From Erasmus Exchange to Ionic Liquids and Biomembranes

Joanna Witos Photo: Veikko Somerpuro

JOANNA WITOS

My Finnish adventure began in the autumn of 2006 and still continues today. However, let’s start from the beginning. I was born in Jasło, in a small town in South-east Poland, where I grew up and spent carefree childhood days playing volleyball. After realizing that volleyball is only for tall people, I became fascinated with science. To expand my particular scientific interests, I moved to Kraków to pursue a degree in chemistry at the Jagiellonian University. Due to the high competition in the labor market, I decided to raise my skills through participation in an Erasmus Exchange Program.

At first I was considering Turku as the destination, however after coming into contact with professor Marja-Liisa Riekkola and hearing a lot of good opinions about the University I decided to study here. During this period, I had a chance to be part of a well-established research group, and most importantly to conduct my first real research project dealing with bacterial biofilms. At this point I realized that research became my passion and that it would be my future career path. When the option to come and do my doctoral degree in Riekkola’s group appeared – I did not hesitate one moment.

Meanwhile, in June 2007, I got my M.Sc. degree in chemistry with specialization in analytical chemistry at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. The main objective of the thesis was to develop an amperometric biosensor based on immobilization of enzyme in polypyrrole film. Having graduated, I moved back to Finland and pursued my doctoral studies. The major aim was to elucidate the biomolecular interactions that occur in extracellular matrix with the aid of atomic force microscopy, quartz crystal microbalance as well as capillary electromigration techniques. We also wanted to understand the significance of these interactions for atherosclerosis and diabetes.

The main focus of the project is to shed light onto the impact of novel synthesized ionic liquids on phospholipid vesicles, acting as excellent artificial models for biomembranes.

During my doctoral studies I was also involved in another wonderful project: I gave birth to my two great sons, who have kept me busy ever since. Upon my return to work, I completed my doctoral degree and was kindly invited to join docent Susanne Wiedmer’s research group as a postdoctoral researcher. The main focus of the project is to shed light onto the impact of novel synthesized ionic liquids on phospholipid vesicles, acting as excellent artificial models for biomembranes. The use of ionic liquids in industrial processes has greatly enhanced, leading to the development of advanced and unique industrial applications.

Due to the possible health aspects related to their direct interaction with biomembranes, there is a strong interest to develop biosensing methods to evaluate the effect of ionic liquids on synthetic biomimetic systems. In this research, several techniques including nanoplasmonic sensing, asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation, capillary electromigration techniques, and dynamic light scattering are applied for study in real-time the interactions between novel industrially relevant ionic liquids and phospholipid vesicles. The achieved results can be further utilized in the selection of ionic liquids for specific applications and to tailor-make low-toxicity ionic liquids. In addition, this leads to a better understanding of the harmfulness of ionic liquids

Orginally published @Chemistry News.