Members

Nicole Suzuki, Research Intern (Oct 2022 - Mar 2023)

BSc. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Northeastern University, USA
 

I am interested in the impact of climate change on host-symbiont interactions in marine ecosystems. In my undergraduate studies, I assisted in a lab tracking allometric coral growth. In the Husnik unit, I will study how ocean acidification and warming affect algal symbiosis in large benthic foraminifera. Outside of the lab, I love to bake vegan desserts, go thrift shopping, and explore new places in Okinawa.

Vasyl Vaskivskyi, Research Intern (Oct 2022 - Mar 2023)

BSc. in Veterinary Medicine, National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine
MSc. in Molecular Biology, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine
 

I am interested in the evolution of plastids. Plastid is an ancient organelle that originated thanks to the endosymbiosis with photosynthetic cyanobacteria. Some modern organisms also happen to have similar symbioses. In my project, I want to use a protist that bears a photosynthetic cyanobacterial symbiont and compare it to a heterotrophic relative from the same lineage. My goal is to expose differences in gene expression that allow this symbiosis to arise and thrive. Before coming to OIST, I worked as an Imaging Bioinformatician at Wellcome Sanger Institute and HuBMAP Consortium in the UK where I focused on the development of processing pipelines for imaging spatial omics data such as CODEX, CellDive, MIBI, and IMS. In my free time, I enjoy getting lost in new places, hiking, computer graphics, and a bit of math.

Natkamol Jeamsinkul, Research Intern (Oct 2022 - Mar 2023)

BSc. in Biochemistry, King's College London, UK
 

My main research interests are in microbiology and cell biology. For my undergraduate degree, my dissertation was based on studying the functions of the potential mucin-degrading chitinase enzymes secreted from the pathogenic bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and how they may facilitate invasion into host cells. I have a great interest in microorganisms and would like to spend my time during this internship studying different protists and their symbiotic interactions. Apart from science I enjoy going on walks, reading, and doodling.

Anastasia Borodina, Research Intern (Oct 2022 - Mar 2023)

BSc. and MSc. in Biology, Voronezh State University, Russia
 

My path in biology began with research in biophysics. As an undergraduate student, I studied the patterns of structural organization of glycosidases: internal cavities, tunnels, and pores in the composition of monomers and dimers of exo- and endoinulinases. As a master's candidate, I was inspired by research in the field of protistology, and my master's thesis was devoted to the study of morphology, ecology, and molecular phylogeny of telonemids. I am interested in reconstructing the phylogenetic tree and the early evolution of eukaryotes through genomic and morphological studies of protists, as well as in studying their biodiversity and ecology. Apart from my research, I am passionate about learning to play musical instruments, hiking, painting watercolors, and learning Spanish and Arabic.

 

Arno Hagenbeek, Ph.D. Student (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 and microbe-host interactions. I am especially intrigued by symbiotic microbiomes as they usually involve a complex network of interactions between the microbes as well as the hosting organism. Previously, I have analyzed microbiomes in a wide variety of organisms, ranging from Arabidopsis rhizosphere to the human intestine. For my Ph.D. thesis in the Husnik unit, I aim to map the microbiomes of microscopic marine invertebrates which remain highly understudied. In my free time, I enjoy playing piano, hiking, and martial arts.

Yong Heng Phua, Ph.D. 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.

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Dovile Barcyte, JSPS Short-Term Postdoctoral Fellow (Sep 2022 - Mar 2023)

BSc. in Ecology, University of Vilnius, Lithuania
MSc. and Ph.D. in Ecology, Charles University, Czech Republic
Current Position (2022): Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Ostrava, Czech Republic
 

I am an algae aficionado! I like to observe their different shapes and features and I am particularly interested in their genetic diversity and phylogenetic relationships. During my career, I sampled some unusual habitats ranging from extremely acidic lakes to cold Arctic habitats and, believe me or not, I always found some new gems! Green algae will always be my first love but studies of peculiar eustigmatophytes are what gets my bills paid. I am also engaged in projects dealing with quirks of organellar genomes (from extreme expansion to high reduction) improving our knowledge of the plastid and mitochondrion evolution in protists. Recently, I got excited about algal endosymbionts – what an unexplored niche, I thought. It always takes two (or more) to tango and I am curious to know which of the partners leads the dance. Well, I won't lie, I also love fine chocolate and wine!

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

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Vera Emelianenko, , Rotation Student (Jan - April 2023)

BSc. in Biology, Moscow State University, Russia

 

I am broadly interested in marine invertebrates and their relationships with symbionts. During my rotation, I will compare Symbiodiniaceae distribution across different hosts (corals, foraminifera, possibly clams) and environments (seawater and sediment). Besides that, I am extremely curious to know what kinds of animals you can find in different environments around Okinawa, so I’ll be also helping with Arno’s project exploring marine and mangrove meiofauna. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, snorkeling, and diving (still haven’t done it much in Okinawa!), also trying to learn photography and social dancing (such as salsa and west coast swing).

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.

Sachie Matsuoka, Research Unit Administrator

 

I've been working as an RUA ever since I moved to Okinawa in 2013. I'm grateful for the chance to be a part of ECBSU, and hope to contribute to unit operation in some way. I'm interested in all living creatures (particularly birds), folk crafts, farming, and marine activities.

 


ALUMNI


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 the 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.

Matthew McCormack, Research Intern (Jul-Oct 2022)

BA in Natural Sciences (Genetics), University of Cambridge, UK
Current position (2022): Ph.D. student, 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.

Mariia Naumova, Research Intern (from Apr 2022)

BSc. in Biology (Cell Biology and Histology), Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine
Current position (2022): MSc. student, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
 

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.

Mylena Santander,  Research Intern (July-Dec 2022)

BSc. in Genetics, University of Misiones, Argentina
MSc. in Biological Sciences, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
Current Position (2022): Ph.D. student, Institute of Subtropical Biology, Argentina
 

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.

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

BSc. in Biology, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada
Current Position (2022): MSc. student, LMU Munich, Germany
 

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.

Nicolas Schroder, Research Intern (Oct-Dec 2022)

BSc. in Life Science, University of Munster, Germany
MSc. in Life Science and Host-Pathogen Interactions, University of Munster, Germany & University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
Current Position (2023): Ph.D. student, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Germany

 

My main scientific interests revolve around ecology and evolution of host-microbe interactions. In the past, I have been working on parasites and bacterial infections but the focus of my research shifted towards the evolutionary and environmental microbiology of mutualistic bacteria and viruses. In the past few years, I transitioned from molecular biology and microbiology to comparative genomics but I try to combine fields in my research. During and after my master’s, I primarily worked with insects as hosts, but following my internship at OIST, I will make my childhood dream come true and switch to marine systems for my PhD. Outside of research, I enjoy scuba diving, lacrosse, concerts, food, and 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.

 

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.

 

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
Current Position (2022): MSc. student, Imperial College London, UK
 

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 (Aug-Sep 2020)

BSc. in Medial Biosciences, Imperial College London, UK
Current Position (2022): MSc. student, University 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.

Daniel Méndez-Sánchez, Visiting Research Student (Oct 2022 - Dec 2022)

BSc. in Biology, Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Mexico
MSc. Biological Sciences, National Autonomous University of Mexico
Current Position (2022): Ph.D. student, Charles University, Czech Republic
 

During my academic career, I have studied ciliates (Ciliophora), particularly free-living ones using morphological traits and molecular markers to unveil their diversity in freshwater and marine environments. I am currently enrolled as a Ph.D. student at Cepicka’s lab at Charles University (Czech Republic) where I am focusing on anaerobic ciliates and more specifically their relationship with methanogenic archaea. My plan at OIST is to learn and use bioinformatic tools to study the symbiont and host genomes to understand the evolution of their relationship. Apart from science, I do enjoy looking at ciliates under the microscope, but also listen to goth-rock/metal and post-punk music, attend concerts, read about bats (although I forget almost everything), and write never-ending nightmares and poems. 

Maya Ann Street, OIST Rotation Student  (Sep-Dec 2022)

BSc. in Biochemistry, Arizona State University, USA
 

My undergraduate background is in biochemistry, but I am interested in the structure and evolution of various pathogens. For my rotation, I will be studying a class of Radiolaria called Acantharea and their endosymbionts. I want to know more about the changes the endosymbionts undergo and how those changes are triggered and controlled by the hosts. While these are not pathogens, I think Acantharea are amazing and the techniques I will learn in this project will be extremely useful to me in the future. In my free time, I enjoy gardening, drawing, and trying new foods!