Gunilla Karlsson Hedestam Group - former PhD students

On this page we have listed the PhD students who have been part of the research group over the years, from 2007 to present.

Åsa Hidmark


Opponent: Bruce Beutler

Åsa defended her PhD in 2007 after which she received the Jonas Söderqvist’s Prize for basic research in virology and immunology. Åsa moved on to a post-doctoral position at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, where she is now active as a senior research scientist in the field of immunology and diabetes.

Mattias Forsell


Opponent: Quentin Sattentau

Mattias defended his PhD in 2008. Part of his doctoral research was carried out at the National Institutes of Health in Washington. After this, he received an Early career investigator AMFAR award for post-doctoral work, which was carried out at Karolinska Institutet. He recently obtained a position as Assistant Professor at Umeå University where he now leads his own research group.

Pia Dosenovic


Opponent: Michael McHeyzer-Williams

Pia defended her PhD in 2012 after which she obtained 3 years of funding from the Swedish Research Council to pursue a post-doc at the Rockefeller University in New York. After several years as a productive member of the Nussenzweig laboratory, she is now back at KI to establish her own research group.

Christopher Sundling


Opponent: Robin Weiss

Christopher defended his PhD in 2012 and in the last year of his studies he was awarded the Dimitris N. Chorafas Foundation Prize. He subsequently also received the Jonas Söderqvist’s Prize for basic research in virology and immunology and Sven Gard’s prize for best thesis in virology. He then moved on to a post-doc position in the Brink laboratory at the Garvan Institute in Sydney and returned in 2017 to establish his own group at the Department of Medicine, Solna as an Assistant Professor.

Paola Martinez Murillo


Opponent: Leo Stamatatos

Paola defended her PhD in May of 2017. During her doctoral education she collaborated closely with scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and she spent a month as a visiting student at the Rockefeller University. An additional initiative she took was to teach Immunology to young students in Colombia, two summers in a row. Her Immunity paper published just before her PhD defense received “Best paper of the year” at MTC 2017. Paola is now a senior postdoc evaluating extracellular vesicles immune modulation and translational potential in atopic dermatitis in the Mantel lab in Davos, Switzerland.

Martina Soldemo


Opponent: Klaus Überla

Martina defended her PhD in October of 2017 after a productive time as a doctoral student. In addition to her own projects, she was instrumental to many collaborations both within and outside the lab and she contributed enthusiastically to teaching at both the undergraduate and post-graduate level at KI. She is currently a Scientific Project Manager in Immunology at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson in Stockholm.

Ganesh Phad


Opponent: Stephen Quake

Ganesh defended his PhD in June 2018. During his doctoral studies, he applied a broad set of techniques to study B cell responses and immunization-induced monoclonal antibodies. He was instrumental in setting up Next Generation Sequencing methodology for analyses of antibody repertoires and, together with Martin Corcoran in the group and computational scientist Marcel Martin, developed the broadly applicable IgDiscover tool. Ganesh is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Antonio Lanzavecchia in Switzerland.

Néstor Vazquez Bernat


Opponent: Scott Boyd

Néstor defended his PhD in December 2019 with a thesis focusing on antibody repertoire sequencing and germline gene identification in humans and macaques. He worked closely with his co-supervisor Martin Corcoran to optimize protocols for IgM library production for germline inference and with methods to validate novel alleles identified with the IgDiscover software. His recent paper in Immunity describes a comprehensive database of rhesus and cynomolgus macaque antibody germline alleles, now publicly available (see above). Néstor is currently working with immune repertoire sequencing at ENPICOM in the Netherlands.

Sharesta Khoenkhoen


Opponent: David Tarlinton

Sharesta defended her PhD thesis in August 2020. During her doctoral studies, Sharesta studied B cell defects in mice lacking an NFkB regulator, IKBNS. The most striking phenotype of IKBNS-deficient mice is that they fail to develop B-1 cells while follicular B cells (FoB cells) develop and are present at normal frequencies. Sharesta demonstrated that while FoB cells present in IKBNS-deficient mice, they are dysfunctional in their ability to differentiate into plasma cells. Sharesta investigated key steps in this process to pinpoint the defect. After leaving the lab, she took up a position as a TCR discovery scientist at T-knife Therapeutics in Berlin.

Pradeepa Pushparaj


Opponent: Penny Moore

Pradeepa defended her PhD in May 2023. During her studies, Pradeepa gained deep expertise in techniques used to dissect B cell responses at the clonal level to investigate qualitative features of antibody responses elicited by infection or vaccination. By isolating monoclonal antibodies from antigen-specific memory B cells, and combining this with antibody engineering, functional studies, and lineage tracing in deep-sequenced repertoire data, she investigated questions related to antibody affinity maturation and the development of long-lived memory B cells and plasma cells. In her Immunity paper published in 2023, she applied personalized antibody VDJ genotyping to a cohort of SARS-CoV-2 convalescent individuals and showed that germline-encoded polymorphisms can influence the type of antibody response made, illustrating a functional role for antibody germline gene variation in humans.

Marco Mandolesi


Opponent: Bob Seder

Marco defended his PhD in February 2023. His thesis work covered a broad range of topics in immunology, including individualized typing of human and macaque T- and B-cell receptor germline genes, identification and validation of novel alleles, immunization studies and characterization of elicited adaptive immune responses, isolation of monoclonal antibodies and B cell lineage tracing to follow the evolution of the antibody response. His time as a doctoral student in the lab overlapped with the COVID-19 pandemic and he was able to quickly refocus his efforts to contribute to the understanding of SARS-CoV-2-directed neutralizing antibody responses. He also contributed greatly to a paper on TCR germline gene polymorphisms published in Immunity just before his PhD defense. He is highly skilled in immune repertoire analysis and is currently staying on as a post-doctoral scientist to wrap up projects and help supervise new members of the laboratory.


Gunilla Karlsson Hederstam has also been co-supervisor for:

  • Cornelia Gujer, 2011
  • Kai Eng, 2012
  • Lina Josefsson, 2013
  • Marc Panas, 2014
  • Lotta Pramanik Sollerkvist, 2014
  • Faezzah Baharom 2016
  • Katrin Habir, 2018
  • Julian Stark, 2020
  • Sebastian Ols, 2022
  • Uta Hardt, 2022
Content reviewer:
Sara Lidman