Mentoring Program

The ASciNA Mentoring Program (AMP) is generously supported by the Alumni Club of the Medical University of Vienna and the Technical University of Graz. This program seeks to develop a mentoring framework, where established Austrian scientists/scholars and professionals provide guidance, experience and knowledge to early career researchers from Austria.


MENTORING PROGRAM 2015/16:

The three mentoring pairs sponsored by the Alumni Club of the Medical University of Vienna are:

Mentee Julia Wilflingseder, PhD

Julia Wilflingseder studied Biotechnology and Environmental Technology at the University of Applied Science Upper Austria. In 2010 she received her PhD in Natural Science/Biophysics from the Johannes Kepler University (Linz, Austria). During her PhD and early PostDoc phase she focused on genetic and clinical epidemiology in kidney disease in the group of Prof. Dr. Rainer Oberbauer at the Department of Nephrology, Medical University Vienna (MUV). Since 2014 she is a PostDoc at the Bonventre Laboratory of Kidney Injury and Repair, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Her mentor is Harald Ott.

Mentor Harald Ott, M.D.

In 2000 Harald Ott earned his M.D. at the University Innsbruck, followed by a residency in the Department of Surgery. From 2004 to 2006 he did basic research at the University of Minnesota, Center for Cardiovascular Repair. He is now a thoracic surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Assistant Professor in Surgery at the Harvard Medical School. Since 2008 he is also head of his own lab. His specialty is whole organ regeneration through reseeding and engraftment with native cells (decellularization). In 2013 he received the ASciNA “Principal Investigator” Award for his scientific publications in Nature.

Mentee Patrick Brunner, M.D.

Patrick Brunner is an alumnus of the Medical University of Vienna (MUV), where he received his M.D. degree “summa cum laude”. In 2007 he started his residency in Dermatology and Venereology at the Department of Dermatology at MUV, becoming an assistant professor in 2015 (currently on professional leave). He is now taking part in a Clinical Scholar’s Master’s Degree Program at The Rockefeller University, in the Laboratory of Investigative Dermatology. His research focus lies in the field of inflammatory skin diseases, especially psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. His mentor is Dietrich Haubenberger.

Mentor Dietrich Haubenberger, M.D.

Dietrich Haubenberger received his medical degree, as well as training as neurologist, at the Medical University of Vienna (MUV). From 2008 to 2011 he completed a research fellowship at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), which is part of the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, MD. Since 2014 Dietrich Haubenberger is Staff Scientist and Director of the Clinical Trials Unit at the NINDS Intramural Research Program. His research focuses on the area of movement disorders, especially tremor disorders.

Mentee Gregor Werba, M.D.

In 2013 Gregor Werba graduated from the Medical University of Vienna (MUV), where he developed a strong interest in immunology. He briefly held a position as a research assistant at the Department of Surgery at MUV until moving to the United States. Since 2015 he is a research scholar at the S. Arthur Localio Laboratory, Department of Surgery at NYU Langone Medial Center in New York. He is currently focusing on the role of innate immunity mediating pancreatic inflammation and driving the inflammation-cancer paradigm. His mentor is Mariella Gruber-Filbin.

Mentor Mariella Gruber Filbin, M.D., PhD

Mariella Gruber Filbin graduated from the Medical University of Graz in 2004, sub auspiciis praesidentis - a Presidential Award for the highest academic achievement in Austria. Two years later she completed her PhD - also with highest distinction. From 2006 to 2008 she did her clinical residency at the Medical University of Vienna, Department of Pediatrics. Afterwards she worked for three years as a Postdoc at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston, MA. From 2011 to 2013 she completed a Residency in Pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital. Since July 2013 she is a fellow in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Boston Children’s Hospital und Dana-Farber Cancer Center. Her research focuses on pediatric brain tumors, especially glioblastoma and other high grade gliomas. She is a recipient of various awards throughout her career, also of ASciNA’s "Young Scientist" Award 2014.

The mentoring pair sponsored by the Technical University of Graz is:

Mentee Birgit Ploier, PhD

Birgit Ploier received her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry (2008) and her master’s degree in Biotechnology (2010) from the Graz University of Technology (TU Graz). During her master’s studies she was awarded an Erasmus scholarship which allowed her to study at the Sheffield University, UK for one semester. In 2014 she completed the PhD program “DK Molecular Enzymology” at the Institute of Biochemistry at TU Graz, studying molecular enzymology of lipolytic enzymes in yeast. Her PhD Thesis was awarded with the "ÖGMBT Dissertationspreis 2015". Currently, she is a PostDoc at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City. Her research focus is on lipid transport and trafficking, especially phospholipid scrambling by the rod photoreceptor rhodopsin. Her mentor is Martin Hetzer.

Mentor Martin Hetzer, PhD

In 1997 Martin Hetzer received his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Vienna. He went on to do his PostDoc at the European Molecular Biology Lab in Heidelberg, studying the nuclear envelope using cell-free systems. In 2003 he set up his own group at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. He is currently a Jesse and Caryl Philips Foundation Chair and Professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. His research focuses on deciphering the structural and molecular organization of the nucleus and how it relates to development, aging and disease.


MENTORING PROGRAM 2014/15:

The two mentoring pairs sponsored by the Alumni Club of the Medical University of Vienna are:

Mentee Hanna Knaus, M.D.

Hanna Knaus graduated from the Medical University of Vienna in 2012, where she contributed to the investigation of novel therapeutic targets in hematologic malignancies while completing her diploma thesis. After earning her MD, she enrolled in advanced scientific studies and is currently working towards her PhD at the Division of Hematology and Hemostaseology at the Medical University of Vienna. In 2013, she joined the Sydney Kimmel Cancer Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as a research fellow, where she is involved in multiple research projects in the field of cancer immunobiology. Hanna Knaus is particularly interested in strategies that augment innate anti-tumor immunity, with a special focus on hematologic malignancies such as acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Her mentor is Mariella Gruber-Filbin.

Mentor Mariella Gruber Filbin, M.D., PhD

Mariella Gruber Filbin graduated from the Medical University of Graz in 2004, sub auspiciis praesidentis - a Presidential Award for the highest academic achievement in Austria. Two years later she completed her PhD - also with highest distinction. From 2006 to 2008 she did her clinical residency at the Medical University of Vienna, Department of Pediatrics. Afterwards she worked for three years as a Postdoc at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston, MA. From 2011 to 2013 she completed a Residency in Pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital. Since July 2013 she is a fellow in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Boston Children’s Hospital und Dana-Farber Cancer Center. Her research focuses on pediatric brain tumors, especially glioblastoma and other high grade gliomas. She is a recipient of various awards throughout her career, also of ASciNA’s "Young Scientist" Award 2014.


Mentee Michaela Gruber, M.D., PhD

Michaela Gruber graduated from the Medical University Vienna in 2008. There she also started her PhD, working on studies of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) at the Division of Hematology. Within her thesis, she also worked as a visiting research fellow at the Laval University (Québec City, Canada) and at Shimane University Cancer Center (Izumo, Japan). Subsequently, she trained two years as a resident physician in internal medicine at the Elisabethinen Hospital in Linz. She completed her PhD in summer 2013. Since September 2013 she is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Catherine Wu lab at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston, MA) and Broad Institute (Cambridge, MA). Supported by a Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship from the EU, she studies evolutionary dynamics of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) by next generation sequencing and in vitro application of novel genomic engineering approaches. Her mentor is Konrad Hochedlinger.

Mentor Konrad Hochedlinger, PhD

In 1997, Konrad Hochedlinger received a Bachelor's degree in Biology from the University of Vienna. He then went on to study Genetics at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna where he obtained a Master's degree in the lab of Erwin Wagner. For his PhD thesis, he joined Rudolf Jaenisch's lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Whitehead Institute in 2000. There, he succeeded in cloning mice from the nuclei of mature lymphocytes using somatic cell nuclear transfer, providing unequivocal proof that the genome of a specialized cell remains equivalent to that of the early embryo. After obtaining his PhD degree in 2003, Konrad stayed in Rudolf Jaenisch's group as a postdoctoral researcher, attempting to coax mature cells directly into stem cells without the use of nuclear transfer. In 2006, he started his own lab at the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Regenerative Medicine, and in 2012 he became a Full Professor at the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University. He and his team continue to dissect the role stem cells play in normal development and disease, with a specific focus on the biology of pluripotent and gastric cells.

The mentoring pair sponsored by the Technical University of Graz is:

Florian Lackner, MSc, PhD

Florian Lackner studied technical physics at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz). In 2009 he completed his master, in 2012 his PhD. He developed and used various laser spectroscopic methods for the investigation of atoms, molecules and clusters on helium nanodroplets. Since 2013 he is a Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the Institute of Experimental Physics of the TU Graz. He was involved in setting up a new ultrafast laser laboratory. In September Florian Lackner started his research stay at UC Berkeley, Department of Chemistry and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where he wants to gain even more experience in ultrafast laser science. His mentor is Thomas Brabec.


Thomas Brabec, PhD

Thomas Brabec received his master (Dipl.Ing.) in physics engineering from the Vienna University of Technology (VUT) in 1988. He then went on to do his PhD in photonics until 1992. He received his Habilitation and became an associate professor at the VUT in 1998. He came to Canada to work as a full professor at the University of Ottawa’s Department of Physics in 2002. His research is focused on photonics, especially the physics of light matter interaction. Thomas Brabec is currently Canada Research Chair in Ultrafast Photonics at the University of Ottawa.

MENTORING PROGRAM 2013/14:


The two mentoring pairs sponsored by the Alumni Club of the Medical University of Vienna are:

Mentee Georg Furtmüller, MD
Georg J. Furtmüller graduated from the Vienna Medical University in 2010 and where he conducted his diploma thesis in the field of peripheral nerve surgery at the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. In 2010 he started teaching first year medical and dental students in gross laboratory anatomy at the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Medicine and Dental School. Since March 2012 he holds a position as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in Baltimore and is involved in multiple research projects geared toward the goal of reducing overall immunosuppression in patients receiving vascularized composite allotransplants. He is performing super-microsurgery i.e. orthotopic hind limb transplantation in both rat and mouse models. Georg Furtmüller's mentor is Georg Wieselthaler.


Mentee Hermann Agis, PhD
In 2007 Hermann Agis received his masters degree from the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna. He then transitioned to the Department of Oral Surgery at the Medical University of Vienna and received his PhD in 2010. In 2013 he joined the Department of Periodontics & Oral Medicine at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. His main focus is to design and develop therapeutic strategies based on the understanding of the fundamental biological processes of oral tissue regeneration and bone healing across different regional anatomical domains. He uses molecular and cellular techniques to investigate the principles of oral tissue regeneration. Hermann Agis' mentor is Beate Lanske.


Mentor Beate Lanske, PhD
Beate Lanske received her PhD in biology from the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Salzburg. After completing her graduate work at the Max-Planck Institute for Molecular Endocrinology in Hannover, Germany, and at the Helmholtz Centre in Munich in 1991, Dr. Lanske went to work as a postdoctoral fellow in the Endocrine Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and at Harvard Medical School in Boston. In 1998 she became an independent group leader at the Max-Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany until she moved back to Boston as associate professor of developmental biology at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in 2002. She has established a strong group of investigators studying the role of Indian hedgehog during endochondral bone formation and the pathophysiological role of FGF-23 using genetically altered mouse models. Since 2012 she is Associate Professor in Oral Medicine, Infection & Immmunity at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and Associate Professor in Medicine at the Harvard Medical School.


Mentor Georg Wieselthaler, MD
Georg Wieselthaler graduated from the University of Vienna School of Medicine in 1987. Before he became a reknowned heart transplant surgeon and leading expert in heart pumps which provide mechanical circulatory support for end-stage heart failure patients, he started out as an electrical engineer. His expertise in this field helped him become a pioneer in developing and refining heart pumps, so-called ventricular assist devices (VAD) that help failing hearts pump blood. In 2010 he was recruited by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) to relaunch their heart transplant program and is now professor of surgery at UCSF. He has performed and supervised more than 350 heart transplants.

The mentoring pair sponsered by the Technical University of Graz is:

Mentee Patricia Bubner, PhD
Patricia Bubner studied chemistry at the Karl-Franzens-University of Graz, Graz University of Technology (TU Graz), and Montclair State University (NJ, USA). She was awarded the Graz-Montclair sister city scholarship in 2005 which allowed her to study at Montclair State University for one year. Patricia graduated in 2007 from TU Graz with a master's degree in technical chemistry and subsequently started her PhD studies in the group of Prof. Bernd Nidetzky at the Institute of Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering (TU Graz). In 2011, she received a PhD in biotechnology and molecular biomedical sciences from TU Graz. She continued to work as a postdoc at the Institute of Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering in an FWF project based on her PhD work. Currently, she is a Postdoc at UC Berkeley in the laboratory of Prof. Chris Somerville at the Energy Biosciences Institute. Her research focus is on carbohydrate active enzymes and protein glycosylation. She is especially interested in enzymatic cellulose degradation and second generation biofuel production. Her mentor is Martin Polz.

Mentor Martin Polz, PhD
Martin Polz studied zoology at the University of Vienna. He graduated in 1991 and then left Austria to become a graduate research assistant at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. He received his PhD in organismic and evolutionary biology in 1997. Shortly afterwards he became an assistant professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a associate professor in 2004. Since 2009 he is a professor at MIT. His research interests can be summarized by molecular microbial ecology, environmental genomics and the ecology of symbionts and pathogens. He is a recipient of various awards and fellowships.

MENTORING PROGRAM 2012/13:


Mentee Lisa Gfrerer, M.D., B.A.
Lisa Gfrerer graduated from the Medical University of Vienna (MUV) in 2011 and obtained a bachelor in political science shortly after. Starting 2006 she worked as a research assistant at the MUV at the Department of Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and the Department of Urology. Currently she is pursuing a career in academic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery as a research fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital/ Harvard Medical School in Boston. She is specialized on investigation of the developmental and genetic basis of craniofacial morphogenisis, especially cleft lip and palate in the zebrafish model organism.
Mentee Lisa Gfrerer was matched with Gerald Brandacher, M.D.

Mentee Jelena Todoric, M.D., Ph.D.
Jelena Todoric, who is originally a native of Serbia, graduated from the Medical University of Vienna (MUV) in 2004. She then started her Ph.D. at the Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism and did research on low-grade chronic inflammation in adipose tissue in obesity and its impact on systemic inflammation and overall metabolic changes.Currently she is a PostDoc at the University California San Diego (UCSD), Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine. Her focus lies on studying cancer cell metabolism and the role of chronic inflammation in tumor development in the context of obesity/overweight.
Mentee Jelena Todoric was matched with Eva Schernhammer, M.D., DrPH


Mentor Gerald Brandacher, M.D.
Gerald Brandacher is the scientific director of the Johns Hopkins Composite Tissue Allotransplantation (CTA) program and also a visiting associate professor of surgery in the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Prior to joining Johns Hopkins in 2010, Gerald Brandacher was a key member of the hand transplant programs in Innsbruck and at the University of Pittsburgh. He was part of the team performing the first bilateral hand transplant and first forearm transplant in the US. His main scientific interests are donor-specific immune tolerance and immunomonitoring strategies.

Mentor Eva Schernhammer, M.D., DrPH
Eva Schernhammer is an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston. As adjunct faculty of the Department of Epidemiology at the Medical University of Vienna she is engaged in several projects involving Austrian health data. Eva Schernhammer graduated from the Medical University of Vienna (MUV) in 1992. In 2003 she both completed a masters degree in Psychology at University of Vienna and her Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) in Epidemiology from Harvard School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the Epidemiology of chronic diseases like cancer, coronary heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. She is also interested in circadian phase, shift work and breast cancer.

More ASciNA Mentoring Pairs 2012/2013:

Mentee Oliver Hauser, Harvard University, Cambridge - Mentor Günter Wagner, Yale University, New Haven

Mentee Iris K. Gratz, University of California, San Francisco - Mentor Jörg Fritz, McGill University, Montreal

Mentee Stefan Schaller, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Cambridge - Mentor Peter Nagele, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis

Presentation of the AMP

ASciNA in cooperation with the Alumni Club of the Medical University of Vienna presented the AMP on March 21, 2012 in Vienna.

Read more about the event in bridges, vol 33, May 2012: Mentoring Austrian Scientists in North America – ASciNA Program Presented in Vienna with Alumni Club MedUni Wien

MENTORING PROGRAM 2011/12:


Mentee Alessandra Handisurya, M.D.

In September 2010 Alessandra Handisurya, who is a board-certified dermatologist, started a postdoctoral research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. She joined the National Cancer Institute, Division of Basic Sciences to do research on papilloma viruses and to develop future strategies for vaccines. In 2001 she graduated from the Medical University of Vienna and became a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Dermatology, Division of Immunology, Allergy and Infectious Diseases (DIAID). From 2003 until 2010 she was a resident at DIAID. She has shown interest in medical research since 1996.
Mentee Alessandra Handisurya was matched with Edda Fiebiger, PhD.

Mentee David Stelzeneder, M.D.

Since August 2010 David Stelzeneder is a research fellow in the hip research group of Dr. Young-Jo Kim at the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the Children’s Hospital Boston/Harvard Medical School. He graduated from the Medical University of Vienna (MUV) in 2008 and the