Maha Joana Cziesielski

Ph.D. Students



​I completed my bachelors and masters degrees at the University of Southampton, UK. While I worked heavily on oceanography during my bachelors, I found a passion for molecular biology during my masters in which I focused on immune response of crustaceans. The project was of particular interest to me due to the importance of pathogen protection in aquaculture and the potential development of intelligent therapeutic methods. During my studies I volunteered for various conservation projects, becoming a strong advocate of healthy and sustainable development. After my masters, I wanted to explore possibilities to combine my passion for laboratory work and conservation.

I came to KAUST as an intern with Manuel Aranda, initially working on coral symbiosis. I began work on immuno-staining and localization of proteins in cells and tissue of the anemone Aiptasia pallida.  Work on various antibodies lead to the application of anti-histone markers and an interest in epigenetic mechanisms. After concluding my internship in the Aranda lab, I have returned to complete my PhD research.

Research Interests

​Although coral reefs have a long history on earth, they are extremely sensitive to anthropogenic impacts such as climate change. Heat stress studies on corals have shown concerning impacts as well as interesting coping mechanisms. Emergence of new research methods has allowed continuous advancements into coral molecular pathways. While we often ask whether corals can adapt to future climate predictions, the increasing rate at which climate change is occurring begs the question whether corals can acclimatize to these conditions. Transcriptomics and proteomics have been regular tools used in answering temperature stress responses. A new field of interest, particularly in light of acclimatization, is epigenetics; a cellular change in gene expression without permanent alteration to the genetic code. My research focuses on utilizing transcriptomic, proteomic and epigenomic tools to gain insight into coral acclimatization capabilities to increasing temperatures and thermal shock in hope of learning how to aid these fragile metaorganisms.


  • M.Sc., University of Southampton, United Kingdom (2013-2014)
  • B.Sc., University of Southampton, United Kingdom (2010-2013)

Research Interests Keywords

Transcriptomics Proteomics Epigenetics