Thriving Nature speeds up with new professors on board – meet Saijaliisa Kangasjärvi

Saijaliisa Kangasjärvi started as the Associate Professor in Translational Plant Science in September 2020. Kangasjärvi works both in the Faculty of Biological and Environmetal sciences and in the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry.

Saijaliisa Kangasjärvi’s field of research is molecular plant biology – how did she discover it?

“When I was a high school student, I read an article about attempts to identify new medicinal compounds from different plant species. This article was an eye-opener for me, and I have been fascinated in the metabolic potential of plants ever since”, says Kangasjärvi

Critical information for practical plant breeding

Kangasjärvi is developing research and teaching on translational crop science by combining cutting-edge bioscience with innovative agronomy.

“I am interested in plant stress resistance. Many stress-induced phytochemicals affect the color, taste and nutritional value of crops and are therefore important in crop science. At the moment, we are working on light-induced changes in the chemical composition and ageing of leaves. We also collaborate with industrial partners to forward cultivation in domestic table gardens and vertical farms”, Kangasjärvi says. 

According to Kangasjärvi new understanding is needed to develop sustainable systems that guarantee the availability of fresh, tasty and healthy vegetables for the growing and urbanizing world population. Kangasjärvi's research effort will facilitate breeding more resilient plant species/cultivars of economic value in various future environments. 

“It is exciting when molecular plant biology meets agriculture and food science. Scientists from different disciplines are working together in new combinations to achieve and translate basic knowledge into profitable technological solutions, which will improve the quality and consumption of plant-based food”, Kangasjärvi asserts.

The Thriving Nature project strengthens the University of Helsinki’s profile in research into biological resilience. This project, a collaborative effort by the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences and the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry and HiLife, will combine our expertise in ecology, evolutionary biology, genome-level processes and biotechnology by employing big data in an innovative way. The project is being funded by the Academy of Finland.