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. She is a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence awardee (NICHD). In July 2024, she will be starting as an Assistant Professor at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, and Institute for Society and Genetics.

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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.

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. Her postdoctoral work has been 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. Caroline’s postdoctoral work is supported by the EMBO Postdoctoral Fellowship and by the Human Frontier Science Program Postdoctoral Fellowship.

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.

Elizabeth Eck, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Eck earned a B.S. in Physics and B.A. in Biology from the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara. During that time, she studied iridocytes, iridescent cells, in squid and giant clams in the lab of Daniel Morse. Elizabeth was awarded the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Fellowship and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to support her work as part of the Biophysics Graduate Group at UC Berkeley. As a member of Hernan Garcia’s Lab, Elizabeth studied and tested dynamic models of transcriptional regulation and chromatin accessibility in the early fruit fly embryo. Elizabeth joined the Giraldez Lab in February 2022 to study the dynamics of zygotic genome activation using live imaging and physics-based modeling. Liz postdoctoral work is supported by a Helen Hay Whitney Foundation fellowship.

Dié Tang, Ph.D.

Dié obtained her bachelor’s degree from Chongqing University. She pursued her Master’s and Ph.D. degrees at the Agricultural Genomics Institute at Shenzhen, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. In April 2023, Dié joined the Giraldez Lab as a Postdoctoral Associate. Her research interests lie in genome evolution and regulation, and currently studying the RNA regulation mechanisms underlying development and disease.

Linnea Weiss

Linnea received her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Georgetown University. Upon entering graduate school at Yale University, she joined the laboratory of John Carlson where she used behavioral, imaging, and electrophysiological techniques to study the organization and function of the gustatory system of Drosophila. She carried out her postdoctoral research at the National Center for Biotechnology in Madrid, Spain, in the laboratory of Marta Nieto, where she studied how neural circuitry is established and organized during early cortical development. She joined the Giraldez Lab as an Associate Research Scientist in the spring of 2023.

Graduate Students

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 genome activation and developing chromatin expansion microscopy. Mark’s graduate work has been supported by an NIH F31 fellowship and he will be starting as a Sandler Faculty Fellow at UCSF in 2024.

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.

Fiona Sievers

Fiona earned her B.Sc. in Biology from Humboldt University of Berlin and her M.Sc. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU). During her master’s she participated in the Summer Internship Program in Epigenetics, Stem Cells and Cellular Plasticity where she joined the Torres-Padilla lab to study the mechanisms behind the establishment of totipotency. She completed her master’s thesis under the joint supervision of Dr. Till Bartke and Dr. Heinrich Leonhardt where she investigated mechanisms and players responsible for maintaining DNA methylation in mouse embryonic stem cells. After enrolling in the BBS program in 2022, Fiona joined the Giraldez lab in spring 2023 to study chromatin structure during mouse embryonic development.

Gal Jaschek

Gal received his bachelor’s degree from the Research biology program at Tel Aviv University. Throughout his undergraduate studies, he conducted research in multiple areas, including oncolytic virotherapy with Dr. Marcelo Ehrlich, nanoparticle drug delivery in the laboratory of Dr. Dan Peer, and bioinformatic research in the lab of Dr. Tal Pupko. Gal entered the BBS graduate program at Yale University in 2022 and joined the Giraldez lab in the spring of 2023.

Postgraduate Assistants

Damilola Olowookere

Damilola Olowookere earned a Bachelor’s in Aquaculture and Fisheries Management at the Federal University of Agriculture (Abeokuta, Nigeria) in 2016. After graduation, she worked in Triton Aqua Africa Limited as supervisor in the production and management of African Catfish and Tilapia. She proceeded to work with Aquatic Hub Afrique Network, one of the leading aquaculture firms in Nigeria, with the skills in the management of genetically improved tilapia and African catfish. Damilola joined the Giraldez Lab in May 2023 as a Postgraduate Associate.

Miguel Ángel Delgado Toscano

Miguel Ángel earned his undergraduate degree in Biotechnology and specialization diploma in Bioinformatic Analysis from Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Spain. He then started his master’s degree in Molecular Biosciences at Universität Heidelberg, Germany, where he is currently majoring in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology. There, he became a member of the laboratory of Jochen Wittbrodt at the Centre for Organismal Studies to work on the development of cardiac and retinal organoids and investigate the fundamental biology of the retinal stem cell niche in the Japanese medaka. Miguel Ángel joined the Giraldez Lab in January 2023 as a postgraduate research associate and is currently applying expansion microscopy to study 3D genome organization in the zebrafish embryo.


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.

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