PhD Fellows – University of Copenhagen

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PhD Fellows

NaToxAq will train 15 PhD fellows (Early Stage Researchers). Click each fellow to get more information.

The 15 Fellows

ESR1 - Inés Rodríguez Leal


Country of origin:  Spain

Project: In silico approaches for the identification of natural toxins relevant to water quality

Place of Employment and enrolment: Stockholm University (SU), Sweden

Principal supervisor: Prof. Matthew Macleod

Inés carried out her studies in biology at master level at Complutense University of Madrid in Spain. She was mainly interested in environmental issues, but she ended up finishing the degree with a major in biotechnology. Afterwards, she enrolled in another master course, this time with a more analytical approach and adapting some of the more newly developed techniques in clinical laboratory.

She first started working in modeling during an internship at the University of Montreal, Canada, in the frame of a grant from the Spanish Government, Becas Argo. There, she worked in environmental contaminants exposure applying QSAR models under the supervision of Marc-André Verner. In addition, she participated in an article about PBPK modelling on lactational exposure to chemicals in children.

She then came back to Sweden (where she was already living before going to Canada) and got the opportunity to continue working in modelling, under the supervision of Matthew MacLeod. Her project is based in Stockholm University as a part of the NaToxAq project and will study the persistence of natural toxins in the environment applying QSAR and environmental fate models.


ESR2 - Xiaomeng Liang


Country of origin: China

Project: Identification of plant produced natural toxins leaching from soil

Place of Employment and enrolment: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark

Principal supervisor: Prof. Jan H. Christensen

Xiaomeng received her BSc degree in Chemistry from Shandong University in China. She then moved to Massachusetts, US. There she went on her study at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and carried out her MSc thesis on developing photocaged complex tools to modulate cellular zinc signaling events. This interdisciplinary research experience gave her a chance to get in touch with several advanced analytical techniques including chromatography as well as mass spectrometry, which she found very fascinating.

After graduation, she decided to further her knowledge on these techniques. She extended her interest to environmental contaminant analysis for its profound practical impact. From Jun 2017 she is employed as a Marie Curie PhD fellow at the University of Copenhagen, working on identification of plant produced natural toxins through non-target screening approaches.


ESR3 - Massimo Picardo


Country of origin: Italy

Project: Non-target screening of natural toxins in surface water reservoirs

Place of Employment: Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior De Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Spain

Place of Enrolment: University of Barcelona (UB), Spain

Principal supervisor: Dr. Marinella Farré

Massimo discovered an increasing interest in food chemical analysis, so he enrolled at University of Udine at the faculty of Food Science and Technology. After three years he obtained a BCs degree, then he decided to improve his chemical food analysis knowledges with a master in Food Quality Control and Management at the department of Food Chemistry, then he graduated in decembrer of 2016 at the University of Udine. His research activities started in the food chemistry laboratory of the University of Udine with a bachelor degree thesis, developing and optimizing a solid phase micro-extraction- gaschromatography-mass spectrometry (SPME-GC-MS) method for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PAHs) analysis in olive oil, supervised by Dr. Giorgia Purcaro and Prof. Lanfranco Conte. Then a second study in Master degree thesis was performed optimizing an off line solid phase extraction- gaschromatography -flame ionization detector (SPE-GC-FID) method for phthalates analysis in cellulose food contact materials with supervision of Dr. Chiara Conchione and Prof. Sabrina Moret. Since april 2017 he is enrolled as a Ph.D. student in environmental chemistry at University of Barcelona. But the scientific research work is taking place at CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas) in Barcelona (Spain) coordinated by Dr. Marinella Farré Urgell and Prof. Oscar Nuñez Burcio. His project consists in a non-target screening of natural toxins in surface waters resevoirs thanks to a Marie Curie fellowship.

See CV

ESR4 - Bettina Gro Sørensen


Country of origin: Denmark

Project: Effect-directed identification of water-extractable toxins in alien species that expand their distribution with climate change

Place of Employment: Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Germany

Place of Enrolment: RWTH Aachen University, Germany

Principal supervisor: Dr. Werner Brack

Bettina is educated within Environmental Science from University of Copenhagen, with a B.Sc. in Natural Resources, Environmental Science track, and a M.Sc. in Geography, individually planned with courses within water science, natural resource management and chemistry. The bachelor studies included a semester at James Cook University, Australia, as part of the 'Global Environmental Sustainability Project', and the master studies a semester at University Duisburg-Essen at the program ‘Transnational ecosystem-based Water Management (TWM)’, in addition to fieldwork in Ghana and Malaysia in interdisciplinary projects. Overall, the academic studies have been focused on water, plants and chemistry, which can be perfectly combined in the present Ph.D. The bachelor thesis was focused on the ability of plants to purify air for organic pollutants, while the master thesis on heavy metal pollution of local drinking water resources in a mining community. She further has organizational experience (NGO and GO, nonprofit and pro-profit), enjoys writing and many other things in life. She additionally holds a BA in Philosophy with aspects of cognitive semiotics from University of Aarhus.


ESR5 - Mulatu Yohannes Nanusha


Country of origin: Ethiopia

Project: Screening for natural toxin fingerprints in waters from different regions all over Europe

Place of Employment: Helmholtz-Zentrum Fuer Umweltforschung Gmbh – UFZ (UFZ), Germany

Place of Enrolment: RWTH Aachen University, Germany

Principal supervisor: Dr. Werner Brack

My name is Mulatu Yohannes Nanusha. I completed my MSc Degree in Analytical Chemistry in 2012. I prepared my Master thesis focusing on the level of metals in food items in relation to their toxicological effect.

I am interested in topics concerning environment especially chemical related effect on the environment and its components. This is the reason I decided to join an Erasmus Mundus joint master program in Chemical Innovation and Regulation (ChIR - Environmental path) in 2015. For one year, since September 2015, I was hosted by the University of Bologna – Italy for the course work of this master. Currently, I am at University of Algarve – Portugal for my Master thesis, focusing on the environmentally sustainable technique for the recovery/removal of precious metals from wastes.

Starting from September 2017, I am going to work as a scientific researcher (PhD student) at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in the Department of Effect-Directed Analysis.

ESR6 - Daria Filatova


Country of origin: Ukraine

Project: Origin and release of cyanotoxins in surface water reservoirs

Place of Employment: Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior De Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Spain

Place of Enrolment: University of Barcelona (UB), Spain

Principal supervisor: Dr. Marinella Farré

Daria’s academic interests are water quality and water analysis. Her bachelor research project was linked to the wastewater treatment, water desalination, and water analysis at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (Ukraine).

In October 2014 Daria got enrolled in the European Erasmus Mundus Master Program in Quality in Analytical Laboratories (EMQAL). The first academic year included classes in the quality management, analytical methods, and data analysis modules at the University of Bergen (UiB). After getting the theoretical basis, Daria continued her studies working on Master research project in the group of chromatography, capillary electrophoresis, and mass spectrometry at the University of Barcelona (UB). During one year of her Master research project, Daria extended both knowledge and practical skills not only in the LC-MS analytical technique but also in chemometrics. She worked with UHPLC coupled to both LRMS and HRMS.

Currently, Daria is enrolled as a PhD student at Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior Deinvestigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), under the supervision of Dr. Marinella Farré, and UB, under the supervision of Prof. Oscar Núñez Burcio. Her research project is on “Origin and release of cyanotoxins in surface water reservoirs”.


ESR7 - Vaidotas Kisielius


Country of origin: Lithuania

Project: Spatial and temporal variation in the production and release of glycosidal natural toxins in rangelands and forests

Place of Employment: Metropolitan University College (MUC), Denmark

Place of Enrolment: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark

Principal supervisor: Dr. Lars Holm Rasmussen

Vaidotas Kisielius received his BSc degree in Environmental Engineering from Vilnius Gediminas Technical University in Lithuania (incl. 1 full semester of exchange studies in University of Aarhus in Denmark) and MSc degree in Biotechnology from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He has restricted his both BSc and MSc theses to the areas of water research. He has carried out activities of his MSc thesis in a secondment to the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft (the Netherlands) where he experimentally investigated the sea water’s microbiological processes that may predetermine the failure of modern desalination techniques.

Already before his graduation from Wageningen University, Vaidotas moved to his home country where he started working in the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania and focused on contemporary international environmental policies for more than 4 years. Meanwhile in the 2nd half of 2013 Lithuania assumed its rotating presidency to the Council of the European Union and Vaidotas seized this opportunity to spend 6 months working as a deputy chair of the Working Party on the Environment of the Council of the EU (Brussels). These both experiences gave him profound understanding in the field of environmental legislation and complex international decision making and implementation processes.

Vaidotas has expressed his willingness to get back to research before losing his favorable early stage researcher’s status and has been invited to carry out PhD in the University of Copenhagen. The purpose of his PhD for the Natoxaq network is to validate analytical methods for separation and quantification of targeted natural toxic compounds which he would use to illustrate possible pathways of these substances from non-managed ecosystems to water resources. In the future Vaidotas intends to participate in the hands-on research without losing the track on how the scientists’ recommendations are actually being assimilated and implemented for the better quality of life.


ESR8 - Jawameer Hama


Country of origin: Iraq

Project: Quantification of crop produced natural toxins in groundwater

Place of Employment and Enrolment: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark

Principal supervisor: Dr. Bjarne W. Strobel

Jawameer received his Master degree in Analytical Chemistry from Bangor University (UK), 2013. His master conducted on analyzing the chemical contents and in particular on Phenolics as secondary metabolites in walnut. During his Master he performed the analysis using chromatography and mass spectrometry techniques. After his Master, he recruited as staff member at Chemistry Department, University of Raparin, Kurdistan Region, he did research / teaching. Where he gained the interest of further uses of chemical techniques in environmental field.

From June 2017 Jawameer employed as PhD fellow at University of Copenhagen (UCPH), under the supervision of Dr. Bjarne W. Strobel. His research project within NaToxAq is grouped with Work Package: WP3 - Emission and distribution of natural toxins in drinking water resources. His project entitled ‘’ Quantification of crop produced natural toxins in groundwater’’.


ESR9 - Carina Schönsee


Country of origin: Germany

Project: Physico-chemical property determination of natural toxins

Place of Employment: Eidgenoessisches Departement Fuer Wirtschaft, Bildung und Forschung (WBF), Switzerland

Place of Enrolment: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH, Sweitzerland)

Principal supervisor: Dr. Thomas Bucheli

Carina attained her BSc and MSc degree in Water Science from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany focusing on Microbiology, Chemistry and Analytics of the (aquatic) environment. During her studies she did several years of practical laboratory work at her university as a student research assistant in the field of Water Analytics by firstly joining the group of Prof. Dr. Martin Denecke at the Department for Urban Water and Waste Management followed by the Instrumental Analytical Chemistry group headed by Prof. Dr. Torsten C. Schmidt.

In her master studies, Carina was able to gain international practical experience when staying with the research group Environmental Science at AgResearch in Dunedin, New Zealand. During this three month research practical under the supervision of Dr. Richard Muirhead, she conducted laboratory- and field-based rainfall simulation experiments on sheep-grazed pastures. In 2016 she spent six months at the Department of Environmental Geosciences at the University of Vienna, Austria to perform all practical work for her master thesis in the frame of the Erasmus+ Traineeship program. Supervised by Dr. Thorsten Hüffer, Carina already looked into environmental distribution processes with respect to sorption and solution complexation during her master thesis.

Since May 2017, Carina is now working in the research group Environmental Analytics at Agroscope (the Swiss Centre of Excellence for Agricultural Research) and is enrolled as a PhD student in Environmental Chemistry at the ETH Zurich. Her research within NaToxAq focusses on the characterization of physico-chemical properties and distribution processes of natural toxins in the environment.


ESR10 - Regiane Sanches Natumi


Country of origin: Brazil

Project: Stability of natural toxins in surface waters

Place of Employment: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG), Switzerland

Place of Enrolment: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH, Sweitzerland)

Principal supervisor: Dr. Elisabeth ML Janssen

I attained my BSc degree in Environmental Chemistry at the University of São Paulo. It was during my bachelor that I developed an interest in peptides produced by cyanobacteria, their toxicology and fate on the environment. During my bachelor I worked at the Laboratory of Toxins and Natural Products from Algae with extraction and isolation of microcystin with the aim to produce a national standard for the detection of this cyanotoxin in drinking water.

After my Bachelor I moved to Germany to pursue a Master degree in Environmental Sciences at the University of Trier. I did my Master’s Thesis at the Fraunhofer Institute IGB-Biocat, focusing on the enzymatic synthesis of novel biosurfactant using renewable resources as raw material. During my Masters I could gain experience with organic synthesis and several analytical techniques, such as LCMS and NMR.

Presently, I am developing my PhD research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG) under the supervision of Dr. Elisabeth Janssen and I am attending the PhD program in Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics at the ETH Zürich under the co-supervision of Prof Dr. Kristopher McNeil. My current work is focused on the environmental fate of novel cyanopeptides in surface waters. The aim of my PhD project is to investigate the stability and possible transformation processes of emerging cyanopeptides by determination of photochemical transformation mechanisms, sorption, and biodegradation processes. Ultimately, I try to link the chemical transformation with loss of toxicity of the studied compounds.


ESR11 - Daniel Bernardo Garcia Jorgensen


Country of origin: Spain

Project: Natural toxin fate and leaching from soils

Place of Employment and Enrolment: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark

Principal supervisor: Prof. Hans Chr. B. Hansen

Daniel did a long-degree (5 years) in Environmental Sciences at Málaga University, Spain. He was a student intern at the Department of Ecology, studying different mechanisms of inorganic carbon incorporation in Catenella caespitosa (algae).

After graduation, he started MsC EnvEuro, a double degree master program. First year at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, he specialized in land use and water resources. In that year, he adquired competences in soil and water management, modelling and advanced analytical techniques. Second year at Copenhagen University, he specialized in water pollution and ecotoxicology. It was then when he was introduced to natural toxins, starting his MsC thesis titled “Natural toxin leaching through the soil and modelling (Daisy)”. He focused on ptaquiloside, a toxin produced by Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum).

From September 1st, he will be employed as Marie Curie PhD fellow at Copenhagen University. The focus of the work will be to continue the development of a stable model to study the environmental fate of natural toxins at pedon-scale.


ESR12 - Marcel Schneider


Country of origin: Germany

Project: Water treatment operations to remove natural toxins from surface water

Place of Employment and Enrolment: Masaryk University (MU), Czech Republic

Principal supervisor: Prof. Ludek Blaha

I developed a strong interest in environmental chemistry throughout my entire academic education at the Beuth University of Applied Sciences where I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical and Chemical Engineering with my Bachelor’s thesis focusing on a fluorescence polarization immunoassay for the quantification of mycotoxins. Following, I gained more in-depth knowledge doing my Master’s in Pharmaceutical and Chemical Engineering at the Beuth University of Applied Sciences. For my Master’s thesis, I investigated and assessed the effects of emerging contaminants on microbial communities extracted from different terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems during an internship at the Environmental Sciences Group at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario where I finally decided to become a scientific researcher in the field of environmental chemistry.

After graduation, I worked at a small company’s department of quality control to further expand my theoretical knowledge and practical experience in instrumental analytical chemistry.

Now I am enrolled as a PhD student at the Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment (RECETOX) at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. My research will focus on the removal of natural toxins such as cyanotoxins from surface waters applying various water treatment operations.

See profile on XING

ESR13 - Natasa Skrbic


Country of origin: Serbia

Project: Removal of natural toxins at groundwater fed water works

Place of Employment:  Greater Copenhagen Utility - HOFOR AS, Denmark

Place of Enrolment: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark

Principal supervisor: Dr. Sarah Christensen

Natasa did her Bachelor studies at the Department of Biology and Ecology at the University of Novi Sad. Along the studies, she got particularly interested in the exploration of microorganisms, which subsequently led her to the subject of the Bachelor thesis with a focus on detection of phosphatases activity in water and soil cyanobacteria strains. She extended her interest in microbiology with the completion of her Master’s thesis in the same field.

Following her graduation, Natasa worked in a Public Water Management Company when she got acquainted with various practical issues and challenges related to water management. That motivated her to learn more about water systems functioning and the importance of water quality improvements. In 2014, she was selected as one of ten scholarship laureates for Erasmus Mundus Master Programme in Ecohydrology. During the 2-year program, she studied at different universities in Europe and South America, which allowed her to expand her knowledge in the water field. She did her Master Thesis at the Water Unit of European Commission Research Centre, working on developing of molecular tools for detecting toxigenic cyanobacteria in surface water.

Natasa is currently enrolled as a PhD student of the University of Copenhagen and also employed at Greater Copenhagen Utility – HOFOR. The overall objective of her PhD project is to understand if the natural toxins are present in the groundwater that serves as a drinking water abstraction source in the Copenhagen city area. In addition, this study will also investigate natural toxin fate through the water treatment processes.


ESR14 - Barbara Kubíčková


Country of origin: Germany

Project: Health risks of natural toxins in surface waters

Place of Employment and Enrolment: Masaryk University (MU), Czech Republic

Principal supervisor: Dr. Klára Hilscherová

I developed an interest in molecular biology during my Bachelor studies on serological tools for hepatitis E virus detection. After continuing to work in the field of molecular infection biology as an assistant researcher in parallel to my master studies, studying the redox proteome of S. aureus and characteristics of pathogenic E. coli, I decided to look for new challenges in the field of ecotoxicology.

As part of my Master studies in the program of Molecular Biology and Physiology at the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University of Greifswald I prepared my Master thesis in cooperation with the Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment (RECETOX). Under supervision of Prof. Dr. Jan-Peter Hildebrandt and technical guidance of Dr. Pavel Babica I investigated the effects of cyanobacterial toxins on cultured lung cells in vitro and assessed metabolic endpoints of toxicity and alterations in phosphorylation of important molecular switches.

Since May 2017, I am enrolled at RECETOX, Masaryk University, Brno. I will investigate health risks of surface water-borne toxins as ESR14 and part of the MSCA-ITN NaToxAq under supervision of Dr. Klára Hilscherová.


ESR15 - xx

Contact: xx

Country of origin: xx

Project: Predicting the contribution of natural toxins to chemical mixtures in drinking water sources

Place of Employment: Fera Science Ltd (Fera), UK

Place of Enrolmen: University of York (UY), UK

Principal supervisor: Dr. Carmel Ramwell