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Olivier Pertz, Professor

Olivier received a PhD in Biophysical Chemistry from the Biocenter of the University Basel. He then performed his Postdoc at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, where he developed new technologies to image signaling dynamics in single living cells. Before joining the Institute of Cell Biology at the University of Bern, he was a Swiss National Science Foundation Professor at the Department of Biomedicine of the University of Basel. In the lab, he tries to convince people to produce ever more images of cellular signaling, and to setup new computational approaches to make sense of these complex datasets. In his free time, as a good swiss person, he has interests as diverse as climbing, bouldering, mountaineering, and ski-mountaineering, as well as educating two teenagers.

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Paolo Armando Gagliardi, Postdoc

Raised between vineyards in south-Piedmont in Italy, Paolo studied biology in Torino where he later received a PhD in molecular medicine. During his Master, PhD and first postdoc, Paolo worked in the Candiolo Cancer Institute, a research hospital close to Torino in Italy. His expertise ranges from cell biology and biochemistry to advanced and super resolution microscopy. Among his major achievements, Paolo discovered a new signalling pathway that connects the kinase PDK1 to myosin contraction through the activation of MRCKα. By studying the latter protein, he found that its cleavage by caspases is an important event in the control of actomyosin cytoskeleton during apoptosis and epithelial extrusion. Paolo joined the Pertz lab in 2017, aimed at deciphering the mechanisms of collective signalling dynamics events in epithelia and the effects of oncogenic mutations on such behaviour. Here, he found the right environment, technologies and expertise to carry on his project. Paolo has perfectly integrated in the Swiss atmosphere and in his free time he enjoys trail running, hiking and snowboarding.

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Maciej Dobrzyński, Postdoc

Maciej grew up in the North of Poland. In 2003 he earned master’s degree in physics in the field of theoretical biophysics at the Warsaw University. A year later, he went on to purse a PhD in the Centre for Mathematics and Computer Science (CWI) in Amsterdam. There, he worked on modelling spatial stochastic biochemical networks. He employed first-passage theory to model gene expression and diffusion-limited reactions. In 2010, he joined Systems Biology Ireland at UCD Dublin to work with Boris Kholodenko on the effect of cell-cell heterogeneity on signalling networks. Thanks to a vibrant Dublin start-up scene he also became a data scientist for TickerFit – a digital platform that assists patients in cardiac rehabilitation. As a graduate of SFI Industry Fellowship, he joined AstraZeneca in Cambridge UK where he worked in R&D department with Claus Bendtsen analysing and modelling single-cell data from drug screens. Since June 2016, Maciej has been working in Bern in the group of Olivier Pertz. He has set up computational infrastructure and developed software pipelines to analyse images and data from single-cell time-lapse experiments. He is developing statistical approaches to quantify and extract features from time series to identify distinct dynamic behaviours that emerge in cancer cell populations. When away from a computer, he enjoys playing piano and keeps active by swimming, biking, hiking, and skiing.

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Yannick Blum, Postdoc

I was born and raised in Basel. I studied biology at the Biozentrum, University of Basel and obtained my master and a PhD degree in the lab of Markus Affolter studying vascular development in the zebrafish embryo. During this time imaging became one of my favorite technique in biology. After a yearlong travel around the world I joined Olivier’s lab in late 2013 due to the state of the art imaging techniques used in the lab.

I work on different projects trying to discover new feedback control of signaling pathways. This usually involves microfluidic devices that allow timed control of growth factors or drugs addition as well as the use of specific biosensors to measure the activity of key proteins of signaling pathways (Erk sensor, Akt sensor). Activity measurements of specific input provide us with key information on dynamic properties of signaling pathways. With this data and the help of mathematical modelling we can infer novel feedbacks necessary to explain the observed results.

During my free time I enjoy typical swiss sports like skiing, snowboarding or mountain biking, but I also enjoy travelling to surf waves around the world.

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Kobus van Unen, Postdoc

Kobus van Unen was born and raised in Amsterdam. After finishing a Bachelor of Science in Psychobiology at the University of Amsterdam he continued with a Master of Science in Neurobiology at the same university and finished it in 2010 with distinction. During his master program he lived one year in Vancouver, Canada studying the control mechanism behind pre-synaptic equilibrative nucleoside transporters (ENTs) in the hippocampus of the rat in the group of Prof. Brian MacVicar. In September 2011 he started as a Ph.D. student in the group of Prof. Th.W.J. Gadella at the Molecular Cytology Department at the University of Amsterdam under daily supervision of dr. Joachim Goedhart. Here he used a combination of advanced fluorescent microscopy techniques and synthetic biology tools to unravel spatiotemporal aspects of GPCR and Rho GTPase signaling. Since the summer of 2016 Kobus continued his academic career as a Postdoctoral researcher in the group of Prof. O. Pertz at the Department of Cell Biology of the University of Bern, Switzerland. The current research project involves the acute perturbation of endogenous Rho GTPase signaling components involved in cell migration using state of the art gene editing techniques (CRISPR) and advanced fluorescent imaging techniques. During his free time Kobus loves to spend time with his family in the fresh Swiss mountain air. You can also regularly find him in one of the various Bernese swimming pools.

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Judith Trüb, technician

Judith got her apprenticeship as laboratory technician in chemistry from a company in the eastern part of Switzerland. Since then she passed different labs at ETH Zurich and University of Bern. She worked in biochemistry, plant sciences and molecular biology labs. Judith has a wide experience of working with mice. In the group of Olivier Pertz she organisies the daily routine of the lab and trains students in molecular biology. In her spare time she likes gardening, outdoor activities, reading and singing in a choir..

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Coralie Dessauges, PhD student

Coming from the middle of the Romandie, Coralie left her small village to study Life Sciences and Technologies at EPFL. During her master in Bioengineering, she used optical imaging techniques to study the mouse brain vasculature in the context of neurodegenerative diseases. Willing to acquire some hands-on in molecular biology, she then joined a research group at CHUV, where she worked on the NO/cGMP pathway and how its regulation may be altered by perinatal asphyxia.

Feeling better prepared to explore the world, she decided to cross the Röstigraben to join the group of Olivier Pertz in Bern and learn more about the MAPK network regulation. For this purpose, she developed an optogenetic system to activate the ERK signalling network in hundreds of cells with blue light and monitor ERK activity in each single cell. Using this system together with drugs and siRNA perturbations, she wants to find out which are the key signalling proteins involved in the regulation of the network.

Besides taking care of her cells, Coralie likes exploring the world inside, but also outside of Switzerland, running and dancing rock’n’roll.

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Pascal Ender, PhD student

Pascal grew up near the small town of Baden, Switzerland. He studied biology at the University of Zurich where he received a master’s degree in neuroscience in 2016. During his master thesis he performed research in the field of zebrafish brain development and developed his passion for imaging – driven science.

He then decided to join the new Pertz lab in Bern to pursue his PhD degree, because he was intrigued by the idea of combining imaging with quantitative single – cell biology. In his project he investigates spatio-temporal signalling dynamics in a 3D mammary epithelial cell system and how they are affected by oncogenic mutations.

Besides science he enjoys listening to and writing rock music, reading, running and cooking.

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Alberto Mattei, PhD student

I’d like to introduce myself as a very friendly person who belongs to Ticino, the italian-speaking canton of Switzerland. Growing in the mid-size city of Lugano under the influence of nearby Italy, I enjoyed uncomplicated lifestyle in a dynamic environment with open cultural exchanges. After the high school in Lugano, I joined the bilingual University of Fribourg to earn my Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences. I then continued my education program in Bern, where I graduated in the same field of biomedical sciences. My studies gave me an in-depth understanding of the complex integration between the main physiological systems of the body in healthy and pathological condition. Eventually, my master thesis took advantage of a 2D computational model of the cardiac action potential propagation. My goal was to investigate the so-called safety of propagation under post-infarction fibrotic condition.

I’m currently a Ph.D. student that works with patient-derived primary melanoma cell lines. A good half of metastatic melanomas harbors a BRAF V600E mutation that constitutively activates MAPK signaling cascade. My work focuses on deciphering how MAPK and Akt network acutely rewires (at timescales of hours) to withstand targeted BRAF V600E inhibition. Intercellular heterogeneity in MAPK signaling states enables survival in a subpopulation of cells. Main goal is to provide a rationale for combination drug-dosing schemes to better shut down MAPK- and Akt-mediated non-genetic resistance.

In my spare time, I enjoy nightlife and raving. As a swiss guy, I like of course hiking, but also football and fitness.

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Max Heydasch, PhD student

Originally from Germany, Max started his scientific career by doing a bachelor’s degree in medical biology at the Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands to subsequently complete his master’s degree in Neuroscience at the same University.

Although, both, his bachelor’s and master’s degree were awarded from the same university Max did pursue his scientific interest by completing his master’s research projects studying spinal cord plasticity at Sahlgrenska Academy Gothenburg, Sweden and developing a novel alginate based microchannel platform for studying the effects of neural innervation at the Institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine in Maastricht, the Netherlands.

Continuing to pursue his research interests in neuro regeneration he joined the Pertz lab in November 2017 to study the Rho-GTPase signalling network in protruding growth cones.

In his free time Max likes to try out new things, preferably outdoors, which over the years lead to such hobbies as Kayaking, Archery and Paragliding and since obtaining his Swiss paragliding licence in addition to his German one, he now is enjoying the full breath-taking freedom of the Swiss alps.

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Marc-Antoine Jacques, PhD student

I am a PhD student in Olivier’s lab since February 2018. I have a mixed background in biology, computer science and biophysics. I first studied biotechnology and biophysics at the ESBS and University of Strasbourg, France, where I graduated in September 2016. I then moved on to Bern for another Master formation in bioinformatics which I completed right before starting my PhD.

The aim of my PhD project is to bring new insights in cell signaling using recent advances in machine learning. Specifically, I am making use of artificial neural networks to study signaling pathway dynamics and their alterations by drugs and mutations. For this project, I am working very closely with Paolo and Maciej. Furthermore, the methods I am developing extend beyond the frame of cell signaling. They also provide general tools for biological time-series datasets by leveraging state of the art computer science techniques.

Out of my worktime, I fully enjoy the flexibility that Switzerland offers when it comes to traveling. Not only does the country offers some of the best landscapes in the world, its location also allows to reach France, Italy or Germany in a couple of hours!

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Thomas Höhener, PhD student

Thomas started his study at the university of applied science in Muttenz, near Basel and performed his bachelor thesis at the Swinbure University on the topic of coral bleaching. After his undergraduate degree he worked one year at Roche Diagnostics AG as a sensor development engineer in the R&D department. He then went for his master degree at the University of Bern where he joined the Pertz lab to do his master thesis. After this, he continued his work on deciphering downstream pathways of an optogenetic FGF-receptor 1 as a PhD student.

Besides deciphering signaling pathways, he likes programming, swimming in the beautiful Aare river and skiing.

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Cédric Walker, Master student

Born and raised in Lucerne I moved to Bern to complete my bachelors in computer science at the University of Berne and am now currently working on my Master thesis in bioinformatics and computational biology in the Pertz lab.

With a background in computer science I work on mostly on data pipelines and data analysis and helping to make sense of the vast amount of images produced in the lab.

Next to my Master thesis I also work as a scientific assistant at the Department of Consumer Behaviour at the University of Berne.

Computers also accompanying me in my free time but I still sometimes like to turn off the computer and learn ju-jitsu or go for a hike in the mountains.

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Benjamin Grädel, Master StudenT

I grew up close to Bern and started studying biology at the university of Bern in 2015. Since March 2019 I am a master student in Olivier Pertz's lab as part of the Master program in molecular life science.

I study the dynamics and structure of Podosome like structures (PLS) in migrating fibroblasts. For this purpose, we will use super resolution microscopy and live cell imaging.

In my time away from the lab I enjoy reading, and spending time outside.