Neurogenetics group- April 2016

Recent group lunch to say goodbye to Chiara. Chiara Diquigiovanni (PhD student at the University of Bologna) has been with us since December 2015 as visiting scholar….and she may come back! From left: Angela, Chiara, Silvia, Monika (with a promising young scientist) and Rebeca.

We are a very dynamic group often hosting visiting scholars, ERASMUS students and undergraduate summer students. Please get in touch with Silvia if you would like to join us.


Dr Silvia Paracchini – Group leader
I graduated in Biological Sciences (cum laude) from University of Pavia in 1998 and obtained a DPhil in Human Genetics from Oxford University in 2003. My project, supervised by Dr Chris Tyler-Smith and Prof. Ed Southern involved the development of genotyping methods and screening of large cohorts for genetic associations with prostate cancer and male infertility. I conducted my post-doctoral training in Prof. Anthony Monaco’s group at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, Oxford University. My work led to the identification of strong candidate gene for dyslexia (KIAA0319) and initiated functional studies to understand the role of this gene during early development. In 2011 I was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship to set up my group at St Andrews. In 2013 I became member of the Young Academy of Scotland.

I also lead the St Andrews Bioinformatics Unit


Monika Gostic

PhD candidate

Prior to my arrival to St Andrews, I graduated from the Technical university Munich in July 2013 (MSc Biology, main focus Molecular Biotechnology). As I wanted to obtain more knowledge in the field of Neuroscience, I applied for the internship at the German Research centre for Environmental health – Helmholtz Zentrum Munich. There, working in an amazing group of scientists, I’ve learned the techniques required for researching neural circuits in Zebrafish. I’ve mastered histology, imaging, handling live specimens and performing studies on this amazing vertebrate model organism.

Now, as a PhD student in Zebrafish neurodevelopment, I’ll try to find a way through genetic mysteries of developmental dyslexia. My work is based on uncovering genetic variance of this specific neural disorder and use zebrafish as a model organism. Zebrafish are a very useful tool for many different aspects of scientific research and I believe they can help us to get a step closer towards better understanding of dyslexia and its occurrence in adolescent children.

I am supported by a 600th Anniversary Scholarship and my co-supervisor is Prof Keith Sillar

Rebeca Diaz

PhD candidate

Before starting my PhD in St Andrews  I worked as research assistant  at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford.  My work there within the Transgenic core and the Cardiovascular Medicine Department  involved  investigating  the use of recombinases to integrate DNA within specific genomic sites, the generation of mouse models and the use of knockout models to study the physiological role of genes that have been linked to coronary artery disease by GWAS.

My PhD project focuses on the functional characterization of dyslexia candidate genes and in the development of CRISPR-Cas9 based tools to regulate gene expression.

My scholarship is funded by the School of Medicine and the School of Physics. My co-supervisor is Prof Kishan Dholakia who leads the Biophotonics group.

Angela Martinelli

Research assistant

I graduated in Health Biology (cum laude) from Bologna University in October 2014. I conducted my Master training in Prof. Elena Maestrini’s group at the Department of Pharmacy and BioTechnology (FaBiT), Bologna University. My project involved the analysis of genetic variants in the locus CHRNA5-CHRNA3 in subjects affected by Cluster Headache.
I have joined the Neurogenetics group to expand my knowledge, learn new techniques and gain more experience in neurogenetics research. I’m working with the PhD student Monika Gostic on the neurodevelopment of Zebrafish, a model organism useful to study the biology of dyslexia and the complex link between this disorder and laterality.  I’m also taking part in the project led byKerry Pettigrew conducting large scale genetic screenings to identify genetic variants associated with reading and language measures.


Dr Kerry Pettigrew, post-doc now working with Dr Matt Holden (St Andrews);
Dr Rob Shore, PhD student now post-doc at Harvard University.