Lab Members

We are a group of enthusiastic people who are eager to reveal the secrets of nature. We want to know the mechanistic details of how our cells work, move, and change their shape.
Pekka Lappalainen, Professor


Pekka carried out his PhD-thesis work at EMBL, Heidelberg, Germany, where he studied the structure and function of the electron entry site of cytochrome c oxidase. This was followed by a post-doctoral work with David Drubin at UC Berkeley, USA focusing on actin dynamics in budding yeast. Since 1998, Pekka has been a group leader at Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki. His main research interests are to uncover the mechanisms by which actin and plasma membrane dynamics are regulated in cells. In his free time, Pekka enjoys various sports, music (playing guitar), wandering in nature, and spending time with his family.


Konstantin Kogan, Postdoc


I am interested in understanding the molecular machines (proteins) responsible for actin turnover in the cell on atomic level resolution. To obtain the structural information, I am mastering my skills and knowledge in XRAY crystallography, biochemical analysis of proteins and protein complexes, and I am looking into Cryo-EM single particle analysis. On my free time, I enjoy my lovely family, philosophical discussions and crazy business ideas.


Shrikant Kokate, Postdoc


I received my doctorate in Life Sciences (Cancer Biology) from National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER)- Bhubaneswar, Odisha affiliated to Homi Bhabha National Institute (HBNI), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), India in Dec 2018. During my doctoral work, I studied the role of posttranslational modifications in the functional regulation and sub-cellular distribution of E3-ubiquitin ligase SIAH proteins in Helicobacter pylori-mediated gastric cancer. At present, I am a post-doctoral researcher in Pekka’s lab at University of Helsinki. Currently I am interested in identifying and functionally characterizing the roles of various proteins involved in the regulation of actin stress fibres in motile cells which control cell morphogenesis in various pathophysiological conditions. In free time, I like playing various sports, travelling to new places and nature photography.



Andrea Vizcaino-Castillo, Postdoc


I did my PhD at the Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas (IIBO), of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). During my doctoral studies, I focused on the cellular characterization of an actin paralog of the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, the etiological agent of Chagas’ Disease. Now, as a post-doctoral researcher at Pekka Lappalainen’s lab, I am interested on the characterization of the Leishmania cytoskeleton, a closely related organism to T. cruzi. In my free time, I like exploring new places, watching movies, doing puzzles, and photography.


Sarah Körber, Postdoc


I received my PhD from the Hannover Medical School in Germany in 2023. During my doctoral studies, I worked with the model organism D. discoideum to elucidate how actin polymerases contribute to macroendocytic cup formation. Now, as a postdoctoral researcher in Pekka Lappalainen’s lab, I will focus on LIM domain proteins and their function in stress fiber dynamics and regulation. In my free time, I enjoy reading, board games and the outdoors.


Parijat Biswas, Postdoc


I completed my Ph.D. in 2023 at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, where I studied how the macromolecular crowding inside a cell controls its size. I joined the Lappalainen lab as a postdoc to study the role of actin-associated proteins in assembling and disassembling focal adhesion complexes. I am fascinated by how the laws of physics manifest in cells and love using a microscope to take cool photos. Besides science, I like exploring nature, gaming, painting, trying new cuisines, and practising martial arts.

e-mail: TBA

Reena Kumari, PhD student


I received my Master of Science from VIT University, India (2014). I pursued further research training as Junior Research Fellow at National Center for Biological Science in Institute of Stem cell & Regenerative medicine (inStem) for eight months in Bangalore, India. I have joined the Pekka Lappalainen lab in 2015 to pursue a PhD in Integrative Life Science program. My research interests include Stress fiber components study in non-muscle as well as modeling of cardiac myofibrilogenesis using stem cell derived cardiomyocytes. I like doing painting and aim to unveil the hidden concepts of science in her masterpiece.


Toiba Mushtaq, PhD student


I hail from Kashmir and did my bachelors in Chennai, India. I moved to Finland to pursue my M.Sc. in Biomedical Imaging from Åbo Akademi University. I joined Lappalainen lab to conduct my Masters's thesis and will continue to study the actin-related structures in epithelial cells as a PhD student.  You will find me enjoying long walks, swimming in open lakes, and playing sports for fun during summer. Whereas, in winters I enjoy the snowfall and hibernate indoors.



Katharina Ven, PhD student


I received my M.Sc. from Translational Medicine, University of Helsinki (2019). Previously I have been working in the field of lipid trafficking in University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine. I joined Pekka’s lab in the summer of 2020 to continue PhD studies and my interests lie in actin regulation at epithelial junctions. In addition, I like to yoga and hike with my furry friend.


Jerry (Xiang Le) Chua, PhD student


My earlier research started at Min Wu’s lab of Pattern Formation at the National University of Singapore (2019) and Yale University School of Medicine (2020-2021), where I studied the dynamic regulation of actin cortex in immune mast cells with cortical oscillatory Cdc42 as a model system. I have since found my passion for actin dynamics, with an interest in studying the molecular mechanisms underlying actin stress fiber assembly and organization in human cells. I will always love listening to an in-depth breakdown of films, series and arts over coffee.


Afsana Tasnim Oshin, PhD student


I started my masters in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences at the University of Helsinki and soon joined Pekka Lappalainen´s lab in 2021 as a master´s thesis student. I will continue to work on identifying roles of cytoskeletal proteins involved in the actin stress fiber dynamics as part of my doctoral studies. Previously, I majored in Biotechnology & Microbiology and was awarded the Chancellor´s Gold Medal in 2018 from BRAC University in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I had worked on determining vaccine efficacy of an outer-membrane protein of ETEC bacteria in mice models and also, on a recombinant technology-based project in a research lab of micro-RNAs in neurodegeneration. Family time is my most favorite part of the day. I like gardening, listen/play music and get mesmerized by the beauty of nature.



Mirva Tirkkonen, Laboratory Engineer


Mirva has studied biotechnology and food engineering in the Turku Institute of Technology and works in the Lappalainen lab as a laboratory engineer. She takes good care of our lab and provides excellent support for our daily works.


Former lab members

Johan Peränen
Tommi Kotila
Sandra Falck
Pauli Ojala
Eija Paunola
Hanna Ranta
Maria Vartiainen
Perttu Naumanen
Pieta Mattila
Ville Paavilainen
Miia Bovellan
Enni Bertling
Pirta Hotulainen
Elisa Nevalainen
Nitai Peled
Aneta Skwarek-Maruszewska
Juha Saarikangas
Martina Serlachius
Anette Pykäläinen
Essi Koskela
Nalle Pentinmikko
Hongxia Zhao
Maarit Makkonen
Sari Tojkander
Gergana Gateva
Yaming Jiu
Minna Poukkula
Anna-Liisa Nyfors
Yosuke Senju
Katarzyna Ciuba
Markku Hakala
Jaakko Lehtimäki
Lina Antenucci
Elena Kremneva