Doctoral Researchers 2020


ALL doctoral candidates researching at the Helmholtz Diabetes Center shall be associated members of the International Helmholtz Research School for Diabetes, benefiting from the comprehensive scientific, translational and professional training program for future leaders in diabetes research. 

The doctoral researchers who started in 2020 and have recieved an HRD fellowship are:


Amanda Schukarucha Gomes

Department of Pharmacology

Alberta Diabetes Institute

"I started my studies with my undergraduate degree in Fundamental Sciences for Health at the University of São Paulo, in Brazil. During my studies, I became interested in cellular electrophysiology, and started working as an undergraduate student with cell physiology and pancreatic beta cells, which strengthened my resolve to continue doing research. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I completed a Master of Science degree in Human Physiology at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. Currently, I am a doctoral student in Pharmacology at the University of Alberta, in Professor Patrick Macdonald’s laboratory.

In my PhD project, I am studying the influence of glycine on human β cells. Glycine receptors (GlyRs) are present in human β cells, and mediate glycine-evoked currents that contribute to cell depolarization, increasing insulin secretion. However, in islets from type 2 diabetic (T2D) donors, GlyR signalling is impaired by an unknown mechanism. In my project I aim to further investigate how GlyRs can influence islet function, and if the GlyR dysfunction in T2D is caused by hyperglycemia. For that I am recording glycine-evoked currents through the patch-clamp technique, quantifying GlyR subunit expression, and evaluating the effect of glycine and the GlyR antagonist strychnine on insulin secretion in human islets. I will also search for gene transcripts that correlate to glycine-evoked currents in β cells with the Patch-Seq technique."




Elena Garcia Clavé

Institute of Diabetes and Obesity (IDO)
Helmholtz Center Munich


"I am a Nutritionist graduated from the University of Barcelona. During my years of study I realised that my interest was focused on how nutrients affect our body at the molecular level, how the organism processes them and which is the result. For that reason I enrolled a Masters Degree in Nutrition and Metabolism focused on research. During my master thesis I had the possibility to investigate, through behavioral studies in an animal model, the effect of the social environment on the feeding behavior and try to elucidate brain areas that could be involved.

Now I am starting a PhD in the Atrocyte-Neuron Network group, where I aim to focus on the role of astrocytes on the energy metabolism and feeding behavior. It has been described that glial cells, in particular astrocytes, can sense several nutrients and hormones, as leptin and insulin, and they have a tight interaction with neurons. For this reason it has been suggested that astrocytes could be crucial in the brain control of systemic metabolism and feeding behavior and thus, could help to a better understanding of metabolic diseases such as obesity and type II diabetes."          



Emad Yuzbashian

Nutrition and Physiology

Alberta Diabetes Institute

"I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Nutrition in 2013 from Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Iran, and my Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2016. Since 2010, I have worked at the Nutrition and Endocrine Research Center at the Research Institute for Endocrine Sciences, Iran, where I have participated in a number of research projects, such as nutritional epidemiology, clinical trials, and molecular nutrition. This has led to the publication of almost 50 articles in ISI-listed journals and an H-index of 17. In addition, I have earned several national and international awards and research funds. Understanding the effect of nutrition on the prevention and treatment of diabetes is my primary objective. During my Ph.D. program, I concentrated on understanding the metabolic effects of various dairy products and investigating the molecular processes underpinning insulin sensitivity. I want to stay in academia, preferably as a professor working at a research-intensive institution."



Janyne Johnson

Department of Pharmacology

Alberta Diabetes Institute

"My name is Janyne and I am a PhD student at the Alberta Diabetes Institute. I obtained my BSc Hon in physiology at the University of Alberta and transferred directly into the pharmacology PhD program upon graduation. Currently, I am studying cell signalling and hormone processing in pancreatic alpha-cells. I aim to characterize molecular mechanisms that can be explored for future diabetes drug development. After completing my PhD, I plan to pursue post-doctoral training in Canada and Europe with hopes of becoming a university lecturer and research team-lead. I am passionate about biomedical research, and I hope to share this passion and enthusiasm with future scientists through teaching and mentorship."



Olawale Johnson Ogunsile

Institute of Diabetes Research (IDF)
Helmholtz Center Munich


"My name is Johnson and I am a Nigerian national. I hold a B.Tech in Biochemistry from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and an MSc in Biochemistry from the University of Mysore, India. My Master’s project was conducted in diabetology, which further motivated me to advance my knowledge in this area.

Diabetes has now become a serious global threat. As a doctoral student of the International Helmholtz Research School for Diabetes, my project with Dr. Teresa Rodriguez-Calvo at the Institute of Diabetes Research (IDF) is centred on an investigation into insulin synthesis, vis-à-vis beta-cell-immune system interaction during the development of type 1 diabetes. Overall, my project would not only help to advance our understanding of the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes but also identify novel biomarkers and therapeutic approaches for targeting beta-cell dysfunction and/or destruction, with the possibility of combining this with antigen-specific therapies.

Upon completing the programme, I hope to join for Postdoc to gain more relevant scientific knowledge, skills, and experience required to prepare me for a rewarding career in diabetes research and academia."


Miriam Bernecker

Institute of Diabetes and Obesity (IDO)
Helmholtz Center Munich


"I completed my Bachelor and Master studies in Life Science at the University of Konstanz.

After that, I decided to leave the beautiful Lake Constance region to work in the exciting field of diabetes and obesity research at the Helmholtz Zentrum in Munich.

Many obese people would greatly benefit from permanent weight loss but mostly suffer from weight regain after dieting, which is often referred to as Yoyo effect. Delineating the largely unexplored, CNS-driven molecular mechanisms that impede sustainable weight loss and drive the Yoyo effect is essential for future therapies, and a major goal of my PhD project. I will investigate the transcriptional changes in AgRP neurons of different weight loss models, trying to identify novel hypothalamic anti-obesity targets."



Seun Akindehin

Institute of Diabetes and Obesity (IDO)
Helmholtz Center Munich


"Equipped with a hands-on training in molecular biology at the College of Pharmacy, Yonsei University and a masters degree in pharmaceutical chemistry from the University of Lagos, my environment and background shaped my scientific interest. GLP-1 is a GSIS peptide used in the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes, although highly effective, it's negative side effects and short half-life poses a problem. However, GLP-1 based single molecule conjugates with little or no side effect and longer half-lives are currently being studied. As a graduate student in Dr. Timo Mueller's Laboratory, I will be working on; analysis of biased agonism and internalization,recycling dynamics of best in class GLP-1 based polyagonist."