“It seems that all eukaryotic cells either have, or once had (and then lost) mitochondria. In other words, possession of mitochondria is a sine qua non of the eukaryotic condition”

Nick Lane, Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life

Current lab members

Isabel Geelhaar

MD candidate (Dr. med. sci.)

My current project: Investigating PINK1 import and degradation mechanisms using the SUNtag system.

The tools that I use: I have been using confocal microscopy, Immunoblotting, Immunoprecipitation and Immunocytochemistry

Tabitha Hees

PhD candidate

My current project: Mitochondrial quality control is extremely important to maintain healthy neurons and the short-lived protein PINK1 is one of the main players in mitophagy. Pink1 mRNA is co-transported with mitochondria along neurons, which allows for local translation and a constant supply of fresh PINK1 in every neuronal compartment. In my project, I am investigating what cellular signaling pathways are regulating Pink1 mRNA transport, translation and mitophagy in neurons.

The tools that I use: In my project, I spend a lot of time at the spinning disk microscope to do live cell mRNA imaging as well as SunTag imaging for visualization of translation in living neurons. I also do fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) and perform a lot of proximity ligation assays to look at protein interaction as well as common immunofluorescence methods. Apart from that, I also do immunoblotting and Phos-Tag SDS-PAGE. I mainly use primary mouse neurons, various cell lines (HEK293T, HeLa, etc.) as well as human iPSC-derived cortical neurons.

Marlena Helms

PhD candidate

My current project: For my PhD project, I am looking to generate an interactome for Synj2bp (my protein of interest). Previous research from our lab has identified the Synj2bp kinase (AMPK). So, I would be looking into identifying the corresponding phosphatase.

The tools that I use: Immunoprecipitation, immunoblotting, live cell imaging, proximity ligation assays, immunocytochemistry staining

Jana Lindner

Technician and Lab Manager

My current project: I’m working as a technician in the Harbauer Lab. My project is to make the lab run smoother. Sometimes trying to make the impossible possible.

The tools that I use: Phone and mind maps, as well as 5 Step problem solving technique: 1. identify the problem, 2. generate potential solutions, 3. choose one solution, 4. implement the chosen solution, 5. evaluate results

Hariharan Murali Mahadevan

PhD candidate

My current project: Mounting evidences point towards mitochondria-RNA association of nuclear-encoded mitochondrial transcripts in neurons. I am interested in identifying the factors that determine the targeting of such RNAs to mitochondria and their subsequent local translation and import. Also, I investigate the implications and significance of such mito-RNA associations in mitochondrial and neuronal health and maintenance.

The tools that I use: bulk RNA-seq and motif analyses, MitoTag-based mitochondria isolation, microscopy, gene-silencing using intravitreal injections, western blot, and in-vitro mitochondrial assays.

Luciano Román Albasini

PhD candidate

My current project: I investigate the neuron-type specificity of Pink1 mRNA transport and it’s relevance in neuronal dynamics. 

The tools that I use: RNA In situ hybridization, live-cell imaging, immunocytochemistry, immunohistochemistry, RNAseq, label-free proteomics, Western blot, qPCR. 

Alina Rühmkorf

PhD candidate

My current project: I investigate mitochondria-ER contact sites (MERCS) and the tether proteins that mediate the contact. MERCS are known to be involved in Calcium signaling, lipid homeostasis, and autophagy. I examine if specific tether pair proteins are differently involved in the process of mitophagy and want to characterize the differences.

The tools that I use: I use the (split-)APEX to investigate protein interactions and surrounding proteome and combine it with Western Blot analyses or immunofluorescence. I also use imaging-based techniques, like the PLA where I investigate protein interactions with fixed cells.

Inmaculada Segura


My current project: I study how local translation is regulated at mitochondria, including the role of phosphatidyl-inositides on it.

The tools that I use: Live-time imaging, SunTag technology, mRNA-protein, protein-protein and protein-lipid interactions

Benjamin Chun-Kit Tong


My current project: Most of my previous work investigates autophagy, mitophagy, and neuroinflammation in Alzheimer’s disease models. In cell models, we investigated how they affect the function of neurons, microglia, and astrocytes. In animal models, we investigate how they affect memory and learning functions.

The tools that I use: In vitro- CRISPR, flow cytometry, confocal microscopy, FRET microscopy, western blots, immunoprecipitation, ELISA. In vivo- LTP assay, and behavior assays for mice to assay motor and memory function (e.g. CFC / NOR / Open field).

Simone Wanderoy

PhD candidate

My current project: Mitochondrial dynamics and how the SYNJ2a-SYNJ2BP complex is involved in the regulation. How does the different domains of SYNJ2a (SAC1, 5pase and RRM) fit into the observed morphological phenotype. How does SYNJ2BP affect calcium homeostasis in both ER, mitochondria and in the cytosol in general.

The tools that I use: I mainly use different types of microscopes to answer my different questions: the FALCON-FLIM software on the SP8 allows me to measure changes in fluorophore lifetimes, the THUNDER allows me to photoconvert (mtKaede) and the Nikon Spinning Disc I use for general live cell imaging.

Marie de La Rochefoucauld – Master student



Maxime Döpp – Master Student

Viktoria Kubisova – Bachelor Student

Andrea Schneider – Master student – now PhD student at LMU Munich


Caroline Weiß – Master student in collab. with Churchman lab (Harvard) – now PhD student at MPI Biochemistry

Mariana Martins – Bachelor student


Ezgi Senoglu – Master student – now PhD student at TU Dresden


Stephanie Weber – Intern