjection of zebrafish embryos. Concurrently, she worked with C. elegans to investigate evolution of pathogenic resistance with Megan Cole. She joined the Giraldez lab in June 2018 as postgraduate associate and works closely with Liyun Miao to assist with CRISPR/Cas9-mediated targeted mutagenesis.

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