New Assistant Professors have started in HiLIFE: Nelson Totah and Helena Kilpinen

15.9.2020
Nelson Totah joined HiLIFE in August and Helena Kilpinen in June 2020.

HiLIFE welcomes two new assistant professors to the community, Helena Kilpinen and Nelson Totah!

Nelson Totah is jointly affiliated with the Faculty of Pharmacy and his lab will be working adjacent to Institute of Biotechnology at Viikki Campus and in close collaboration with the neurosciences across campuses. Totah holds a research post as Academy Research Fellow.

Helena Kilpinen works at the Meilahti Campus at FIMM and in close collaboration with the Neuroscience Center. She is a joint recruitment with the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences bridging the research on human genetics at the Viikki and Meilahti Campuses.

Nelson Totah: Neuroscientist and a thought-leader in science education

Before joining to HiLIFE, Nelson Totah worked as a Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics where he was also previously a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow. Totah is a native of the United States and he received his PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh in 2012.

His lab has established complex behavioral tasks for head-fixed rats combined with electrophysiology, which they use to understand the neural basis of learning to adapt to change in the world.

Totah is also a thought-leader who works to improve science education in the United States through his non-profit organization, the Science National Honor Society, which he founded in 1997.

Totah is an awardee of Fulbright Finland Travel Grant for research collaboration with the goal of creating ties between Rice University (Houston, Texas) and HiLIFE and strengthening the interaction between U.S. and Finland in state-of-the-art brain research.

Helena Kilpinen: Researcher focusing on cellular genetics of brain-related disorders

Helena Kilpinen worked as a research group leader at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health in London from 2016 until 2020 when she joinined HiLIFE. She held an MRC eMedLab Career Development Fellow in Medical Bioinformatics jointly with UCL and the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge.

Kilpinen received her PhD from the University of Helsinki in 2011 where she studied the genetic mechanisms underlying autism spectrum disorders. She then transitioned to functional genomics, studying how DNA sequence variation influences different levels of gene regulation in human cells, first at the University of Geneva, and then at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in Cambridge.

In 2014, Kilpinen joined the Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPSC) Initiative and has since focused on using iPSCs to model the cellular basis of neurodevelopmental disorders. Her group in Helsinki continues this research and focuses on how genetic variation causes variability in cellular phenotypes and contributes to differential susceptibility to diseases, both common and rare.

The two new assistant professors have been recruited from the second HiLIFE tenure track call that was organized in 2018–2019.