HPC NewsPeople

Welcome new HPC members

left from right: Xenofon, Lianyun, Simon Chang and Simon Wengert

Na Cai’s team is rapidly growing and gaining knowledge and experience from different backgrounds in order to achieve the ultimate goal of revealing novel insights on the genetics of major depression.

In this interview, we would like to introduce you the new team members of the Translational Genetics Group:

Simon Wengert , PhD student with an expertise in Bioinformatics

Xenofon Giannoulis, PhD student with Gene-Environment interactions in complex traits

Lianyun Huang, PhD student and  expert in Epidemiology, especially Genetic Epidemiology

Simon Chang, PostDoc in Biomedical Sciences



Simon Wengert

  1. What is your scientific background?

    I had my first real encounter with science when I was trained as a chemical assistant in the wet lab. Although, I had no specific idea about what it means to do science or what the job would be like I got hooked by it right away. I decided to study Molecular Biotechnology instead of a 'pure science' because I like the idea of translating a scientific finding into real world applications. Still, I did not want myself to get limited by a too narrow picture of what that application might be in particular. For instance, I got really interested in what biological insights can be obtained from the massive amount of data generated by the recent improvements in experimental technologies. This is why, I developed a major focus on biological data science during my masters. Looking back, I put what fascinated me first and learned the skills needed to get there along the way.
  2. What was your motivation for joining Na Cai's team and HPC?

    Na Cai's major focus lies on a highly relevant and fascinating group of phenotypes: neuropsychiatric diseases. Unfortunately, the molecular basis behind the formation of these biochemical disorders is still poorly understood. So I hope to contribute to understand them a bit better with the work we are doing at Na Cai's lab. Apart from that, I am convinced that we have a great and supportive group and an outstanding scientific environment here at HPC - both of which I think are essential for a successful PhD.
  3. What is your scientific aspiration?

    For the projects I will be involved in, recent developments in single cell methods and statistical analysis come in handy to study the effects of gene regulation in health and diseased states. Thereby, I aim to learn something about phenotypes like major depression or the aging process not only based on associations but hopefully also to get a glance of what is going on mechanistically under the hood. To acchieve this, I want to apply computational methods needed for dealing with the vast amounts of data and to draw from my biological domain knowledge to make sense of it. 



Xenofon Giannoulis

  1. What is your scientific background?

    My academic background is in Computer Science and Biomedical Informatics which I undertook following my BSc in applied Statistics. I acquired my scientific aspirations by working in Professor Zeggini’s lab at the Institute of Translational Genomics in Helmholtz Munich. Henceforth, I discovered my passion for genetics and the applications of Data Science in Biomedicine.
  2. What was your motivation for joining Na Cai’s team and HPC?

    To work alongside the Pioneers with Na Cai is a grand opportunity for me to propel myself forward in the challenging field of Bioinformatics. I am also fortunate to be following such a charismatic scientist, and firmly believe that with her support and direction my knowledge and understanding of this exciting research area will be vastly improved. In addition, the topic of my PhD is of particular interest to me, because it combines cardiometabolic traits, neuroscience and applied statistics; it aims to improve genomic prediction and will create a better understanding of which factors are driving risk in complex traits. I am delighted that Na’s group and the Pioneer Campus are relatively new schemes and there is much space to experiment and cross the boundaries of scientific discovery.
  3. What is your scientific aspiration?

    I would like to keep my scientific work within the borders of the humanistic values and ideals. My vision is that our research will contribute to the prosperity of the human, unlock cure therapies on complex diseases and prepare the ground of posing new questions for the generations to follow.



Lianyun Huang

  1. What is your scientific background?

    I majored in Preventive Medicine in bachelor. Then Epidemiology in master. During the study I gained experience in public health, disease surveillance and control, clinical medicine, surgery, toxicology laboratory experiments, cohort management, as well as statistical and primary computational skills.
  2. What was your motivation for joining Na Cai's team and HPC?

    Genetics is a fantastic research direction and when it comes across psychological diseases, it is even more exciting. With the emerging computational and statistical methods, with the guidance of Na, the cooperation with the teammates and the support from HPC, we are unprecedentedly close to the mysteries hiding in genes.
  3. What is your scientific aspiration?

    Learning from the predecessors, enhancing the professional skills, developing more pioneering ideas, devoting to practical research.



Simon Chang

  1. What is your scientific background?

    I studied Biomedical Sciences as a bachelor which I fell in love with the beauty of brain. I continued my study majored in neurophysiology and pharmacology as a master, this is the period that I have the chance to explore between human and mouse genetics as well as translational studies combing both of them in understanding the development of psychiatric disorders. I worked on disentangling neurocircuits during my PhD, where I am able to apply different state of art methods in order to understand the fundamental concepts behind stress hormone and the connectivity between different brain regions.
  2. What was your motivation for joining Na Cai's team and HPC?

    It is more like a home coming event after working for a long time with mice. Translational studies are the crucial parts for us to move a bit closer toward finding a new clinical intervention. Na is a wonderful scientist which I had great experience working with previously. In addition, her studies are matching the interests of mine and she is able to provide a great platform for me to continue develop myself as a scientist. Together with her I think we are able to explore in different scopes of topics where in one day we are able to understand the mystery behind psychiatric disorders.
  3. What is your scientific aspiration?

    As a scientist, the most important point for me is to able to contribute our works in shaping a better life for most of people. At the moment we are on the way of trying to understand some complicated questions, with all the developments of new techniques this is a good chance for us to try out the most. I will be very happy if we are able to contribute a part in order to increase the knowledge about psychiatric disorders.