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



Rebeca Diaz

Post-doctoral research fellow

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

My current post-doc project focusses on the functional characterization of the ATP2C2 gene, previously implicated in language disorders. I am funded by the Action Medical Research


Angela Martinelli
PhD candidate                                                                     

In 2015 I started 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.


Filippo Abbondanza

PhD candidate    

Graduate cum laudae at the University of Bologna in Biotechnology in 2016. I then moved to the UK where I achieved a MSc in Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh. As my MSc thesis I took part in iGEM, the most renowned synthetic biology competition for young researchers. During the project the team developed PhagED, a modular toolkit to re-sensitise antibiotic-resistant bacteria using CRISPR and a dual-phage system. The project won the ‘Best therapeutics’ award.

I’ve started my PhD in May 2018 and I’m interested in unravelling the genetics and the relationship between psychiatric disorders, functional laterality e.g. (brain asymmetries) and behavioural laterality (e.g. handedness).


Irene Feliciotti

Visiting scholar

I graduated from the University of Pisa with a Master degree in Biology Applied in Biomedical Science with a specialization in Neurobiology. I have joined the Neurogenetics group to gain gaining experience in biomolecular techniques applied to neurodevelopment disorders.

I am funded by “POR FSE 2014/2020 Regione Toscana”.


Ms Monika Gostic, PhD student now working in Michael Nevels’s group (St Andrews)
Dr Rob Shore, PhD student now post-doc at Harvard University.
Dr Kerry Pettigrew, post-doc now working with Prof Matt Holden (St Andrews);