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Group Members


Fengzhu Xiong

Group Leader

I earned my BS of Biological Sciences at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and my PhD at Harvard University with Sean Megason, followed by Postdoc training with L. Mahadevan and Olivier Pourquie. I started the lab in Cambridge in 2019.


Susie McLaren

Postdoctoral Fellow

I studied Natural Sciences at UCL and earned my PhD at the University of Cambridge with Ben Steventon. During this time I used the zebrafish embryo as a model system to investigate early embryo head-to-tail elongation and found that anterior notochord cell expansion combined with addition of cells to the posterior notochord leads to force generation that facilitates body axis elongation.


I am currently investigating the role of pressure and tissue mechanics in the sculpting of the embryonic central nervous system, using the chicken embryo as a model system. 


Lakshmi Balasubramanian

Postdoctoral Fellow

I am an EMBO and Herchel Smith fellow working on the mechanics of cell migration and tissue development. I obtained my PhD degree at Université de Paris, CNRS with Benoît Ladoux.



Fengtong Ji

Postdoctoral Fellow

I received my Ph.D. in Mechanical and Automation Engineering from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, B.E., and M.E. from the Harbin Institute of Technology. Now I am focusing on promoting developmental mechanics and microrobotic engineering at Cambridge as a Herchel Smith Fellow, aiming at developing new paradigms to better understand development.



Joana Vidigueira

RA / Lab manager

Joana graduated from University of Manchester in 2022 with distinguished honours and joined the lab as a Research Assistant / Lab Manager. Alongside organizing the lab, she is studying the robustness of the body axis elongation process and the response of axial progenitor cells to tissue stress towards a MPhil degree in Cambridge.


Lauren Moon

PhD Student

Ren graduated from King's College London with a Bachelors degree in Anatomy, Developmental and Human Biology. She is currently undertaking the Wellcome Trust PhD Developmental Mechanisms Programme at Downing College, Cambridge. Ren is investigating the cellular mechanisms of neural tube morphogenesis combining modeling and imaging.

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Yisha Lan

PhD Student

Yisha got her undergraduate degree in Computer Science from Tongji University. She was a recipient of Cambridge International Scholarship for a PhD programme. In the lab, Yisha developed image analysis algorithms and learned molecular biology and embryology of both zebrafish and chicken. Currently, Yisha is investigating Nodal organized tissue shape change with collaborators.


Ana Hernandez-Rodriguez

PhD Student

Ana earned her degree in Biology from Cambridge. She worked as a Research Assistant in Oxford and the Crick before joining us as a SBS-Gurdon funded PhD student. Ana works on cell fate decisions in the mechanical environment using both chicken embryos and stem cell culture. She enjoys a variety of sports including rowing and badminton.


Yixin Dai

PhD Student

I am a joint PhD student (with Prof. Peng Xia at LSI, Zhejiang University). I have a dual degree with BSc in Biomedical Sciences of Zhejiang University and also honored BSc in Integrative Biomedical Sciences of University of Edinburgh. I am investigating the role of cell junctional changes during morphogenesis, with a focus on the Septins.

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Emily Holmes

Research Assistant

Emily (she/her/hers) graduated with honors from Fordham University in 2023 with a BSc in Chemistry. She joined the Xiong group as a research assistant later that same year. Her previous research involved investigating DNA replication in Gram-positive bacteria on a molecular level using single-molecule fluorescence imaging.

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Ameera Cunningham

Part II student

I am a third year Natural Sciences student at Downing College, Cambridge, specialising in Physiology, Development and Neuroscience. I will be working with Ana Hernandez-Rodriguez, looking at the influence of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins on neuromesodermal progenitor (NMP) cells in chicken embryos.

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Shaarukkan Kankeyan

Part II student

Hi! I am currently a third year medical student at Churchill College at the University of Cambridge. I am carrying out a Part II Project investigating the physical regulation of body-axis elongation in chick embryos using magnetic nanorobots. I enjoy playing sports such as cricket and have also competed in sport and dance competitions.


Vivian Wang (Summer student, Cambridge - current: engineering student, Cambridge)

Ruoheng Li (Summer student, Tsinghua Univ.)

Samantha Burley (Summer student, Cambridge - current: medical student, Cambridge)

Dr. Daniele Kunz (Postdoc - current: King's College London)

Krithi Muli (Part II student, Cambridge - current: veterinary student, Cambridge)

Vithusan Kuganathan (Part II student, Cambridge - current: medical student, Cambridge)

Yiyuan Huang (Summer student, Tsinghua Univ. - current: PhD student, MIT)

Shanker Narayan (Summer student, Cambridge - current: medical student, Cambridge)

Shreya Dwarakacherla (Summer student, Cambridge - current: medical student, Cambridge)

Anfu Wang (MPhil, Developmental Biology, Cambridge - current: PhD student, McDole lab, LMB)

Dr. Changqing Lu (CSC scholar- current: faculty of human anatomy, Sichuan Univ.)

Oscar Baldwin (Part II student, Cambridge - current: medical student, Cambridge)

Siyuan (David) Ding (Part II student, Cambridge - current: medical student, Cambridge)

Kathy Oswald (Admin)

Zher Yee Ooi (Summer student, Imperial - current: PhD student, HKU)

Melissa Yuan (Part II student, Cambridge - current: medical student, Cambridge)

Alicja Maksymiuk (Summer student, Cambridge - current: PhD student, Oxford)

Yifan (Stephen) Wang  (Undergrad, ZJU and U. Edinbrough - current: PhD student, NUS)

Melinda M. V. Kerckvoorde (MPhil, Developmental Biology, Cambridge - current: Associate Consultant, Scendea)

Chris Chan (Part III student, Systems Biology, Cambridge - current: PhD student, Priya Lab, Crick)

Ziqi Dong (Rotation student, Wellcome - current: PhD student, Rawlins Lab, Gurdon Institute)

Arianna Pezzuolo (Admin)

Rae Wong (Summer student, U. Liverpool - current: MPhil student, UCL)

Elisa Terenzani (Summer student, U. Pavia - current: PhD student, IMPRS, Germany)

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