Second HiLIFE tenure track call attracts top-level researchers to Finland

HiLIFE is currently recruiting five top-level researchers from 400 high quality applicants together with the faculties of University of Helsinki.

Recruitment for Tenure Track Assistant/Associate Professor positions started last fall and the appointments were just made by Rector Jari Niemelä.

The second call for HiLIFE assistant/associate professor positions in life sciences started in September 2018 together with the collaborating Faculties. By the deadline October 30, the call attracted 401 applications. An appointment committee chaired by Professor Anna-Elina Lehesjoki was nominated in November 2018, to manage the recruitment process.

In January, the Appointment Committee shortlisted 49 applications to be sent out to 16 external evaluators. Altogether 16 candidates, selected on the basis of the external evaluations, were invited for a site visit and interview, which took place on February 25-27 and March 1 in Viikki and Meilahti Campuses of the University.

HiLIFE is eager to welcome the five new tenure track assistant/associate professors to the community.

Leonardo Almeida-Souza studied Biology in Brazil before moving to Belgium to obtain his PhD at the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology (VIB) in Antwerp.

For his postdoc, Almeida-Souza moved to the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK to study membrane curvature during endocytosis as an EMBO fellow.

The Almeida-Souza lab at the HiLIFE institute will focus on the biology of cytoskeletal structures formed during endocytosis and how the molecules regulating these structures affect physiological processes during health and disease.


During his PhD studies at the Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, Ari Pekka Mähönen examined morphogenesis of primary vascular tissue in the Arabidopsis thaliana root tip.He received PhD in 2006, after which he carried out post-doctoral studies on root stem cells in Utrecht University, Netherlands.

2011 he was selected as group leader at the Institute Biotechnology to investigate the stem cell function of vascular cambium during the radial growth of Arabidopsis root.

Recently, Mähönen was awarded with ERC Consolidator Grant (2018) to study the stem cell regulation of cork cambium.


Helena Kilpinen has been a research group leader at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health in London since 2016. She is a MRC eMedLab Career Development Fellow in Medical Bioinformatics and holds an appointment also at the Cellular Genetics programme at 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.

Kilpinen will join HiLIFE in 2020 as a tenure track Assistant Professor. Her group will continue to study how genetic variation causes variability in cellular phenotypes and contributes to differential susceptibility to diseases, both common and rare.

Marjo Saastamoinen is currently a university researcher and is one of the founding PIs of the Research Centre for Ecological Change at the University of Helsinki. During her career, she has also spent time at the University Leiden the Netherlands and at the Australian National University.

Saastamoinen holds an ERC StG (2015-2020) and with her research group aims to understand how natural populations and communities respond, potentially in an adaptive manner, to changes in their environment. Particularly, her focus is on the impacts of habitat fragmentation and climate change. In her research, she combines long-term ecological monitoring data and experimental approaches with genomic research tools.

Nelson Totah is currently 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.

Five new HiLIFE Ten­ure Track As­sist­ant/​​​​As­so­ci­ate Pro­fess­ors
  • Almeida-Souza, Leonardo, cell biology, assistant, HiLIFE & Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences
  • Kilpinen, Helena, genome biology, assistant, HiLIFE & Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences
  • Mähönen, Ari Pekka, plant molecular biology, associate, HiLIFE & Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences
  • Saastamoinen, Marjo, evolutionary ecology, associate, HiLIFE & Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences
  • Totah, Nelson, neurophysiology and pharmacology, assistant, HiLIFE & Faculty of Pharmacy