Carmen Gerlach (Principal Investigator)

Carmen Gerlach

Fascinated by the biology of the human body, I studied Biomedical Sciences at Leiden University in Leiden, the Netherlands (B.Sc. 2003 & M.Sc. 2005). As I wanted to see something of the world at the same time, I participated in an exchange program with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and performed an internship in parasitology that included field work in rural northern Ghana. My growing interest in immunology led me to perform my Master thesis in the lab of Rienk Offringa and Kees Melief at the Leiden University Medical Center, and during that time I realized that I wanted to continue my research career in this field. As PhD student in Ton Schumacher’s lab at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam (2005-2011), I got the chance to combine technological development with gaining deeper insights into basic immunological processes. Together with a few colleagues, I developed a cellular barcoding technology that allows in vivo tracking and fate mapping of single naive T cells. Using this technology, I established that while virtually all naive CD8 T cells give rise to both effector and memory cell progeny (Gerlach et al., J.Exp. Med. 2010), individual naive T cells nevertheless mount very distinct immune responses to facilitate robustness of the overall response (Gerlach et al., Science 2013). During my postdoc in Ulrich von Andrian’s lab at Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA (2011-2017), I studied the memory CD8 T cell response in more detail, which led to the delineation of a novel subset, named ‘peripheral memory cells (Tpm)’ that has unique migratory, homeostatic and functional properties (Gerlach et al., Immunity 2016). To gain a better understanding of the computational aspects involved in the analysis of (immune) cells with the current high-dimensional single-cell technologies, I spent 8 months as visiting scholar in Nir Yosef’s lab at the University of California Berkeley in Berkeley, USA (2017). Since November 2017, I am an Assistant Professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

carmen.gerlach (AT) | KI profile page | ORCID | LinkedIn | google scholar | Twitter @CGerlach_lab |

Anthonie Zwijnenburg (PhD student)

Before I joined Carmen Gerlach’s lab, I was trained in the Netherlands as a Medical Doctor at the University of Utrecht (B.Sc. 2012 & M.Sc., M.D. 2016). During that time I discovered that my interests lie more towards basic science than clinical medicine. To challenge myself during my Medicine study, I joined the traumatology laboratory at the University Medical Center Utrecht (2011). Halfway through my medical rotations, I decided to take a break from Medicine and to full-time explore my possibilities outside of Europe. That is when I set up a research internship in the lab of Ulrich von Andrian at Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA (2014). There, I met Carmen Gerlach for the first time, as I helped her with studying memory CD8 T cell responses and the delineation of the novel peripheral memory cells (TPM) (Gerlach et al., Immunity 2016). After my year in the USA, I moved back to the Netherlands and finished my medical rotations. For my final scientific internship, I joined Jacco van Rheenen’s lab at the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht, Netherlands (2016). Here, I worked on human cancer organoids and the spatial analysis of confocal images. After finishing university, I first pursued another life goal by thru-hiking the length of New Zealand on the Te Araroa. Unknowing that Carmen’s and my path would cross again. While walking the last few hundred kilometers I got the message that Carmen was starting her own lab at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and here I am.

anthonie.zwijnenburg (AT) | KI profile page | LinkedIn

Natalia Ramírez Comet (Postdoc)

photo websiteI find the biology of immune cells extraordinary – how they are capable of fostering defensive responses against foreign pathogens, but are permissive to microorganisms that can represent a benefit for the organism’s survival (i.e. gut flora). Moreover, they can distinguish between healthy and transformed cells of their own organism, fighting potential cancer cells. These interesting properties motivated me to do a PhD in the laboratory of Dr. Luis Alberto Anel (Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain), where I focused on the pathways that regulate the cytotoxic mechanisms that NK cells exert for the elimination of tumor cells. Once I finished that project, I started to be intrigued about how these signaling pathways regulated the fate and function of the immune cells. To answer this question, I moved to the lab of Dr. Esteban Ballestar (Instituto de Investigación Biomédica de Bellvitge (IDIBELL), Barcelona, Spain) and found that DNA methylation plays an important role during immune cell differentiation and function acquisition. As postdoc in Carmen Gerlach’s group, I am studying another intriguing feature of the immune system: the memory of CD8 T cells.

natalia.ramirez.comet (AT)  | KI profile page | LinkedIn

Iman Shryki (PhD student)

website pictureMy journey in immunology started with my favourite childhood cartoon “once upon a time… life”. Since then, immune cells got my ultimate respect. They were the superheroes who saved the day! I studied pharmaceutical/biomedical sciences afterwards (Tishreen University, Syria 2005-2010). I thought that if biomedical scientists and our immune arsenal would join forces, humans would have a chance to win the battle against many diseases, including malignancies. During my first postgraduate studies (drug design & development master programme, Tishreen University, Syria. 2011-2015), I went back to immunological research and designed an anti-HIV protease inhibitor for my individual project. In 2015, I moved to Sweden to delve into cutting-edge biomedical research (Biomedicine master programme, Uppsala University, 2015-2017). In 2017, I joined Lena Ström’s group at Karolinska Institute where I developed a genuine interest in cellular biology. Today, I know that immunological research still is my main area of interest, and I am planning to pursue a career in immunology. Therefore, I joined Carmen Gerlach’s group in October 2018. In this inspiring environment, I am currently chasing every opportunity to learn more and, happily, advance further in my exciting journey.

iman.shryki (AT)  | KI profile page |

Jyoti Pokharel (PhD student)

picture_jyotipokharel.jpgAs a kid, I wanted to become a doctor and “treat” diseases. After finishing school, I found it even more compelling to be involved in basic research and contribute to drug discovery and disease control. I moved to Bangladesh, where I got a B.Sc. degree in Biological Sciences and minor in Public Health at Asian University for Women (2015).  During my undergraduate years, I had few lectures on immunology and I couldn’t be more fascinated when I learned how our immune system fights pathogens and protects us. Without knowing what and where next, I took a year-long break and worked as a teaching assistant in my university (2015-2016).  During that time, I made up my mind that I wanted to study cancer biology and ended up in Germany where I studied Molecular Biosciences, major Cancer Biology, a combined degree from Universität Heidelberg and German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). During my master’s program, I completed internships in different cancer types and fibrosis in different settings (epigenetics, genomics, and immunology). In 2018, I joined Jonathan Coquet’s lab at Karolinska Insitutet, Sweden which was my first time exposure to immunological studies. I knew right away, my heart was in immunology. I returned to Heidelberg and received my M.Sc. degree (2019). After finishing masters, I was looking for opportunities to work in immunology and more specifically, CD8T cells. Luckily, I was recommended to check Carmen’s work. And now, every day at work I love what I do or let’s say, I get to do what I love!

jyoti.pokharel (AT)  | KI profile page |

Wenning Zheng (Postdoc)


Intrigued by the possibilities of exploring life science through computing technology, I enrolled in the BSc of Bioinformatics at the Multimedia University, which is the first academic institute to offer a Bioinformatics programme in Malaysia. After a two-month internship and a five months research period at the Genomics Institute Research laboratory of the University of Malaya (UM), I continued to pursue my Ph.D. in Bioinformatics in the same research group under the supervision of Dr. Lawrence Choo. In collaboration with Dr. Nick Jakubovics based in Newcastle, United Kingdom and Prof. Ian Charles Paterson from UM, my PhD study focused on distinguishing the two closely related Streptococcus species and understanding their microbial pathogenesis. In 2018, I joined the Jason Pitt lab at the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore (CSI), where I acquired a strong interest in immuno-oncology while investigating the etiology of the NK/T cell linked rare type lymphomas at both genomic and transcriptional levels. After relocating to Stockholm, Sweden, with my family in 2019, I joined the Carmen Gerlach lab at the Center for Molecular Medicine (CMM), Karolinska Institute to gain more insights into immunology. I am currently working with cellular barcoding for single-cell lineage tracing and single-cell immune profiling of T cell.

wenning.zheng (AT)  | KI profile page |Google Scholar

Shaima Al Khabouri (Postdoc)

pictureI have always been interested in understanding how things work and curious about the “why”, which naturally drew me to the sciences. I studied Biochemistry at McGill University, Montreal, Canada (B.Sc 2006-2010) which made me appreciate the intricate workings of cells and biological systems. I also gained an interest in how biological sciences can be applied in the day to day world, which is what led me to pursue a Masters in Biotechnology at McGill University (M.Sc 2010-2012). I then worked as a research assistant in a systems and synthetic biology lab at the Institut de recherche en immunologie et cancérologie (IRIC) located at the University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada (2012-2014) with the aim of building synthetic protein memory circuits to record cell states. Working on this project really piqued my interest in immunology and immunological memory and I wanted to understand how our immune system generated and maintained immunological memory. This then led me to pursue a PhD in infection and immunity at the University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK (Ph.D 2016-2020) with Professors Paul Garside and James Brewer where I worked on understanding how antigen specific CD4 T cell populations change with the progression of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I used TCR sequencing to track the evolution of antigen specific CD4 T cell responses and monitor how these responses changed depending on the tissue site and with the progression of the disease (Al Khabouri et. al, Front. Immunol, 2021). I am now a postdoc in Carmen’s lab interested in mechanisms of CD8 T cell differentiation. (AT) | KI profile page | ORCID | Twitter @KhabouriShaima


Laura Krumm, Erasmus+ Master student from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany, 2021

Bharadwaja Velidendla, Research Assistant, 2019