Current Lab Members

Name Position Email Phone
Adakkattil, Ramesh Predoc +49 351 210-2445
Cook, Katelyn Camille Postdoc
Fernandez, Letitia Predoc
Genova, Mariya Postdoc
Jordan, Mareike Postdoc +49 351 210-2479
Karasavvidi, Athina Hiwi
Kiesel, Petra Technician +49 351 210-2446
LaJoie, Dollie Postdoc
Lenz, Swantje ELBE-Postdoc
Nievergelt, Adrian Postdoc
von Appen, Alexander Group Leader +49 351 210-1250
von der Weth, Esther Predoc

Petra Kiesel

Technician (since 2021)

Technician MPI-CBG Dresden, Group of Gaia Pigino 2012-2021

I am very fortunate to be able to work in a profession that I enjoy very much. Research in general was something that fascinated me from an early age, which is why I completed my training as an agricultural-technical assistant at the Federal Agricultural Research Center in Braunschweig.

In my previous professional positions (at the German Primate Center in Göttingen and at the Georg August University in Göttingen), I always had the opportunity to work with exciting methods, great colleagues and fantastic researchers.

In 2012, here in Dresden at the MPI, I had the unique opportunity to gain experience in cell culture, fluorescence microscopy, room temperature and cryo electron microscopy in Gaia Pigino's lab.

Since 2021 I have been able to contribute and expand this experience in Alexander's research group. Being a technical assistant in a research group means being a multitasking ninja in general laboratory management and always ready to learn new things. Since it is important to me to broaden my own horizon and to show how exciting research work can be, I organize seminars for TAs and student internships with other colleagues at the institute.

Mareike Jordan

Postdoc (since 2021)

PhD MPI-CBG Dresden, Group of Gaia Pigino 2016-2020
MSc and BSc, Biochemistry, University of Bayreuth, 2009-2016

Proteins make the most beautiful structures! I love to visualize them with cryo-EM and especially subtomogram averaging. It’s so mesmerizing to zoom into their tiny world and try to unveil their mechanisms from their structure. Studying the pretty IFT machinery in cilia during my PhD taught us how its motor proteins are regulated during anterograde transport to avoid engaging in a tug-of-war. Now as a PostDoc, I am freezing and stalking the ESCRT machinery in cryo-EM to understand how it remodels membranes.

In my non-scientific time, I enjoy making pretty things from glass in the Tiffany technique, but I am also in for all sorts of other crafts and making furniture – collecting new hobbies is my hobby :) I love hiking in the mountains (best above the clouds), play volleyball, and just started dancing LindyHop.

Dollie LaJoie

Postdoc (since 2022)

PhD University of Utah, USA, Group of Katharine S. Ullman

During my PhD with Dr. Katharine S. Ullman (University of Utah, USA) I studied how cells compartmentalize and specify the composition of the inner nuclear membrane environment following open mitosis. Building on these concepts as von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow in the von Appen lab, I bridge structural and cellular biology to understand how coordinated cytoskeletal and nuclear membrane remodeling influence cell fate.

Although my favorite thing to do is think about the nucleus, I enjoy hanging out with my cats, exploring the outdoors, roller skating and the sport of roller derby, and viewing modern abstract art.

Swantje Lenz

Postdoc (since 2022)

PhD crosslinking mass spectrometry at Rappsilber lab
BSc and MSc Biotechnology at TU Berlin

During my PhD I worked on crosslinking mass spectrometry, with a focus on bioinformatic tools for data analysis and computational structural modelling approaches. Although I am mainly doing computational work, I have the privilege of working in close contact with several experimentalists. In the von Appen lab I will continue to work on crosslinking MS and integrative structural modelling.

Katelyn Cook

Postdoc (since 2023, shared with Nadler group)

PhD Molecular Biology at Princeton University, USA -- group of Dr. Ileana M. Cristea
BA Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at University of Colorado Boulder, USA -- group of Dr. Gia K. Voeltz

The first confocal movie I ever saw of the mammalian endoplasmic reticulum (ER) -- in my second year of college at the desk of Dr. Gia Voeltz -- was so surprisingly beautiful that I switched from studying history to science and have been obsessed with organelle biology ever since. I want to know how biological components are organized, at the subcellular level, into a diversity of specialized shapes that achieve specific functions. During my bachelor's thesis, I asked how acute stress changes ER structure, and during my PhD I investigated how human viruses remodel organelles. Now, I am bridging perspectives to explore how protein-lipid interactions construct organelle membranes across molecular scales.

Outside of science, I frankly have far too many interests and not nearly enough time in the day. I love challenges and new experiences in general, whether it be food, music, crafting, exploring, or sports. Before moving to Europe, I did a 6-month solo road trip across the USA with my cat, cello, and gravel bike. In Dresden, I find myself prioritizing drawing, lifting weights, cooking, spending time with colorful friends, and taking advantage of the Deutschlandticket for cycling trips on the weekend.

Ramesh Adakkattil

Predoc (since 2021)

BSc and MSc Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Bhopal, India, 2016-2021

Before moving to Germany for my graduate studies, I studied at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Bhopal, majoring in Chemistry and Biology. In my master's project, I designed and synthesised organic molecules that deliver site-specific bioconjugation of proteins for protein engineering under Prof. Vishal Rai in the organic and bioconjugate chemistry lab. I am interested in interdisciplinary translational research and would like to combine the toolsets of chemistry and physics to address problems in biology. In line with this intent, at the MPI, I am investigating the molecular mechanism of membrane and chromatin remodelling during nuclear envelope reformation.

Outside of the lab, I spend a decent amount of time in my kitchen trying new dishes and brewing coffee. In my free time I love to read novels or watch aviation videos, draw and occasionally walk around the city to find out the best cafes.

Esther von der Weth

Predoc (since 2023)

MSc Systems Biology University of Heidelberg
BSc Human and Molecular Biology University of Saarland

In my undergrad studies I mostly worked on analyzing next generation sequencing data. During my masters program at Heidelberg I fell in love with structural biology during a biophysics lecture held by Rasmus Schröder. This led me to the newly forming von Appen lab as a master student. Together with Petra Kiesel I was working on setting up a single particle analysis workflow to resolve ESCRT-Filaments. Now in my PhD, I am working on another set of filaments, the nuclear Lamins. To understand nuclear Lamina formation, I reconstitute Lamin polymerization in vitro. To resolve the structure, conformational changes and protein interactions required for Lamin polymerization I employ an integrative structural biology approach. I combine cryo-EM techniques together with crosslinking mass spectronomy and structure prediction tools.   

I not only like to explore within science but also out in the wild. Whenever I find the time, I travel, explore new food, new cultures, new music or new languages or new plants. My most favorite thing todo however is practicing piano and going to classical concerts. You will occasionally find me down stairs practicing.

Bingkun Li

ERASMUS + International Master in Innovative Medicine (since 2021)

Junior Specialist, University of California, San Francisco, USA, 2019-2021
BSc Biological Sciences, Sichuan University Chengdu, China, 2015-2019

I am interested in deciphering the biophysical principles underlying biomacromolecule behaviors, especially the ones involved in orchestrating the dynamics of genome organization. My long-term research interest is to combine both experimental and computational tools to reach a quantitative understanding in the architecture of the human genome.

I am currently working on characterizing the phase-separating and membrane-remodeling properties of proteins that are essential in maintaining membrane homeostasis during regulated exocytosis.

When I’m not running around the lab, I’m an avid museum, concert, and theatre-goer. I also enjoy spending time in nature and hanging out with local bird populations. My favorite dinosaur is mamenchisaurus hochuanensis, in case you were wondering.

Friendly Guests

Adrian Nievergelt

PostDoc (Gaia Pigino's lab, since 2018)


PhD Nanotechnology at EPF Lausanne, 2013-2018
MSc and BSc Mechanical Engineering in ETH Zürich, 2007-2013

I am working on precision genome editing and the structure and function 
of ciliary components in the green alga Chlamydomonas. I spend my free 
time on cooking, reading and computers.

Aditya Chhatre

Predoc (Gaia Pigino's lab)


Joaquín Hinojosa

Internship student 07/2022 - 10/2022