Meet The Team
"In our research group, we celebrate a cooperative research spirit. We strongly believe that true advancement is only possible as a team, where enthusiasm for research is shared and where challenges are openly discussed."
PD Dr. Stefan Dudli, PhD
I studied biochemistry at the University of Zurich and graduated from ETH Zurich in 2013. From 2013 to 2016, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation. In 2017, I joined the Center of Experimental Rheumatology of the University of Zurich, at the Balgrist Campus where I am heading a research group with focus on Modic changes in Low Back Pain and on Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).
Fun fact: I cycled from Alaska to Fireland on a recumbent bike.
Dr. Irina Heggli
I obtained my master’s degree in “Molecular Health Sciences” at ETH and completed my doctoral thesis in the “Center of Experimental Rheumatology” under the supervision of Stefan Dudli and Oliver Distler. I focus on understanding fibroinflammatory and etiology-specific pathomechanisms of Modic changes in order to lay the foundation for future targeted treatments for Modic changes. I am fascinated about unraveling molecular puzzle pieces in the Modic change pathobiology and I have a strong (for the other team members sometimes incomprehensible) passion for my favorite cell type: neutrophils.
Fun fact: I love the outdoors and have a slight salt addiction (that is why you hardly meet me without my mini Herbamare pot at lunch).
Dr. Jan Devan
I studied molecular biology and genetics at Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic. I obtained my master’s diploma in 2018 for the study of the molecular pathogenesis of B-cell malignancies with a special focus on the miRNAs and their role in the transformation of indolent follicular lymphoma to more aggressive lymphomas. In 2022 I graduated from the University of Basel, where, in the laboratory of experimental immunology, I researched the role of T-cells in mucosal immunity. I am investigating the role of autoimmunity in Modic changes.
Fun Fact: I like to eat lemons and flow cytometry.
Dr. Friederike Schulze
80% of my time I’m a physician working in the rheumatology department of the USZ, 20% is reserved for research. I studied medicine in Basel, followed by post graduate studies in diabetes research, also in Basel. After the PhD, I first worked in Internal Medicine, now I’m working on my specialization in rheumatology.
At the moment, I’m searching for a serum biomarker for Modic changes. For this, I analyze data from serum samples of subjects of a cohort with and without Modic Changes.
Constant learning, finding out how things work is what I enjoy most about working in the lab.
Fun fact: I love cooking. During my studies I ran a supper club in my apartment.
Background: Pharmaceutical Sciences (BSc. MSc.) ETH Zurich
Goal: Development of a cell-based treatment for patients with Modic changes
My motivation: Obtain a better understanding of the heterogeneity of mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs). The characterization of highly anti-inflammatory MSCs might pave the way for a disease-modifying Modic change treatment.
What I enjoy most about research: The generation of new knowledge to contribute to the development of effective treatments.
Fun fact: I have travelled to 32 different countries.
I studied Health Science and Technology at ETH Zürich and graduated in April 2020. During this time I was already in the Dudli-Lab for 6 months for an internship - this is where I learned that I do indeed want to do research. So here I am now as a PhD student in this group focusing on the role of the intervertebral disc in the development of Modic changes.
Fun fact: I have 4 pet rats (not for experiments)!
Melina Perez-Vertti Valdez
In 2018, I graduated from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education with a BSc in Bio-Business Engineering, and shortly after pursued a MSc by Research degree in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. Currently, I work as a PhD student in Dudli’s lab mainly focusing on the pathophysiology cause and course of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).
I have always been interested in biomedicine and would love to be involved in the development and clinical implementation of novel therapeutic tools to fight diseases which are now considered as untreatable, especially in neurodegenerative conditions.
Fun fact: I have lived in 7 different countries within the last 10 years.
I completed my bachelor at the ETH Zürich in Health Science and Technologies followed by a master degree in the same department focusing on Medical Technologies. I performed my master thesis in the Musculoskeletal Informatics Group of Harvard Medical School in Boston, determining the changes in the cross-sectional profile of natural and treated anterior cruciate ligaments.
The main goal of my PhD project is to show that antibiotic-laden polymeric delivery matrix prevent C. acnes infection and progressive disc degeneration of the bovine tail disc.
Fun fact: I founded and organized with four friends a music festival (Openair Cavaglia) that hosts around 700 participants and 12 bands every year at the height of 1700 m asl. (next event 11.08-13.08.23)
Laura Bernhard - Master semester project
Roy Hove - Master thesis
Leonardo Arpesalla - Academic Guest
Cristina Hunkeler- Master thesis
Ana Gvozdenovic - Post Doc
Johanna Zehnder- Master semester project
Livia Stucki - Master thesis
Karishma Thekkanath - Master thesis
Ramona Büchel - Master thesis
Ruben Piaengonda - Master semester project
Susanne Epprecht - Doctoral thesis
Yann Tinguely - Master semester project
Flurina Staubli- Master semester project
Irina Balzer - Master semester project
Stephan Baumgartner - Master thesis
Astrid Jüngel - Group leader