"PhD Finished! What's next?" Discussion Panel:

Catherine McKenzie (Discussion chair)

My passion lies in advancing the field of gene therapy as an accessible therapeutic modality for devastating diseases of the nervous system. I have a dynamic history of independent research in combinatorial genetic engineering, molecular biology, cellular biology, and neuroscience. I work in a collaborative, matrix-based team focused on innovative molecular approaches dedicated to life altering genetic therapeutics.

Catherine McKenzie defended her PhD in 2018 in synthetic physiology at IST Austria and in 2021 completed her postdoctoral research at the Interdisciplinary Institute for Neuroscience in Bordeaux, France in next-generation optogenetics. As of 2022 she is a Discovery Scientist for Gene Therapy in Neuroscience and Rare Diseases at pRED Roche/Basel. 



Christopher Ahern is a professor of molecular physiology and biophysics at the University of Iowa and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute. He received his B.S. in chemistry and Ph.D. in membrane biophysics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He obtained postdoctoral training in the lab of Richard (Spike) Horn with a focus on voltage-gated sodium channel biophysics and chemical biology. He received additional training at the California Institute of Technology with Dennis Dougherty and Henry Lester on nonsense suppression approaches to genetic code expansion as it applies to ion channels.

The Ahern lab aims to advance our understanding of electrical signaling mechanisms in both nerves and muscles, with a current focus on ion channel mechanisms. The group uses electrophysiology, chemical biology and chemical genetics to study voltage-gated sodium and potassium channels.



Claire Colas is a senior computational scientist in structural biology at Solgate, a biopharmaceutical startup focusing on developing drugs against Solute Carrier Transporters (SLCs).

After obtaining her PhD at the Pasteur institute in Paris, she started working on SLCs during her time at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and the University of Vienna. She used multidisciplinary approaches combining modeling methods and experimental validation, to study the structural determinants of binding of small molecules to SLCs

Christian Knittl-Frank is a MolTag PhD student in the group of Prof. Nuno Maulide (University of Vienna), where his research focuses on organic synthesis. Christian has spent his MolTag research stay abroad in the group of Prof. Lee Cronin (University of Glasgow), where he was investigating the digitization of chemical synthesis. In August 2023, he will rejoin the group of Prof. Cronin as a postdoctoral fellow to continue working on the development of digital chemistry and chemical automation.

Jasmin Morandell is an EMBO postdoctoral fellow at the Dept. for Cellular, Computational and Integrative Biology (CIBIO) at the University of Trento, Italy. There, her research focuses on non-coding RNA species and their involvement in Huntington`s Disease (HD). Specifically, she is investigating the functional role(s) of a circular RNA stemming from the HD gene locus and its potential as novel disease biomarker and/or molecular drug target. Prior to joining Dept. CIBIO in Spring 2022, Jasmin received her doctorate from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA) where she worked in the lab of Dr. Gaia Novarino, studying the pathophysiologic mechanisms driving genetic forms of neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Gaia Novarino is a member of the MolTag Faculty and Professor at ISTA. In 2021 she was appointed Vice President for Science Education at ISTA, where she oversees the science communication of basic science and research. The main interest of her laboratory is to understand the basic genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying epilepsy and cognitive disorders such as autism and intellectual disability. To do this, they combine whole exome sequencing with in vivo and in vitro modelling.

since 2019 Professor, ISTA

2014 – 2019 Assistant Professor, ISTA

2010 – 2013 Postdoc, UCSD (Joseph Gleeson Lab), La Jolla, USA

2006 – 2010 Postdoc, Center for Molecular Neurobiology, Hamburg, Germany and MDC/FMP (Thomas Jentsch Lab) Berlin, Germany

2006 PhD, University “La Sapienza“, Rome, Italy

David Siebert works at Schrödinger GmbH in Munich. In his role as Senior Account Manager he is leading the pre-sales team focusing on driving digital transformation in DACH territory. He studied chemistry at the University of Konstanz and conducted his master's degree at the "Helmholtz Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland" (HIPS) working on cyclic peptides as novel antibiotics in 2014.

He finished his PhD in 2018 at the TU Wien where he studied allosteric modulators for the alpha+/beta- interface of GABAA receptors under supervision of Assoc. Prof. Michael Schnürch, Assoc.Prof. Margot Ernst and Univ.Prof.  Marko Mihovilovic. In 2022 he received the "Dissertationspreis der AG Medizinische Chemie" from the GÖCH for his work during his PhD.