Early Stage Researchers

Laura van der Taelen
ESR project 1 'Renal and cerebral small vessel disease: an inflammatory tangle'
Maastricht University

Laura is born in Belgium and holds a master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences, specialisation Molecular Mechanisms in Health and Disease, from Hasselt University (2021). During the first Master’s internship at the Biomedical Research Institute (BIOMED) in Diepenbeek, she conducted research concerning microglia in neurodevelopmental disorders. In the final internship, she studied novel therapeutic strategies for multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury using different animal models and molecular techniques. With a strong interest in novel therapeutic approaches, she is now undertaking her PhD research at Maastricht University on identifying new inflammatory drivers that wire kidney dysfunction and cerebral vascular pathology together.

Kai Wang
ESR project 2 'Metabolic drivers of hypertension: focus on the microcirculation'
Maastricht University

Kai obtained her bachelor's degree at Shanghai Jiaotong University in China and her master’s degree at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETHz), majoring in nutrition and health. After her master study, she worked as a research assistant at Tsinghua University in social epidemiology for a year, which equipped her with statistical expertise in causal inference. Interested in using statistics as a tool to pinpoint pathophysiological mechanisms, Kai is currently working on the role of circulating metabolites in microvascular dysfunction and hypertension under the supervision of Prof. Coen Stehouwer. Under MINDSHIFT ITN, Kai’s joint PhD primary secondment will be at the University of Glasgow with Prof. Christian Delles.

Margarita Pencheva
ESR project 3 'Methylglyoxal: a reactive dicarbonyl sparking development of systolic hypertension'
Maastricht University

Margarita is born in Bulgaria. She attended the University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK in 2016, where she graduated her Bachelor degree in science (BSc) in Pharmacology in 2020 and a Master of Medical Science (MedSc) in Cardiovascular Sciences in 2021 with distinction. Her journey in finding her personal scientific passion started after her third year of BSc studies, when she was granted a Summer Internship in Professor Godfrey Smith’s lab. Her project involved studying the behavior of human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSCs) in a monolayer, and constructing a detachment curve. She worked extensively on creating a computer model aiming to quantify hiPSCs with the use of high-resolution microscopes and fluorescent images. She then continued her work in the cardiovascular field by undertaking an Honours Project in Professor Stuart Nicklin’s lab, where she studied the RAS and fibrosis related therapeutic potential of Ang-(1-9) gene therapy in myocardial infarction in mice heart tissue. After her interest in heart disease deepened and she obtained a spot in the Cardiovascular Sciences Masters, she was given the privilege to work in Dr. Loraine Work’s lab. Her project investigated the therapeutic potential of microRNA loaded extracellular vesicles (EVs), and included quantification of the difference in particles sizing and concentration in stroke and non-stroke human patients, the effect of microRNA-93 EVs on cell death and cytotoxicity in B50 rat neuroblastoma cells and the particle involvement in relevant cardiovascular mechanisms via the use of public databases. With her strong interest in cardiovascular disease and novel therapeutic approaches, she is currently undertaking her postdoctoral research with Professor Casper Schalkwijk in Maastricht University, Netherlands on the role of the AGE precursor methylglyoxal (MGO) on arterial stiffness. She will also attend a PhD secondment at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain with Professor Marisol Fernandez-Alfonso, where she will investigate specifically the effect of MGO on perivascular tissue.

Rita Chamoun
ESR project 4 'Development of a multi-scale integrative framework for subtyping hypertension'
Maastricht University

Rita Chamoun is from Lebanon. Rita has received her bachelor degree in life and earth sciences from the Lebanese University, and earned a master’s degree in functional genomics and proteomics from Saint Joseph University of Beyrouth where she practiced the master 2 internship in the biotechnology laboratory. She works with a logical thinking, by matching ideas to facts and communicate effectively leading her to rational conclusion.
Currently, she is undertaking her PhD research with Dr Koen Reesink at Maastricht University, working on development of a multi-scale integrative framework for subtyping hypertension. She will also attend a PhD secondment at the Zennaro lab at UP on genome-wide case-control association studies, at TMC Data Science on design development and verification of model frameworks, and at Microlife AG on user-oriented e-health solutions.

Samuel Adu
ESR project 5 'Vascular redox signalling and protein oxidation in hypertension - focus on inflammation and fibrosis'
University of Glasgow

Samuel Adu (from Ghana) holds a BSc Biochemistry from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST, Ghana) in June 2018. He graduated with an MSc Molecular Mechanisms of Disease research from Radboud University (The Netherlands) in October 2021. During his first Master’s internship at RadboudUMC, he studied the tissue-specific phenotypes associated with Dolichol kinase deficiency as a congenital disorder of glycosylation. In his final internship at both University of Copenhagen (Denmark) and Wageningen University and Research under the supervision of Professor Thomas Mandrup-Poulsen, he investigated the role of mitophagy in pro-inflammatory cytokines-mediated dysfunction of pancreatic beta-cells. Currently, Samuel is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Science (ICAMS), Glasgow under the supervision of Professor Rhian Touyz whose research group studies the mechanisms underlying reactive oxygen species-mediated vascular dysfunction and hypertension''

Ngoc Tran
ESR project 6 'Mitigating the effects of accelerated vascular ageing in hypertension'
University of Glasgow

Ngoc Tran is a Vietnamese researcher. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Medicine from Nong Lam University, Vietnam and a Master’s degree in Animal Sciences from Wageningen University, Netherlands. She did her first Master thesis under the supervision of Dr. Deli Zhang at the Chair group of Human and Animal Physiology at Wageningen. For her second thesis, she joined Boink’s group at Amsterdam AMC for 10 months to develop official protocols for viral vector engineering to improve the gene therapy treatment on patients with either tachycardia or bradycardia. She is highly interested in the research on cardiovascular disease and the effects of vascular ageing in the development of many age-related diseases. Her research experience covers various laboratory techniques, bioinformatics and statistics skills.


  • Chu, D.-T., Ngoc, T. U. , Chu-Dinh, T., Ngoc, V. T. N., Nhon, B. V., Pham, V.-H., Nghia, L. L., Anh, L. Q., Pham, T. H. V. and Truong, N. D. (2019) The possible zoonotic diseases transferring from pig to human in Vietnam. European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, 38, pp. 1003-1014. (doi: 10.1007/s10096-018-03466-y) (PMID:30680568)
  • Nga, V. T. et al. (2019) Zoonotic diseases from birds to humans in Vietnam: possible diseases and their associated risk factors. European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, 38, pp. 1047-1058. (doi: 10.1007/s10096-019-03505-2) (PMID:30806904)

Dellaneira Setjiadi
ERS project 7 'Macrovascular and microvascular aspects of target organ damage in hypertension'
University of Glasgow

Dellaneira holds a Medical Doctor qualification from Padjadjaran University. Prior to joining the consortium, she gained professional working experience as a physician and a research assistant in the Internal Medicine Department as well as simultaneously undertaking a part-time Postgraduate Diploma study at University of South Wales.Dellaneira's research is centred around crosstalk between macro- and microvasculature aspects of hypertension with the aim of yielding the interwoven translational aspects of its functional and structural vascular characterisation.

Parisa Rezvanisanijouybari
ESR project 8 'Genetic and epigenetic mechanisms in aldosterone production and hypertension'
University of Glasgow

Parisa is from Iran. She completed her BSc in Molecular and Cellular Biology at University of Mazandaran in Iran, then she achieved her MSc in Medical Biotechnology at University of Siena in Italy. She did an internship and her master thesis in TLS laboratory in Siena and her project was about the role of microRNAs in familial vs sporadic type 1 diabetes.

May Fayad
ESR project 9 'Genetics and genomics of primary aldosteronis'
Université de Paris

May Fayad is from Lebanon. She is graduated with a bachelor degree in medical laboratory analysis (2019) from Saint Joseph University of Beyrouth where she also earned a master’s degree in functional genomics and proteomics (2021). As part of her master’s program, May did her thesis at Inserm U970 - Paris cardiovascular research center in the "Genetics of pathologies associated with aldosterone" team, under the direction of Prof. Maria-Christina Zennaro. Her project was to characterize the impact of a mutation identified in a new gene in primary aldosteronism. With her strong interest in cardiovascular disease and pathologies associated with aldosterone, she is currently undertaking her PhD research with prof. Maria-Christina Zennaro at University of Paris, France.

Nicolò Faedda
ESR project 10 'Vascular and hormonal interactions in the adrenal cortex'
Université de Paris

Nicolò obtained his master's degree in Pharmacy at the University of Padua, Italy, in 2020. He spent six months in Porto, Portugal, as a visiting master's student for his experimental thesis, at Professor Fernando Remião’s laboratory. The central theme of his thesis was the study of cytotoxicity of mitochondriotropic dietary antioxidants and their implication in the treatment of ALS in in vitro models. As a conclusion of his research project, he performed three months in the laboratory of Professor Claudia Sissi (University of Padua) where he studied the interactions between these mitochondriotropic compounds and several secondary structures of DNA. After graduation, he won a research grant, at the University of Padua, in the laboratory of Professor Marco Sandri, under the supervision of Dr. Caterina Tezze. There he learnt the plethora of roles that skeletal muscle tissue has in physiology and pathology, focusing on molecular mechanisms that lead to muscle atrophy in in vivo models. All projects he has worked on are related to sarcopenia and to the connection between muscles and mitochondria-shaping proteins. Due to his background and research experiences, his main research interests are in the field of interactions between the vascular and hormonal components of adrenal cortex and the role of mitochondria in the physiology and pathophysiology of adrenal cortex.

Maryam Jadoon
ESR project 11 'Multi-parameter vascular assessment for cardiovascular events prediction: from a machine learning approach to a tool ready for clinical practice'
Université de Paris

Maryam holds a bachelor's degree in Biosciences and a Master's degree in Health Informatics from COMSATS University Islamabad, Pakistan. She investigated expression variations in mitochondrial SIRT5 gene in head and neck cancer patients for her undergraduate thesis. In August 2021, she defended her master thesis on the differentiation of bacterial and viral pneumonia in children under the age of five using a deep learning model and x-ray images with distinction. Currently, Maryam is working as an early-stage researcher at the Paris cardiovascular research center, INSERM team 7, Université de Paris, under the supervision of Dr. Rosa Maria Bruno. Under Mindshift, Maryam is working on a multi-parameter deep learning algorithm for the assessment of vascular aging using carotid ultrasound to predict cardiovascular risks.

Hala Ajjour
ESR project 12 'Mitochondrial function in aldosterone-dependent human hypertension'
Universitá degli Study di Padova

Hala Ajjour has received her bachelor degree in life and science, master 1 degree in applied animal biology as well as a master 2 degree in Genomics and Health from the Lebanese university. She was selected to practice her master 2 research training for 6 months, on the impact of MAPK and mTOR signaling pathways on ribosomal heterogeneity in human cells (HEK and Melanoma cells) in the Laboratory of Eukaryotic Molecular Biology (LBME), a part of a joint CNRS / University research unit of the University of Toulouse-Paul Sabatier-France. After that, Hala had moved back to Lebanon and developed her teaching skills by tutoring college students biology courses and giving assistance in research papers analysis, but her motivation to do research had brought her back to apply and get accepted as a PhD student in the MINDSHIFT programme. She is working on a project that tends to investigate the mitochondrial function in aldosterone-dependent human hypertension at the university of Padova, Italy.

Clement Byiringiro
ESR project 13 'Optimized strategies for the screening and subtyping of the endocrine forms of hypertension'
Universitá degli Study di Padova

Born and raised in Rwanda, Clement is a Medical Doctor. He graduated  Medical School at University of Rwanda in 2013, and then after he worked as a Medical officer in two Rural Rwandan District Hospitals from November 2013 to September 2015, where he attended NCDs Clinics on weekly basis, taking care and doing follow-up of ambulatory patients with Hypertension at the primary care level. Afterward, He joined Internal Medicine Residency which he completed through 2015-2019 at University of Rwanda, during this training he kept being interested and involved in the care of Hypertension and related complications. The work of his thesis for Master of Medicine (Mmed), in Internal Medicine, was dedicated to cardiovascular complications related to this chronic disease. Since 2020, he worked in AP-HP (Assistance Public Hopitaux de Paris) as a fellow student till when he joined MINDSHIFT project as a PhD candidate. He is currently based at University of Padova in Italy, and he is working on a project that investigates the potential use of Macrolides in the treatment of Hypertensive Patients.  

Julius Soudant
ESR project 14 'Novel inflammatory and anti-inflammatory mechanisms of vascular damage in hypertension'
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

Julius graduated from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK in 2021 with a BSc Honours degree in Pharmacology (2020) and a Master of Science by Research (MScR) in Biomedical Sciences with distinction. In the summer prior to his final year of BSc studies, he was granted a Biomedical Sciences Summer Vacation Scholarship from the University to work with Dr Laura Denby to characterise the role of the Ass-1 (Arginosuccinate synthase 1) gene in kidney injury using murine knockout models. He continued this work for his bachelor’s thesis, comparing and contrasting this effect in male and female mice. For his first MSc research project, he carried out Epigenome-wide Association Studies (EWAS) between DNA methylation and cognitive abilities under Dr Kathryn Evans. For the second research project, he worked with Prof. Neil Carragher screening candidate drugs on patient-derived glioblastoma stem cells, quantifying protein abundance using RPPA (Reverse-phase Protein Array) and using RNA sequencing to analyse gene expression. With a strong interest in cardiovascular pharmacology, he is currently undertaking his research with Prof. Ana Briones-Alonso at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, investigating the role of ISG15 (Interferon-stimulated Gene 15) in mediating cardiovascular damage. His joint PhD primary secondment will be at the University of Glasgow, and will include visits to Maastricht University and Attoquant Diagnostics, Vienna.

Ana Karen Guzmán Aguayo
ESR project 15 'Role of perivascular adipose tissue on vascular damage in hypertension: focus on fibrosis and calcification'
Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Ana has a degree in Nutrition from the Universidad de Guadalajara, and I have a master´s degree from the Universidad de Colima. Her research was focussed on Lipocalin-2, arterial stiffness, and visceral fat in obesity in collaboration with a research team involved in the study of autoimmune and musculoskeletal diseases in the Centro Médico Nacional de Occidente in Guadalajara Jalisco. She did a 6-month research stay at the Instituto Pluridisciplinar of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid under the supervison of Professor Marisol Fernandez, working with endothelial cells treated with lipocalin-2. After finishing her undergraduate studies and until she started at MINSHIFT, she had been working as a teacher in the nutrition degree at two Mexican universities. One of them was the Centro Universitario de Los Altos of the Universidad de Guadalajara. Currently, she is at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid where she will study the role of perivascular adipose tissue in vascular damage in hypertension: focus on fibrosis and calcification.