Meet The Team

Professor Geoffrey Faulkner

Group Leader

Geoff was awarded his PhD in computational biology in 2009 from the University of Queensland (UQ) and that year started his lab at the University of Edinburgh, supported by an NHMRC CJ Martin fellowship. He moved back to UQ in 2012, was promoted to full Professor in 2016, and now holds a joint appointment between the Mater Research Institute and the Queensland Brain Institute. Geoff is obsessed with mobile DNA and its impact on genes and genomes across mammalian biology, and is excited to be doing research in an era of rapid advances in genomic technologies. His favourite things about being a group leader are seeing his trainees succeed, getting new experimental results, and occasionally finding time to do some bioinformatics. Geoff is an NHMRC Leadership Fellow and he received the Australian Academy of Science Ruth Stephens Gani Medal in 2016 for his work on retrotransposition in somatic cells.

Dr. Gabriela 0. Bodea

Post Doc

Dr. Gabriela Bodea has been part of the Genome Plasticity and Disease group at Mater Research Institute – UQ since June 2014, when she joined the group being supported by a German Research Foundation (DFG) fellowship. In 2015, she was awarded an NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellowship to continue her work on the activity of LINE-1 retrotransposons in dopaminergic neurons. This achievement was a continuation of her PhD awarded in 2014 in the laboratory of  PD Dr. Sandra Blaess (Institute of Reconstructive Neurobiology, University of Bonn, Germany), where she focused on the developmental mechanisms leading to dopaminergic neuron diversity in the mammalian brain. Dr Bodea’s long term research interest is to understand how neuronal diversity is generated in the mammalian brain and how this diversity translates into a different vulnerability to disease.

Dr. Natasha Jansz

Post Doc

Natasha joined the Genome Plasticity and Disease group in January 2021 to study the mechanisms governing expression from proviral DNA. Natasha has a background in molecular epigenetics. She was awarded her PhD in the lab of Professor Marnie Blewitt, at WEHI in Melbourne, Australia in 2018. There, she characterised the structural maintenance of chromosomes protein, Smchd1, in mammalian development. Natasha was awarded a Humboldt Research Fellowship, HFSP Postdoctoral Fellowship, and an EMBO Postdoctoral Fellowship (non-stipendiary) to train at the Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells in Munich, Germany, where she studied transposable element function in preimplantation development. Natasha has joined the team of Professor Geoffrey Faulkner, supported by an NHMRC Investigator Grant, to investigate mechanisms underlying endogenous and exogenous retrovirus regulation in infectious and malignant disease.

Dr. Charles Bell

Post Doc

Charles joined the Faulkner lab for his second post-doc in early 2023. Charles received his Bachelor of Science with Honours at the University of Queensland, graduating as a University Medallist. After studying the regulation of early embryonic development in the laboratory of Andrew Perkins, he moved to Melbourne to complete his PhD training. His PhD, entitled “Understanding and manipulating epigenetic regulation in cancer” was awarded in the laboratory of Mark Dawson at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. After receiving his PhD, Charles remained in the Dawson lab for his first post-doc where he established an innovative system to understand how transcription factors function. Charles hopes to continue to develop these tools and techniques to provide further insights into the fundamentals of transcription, and apply them to improve our understanding of how L1 elements and other endogenous retroviruses are regulated.

Maria Eugenia Ferreiro

Maria Eugenia Ferreiro

PhD Student

Eugenia obtained her Degree in Biotechnology in the Argentinian University of Enterprise (UADE – Argentina) in 2017. She accomplished an honours degree thesis in the University of Buenos Aires working on the molecular mechanisms driving male infertility. In between 2017 and 2019, Eugenia worked in the Centre of Tissue Engineering and Cell Therapy (Maimonides University – Argentina), developing stem cell differentiation and primary cell culture expertise. She joined the Faulkner lab in 2020, first as a research assistant and later as a PhD student. She is currently working in the Queensland Brain Institute and her project aims to understand the role of L1 retrotransposons in neurodegeneration.

Juan Manuel Botto​

PhD Student

Juan Manuel Botto began his studies in 2012 at the Argentinian University of Business in Buenos Aires. He achieved his Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology in 2018. He performed his Honours degree thesis on “The development of a Baculoviral vector for the treatment of solid tumors” in the Laboratory of Genetic Engineering and Molecular Biology at the UNQ Buenos Aires, which allowed him to acquire hands-on experience with several techniques including Tissue Culturing, Genetic Engineering, Molecular Biology, and Virology. Juan joined the Faulkner lab in 2020 as a Ph.D. student, supervised by Dr. Sandra Richardson and Dr. Geoffrey Faulkner. His project mainly focuses on the visualization as well as the study of L1 regulation and mobilization during development.

Nathan Smits

PhD Student

Nathan Smits started his studies in 2013 at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in Bioscience engineering in 2016, and continued his studies at the KU Leuven in Belgium.  He completed his Master’s thesis on “Nanopore-based sequencing and its application in the analysis of pathogenic Pseudomonas strains” in the Laboratory of Gene technology at the KU Leuven, which allowed him to acquire hands-on experience with the Oxford Nanopore Technologies’ sequencing platform and the subsequent data processing. He graduated in 2018 as a Master of Science in Bioscience engineering with a major in cellular and gene technology and a minor in bioinformatics. Nathan joined the Faulkner lab in 2019 as a Research Assistant for Dr. Seth Cheetham and focusses on L1 mobilization and regulation in cancer. 

Juan Jose de los Rios

PhD Student

Juan Jose de los Rios started his studies in 2013 at the Peruvian University Cayetano Heredia (UPCH) were he completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. His honours thesis was developed on the “Detection of the granular protein EPX as a marker of inflammation in neurocysticercosis patients during corticosteroid treatment” at the Proliferation and Cellular regeneration laboratory at LID-UPCH where he gained experience with molecular biology techniques.  In 2021 he started a Master of Molecular Biology program at The University of Queensland. On his second year he joined the Faulkner group where he is working on a transcriptomics analysis in a mouse model of Schizophrenia as part of his research project supervised by Dr Gabriela Bodea. 

 

Minchun Chen

PhD Student

Minchun studied interaction between phytoplankton and microbial communities and received her master’s degree in marine biology in ShenZhen university. After master’s graduation, she started to learn transposable elements and developed the CRISPR-based enhancer in-vivo reporter system in Prof Andrew Hutchin’s lab. Later, she joined Prof.Christopher Hesschen’s Lab and her research project was dissecting pancreatic cancer heterogeneity by single cell multi-omics. She joined the Faulkner Lab in Jan 2024 and will focus on the function role of transposable elements in lung cancer.

Sabrina Gericke

Research Assistant

Sabrina Gericke to Australia in 2018 to complete the Masters of Molecular Biology at the University of Queensland. Her research project worked on developing novel molecular tools to distinguish between populations of Ctenocephalides felis (the common cat flea). In September 2020, amid the pandemic, she started her employment at Safework Laboratories as the Senior Scientist for their new COVID-19 PCR lab. During this employment, she learned all the aspects necessary to successfully set-up and manage a NATA and ISO 15189 certified laboratory and how to further validate and verify new assays for COVID-19 PCR testing in human samples and in waste water. She started her current position as Senior Research Assistant in January 2022. Aside from building the Faulknerlab website she is in charge of the ongoing laboratory management & compliance.

Linda Cumner

Research Assistant

Linda Cumner was awarded her Bachelors degree in Microbiology and Public Health in 2001. She then obtained her Honours degree with a project studying the prevalence of Aeromonas bacteria in the waterways of the Sunshine Coast area.

From graduation until 2004 she worked at Australian National University, Canberra as a research assistant for a start-up drug discovery company based in USA. After a move back to Queensland she was employed by the Transgenic Animal Service of Queensland situated at the University of Queensland, St Lucia.  Here she learned all aspects of transgenic mouse production and associated reproductive technologies and was an integral part of that team until 2011 when she made the move to the Queensland Brain Institute to join the team at the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research (CJCADR).  Linda continued to work in the field of transgenic mice producing transgenic animals for the Alzheimers Disease research of CJCADR.

 

She started her current position as research assistant in March of this year. She is mainly involved in day to day running of the lab and provides experimental support for the team.

Darwin Da Costa Guevara

Research Assistant

Darwin got a degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences and an Advanced Diploma in Microbiology from the Central University of Venezuela (UCV). Then, he worked on developing an animal model of Alzheimer’s Disease using MK-801 and Pilocarpine to induce glutamatergic hypofunction in rats’ brains. In 2019, he completed his PhD at the Institute of Experimental Medicine at the UCV under the guidance of Prof. Marcelo Alfonso and Dr Trejo. He studied the direct contractile effect of serotonin over the smooth muscle of the bovine airway and the receptors involved.

In 2020, he finished a Master of Molecular Biology at the University of Queensland, working in Prof  Daniel Watterson’s Lab under the supervision of Dr Naphak Modhira and Dr Alberto Amarilla. The project consisted of the generation and antigenic characterisation of a chimeric virus of Spondweni using the Binjari virus as the backbone. From August 2022, he worked as a research assistant at the ARC Training Centre for Biopharmaceutical Innovation (CBI) at the AIBN (UQ).

 

 

As of February 2023, he joined Prof Faulkner’s Group at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) as a part-time senior research assistant to collaborate on different team projects and in the daily lab management.