Principal Investigator

E-mail : denis(dot)lafontaine(at)ulb(dot)be

A Passion for Ribosomes & the Nucleolus
As an RNA biologist, I feel privileged to live out my passion for science and to have witnessed two decades of exciting developments in the field of ribosome biogenesis. When I started on this path, only a couple ill-defined assembly factors were known in budding yeasts. Now we know hundreds in human cells, we can look at them “in action” on precursor ribosomes, and we can start to address their role in disease. Our vision of the nucleolus has also been utterly challenged, with initial bottom-up in vitro reconstitutions and the concept of biomolecular condensates.
When I am not doing ribosome work, I like discovering new places around the world or visiting a museum of modern art, especially if there is a surrealist section (my Belgian fiber), and walking in nature to discover its beauty.

Ludivine WACHEUL
Technician, Lab Manager

E-mail: ludivine(dot)wacheul(at)ulb(dot)be

Hello, my name is Ludivine and I'm the lab manager.
I love learning about RNA and how it works in our cells. It's amazing to discover its secrets and to understand how it affects our bodies. I love doing experiments and discovering new things. Working in the laboratory allows me to give my curiosity free rein, to contribute to scientific knowledge. I think I know almost all laboratory procedures. I'm resourceful and persistent. When something goes wrong in the lab, guess who they call? 
When I'm not in the lab, I devote time to my large family (husband, 2 children, 3 dogs, 2 cats, and 2 water turtles) and enjoy diverse activities with them. I like to cook. I love the outdoors, particularly hiking with my husband and our dogs. To relax and take my mind off things, I also like the cinema and watching TV series.

Nathalie DUMONT

E-mail: nathalie(dot)dumont(at)ulb(dot)be

I am Denis’s secretary. Among other things, I handle HR (staff contracts, vacations etc.).

Christiane ZORBAS
Senior Post Doc

E-mail: christiane(dot)zorbas(at)ulb(dot)be

Christiane sees ribosomes in the clouds as people see butterflies in Rorschach tests.
When she first entered the field fifteen years ago, she was amazed by how much a Northern blot could reveal about cell health. Now she is interested in using ribosome biogenesis and the nucleolus to better understand human diseases, with a particular focus on cancer and intellectual disabilities. As a true master of pulse-chase and primer-extension assays, she feels at home and safe in the hot lab. She has a passion for teaching and transferring knowledge and skills to students.

Post Doc

E-mail: jing(dot)chen(at)ulb(dot)be

Jing received her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Tsinghua University (Beijing, China). During her PhD, she conducted research on ribosome biogenesis in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Her work focused on analyzing the effects of pre-rRNA mutations on ribosome biogenesis and pre-ribosome structures. Jing has undertaken postdoctoral training under the supervision of Professor Denis Lafontaine because she is interested in ribosome biogenesis in human cells, especially as it relates to ribosomopathies. To make a contribution to disease research from the perspective of ribosome biogenesis is one of her dreams.
Jing’s little cat-friends inspire her at her work and always comfort and encourage her when she encounters difficulties. In addition, Jing is crazy about cooking, traveling, and sports! Life is beautiful and science makes it amazing!

Post Doc

E-mail: aynur(dot)soenmez(at)ulb(dot)be

Where they see dots, she sees nucleoli…
Having worked for years to uncover the impact of nucleolar changes in neurodegenerative diseases, Aynur has accumulated exceptional expertise in visualizing the nucleolus. This she is now using to understand how changes in nucleolar structure impact ribosome biogenesis in the context of many diseases.
Outside of work, she is fascinated by Nature in its diversity. She is an avid urban gardener and is also a volunteer at a shelter.

Post Doc

E-mail: leyre(dot)lopezmuneta(at)uclouvain(dot)be

My name is Leyre and I am doing my postdoc on ribosomal RNA modifications as they relate to pancreatic cancer initiation and progression. My passionate aim is to understand the molecular basis of cancer initiation, progression, and metastasis. Most current cancer studies are based on transcriptomics and transcriptional regulation, but I believe that progress will accelerate once we better understand the contribution of translational regulation.
I spend my free time traveling, reading, and getting together with friends and family. I am part of a choir and I love music, dancing, going to concerts or to the cinema, visiting museums... I also love nature, plants, and animals, especially my dog Lila.
Co-supervision with Patrick Jacquemin (UCL)

Eliza SACK
PhD student

E-mail: eliza(dot)sack(at)ulb(dot)be

Just as people look at ornaments on Christmas trees, thus does Eliza look at modifications on the ribosomal RNA. After a master’s thesis (in the Lafontaine lab) devoted to Diamond-Blackfan anemia syndrome (DBS), Eliza has undertaken a PhD that further explores the mechanisms underlying this disease, with a special focus on the impact of ribosomal RNA modifications. As a bonus, this has made her proficient in RiboMethSeq analysis. On the side, Eliza is the lab’s official cookie dealer.

PhD student

E-mail: lea.pautet(at)uliege(dot)be

As a PhD student in molecular biology, I like conducting wet lab experiments. These enable me to explore the intricate world of molecular biology, in particular RNAs. I’m also very interested in bioinformatic analysis: I find joy in deciphering complex datasets and extracting meaningful insights from the vast genomic landscape. The intersection between wet lab and bioinformatics makes it possible to bridge the gap between experimental design and data interpretation. Outside the lab, I spend quality time practicing Yoga as a source of mental clarity and physical wellness. I also enjoy cooking, which is quite like doing experiments with flavors and textures, and share moments with my friends and family.
Co-supervision with Denis Mottet (ULg)

PhD student

E-mail: ruben(dot)lattuca(at)ulb(dot)be

I'm a PhD student working on the double-stranded RNA editing enzyme ADAR. My goal is to combine bioinformatic analyses with wet lab experiments to understand better how ADAR works.
Co-supervision with Vincent Detours (ULB)

Undergrad student

E-mail: Manon(dot)Lidarssi(at)ulb(dot)be

Manon is in the final year of her master's studies at the ULB and is writing her thesis in the Lafontaine Lab. During her studies, she particularly enjoyed courses in molecular and cell biology. While studying for her bachelor's degree, she was involved in a project to build a teaching model of ribosomes for students. This sparked her curiosity to further study ribosomal function.
As for her interests outside the laboratory, she loves going for walks with her dog, reading, watching TV series, and playing video games.

Undergrad student

E-mail: Jade(dot)Nichols(at)ulb(dot)be

Jade is in the last year of her master’s studies and is doing her thesis in the Lafontaine lab.
During her studies, she was impressed by the cell biology course and the imaging practicals. She wanted to learn more about human pathologies, especially ribosomopathies.
Her safe place is with a good tea, a book, and some music. She also enjoys hiking and discovering new countries and cultures.

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