From marine biology to neuroscience

Lea Urpa moved to TRANSMED from marine biology, and is now continuing her studies in the FIMM-EMBL International PhD programme of FIMM, Institute of Molecular Medicine Finland.

“The number one thing is to figure out what you want, and that’s also the hardest part. Sometimes it just means trying out different stuff and seeing what happens,” says Lea Urpa from experience.

After her Bachelor’s studies in biology, she worked as a math and science teacher and interned in a neurobiology lab.

There she decided she wanted to work closer to humans and study neuroscience. While still living in the US, Urpa found out about TRANSMED, applied, and got accepted.

“I had the background in general chemistry and biology, but I’d never studied human anatomy and physiology. I felt that TRANSMED would be really great because it would make up for that missing background and complement the studies that I’d done before.”

Urpa did her research work on the neurogenomics of anxiety disorders and graduated in June 2016. After that she started as a PhD student at FIMM.

“A lot of what I’m doing now is solving puzzles, figuring out why the program is not working, trouble shooting, coding and programming... If I get stuck on something, I can always ask my colleague for help,” she says.

Urpa says that the most demanding thing in her research work so far is that it demands self-direction.

“You have to have a really good idea where you’re going and what you’re doing. And realizing what is your level of knowledge and what you don’t yet know is a constant challenge.”

In the future Urpa would like to focus her research career on neuroscience of psychiatric disorders.

“A really big thing for me is to be able to be in charge of my own research and have autonomy. My goal in end is to do research and to be in charge of the research, either in industry or academia.”