Professor Juha Huiskonen elected as member of EMBO

To celebrate the European Molecular Biology Organisation EMBO's 60th anniversary in 2024, EMBO has elected 100 new members and 20 associate members. Professor Juha Huiskonen from Helsinki Institute of Life Science HiLIFE was the only researcher elected from Finland this year.

Election as a member of the EMBO recognizes scientists’ research excellence and other outstanding achievements in life sciences.

Juha Huiskonen is Professor of Structural Biology at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences. Currently, Huiskonen works as Director of the Institute of Biotechnology at HiLIFE, and heads the Laboratory of Structural Biology there. He joins 23 previously elected EMBO members currently based in Finland.

Huiskonen’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms that ensure the balance of cell protein contents and how cells connect with each other. “By purifying parts of the cell’s machinery and imaging these nanoscopic structures with powerful electron microscopes, we can analyze interactions between the proteins in atomic detail,” Huiskonen explains. “This allows mechanistic understanding of key cellular functions and further how these functions may be impaired in diseases, for example by hereditary mutations,” he continues.

Returning to Finland after ten years at the University of Oxford

Huiskonen’s career began at the University of Helsinki. “My first exposure to research was as a 16-year-old in my first summer job in the research group of Dennis Bamford,” he reminisces.  “After that, I was completely hooked,” he adds.

After his PhD degree in genetics, Huiskonen joined the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Munich for his postdoctoral project, supported by the Research Council of Finland and EMBO Long Term Fellowship. From Munich, Huiskonen moved to the University of Oxford where he ran a research group for ten years. “I am grateful to department heads Sir David Stuart and Yvonne Jones for supporting my independent research career in Oxford early on,” Huiskonen remarks.

It was the newly established HiLIFE institute that attracted Huiskonen back to Finland. “The tenure track program, international research environment and top-notch research infrastructures at HiLIFE made it a natural choice for me to return to Finland at that stage in my career,” Huiskonen explains. “It took some time to set up the laboratory from scratch, but now we are going full speed ahead, and I am proud that the first results from the work originating in Helsinki have now been published,” he adds.

EMBO membership brings recognition and new responsibilities

Huiskonen considers EMBO membership to be an international recognition of his merits in research, academic leadership, and mentoring activities. “Research in my field is always performed in collaboration with others, and I am extremely grateful to my past and current research group members and colleagues for their contributions in our joint projects,” he adds.

As new EMBO members are nominated and elected by current members, a prominent level of international visibility is required. “In addition to the international recognition of our research results, my extensive career abroad has helped me to build a network of collaborations. In the past, I have also been a regular teacher on EMBO courses, and more recently, worked in advisory roles related to the sharing of molecular biology research data at international level,” Huiskonen lists.

“Being a new EMBO member brings me further opportunities to network with other researchers and, especially, to contribute to supporting early career researchers by taking part in different EMBO programs and committees,” Huiskonen concludes.

For further information see EMBO's press release.