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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 am interested in understanding the development of key ecosystem interactions – with an aim to inform ecosystem recovery approaches. In particular, this work seeks to inform our understanding of the interplay between corals and plankton during coral morphogenesis and in developing a stable symbiotic relationship that underpins coral reef ecosystems.


Previously, I earned a Natural Sciences BSc from UCL and my PhD at the University of Cambridge with Ben Steventon investigating early embryo head-to-tail elongation in zebrafish embryos. My recent postdoc work uncovered differences in tissue mechanics that lead to the divergence of embryonic brain and spinal cord shape under fluid pressure.


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 / MPhil

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 (Wellcome Trust Studentship)

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 (Cambridge International Scholarship)

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 (Gurdon-VC studentship)

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 (Gurdon-ZJU joint training program)

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.


Venus Ho

Summer Student (HKU Overseas Research Fellowship)

I am a third-year student at The University of Hong Kong, pursuing a Bachelor degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. I am deeply interested in the cell dynamics and tissue mechanics during early stages of embryonic development.


Harvey Williams

Summer student (Centre of Physical Biology)

I’ve just completed a BA in physics at Cambridge and hopefully (grades depending) will soon start a masters in maths. I decided to study physics after reading the CUP edition of Schroedinger’s “What is Life?.” So it’s quite fitting that my work here at the Gurdon Institute uses chicken embryos as a model organism. Specifically, I am using particle-based techniques to replicate in-silico the forces which drive collective cell motion. When I'm not in the lab, you will often find me running or behind a camera - though not usually at the same time.


Xinyi Li

Summer student (Tsinghua XueTang pogram)

Xinyi is a third year undergraduate student from the School of Life Sciences at Tsinghua University


Kiara Kok

Summer Student

Kiara is a final year student at UCL and will start a MPhil in Developmental Biology course in Cambridge after the summer placement


Yuchi Guo

Summer student (Centre of Physical Biology)

Yuchi is a joint summer student with Susie and Ben Jenkins of the Waller group at Department of Biochemistry. They will work on the development of sea anemone as a model system for coral


Brendan Chiong

Summer student (CRUK Cambridge Centre)

Brendan will work with Lakshmi for a 8-week CRUK CC supported postdoc mentor placement


Yuxin Gu

(incoming) PhD student (Gurdon-ZJU joint training program)

Yuxin is a joint student with Prof. Minxin Guan at Zhejiang University. Yuxin is interested in the role of mechanics in cochlear patterning and regeneration


Ruoheng Li

(incoming) PhD student (Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholarship)

Ruoheng earned her BS degree in life sciences from Tsinghua University. After a summer placement with the lab, she now plans to return to continue pursuing her interest in mechanics of morphogenesis in a diversity of life forms


Ameera Cunningham (Part II student, Cambridge - upcoming: PhD student, CTR, Cambridge)

Shaarukkan Kankeyan (Part II student, Cambridge - current: medical student, Cambridge)

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

Ruoheng Li (Summer student, Tsinghua Univ. - upcoming: PhD student, Cambridge)

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

Dr. Daniele Kunz (Postdoc - current: researcher, Department of Biochemistry, Cambridge)

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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