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
PhD candidate                                                                      September 2017

Two years ago I had the pleasure to start working as research assistant in the Neurogenetics group at St Andrews University. This job opportunity allowed me to collaborate on the functional characterization of the dyslexia candidate gene KIAA0319 and learn a wide set of techniques ranging from cellular/molecular biology and biochemistry up to microscopy, computational analysis and genetic manipulation of zebrafish.

Now I’m delighted to start my PhD and focus on ATP2C2, a susceptibility gene for Specific Language Impairment (SLI). Common and rare variants have been associated with this gene in individuals affected by SLI. The main goal of my project will be to study the role of ATP2C2 in brain development and look at the effects of specific mutations on the protein function. This will involve the generation of knock-out and mutated cell lines and the application of electrophysiological approaches.

My co-supervisor is Dr Samantha Pitt   (
My scholarship is funded by The Cunningham Trust.



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