Tuuli Lappalainen, PhD

Principal Investigator

Tuuli Portrait-8648_smallTuuli Lappalainen is a Junior Investigator and Core Member at the New York Genome Center. She holds a joint appointment as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Systems Biology at Columbia University.

Her research focuses on functional genetic variation in human populations and its contribution to traits and diseases. She has pioneered the intergration of large-scale genome and transcriptome sequencing data to understand how genetic variation affects gene expression, providing insight to cellular mechanisms underlying genetic risk for disease.

Tuuli received her PhD from University of Helsinki, Finland in 2009, followed by postdoctoral research at University of Geneva, Switzerland with Manolis Dermitzakis and at Stanford University with Carlos Bustamante. She has made an important contribution to several international research consortia in human genomics, including the Genotype Tissue Expression (GTEx) Project, the 1000 Genomes Project and led the RNA-sequencing work of the Geuvadis Consortium.

Ana Vasileva, PhD

Senior Staff Scientist in Molecular Biology

DSC_5682retouchedAna Vasileva works as a Senior Staff Scientist in the Lappalainen lab. She set up the wetlab of the research group, and she oversees molecular and cell biology research in the Lappalainen lab.

Ana got her PhD at ICGEB and Osaka University on strategies for optimization of HBsAg expression in Pichia pastoris under the direction of Dr. Navin Khanna, and she did postdoctoral work woth Prof. Rolf Jessberger at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York where she carried out a project aimed at deciphering the mechanisms of gene targeting by recombinant adeno-associated virus in human cells. This effort extended in collaborations with laboratories focusing on correcting mutations in patient-specific iPS cells. It was during this time that she developed her ongoing interest in stem cell biology and began to study the unique niche of germ stem cells. Ana used NGS to compare piRNAs in wild type and Tdrd6-deficient germ cells. She continued to study the germ cell niche under the mentorships of Professor Debra Wolgemuth at Columbia University, specifically utilizing conditional mutant mouse strains to investigate the role of essential cell cycle genes in spermatogenesis.

Stephane Castel, PhD

Postdoctoral Researcher

StephaneStephane joined the Lappalainen Lab as a postdoc at the end of 2014. He’s interested in understanding how non-coding genetic variation contributes to human traits by integrating the genome and transcriptome. He has focused on leveraging allelic expression data to quantify regulatory variation within individuals. In 2018 he received a K99 to support his work to characterize genetic, longitudinal, and developmental effects on the transcriptome using a novel non-invasive RNA-sequencing method. Stephane completed his PhD at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory studying RNA interference mediated gene regulation in Robert Martienssen’s Lab. He completed his BSc in Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of Guelph in Canada and is a native of Toronto.


Sarah Kim-Hellmuth, MD, PhD

Postdoctoral Researcher, Marie Curie Fellow
SarahSarah Kim-Hellmuth has been a Postdoctoral Research Scientist in the Lappalainen lab since 2015. She is interested in human genetic variation and its effects on cellular functions linked to infectious and autoimmune disease. Sarah studied Medicine in Munich, Germany and obtained her doctoral degree in Immunology in Veit Hornung’s lab, focusing on the recognition of microbial DNA by pattern recognition receptors. During her residency in Human Genetics at the University of Bonn she pursued her research interest both in immunology and human genetics by investigating expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs), which underpin innate immune responses, and provide mechanistic insights to complement genome-wide association studies.

Silva Kasela, PhD

Postdoctoral Researcher
Photo_SilvaKaselaSilva Kasela is a postdoctoral research associate in the Lappalainen lab. She is interested in using and developing statistical methods to understand the genetic architecture of human phenotypes and diseases. Silva studied mathematical statistics at the University of Tartu, Estonia. As a PhD student, she joined the Estonian Genome Center at the University of Tartu to integrate her interest in both statistics and biology. She obtained her PhD in molecular biomedicine from University of Tartu studying the genetic regulation of gene expression.

Margot Brandt, BSc

PhD Student
MargotMargot is a graduate student in the lab from the Integrated Program in Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Sciences at Columbia University. Before coming to Columbia she worked as a technician in Leonard Zon’s lab at Harvard Medical School using zebrafish as a model for investigating the molecular mechanisms of hematopoietic stem cell differentiation and self renewal. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Wake Forest University where she did research in evolutionary genetics.

Elise Flynn, BSc

PhD Student

IMG_0780 (3)
Elise is a PhD student in the Systems Biology Program at Columbia University. She is interested in integrating -omics and other biological data to understand how perturbations in the genome and cell environment affect phenotype and disease. As a post-baccalaureate fellow with the NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Program, Elise researched and developed bioinformatic methods to study rare diseases. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where she did research in behavioral neuroscience. Outside of the lab, Elise is the Social Outreach chair of the Women in Science at Columbia group and the co-director of the Science Matters Research Internship program.

 Paul Hoffman, BSc

Bioinformatics Analyst

Paul is a bioinformatics analyst, shared jointly with Rahul Satija’s lab. Before this position, he was a bioinformatics specialist for Peter Morrell at the University of Minnesota Agronomy Department. While there, he worked on finding the physical location of SNP markers on the barley genome, helped identify mutations that are important in cold tolerance in barley, and started asking how different motifs in genomic DNA influence point mutations in soybean. Paul earned his Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Minnesota.

 Alper Gokden, MSc

Associate Scientist I

Alper joined the lab in 2017 to work as a lab technician. He obtained his BS in biology at the University of Arkansas, working in Lirong Zeng’s lab to help determine genes involved in plant innate immunity. He completed his master’s in biotechnology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he worked in Michael Lampson’s lab studying microtubule – kinetochore dynamics during mitosis. There, he used optogenetic techniques to probe the function of mitotic kinases in chromosome segregation.

Erica Bertisch, BSc

Executive Assistant for Faculty

Erica Bertisch is the Executive Assistant for Faculty at the New York Genome Center, working for the Lappalainen and Pickrell labs. Previously, she was Executive Assistant to the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and assistant to the Executive Vice President, Founders Affiliate of the American Heart Association.  Erica is a graduate of Russell Sage College in Troy, New York, and makes her home in Brooklyn Heights.

Yocelyn Recinos, BSc

Rotation student

YR PhotoYocelyn is a PhD student in the Integrated Program in Cellular, Molecular, and Biomedical Sciences at Columbia University. She is interested in studying the role genetic variance plays in disease. She completed her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences at the University of California, Irvine. There she worked with Dr. Todd Holmes, studying the neural circuit mediating short wavelength light preference in Drosophila. Before coming to Columbia, she worked with Dr. Hannah Gould at King’s College London developing assays to measure allergen-specific antibodies.

Edward Ruiz, BSc

Rotation Student

myface_smallEdward is a PhD Student in the Systems Biology program at Columbia University. He is interested in elucidating mechanisms of human disease by exploring the functional effects of genetic variation through computational analysis of ‘-omic’ sequencing data. Edward graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BSc in genetics in Spring 2017. There, he performed cardiac tissue engineering research with Drs. Timothy Kamp and Kevin Eliceiri.


Pejman Mohammadi, Postdoc (2015-2018)

Aaron Wolman, Associate Scientist I (2015-2017)

Nicholas Giangreco, Rotation student (2016)

Alejandra Cervera, Visiting student (2016)

Alexandre Yahi, Rotation student (2016)

Zach Baker, Rotation student (2015)

Ana Pascoini, Research Assistant (2014-2015)