Group Members

Group Leader

Bilal Sheikh
Bilal has a long-standing interest in understanding how our metabolic environment drives phenotypic changes via epigenetic mechanisms.
He was awarded the prestigious Dora Lush scholarship to undertake his PhD studies at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne. He studied key epigenetic mechanisms that drive embryonic development, stem cell function and cancer progression. His work led to the development of novel epigenetic drugs that are currently in clinical trials for the treatment of aggressive cancers.
For his postdoctoral studies, he was awarded the International Humboldt Fellowship and moved to the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, Germany. His research uncovered the strong inter-dependence of metabolic networks and the epigenome in maintaining vascular health.
Bilal now heads the Vascular Epigenetics group at the Helmholtz Institute in Leipzig. His research aims to understand how metabolic factors prime vascular disease onset and progression.
For his research, Bilal has won multiple prestigious awards including the Allen Distinguished Investigator award, Dean’s Honours prize (Melbourne University) and the Speed-Coleman award.
He loves talking science and being in the outdoors.


Jesús Rafael Rodriguez Aguilera
Postdoctoral researcher, proudly Mexican and graduated from UNAM. Travel lover and Harry Potter fan. I am passionate about epigenetics. My work is related to understand how the metabolic disturbances of obesity can impact chromatin regulation of liver, and brain vascular cells. Let’s share Science on Twitter, follow me as @harry_brennan. PubMed: Jesus R Rodriguez Aguilera

PhD Students

Alina Rose
Alina is a PhD student in the lab.

Fabiana Oliveira
Fabiana is a PhD student in the lab.

Faiqa Zulfqar
Faiqa is a PhD student in the lab.

Longsheng Liao
Longsheng is a PhD student in the lab.

Hugo Martin
Hugo is a PhD student in the lab.

Lorenz Donndorf
Lorenz is a PhD student in the lab.

Nishtha Malhotra
Nishtha is a PhD student in the lab.

He Yao
He Yao is a PhD student in the lab.

Christina Papa
Christina is a PhD student in the lab.

Lab Manager + Technician

Florian Geier
Florian studied Applied Natural Science at the University of Freiberg. After finishing his studies, he worked at the Helmholtz centre for environmental research (UFZ) in Leipzig and at the Martin-Luther university Halle-Wittenberg before starting at the Institute in Leipzig

Masters + Bachelors Students


Richard M. Blay (2021 – 2023)
Postdoctoral researcher from Ghana. Graduated from the University of Ghana, Accra and later was funded by the DAAD for my doctoral training at the LMU, Munich in the Experimental Vascular Medicine group, Institute of Cardiovascular Prevention (IPEK). Interested in how diet and lifestyle lead to Cardiovascular diseases and Obesity. I am excited about Epigenetics because of the possibilities it presents. I Love God, Music and people. Hobbies are swimming and traveling. 

Philipp Valina-Allo (2022-2024)
Philipp worked as a “student helper”, undertook his Master’s thesis, and worked as a technical assistant in the lab. After generating loads of data, and teaching his colleagues how to do science, he is now undertaking a PhD at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden.

Erik Siebert (2020 – 2023)
Erik has always dreamt of being a Chess Grandmaster.
He now does the next best thing. He is in training to be a Science Grandmaster.
Erik studied biotechnology and completed his bachelor thesis in the Vascular Epigenetics group. He always had an interest in scientific topics and hopes to learn even more on his way of becoming a Scientist.

Erik is now undertaking his Master’s studies in Jena.