Meet the team

The IEB team members share a passion for exploring the underpinnings of phenotypic diversity.

The research that we conduct in the IEB lab spans several disciplines including genomics, developmental and cell biology as well as evolutionary biology, and takes advantage of their respective cutting-edge technologies.

In the pursuit of our scientific goals, our objective is to co-create a respectful, collaborative, and supportive environment. We are fully committed to purposefully fostering inclusion and creating a lab and teaching environment that takes strength from the diversity of perspectives, experiences, characters, and identities.

If you want to join us, collaborate with us, or simply want to know more about our research please contact Claudius.

Claudius Kratochwil | Group leader

Claudius is an Associate Professor at the Helsinki Institute of Life Science (HiLIFE) and the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences. He has a background in developmental genetics, genomics, and evolutionary biology. The research of him and his team centers around the study of the genetic basis of phenotypic diversification with a strong focus on the evolution of color pattern diversity in tropical fish (particularly cichlid fishes). 

Education and previous positions:
since 2023 | Associate Professor, HiLIFE & Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
since 2021 | Group Leader, Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, Finland
2013 – 2020 | Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Konstanz, Germany
2008 – 2013 | Ph.D. in Neuroscience, Friedrich Miescher Institute, Basel, Switzerland
2004 – 2008 | Diploma studies in Biology, University of Freiburg, Germany

More information and social media:
UH Research Portal | Google Scholar | Twitter (Personal)  | Twitter (Lab)  | Researchgate

Contact (in English or German):
claudius.kratochwil@helsinki.fi | +358 50 341 2430 | Biocenter 2, Room 6028b

Nidal Karagic | Postdoctoral researcher

Nidal is a PostDoc at the 'Integrative Evolutionary Biology' Group at the Helsinki Institute of Life Science, HiLIFE. His background lies in developmental and evolutionary biology. He has studied the link between genotype and phenotype in different traits of cichlid fishes, including color vision, jaw morphology, or hypertrophied lips. Currently, Nidal is studying the dynamics of genome evolution.

Education and previous positions:
since February 2022 | Postdoctoral Fellow, IntEvoBio group, University of Helsinki, Finland
2018-2022 | Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology, University of Konstanz, Germany
2015-2018 | M. Sc. In Biological Sciences, University of Konstanz, Germany
2012-2015 | B. Sc. In Biological Sciences, University of Konstanz, Germany

More information and social media:
Google Scholar | Twitter | Researchgate | Personal homepage

Contact:
Nidal.karagic@helsinki.fi | Biocenter 2, Room 6027b

Hannah Weller | Postdoctoral researcher

Hannah is a postdoc in the 'Integrative Evolutionary Biology' Group at the Helsinki Institute of Life Science, HiLIFE, with a background in evolutionary and computational biology. For her Ph.D., Hannah focused on the evolution of mouthbrooding in cichlids, but she has also done work with sharks, catfish, snakes, wasps, turtles, and bats, studying traits from rates of fungal infection to the function of color patterns in social recognition. Hannah's major interests are 1) understanding how the many traits that make up a phenotype interact with each other over evolutionary time, and 2) coming up with accessible ways to measure those traits across many species and individuals, so that our ability to phenotype organisms keeps up with our ability to genotype them. Currently, Hannah is studying the role of phenotypic robustness across traits in cichlids.

Education and previous positions:
from September 2023  | Postdoctoral Researcher, IntEvoBio group, University of Helsinki, Finland
2019-2023 | PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, RI, USA
2016-2019 | M. Sc. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, RI, USA
2012-2016 | B. Sc. in Biology, University of Chicago, Il, USA

More information and social media:
Google Scholar | Twitter | Personal homepage

Contact:
hannah.weller@helsinki.fi | Biocenter 2, Room 6027b

Dimitri Meistermann | Postdoctoral researcher

Dimitri is a PostDoc at the 'Integrative Evolutionary Biology' Group at the Helsinki Institute of Life Science, HiLIFE. He has a background in Bioinformatics, specifically in single-cell OMICs. His Ph.D. focused on studying cell fate events during human preimplantation development. After researching how neurodevelopmental disorders affect cell trajectories in the Kilpinen group, he joined the IEB lab where he is currently studying the link between cell type diversity and evolution.

Education and previous positions:
since February 2024 | Postdoctoral Fellow, IntEvoBio group, University of Helsinki, Finland
2021-2023 | Postdoctoral Fellow, Kilpinen group, University of Helsinki, Finland
2016-2020 | Ph.D. in Bioinformatics and Development Biology, University of Nantes, France
2014 to 2016 | M. Sc. in Bioinformatics, University of Nantes, France
2011 to 2014 | B. Sc. in Biology, University of Nantes, France

More information and social media:
Google Scholar | Mastodon | ORCID | Github | Personal homepage

Contact:
Dimitri.Meistermann@helsinki.fi | Biocenter 2, Room 6027b

Muktai Kuwalekar | PhD candidate

Muktai is a Ph. D. candidate at the 'Integrative Evolutionary Biology' Group at the Helsinki Institute of Life Science, HiLIFE. She has a background in bioinformatics, genomics and evolutionary biology. She has previously studied coloration as well as color vision in butterflies. She is interested in studying the evolution of sexually dimorphic color patterns in cichlid fishes.

Education and previous positions:
since June 2021 | PhD candidate, IntEvoBio group, University of Helsinki
2019 – 2021 | Research assistant, the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), India
2017 – 2019 | M.Sc. in Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology, Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology, India
2013 – 2016 | B.Sc. in Life Sciences, University of Mumbai, India

More information and social media:
UH Research Portal | Google Scholar | Twitter | Researchgate

Contact:
muktai.kuwalekar@helsinki.fi | Biocenter 2, Room 6027b

Jan Häge | PhD candidate

Jan is a Ph. D. candidate at the 'Integrative Evolutionary Biology' Group at the Helsinki Institute of Life Science, HiLIFE He has a background in developmental biology, functional morphology, and behavioral ecology. Jan has previously studied rostral morphology in billfishes and scale morphology in cichlids. He is studying the evolution of rapid color change in cichlid fishes.

Education and previous positions:
since August 2022 | Ph.D. candidate, IntEvoBio group, University of Helsinki
2019 – 2022 | M. Sc. in Fish biology, fisheries, and aquaculture, Humboldt University of Berlin
2016 – 2019 | B. Sc. in Biological Sciences, University of Konstanz, Germany

More information and social media:
Google Scholar | Twitter  | Researchgate

Contact:
jan.haege@student.hu-berlin.de | Biocenter 2, Room 6027b

Olivia Dreilinger | PhD candidate

Olivia is a PhD candidate at the 'Integrative Evolutionary Biology' Group at the Helsinki Institute of Life Science, HiLIFE. Her background is in genetics, genomics, and developmental biology. Previously, she has studied the evolutionary maintenance of mutualisms. Olivia is studying the evo-devo of pigmentation and color patterns in cichlids.

Education and previous positions:

since June 2023 | PhD candidate, IntEvoBio group, University of Helsinki
2022 – 2023 | Master’s student, IntEvoBio group, University of Helsinki
2020 – 2021 | Undergraduate Research Assistant, Simms Lab, University of California, Berkeley
2017 – 2021 | BA in Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis in Genetics, Genomics and Development, University of California, Berkeley
2019 | UCEAP student, exchange semester, University of Oslo
2017 | Global Edge student, exchange semester, University of California, Berkeley & UC London Center

Google Scholar | Twitter

Contact:
olivia.dreilinger@helsinki.fi | Biocenter 2, Room 6027b

Emmi Olkkonen | PhD candidate

Emmi is a joint PhD candidate at the ‘Integrative Evolutionary Biology’ Group at the Helsinki Institute of Life Science, HiLIFE and the Jernvall Evo-Devo lab at the Institute of Biotechnology. She has a background in genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics. Emmi was previously involved in studying the genetic basis of susceptibility to chronic stress but then moved on to work on topics regarding Saimaa ringed seal genomics. Her current projects concern, for example, potentially deleterious genetic variation in the bottlenecked population of Saimaa ringed seals.

Education and previous positions:
Since September 2023 |  Ph.D. candidate, IntEvoBio group & Jernvall Evo-Devo group, University of Helsinki
June 2022 - August 2023 | Research assistant, Evolutionary Sequence Analysis group, University of Helsinki
Jan. 2021 - May 2021 | Master’s thesis work, Neurogenomics group, University of Helsinki
June 2019 - Dec. 2020 | Research assistant, Neurogenomics group, University of Helsinki
2020 - 2022 | M.Sc. in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences, University of Helsinki
2017 - 2020 | B.Sc. in Biology, University of Helsinki

Contact:
emmi.olkkonen@helsinki.fi | Biocenter 2, Room 6027b

João Lopes | Masters student

João is a Master's student. His background consists of developmental and evolutionary biology and scientific illustration. He has previously studied how different environments influence the evolution and adaptation of the nematode C. elegans. He is interested in studying the evolution and heritability of color pattern variation in cichlid fishes.

Education and previous positions:
since February 2022 | Research Intern, IntEvoBio group, University of Helsinki
2019 – 2021 | Illustration freelancer
2017 – 2019 | Post Graduation in Illustration, Autónoma University, Lisbon, Portugal
2013 – 2016 | B. Sc. in Life Sciences, University of Lisbon, Portugal

Contact:
joao.lopes@helsinki.fi | Biocenter 2, Room 6027b

 

This could be you!

We are currently looking for students and researchers at all levels to join our team!

If you are passionate and enthusiastic about coloration, evolution, genomics, development, and/or tropical fish & like to join our young, dynamic team, please contact Claudius:
claudius.kratochwil@helsinki.fi | +358 50 341 2430 | Biocenter 2, Room 6028b

For more information about the research in the lab please have a look at previous publications and the detailed description of our research.

Lab alumni and completed theses

Paolo Bottega | April 2022 — December 2023 | Master student project, University of Helsinki, Finland | Project title: The Identification of Unknown Pigments in East African Cichlids.
Marilena Kastriti | July — August 2023 | EMBO Short-Term Visting researcher, Medical University of Vienna, Austria | Project title: Heterogeneity of mechanisms of sympathetic control over physiological color change in cichlids.
Swethaa Natraj Gayathri | March — August 2023 | Master student project, University of Helsinki, Finland | Project title: Role of Gene Expression in the Formation of Blotched Patterns in Cichlid Fishes.
Adrián Colino Barea | March 2022 — June 2023 | HiLIFE Research Trainee, University of Helsinki, Finland | Project title: Mate choice of two Lake Malawi cichlid species under different light conditions.
Bethan Clark | June 2023 | Visting researcher, Emília Santos Lab, University of Cambridge, UK | Project title: Comparative analysis of egg spot development.
Olivia Dreilinger | June 2022 — May 2023 | Master's Student, University of Helsinki, Finland | Thesis title: Methodological optimization for studying transcriptional correlates of color patterns in tropical fish.
Charitini Pantagaki | August 2022 — December 2022 | Erasmus Student,  University of Crete, Greece | Project title: Identification of high impact mutations in coloration genes across Lake Malawi cichlid genomes.
Thomas Stier | June 2022 — August 2022 | Erasmus Student, University of Konstanz, Germany | Project title: Analysis of the localization of the gene agrp2 in different Lake Malawi species.
Alexandra Faur | June 2021 — December 2021 | External Master's Student, University of Iași, Romania | Thesis title: Genetic Control of Pigment Cell Diversity.