Lab members

Group leader

Heroen Verbruggen
E-mail: — Twitter: @heroenv
PhD: Ghent University, 2005
My interests span the fields of algal evolution, microbial symbiosis, genome biology and bioinformatics. I love computational simulation as a tool to explore ideas and methods, and nerdy science stuff in general.

Postdoctoral researchers

Kshitij Tandon
E-mail: — Twitter: @kt_microbes
PhD: Academia Sinica, 2020
I'm interested in microbial ecology, particularly questions about functional redundancy and coral holobiont functioning. I also have a keen interest in bioinformatics for metagenomics applications. My postdoc project focuses on coral ecogenomics.
Kavitha Uthanumallian, PhD candidate
PhD: University of Melbourne, 2023
E-mail: — Twitter: @kavithaplastid
I am interested in molecular evolution, particularly how organismal traits correspond with patterns of selection and drift.


Myles Courtney, BSc student
My interests lie in the broad domains of synthetic chemistry, algal and plant biodiversity, and chemical biology. I’m helping out with a few things around the lab as a way of getting more involved with science, and learning more about phycology.
Riyad Hossen, PhD candidate
MSc: University of Dhaka
My interest is on marine algae and I am using genome and transcriptome analysis to understand their evolutionary biology and how they interact with their environment.
Yunli (Eric) Hsieh, PhD candidate (with Zoran Nikoloski at MPI-MP)
MSc: National Taiwan University, 2019
E-mail: — Twitter: @Yunli_Eric
I am interested in coral-algal-bacteria interactions and the effect of climate change on microbiomes living with their hosts.
Juntong Hu, PhD candidate
MPhil: Hong Kong Baptist University, 2021
My research interests focus on the function of Ostreobium in the coral holobiont. I will integrate field sampling, manipulative experiments, and bioinformatics to investigate the functional interaction between Ostreobium spp. and the other components of the coral holobiont and Ostreobium's role across different coral life stages.
Owen McGinley, PhD candidate (Heazlewood lab)
MBiotech: University of Melbourne, 2019
I'm a PhD candidate interested in plant cell wall biology, particularly sulphated polysaccharide synthesis in red algae species.
Marisa Pasella, PhD candidate
MSc: Marche Polytechnic University, 2017
E-mail: — Twitter: @MarisaAlgae
My background is in algal ecophysiology. I am studying the photobiology of Ostreobium culture strains using a combination of physiological experiments, field work and comparative genomics.
Felix Powrie, MSc candidate
BSc: University of Melbourne, 2020
My interest is in population genetics and marine ecology. My current project is assessing turf algae biodiversity via the creation and implementation of a 16S rRNA metabarcode reference database.
Uthpala Pushpakumara, PhD candidate (with ANACC)
BSc/Hons: University of Sri Jayewardenepura, 2018
I have an interest in bacterial functions in ecosystems and have just started a PhD on algal-bacterial interactions.
Vinicius Salazar, PhD candidate (with @mixOmics_team and @hologenomics)
MSc: Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
E-mail: — Twitter: @vinisalazar_
My interests are split between marine microbiology and scientific computing. I am researching bioinformatics techniques in order to reconstruct microbial genomes from metagenomic data.
Ryan Sauermann, BSc student
I have an interest in biochemistry of marine organisms and bioinformatics. I'm building my skillset by helping out with a few projects in the lab.
Alasdair Sim, MSc candidate
BSc: University of Melbourne, 2021
I am working on long-read metabarcoding of algal turf habitats to expand our knowledge of biodiversity in these micro-ecosystems.
Alison Waskowicz, MSc student
BSc: University of Melbourne, 2021
I am interested in botany and marine biology, focusing on biodiversity, evolution, and ecology. I also love art and photography, and incorporating these into projects. I have been studying biodiversity of local turf algae, and my MSc will involve systematics of native turf species.

Join the lab!

We are always on the lookout for outstanding scientists (emerging and more established) to join us and work on science together. As a general rule, we will be looking for people that are critical thinkers, are highly motivated to carry out quality science and have outstanding writing skills.

As a postdoc: Project-funded postdoc positions will be listed on the home page of the lab website and advertised through Twitter and jobRxiv. Please be aware that if there is nothing listed there, we do not have project-funded positions available. We are always keen on postdoc candidates to join the lab through fellowships. For recent PhD graduates, the University of Melbourne has a McKenzie fellowship program that aims to attract top people to Melbourne. For people with a few years of postdoc experience under their belt, the Australian Research Council has DECRA fellowships. Please be aware that both are immensely competitive and applications will take substantial time to prepare, so please get in touch several months before the deadline. We are also happy to host postdocs on overseas fellowships (e.g. Marie Curie). Please get in touch with Heroen for any queries.

As a PhD student: The University of Melbourne has an outstanding PhD program with candidatures typically 3.5 years and no coursework or qualifying exams. Admission to the PhD program is typically linked to winning a scholarship, of which there are some available to both domestic (APA, MRS) and international (IPRS, MIRS) students, and they also typically come with fee remission. You will not be surprised that these are highly competitive scholarships. The lab will occasionally advertise PhD positions to work on specific projects, but feel free to get in touch if you have an idea for a project that fits within the overall scope of the lab's work. If you are interested in applying for a PhD, please get in touch first with some ideas, your CV, a sample of your original writing (e.g. thesis, assignments) and your transcripts. For bioinformatics-oriented projects, please also send examples of code that you have written (e.g. link to your github).

As an MSc or Honours student: There are several two-year MSc programs available at the University of Melbourne, with MSc in BioSciences, MSc in Bioinformatics and MSc in Computational Biology probably those most relevant to the lab's research. The MSc BioSciences is a particularly interesting program in that it is quite flexible with coursework and has 50% research. The Honours program is a one-year BSc extension with 75% research. In Australia, the living allowance and tuition fees of MSc and honours students are not funded via projects.

As an undergrad student: We enjoy involving undergrad students in our research project. The university offers SCIE30001, which allows you to gain research experience during your BSc degree, but we also invite interested undergrads to participate in ongoing projects on a voluntary basis to expand their skillsets and expose them to science. Feel free to get in touch with anyone in the lab if you are keen to get involved.

Lab alumni

Seraphya Berrin
Group member: 2013-2015 (MSc)
Guadalupe Bribiesca Contreras
Group member: 2015-2018 (PhD)
Trevor Bringloe<
Group member: 2019-2022 (postdoc)
Margaret Brookes
Group member: 2014-2017 (BSc/Hons)
Joana Costa
Group member: 2013-2019 (PhD, research assistant)
Chiela Cremen
Group member: 2014-2018 (PhD)
Emilia Croce
Group member: 2017-2018 (visiting postdoc)
Pilar Diaz
Group member: 2014-2019 (postdoc)
Olivia Doyle
Group member: 2017-2018 (volunteer)
Cintia Iha
Group member: 2017 (visiting PhD student), 2019-2020 (postdoc)
Samira Imran
Group member: 2017-2018 (MBiotech)
Chris Jackson
Group member: 2015-2018 (postdoc)
Marie Kinsey
Group member: 2015 (BSc)
Ming Fen Eileen Lee
Group member: 2018-2019 (BSc & volunteer)
Monica Ly
Group member: 2019 (BSc)
Vanessa Rossetto Marcelino
Group member: 2011-2017 (MSc, PhD)
Maika Matsumoto
Group member: 2018 (intern)
Xin Tian Mok
Group member: 2020-2021 (BSc honours)
Sam Old
Group member: 2016-2018 (MSc)
Sonja Repetti
Group member: 2018-2019 (BSc honours)
Francesco Ricci
Group member: 2017-2023 (PhD, postdoc)
Lambros Stavrias
Group member: 2013-2014 (MSc)
James Tapa
Group member: 2018 (BSc)
Lennert Tyberghein
Group member: 2008-2012 (MSc, PhD)
Dani Zaparenkov
Group member: 2020-2021 (MSc)