Mylena Santander,  Research Intern (July-Dec 2022)

BSc. in Genetics, University of Misiones, Argentina
MSc. in Biological Sciences, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

My interests include many topics in evolutionary biology, especially how eukaryotic genomes evolve. As an undergraduate student, the research topics I was interested in included the chromosome evolution of Orthoptera, and the dynamics and differentiation of B- and neo-sex chromosomes. As a master candidate, I studied the repetitive DNA content in the genomes of jellyfishes and their association with genome size change. I am interested in the dynamics of transposable elements, the genomic mechanisms of repression and the de-regulation of these elements, and their impact on genome evolution. I enjoy taking photographs of nature and my friends, trekking/hiking, and snorkeling.

Matthew McCormack, Research Intern (Jul-Oct 2022)

BA in Natural Sciences (Genetics), University of Cambridge, UK

During my undergraduate studies, I worked in a microbiology lab focussing on developing novel combination therapies for antibiotic persistent E. coli. I am now in my second year of my Ph.D. where I am studying the mechanisms of mitochondrial DNA recombination and repair. My background is primarily in molecular biology, and I hope to develop some bioinformatics experience as a research intern at OIST. In particular, I am interested in studying mitochondrial genome evolution in animals such as corals and scale insects. Outside of my research I enjoy running and learning languages.

Yong Heng Phua, PhD Student (Rotation Student May-Aug 2022)

BSc. in Biology, Hokkaido University, Japan

I have been working on different species of benthic dinoflagellates (Coolia, Ostreopsis, and Amphidinium spp.) during my undergraduate course. I have also worked for five months as a research intern in the Husnik Unit and started exploring the role of bacterial symbionts in diverse aspects of dinoflagellate biology (e.g. toxin production or photosynthesis). During my rotation, I plan to explore symbiotic interactions between marine dinoflagellates from Okinawa and their endosymbionts. When I am not working, I am usually cooking or hiking in the mountains.

Mei Shimizu, Research Intern (Oct 2021 - Mar 2022; Jun 2022 - Sep 2022)

BSc. in Biology, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada

During my bachelor’s, I was in a molecular and computational evolution lab in which I studied protein evolution using computational tools. I used simulations to study how limitation in the space of possible phenotypic changes shapes the course of evolution. I am interested in understanding evolutionary constraints and patterns by incorporating both computational and experimental approaches. Apart from my research, I enjoy drawing and exploring new places.

Cong Liu, OIST Rotation Student (May-Aug 2022)

MRes. in Computational Methods in Ecology and Evolution, Imperial College London, UK
BSc. in Biotechnology (Biochemistry), Sun Yat-sen University, China

I am interested in host-microbiome symbiosis and want to look into how such relationships have evolved and  are maintained. I studied evolutionary genomics of mangroves for my bachelor thesis and during my master course, I studied metagenomic data analysis. Beside working, I enjoy reading and traditional musicals.

Arno Hagenbeek, OIST Rotation Student (May-Aug 2022)

MSc. in Bioinformatics, Wageningen University, Netherlands
BSc. & MSc. in Biology, Wageningen University, Netherlands

I am interested in microbial biology, particularly microbe-microbe or microbe-host interactions and their evolution. My previous projects have mostly involved computational analyses of bacterial genomes, so now in the Husnik unit I am taking my chance to do some wet lab work. My rotation will involve the culturing, sequencing and analyzing of various mutualistic and pathogenic Ophiocordyceps species (commonly known as zombie ant fungi). In my free time I enjoy playing piano, hiking, and martial arts.

Javier Tejeda Mora, PhD Student

BSc. in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, UNAM, Mexico


I am interestred in the underlaying paterns that hide within the sea of information that recent techniques have allowed access to. I did my bachelor thesis project at CICESE in Mexico where I was introduced to metabolomics. I analyzed data from metabolites of a wide range of microorganisms. During my PhD in the Husnik Unit, my aim is to perform metabolomics analyses that will help to elucidate diverse host-symbiont interactions. Outside of work I enjoy sports (mainly those that involve a raquet) and videogames

Mariia Naumova, Research Intern (from Apr 2022)

BSc. in Biology (Cell Biology and Histology), Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine

My research interests are broad areas of cell biology, histology, and various microscopy techniques. During my undergraduate studies, I have been studying S6K1 isoforms to expand our knowledge of cellular signaling. In the Husnik Unit, I will focus on evolutionary cell biology of single-celled eukaryotes. Besides science, I enjoy studying the art of kyudo with the Kyiv archery club "真弓会". Also, I spend my free time playing computer games and learning Japanese.

Maria Eduarda Alves dos Santos, JSPS Postdoctoral Research Fellow

PhD in Marine Science, University of the Ryukyus, Japan
MSc. in Coastal and Oceanic Systems, Federal University of Paraná, Brazil
BSc. in Oceanography, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil

I am interested in understanding the processes that shape the origin and distribution of marine species. Currently, my work focuses on the two most common protists associated with corals: dinoflagellates of the family Symbiodiniaceae and the apicomplexan lineage of corallicolids. My research combines fieldwork and different “omics” approaches, including genomics, transcriptomics, and spatial metabolomics, to shed light on the diversity and functions of these symbioses. I have worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of the Ryukyus and as a visiting fellow at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands. I am passionate about Brazilian music, good beer, and summertime (even better when combined).

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Courtney M. Dunphy, JSPS Postdoctoral Research Fellow

PhD in Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, Northeastern University, USA
BSc. in Environmental Sciences, University of Texas, USA

I am broadly interested in coral reef microbial ecology and how bacteria and other microorganisms interact with and regulate coral reef ecosystems. Specifically, how coral-associated microbial communities across coral species provide resistance and resilience to both anthropogenic and environmental stressors from the perspective of genetics, spatial patterns, and functional diversity. In particular, my research at OIST relates to uncovering the underlying mechanisms structuring coral microbiomes and elucidating their functional contributions to coral host health and climate resilience. Outside of the lab, you’ll find me hanging out with my dog, Chopper, hiking, biking, and/or exploring any and all food and beverage scenes.

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Jinyeong Choi, NRF Postdoctoral Research Fellow

PhD & MSc. in Entomology, Seoul National University, South Korea
BSc. in Applied Biology, Kangwon National University, South Korea

I am interested in the evolution of plant-feeding insects and their microbial symbionts. Specifically, my research focuses on understanding the role of symbiont replacements and host niche expansion on diversification of scale insects. Previously, I have studied the taxonomy and phylogeny of scale insects, especially mealybugs (Pseudococcidae) and soft scales (Coccidae). In my research, I try to combine comparative genomics, microscopy, insect systematics, ecology, and phylogenomics to approach my scientific questions. To have even more fun, I enjoy outdoors activities such as swimming, skin diving, fly fishing, as well as collecting scale insects!

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Dewi Langlet, Staff Scientist

PhD & MSc. in Environmental Sciences, Angers University, France

I am interested in the role of protists in benthic biogeochemical cycles. My research is especially focused on the effects of anthropogenic disturbances such as anoxia, heatwaves and microplastic pollution on foraminifera and their symbionts. I am studying their ecology, metabolism, behavior as well as their impact on sediment geochemistry to better understand their role in benthic ecosystem functioning. I previously worked as a JSPS fellow at JAMSTEC and as a postdoctoral researcher at Lille University. Besides science, I enjoy rugby, photography, and playing board games.

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Yumiko Masukagami, Research Technician

PhD in Veterinary Microbiology, University of Melbourne, Australia
BSc. in Veterinary Science, University of Miyazaki, Japan

I am interested in host-symbiont interactions and reductive genome evolution in bacteria. My research focuses on how the simplest self-replicating bacteria such as Mycoplasma spp. persist in the host and how bacteria become symbiotic in the host cells. I previously worked as a postdoc at the National Institute of Animal Health in Tsukuba and in the Membranology Unit at OIST. Apart from science, I enjoy my time with family and our cats, badminton, and exploring Okinawa.

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Pradeep Palanichamy, PhD Student

MSc. in Applied Microbiology, Vellore Institute of Technology, India
B.Tech in Biotechnology, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, India

I have a long-term scientific interest and fascination for insect-microbe symbiosis because it can provide novel avenues for the control of agricultural pest insects through targeted manipulation of the symbionts or the insect-symbiont associations. In particular, I am interested in studying the functional role of bacterial endosymbionts and other microbes in insects adaptation, nutrition, defense, metabolism, detoxification, immune functions and pest control. Insect symbionts can be also interesting sources of biotechnological applications. In the Husnik Unit, my research focuses on the interplay between scale insects and their symbiotic microbes using microscopy, molecular and omics techniques. Apart from work, I enjoy cricket, football, table tennis and playing video games.

Kimberlie Ward, Research Technician

MRes & BSc. (Hons) in Marine Biology, Plymouth University, UK

I am interested in evolution and the marine environment. I obtained my MRes in 2015 looking at the origin of synaptic transmission in Porifera. In my spare time, I enjoy baking, the outdoors, and playing football with OIST FC.

Machiko Shiomi, Research Unit Administrator


I joined the unit in June 2021. My role is to provide administrative support to the unit members to ensure smooth running of the unit. I was born and grew up in Okinawa, and after spending 4 years in Tokyo and 6 years in the U.S., I returned back to my hometown. Outside of work, I enjoy catching fish and bugs with my children.










Iines Salonen, Visiting Postdoctoral Researcher (2021-2022)

PhD in Aquatic Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
MSc. & BSc. in Microbiology, University of Helsinki, Finland

I am a marine microbiologist and my research revolves around the single-celled life of the benthic ecosystem. Currently, I am a postdoctoral fellow at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) where I study the ecology and symbioses of foraminifera, deep-sea unicellular eukaryotes. Here at OIST my aim is to include single-cell genomics into that research. Previously, I have worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki, where my work focused on developing eDNA-based tools for marine benthic monitoring. Besides work, I enjoy being outside as much as possible, hiking, swimming and exploring new places.

Daitian Xu, Research Intern (Dec 2021 - Mar 2022)

BSc. in Applied Biosciences, Marine Biology, Tohoku University, Japan

I am currently a senior undergraduate student at Tohoku University. My research experience is with eDNA and eukaryotic DNA extraction and analysis. My senior research project is: Deep-sea adaptation mechanism of deep-sea fish in relation to osmolyte trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) levels. In the past three years, I have mainly studied the intertidal zone, where I conducted fieldwork for several times. Here at OIST, I am looking forward to studying and comprehending different ecosystems, mangroves and coral reefs, by investigating the dinoflagellate, red algal, and diatom symbionts of marine foraminifera in Okinawa. In my spare time, I would like to explore local restaurants and visit more places in Okinawa.

Olivia Millar, Research Intern (Oct 2021 - Mar 2022)

BSc. in Biochemistry, University College London, UK

My main research interests are within microbiology, and specifically within an infectious context. My undergraduate dissertation was based on Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and focused on resuscitation promoting factors and the novel therapies surrounding the use of these factors. I have a great appreciation for the complex mechanisms that allow such tiny organisms to thrive, and I am interested in studying these interactions further. My hobby is basically just listening to a lot of music.

Rahel Ruppli, OIST Rotation Student (Sep-Dec 2021)

BSc. in Cell Biology, University of Bern, Switzerland
MSc. in Immunology, University of Bern, Switzerland


For my master’s degree I worked in an allergy research lab, focusing on inhibitory mechanism in human basophils. Here at OIST I had the opportunity to explore interests in new fields of biology, including neuroscience and evolutionary biology. During this rotation, I’m looking forward to investigating differences in symbionts of coral reef foraminifera (Okinawa 'star sand') and their contribution to adapting to varying microhabitats. In my free time I enjoy exploring Japan and kayaking.


Chihiro Arasaki, Research Unit Administrator


I joined the Husnik Unit in April 2020 when Prof. Husnik joined OIST. My job as a research unit administrator is to provide administrative support for the unit members. Outside work, I enjoy baking breads and biscuits, and knitting.

Koh Ishikawa, Research Intern (2020)

BSc. student of Medial Biosciences, Imperial College London, UK

I am currently an undergraduate studying Medical Biosciences at Imperial College London (UK). I am from Okinawa, but I have been studying abroad for most of my life, so it was nice to stay in Okinawa for an internship. During the internship, I mostly worked with marine protists such as diplonemids and foraminifera. I was involved in projects on 3D electron microscopy (SBF-/FIB-SEM) and I also helped establish single cell genomics and transcriptomics protocols for a pipetting robot in the lab. In my free time, I enjoy playing basketball, volleyball and going fishing. Joining the sports clubs in OIST is definitely recommended!

Zhuli Cheng, OIST Rotation Student (Jan-Apr 2022)

BSc. in Medical Humanities, Peking University, China
MSc. in Animal Behaviour, University of Exeter, UK

I am a first-year PhD student studying evolutionary biology at OIST. I worked on the evolution and ecology of social behaviours in rhesus monkeys for my master’s degree. During the rotation with the Husnik Unit, I wish to gain understanding of evolution at the cellular level and learn more about our microbial cousins. In my free time, I enjoy taking a walk, swimming, and entertaining my neighbour’s cat.

Kamila Kozik, OIST Rotation Student (Jan-Apr 2021)

MSc. in Animal Bioengineering, Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Poland

I have a master's degree in animal bioengineering, but I decided to follow the path of cell biology and that is why I had worked at IIMCB in Warsaw for 4 years on a project devoted to receptor tyrosine kinase endocytosis in human cancer cells. I have experience in synthesis of nanoparticles and had tried to use multi-walled carbon nanotubes as a drug delivery system. I also like confocal microscopy and anything that can be fluorescently stained and visualized. At Husnik Unit I am developing my interest in marine microorganisms, in particular, I will focus on imaging of coral symbioses. In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, spending time outdoors and playing board games with my friends.

Sourjya Baibhabee Nath, OIST Rotation Student (Jan-Apr 2021)

MSc. & BSc. in Biological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, India

I am interested in animal behavior and genetics. I did my master’s project partly at the Seoul National University in South Korea and at the Oklahoma State University in the US. I studied the relationship between MHC-II alleles and kin recognition behavior in Bufo gargarizans tadpoles. During my rotation in the Husnik Unit, my aim is to perform comparative genomics and microscopy of various endosymbiotic bacteria found in bacteriocytes of mealybugs. During my leisure time, I enjoy cooking new cuisines and going out drinking with friends.