Team members

Prof. Patrick Freund, MD, PhD

Group Leader

Patrick Freund received his doctorate in biology (Fribourg) in 2008 and in medicine (Zürich) in 2014. In 2018 he received the SNF Eccellenza Professorship at the University of Zurich. In 2020 he was awarded the Schellenberg price.

Based on his educational background (medicine and neuroscience) in combination with interests in the complex statistical analysis of imaging data he is spearheading the assessment of spinal cord injury beyond clinical and neurophysiological readouts by means of neuroimaging. In particularly, his research focuses on the multimodal assessment of functional and structural changes in the entire central nervous system caused by focal lesions of the spinal cord. His interdisciplinary work focuses on the development of high-resolution imaging techniques (3T and 7T) and therapeutic training as well as interventional studies. So far, he has secured about 13 million CHF as a PI/work package leader.

He holds affiliations with the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at the Queen Sqaure UCL Institute of Neurology and the Department of Neurophysics at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig.  

Sanne Kikkert, PhD

Associated Post-Doc Fellow

Sanne received her PhD degree on sensorimotor cortex plasticity in upper-limb amputees from the University of Oxford. She holds an MSc in Cognitive Neurosciences (2013) and a BSc in Psychology and Neurosciences (2011) from Maastricht University. In her postdoctoral research she uses fMRI to uncover brain reorganisation and persistent organisations following sensory input loss in spinal cord injury patients.

Simon Schading

PhD student

Simon obtained his Master's degree in Medicine from the University of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Examination in Human Medicine  in 2020 and started his PhD in February 2021. His research includes multimodal imaging of the whole neuroaxis after spinal cord injury (SCI) by applying structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods as well as MR spectroscopy to assess and track the pathophysiological changes following SCI. After finishing his PhD he is going to start his clinical training in Neuroradiology while staying closely connected to research. 

Christian_Kündig.jpg

Christian Kündig

PhD student

Christian holds a B.Sc. in Interdisciplinary Sciences from the ETH Zürich and received his M.Sc. degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Bern in 2021. He did his master thesis at the ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research working on a lung-on-chip reproducing an in vivo stiffness gradient.

In April 2022 Christian joined the neuroimaging group at the Spinal Cord Injury Center as a PhD student. His research is focused on the development of functional MRI in the lumbosacral region of the spine.

Maryam Seif, PhD

Deputy head, Junior Group Leader

She is a senior researcher with a multi-disciplinary background, focusing on the interface of neuroimaging and clinical research. Her aspiration is to identify reliable and specific neuroimaging biomarkers by means of quantitative MRI and Spectroscopy to bridge the gap between MRI and its clinical applications in spinal cord and brain. Her current projects focus on identifying neuroimaging biomarker in NISCI trial, perfusion mapping of the spinal cord in the frame of WFL fellowship and metabolite investigation across spinal cord axis.

Nikolai Pfender, MD

Consultant Clinician

Nikolai is a Neurologist and clinical Neurophysiologist at Balgrist University Hospital. He does research on degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM) focusing on phase contrast and microstructural MRI techniques and cerebrospinal fluid pressure dynamics (CSFP) to improve pathophysiological concepts and provide better diagnostic tools in DCM. 

Nikolai obtained his medical degree from the University of Freiburg, Germany. In his M.D. thesis he was investigating basic immunological mechanisms in the murine contact allergy model (Supervisor Prof. Thilo Jakob).

At the University Hospital Zurich, he was trained as a Neurologist with focus on clinical Neurophysiology (Prof. Hans Jung) and deep interest in Neuroimmunology an MS Research working in the group of Prof. Roland Martin as clinician scientist.

Silvan Büeler

Associated PhD student

Silvan received his Master's degree in Health Sciences and Technology, with a major in Neuroscience, at ETH Zurich in 2019. In March 2020, he started his PhD in the Neuro-Urology group of the Spinal Cord Injury Center at Balgrist University Hospital under the direct supervision of Dr. Martina Liechti and Dr. Gergely David. Silvan will be using neuroimaging techniques (structural, diffusion, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)) and neurophysiological assessments to investigate neural correlates of lower urinary tract control.

Lynn_Farner.jpg

Lynn Farner

PhD student

Lynn received her M.Sc. in Chemistry from ETH Zurich in 2022. During her master thesis she worked on developing high-temperature superconducting magnets for gyrotron and high field nuclear magnetic resonance applications.

In June 2022, she joined Neuroimaging group as a PhD student. Her PhD project will be focused on developing and applying cutting-edge quantitative MRI with ultra-high resolution in the brain and spinal cord to investigate patients with traumatic spinal cord injury and neurodegenerative diseases. She is going to use Ultra high field MRI technique to understand the underlying mechanisms of the neurocognitive changes in CNS.

Gergely David, PhD

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Gergely David is a medical physicist who obtained his PhD at the University of Zurich in 2019. His main interests are the development and application of advanced MRI techniques in the spinal cord. During his PhD, he developed software for processing and analyzing spinal cord diffusion MRI data, and applied it in spinal cord injured patients. In his PostDoc, he continues to work on improving the state of the art of spinal imaging, mainly focusing on functional fMRI in the lumbar cord.

Tim Emmenegger

PhD student

Tim holds an MSc in Neuroscience (2019) and a BSc in Biology from the University of Zurich (2018). Before starting his PhD, he worked as a research assistant in the quantitative MRI and in vivo histology group headed by Siawoosh Mohammadi at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany. There he learned new methods to perform in vivo histology using MRI. Tim aims to translate these cutting-edge MRI methods to a clinical setting, improving the understanding of the pathological processes and mechanisms after a spinal cord injury.

Ana_Lebret.jpg

Anna Lebret

PhD student

Anna holds a Bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences Engineering from EPFL. She then received her Master's degree in Biomedical Engineering from ETH Zürich. During her MSc thesis, she conducted computed tomography imaging analysis of patients with cranial prostheses. 

In April 2022, she started her PhD in the Neuroimaging group , where she will focus on using quantitative MRI to study microstructural changes in the spinal cord following injury and assess their potential as neuroimaging biomarkers.