Group Members

Dr. Sandra Siegert

Principal Investigator

Dr. Alessandro Venturino

Research Scientist

Aaron Mark Farrelly

Research Technician

Dr. Ryan John Cubero


Dr. Margaret Maes


Verena Hubschmann

PhD Student

Florianne Schoot Uiterkamp

PhD Student

Medina Korkut

PhD Student

Shadi Gharagozlou

PhD Student

Natalie Oezgen

PhD Student

MohammadAmin Alamalhoda


Julie Murmann

MSc Student

Member Biographies

Dr. Sandra Siegert is a trained biologist and obtained her PhD in Neurobiology at the FMI. Here, she revealed the molecular logic of retinal cell types including a cell-specific disease signature. During her postdoctoral fellow at the MIT from 2011-2015, she identified how the epigenetic factor microRNA-137 impacts presynaptic release at the hippocampal mossy-fiber synapse. In 2015, she joined Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA) as Assistant Professor. Here, she and her team are working on resolving the communication relationship between neurons and glia, specifically microglia. Her research has been awarded by several prizes such as the SWISS OphthAWARD and Liese Prokop Prize and received internationally funding via HFSP, SNSF, and the ERC Starting Grant.


Detailed CV: Upon request via

List of publications: Total number of peer-reviewed publications

Project involvement:

In all projects, I am providing guidance and mentorship starting from the initial development of the research idea, towards planning the experiments, discussing the outcome and the conclusions.

My locations:

Grown up in Bad Camberg (DE) -> studied in Frankfurt/Main (DE) -> moved to Basel (CH) for PhD -> then to Cambridge/MA (USA) for Postdoc -> and now independent group leader at ISTA in Klosterneuburg (AT)

Fun facts:

  • I drank my first coffee towards the end of my PhD.
  • I love to cook with cinnamon, coriander seeds, garlic, onions, and (a LOT) of chili.
  • I am a certified jumping fitness instructor.

Alessandro studied Biomedicine at the University of Pavia (Italy) and during his thesis he performed electrophysiology and neuronal network modeling in the vestibular system. Afterwords he obtained a Ph.D. in Neurophysiology at the University of Pavia working on the role of microglia in the central auditory pathway. He then moved to Prof. Siegert group as research scientist. In the lab he’s applying advanced imaging and electrophysiology techniques to study how microglia interact with neurons during the manipulation of the brain activity.

His study about microglia response to ketamine was selected by the Society for Neuroscience as one of the 100 hot topics in neuroscience 2019.

He was a visiting scientist at Femtonics (Budapest, Hungary) and in the lab of Prof. Mark Bear at MIT (Cambridge, USA). 


Google Scholar

Career station:

Alba (IT) -> Pavia (IT) -> Klosterneuburg (AT)

Fun facts:

Patti Smith asked him where the toilette was.

He realized his biggest dream: driving a garbage truck (full of garbage).

Ryan obtained his PhD in statistical physics from SISSA (Trieste, Italy) under Dr. Matteo Marsili (ICTP, Italy) and Dr. Yasser Roudi (KISN, Norway). During his PhD, he performed network analyses on transcriptomics to elucidate molecular pathways of microRNA-induced cardiac cell proliferation. He then continued his PhD in KISN (Trondheim, Norway) to develop the featureless inference of navigation-relevant neurons and to understand action representation through manifold learning and inference.

Ryan joined the Siegert lab in 2019 as an ISTplus postdoctoral fellow. In the lab, he develops big-data computational approaches to elucidate the multi-faceted interactions between microglia and different components of the brain and retina. Currently, he combines statistical approaches and topological data analysis to link microglia morphology and their function. Outside the lab, Ryan enjoys running/hiking trails, video games, flat whites, big and fluffy dogs, Oxford commas, and the color blue.



Google Scholar



My career stations:

General Santos City (PH) → Iligan City (PH) → Manila (PH) → Trieste (IT) → Trondheim (NO) → Klosterneuburg (AT)

Fun facts:

  • When I was kid, I wanted to have a swimming pool. So, I dug a deep hole in our backyard and filled it with water. It didn’t really work.
  • I have never missed solving an NY Times Mini Crossword during breakfast.
  • My Airbnb host eventually became one of my best friends

Margaret received her Bachelor of Science from University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in Genetics. She then obtained her Ph.D. under Dr. Robert Nickells in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied the kinetics of pro-apoptotic protein BAX and its involvement in mitochondrial fission during retinal ganglion cell death. In 2017, she joined Professor Siegert’s laboratory as a postdoctoral ISTfellow where she developed a project to investigate how mitochondrial dynamics influence the microglial response to neuronal injury in the retina. In parallel, she also investigated methods to improve AAV transduction of microglia in the retina.


Fun Facts:

  • I can throw 175g of plastic over 100m. Ever heard of disc golf? You should try it!
  • I once was stranded in the Serengeti National Park

Verena Hübschmann studied Biotechnology at the University for Natural Resources and Life Science in Vienna. In 2017, she joined the Siegert group to perform her master thesis in which she characterized microglia-like cells differentiated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC). In 2019 she decided to continue with a PhD in the Siegert group. She is interested to study human microglia-neuron interaction during development using an hiPSC based model. Outside the lab she enjoys cooking, travelling and skiing.


Fleur obtained her Master’s degree in Molecular Neuroscience at the University of Amsterdam and joined the graduate program at IST in 2018. After rotating in Professor Siegert’s group, she decided to join the group for her PhD project. She is interested in studying signaling pathways that influence the response of microglia to neuronal injury in the retina. Outside of the lab she enjoys cuddling with her two cats, a good glass of whiskey, hiking and baking.


Shadi is a PhD student at the institute of science and technology Austria since 2021. She did her bachelor studies in cellular and molecular biology/Microbiology in her homeland Iran. After finishing her studies in Iran she moved to Austria to further study and pursue her carrier in science. She did her master’s in Genetics and developmental biology in the university of Vienna writing her master thesis on EGFR mediated neurodegeneration in neocortex during early development, where the basis of her passion for developmental neuroscience has formed. In 2022, she joined the group of professor Siegert. Her project focuses on microglia in the retina.  Since microglia has highly dynamic morphology across different health and disease conditions, she aims to derive a paradigm of morphological changes across retinal layers in different conditions by taking advantage of MorphOMICs (Colombo, 2022) a topological data analysis approach, developed in the lab of professor siegert.


Natalie obtained her Master’s degree in Genetics at the University of Vienna, where she analyzed the transcriptome of extremophilic bacteria that were exposed to outerspace. Afterwards, she turned her attention towards terrestrial topics and joined the Siegert Lab in 2021 to pursue her PhD degree.

Natalie is interested in how the brain transmits and encodes information via neuronal circuits. Microglia were suggested to play an important role in the maintenance of these circuits. Natalie studies how Microglia impact neuronal circuits in the most accessible part of the brain: the retina. For this, she uses a combination of imaging techniques and multi-electrode arrays to dissect how the morphological and electrophysiological properties of the retinal circuit changes after microglia depletion.

Apart from science, Natalie enjoys doing sports, music and everything arts and crafts related.

Research Gate


Amin is an electrical engineering student at Sharif University of Technology and an intern at Siegert Lab. He is currently working on projects involving the analysis of LFP signals in KXA-injected rodents and spike sorting of retinal ganglion cells using computational methods. Amin is passionate about coding and actively contributes to open-source projects.

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