People

Our people in the Brain Repair research group
Vassilis Stratoulias, PhD | University Researcher

I am a developmental biologist fascinated about cells and their function. My current focus is to “unleash” the unexplored potential of glial cells, mainly microglia, during development and disease. I support that scientists should move away from the neuron-centric study of the brain and acknowledge glia cells – at least - as equally important functional components during development, homeostasis and disease.

After defending my PhD thesis at the University of Helsinki, I moved to Karolinska Institutet to work on microglial biology. I joined Airavaara’s group in 2018 to increase glia know-how.

Outside work, I enjoy reading, travelling and trying to understand my little toddler.

Amanda Sandelin | Doctoral Researcher

Currently, my research aims to understand the function of the neurotrophic factor MANF and the role of MANF in dopaminergic neuron development. I study this in human pluripotent stem cells and by differentiating them to dopaminergic neurons. I have a background in chemistry and translational medicine that I am utilizing to understand the structure-to-function relationship of MANF to hopefully uncover new drug targets. Outside of the lab, I enjoy knitting, baking, cooking and playing handball. 

Jenni Montonen | Laboratory coordinator

I am the laboratory coordinator in Airavaara group. I joined the team in summer 2019, after working as a research technician in the Institute of Biotechnology for six years. I manage the laboratory practices and equipment, coordinate orders and purchases, and instruct students and trainees. I also assist in cell experiments with different cell lines including the human induced pluripotent stem cells, and carry out diverse research methods.

Outside the lab, I enjoy riding, doing yoga and spending time with my family.

Helike Löhelaid, PhD | Post doctoral researcher

I started my research career in Estonia and the aim of my PhD thesis was to define the role of lipid mediators in coral stress response. My technical expertise bridges molecular analysis of cells and tissues (cloning, gene expression profiling, protein expression, purification, and activity analysis) with lipid mediator biochemistry (extraction, identification and quantitation of delicate lipid compounds by high-performance liquid chromatography and mass-spectrometry).

I joined Dr. Airavaara's group as an Academy of Finland postdoctoral fellow in 2019 to study ischemic stroke and the effect of microglia/macrophage phagocytosis on stroke recovery. In addition, I'm interested in the cellular stress response pathways and molecular mechanisms of wound healing and neuroinflammation.

Next to science, I love sports (running, gym, BJJ, volleyball), painting, photography, discovering new places and spending quality time with my children.

Irena Hlushchuk, M.Sc. (Pharm) | Doctoral Researcher

I have a Degree of provisor from Lviv Medical University and use my skills and knowledge in the neuroscience research.

I enjoy learning and discovering new, and appreciate thorough planning and efficient execution of experiments. My research focuses on modeling alpha-synuclein aggregation in the primary dopaminergic cell culture.

On my free time I fancy reading and the beauty of nature, as well as smart humor and good food.

Şafak Er, M.Sc. | Doctoral Researcher

It is still a mystery what is the exact role of certain protein aggregates in various central nervous system diseases: Lewy bodies in Parkinson’s disease, Aβ plaques and tau tangles in Alzheimer’s disease, etc. There is a high chance that common molecular and/or genetic pathways contribute to these protein accumulation phenotypes in neurodegenerative disorders. My interest in this big picture is distributed between the alpha-synuclein in Parkinson’s disease, and β-amyloid variants in ischemia. I have a background in molecular biotechnology and genetics, so I also focus on developing new tools to investigate these phenotypes on a genetic level. By having a multiple perspective approach, I am aiming to gain more insight into this centennial mystery.

In daily life, I enjoy solving other challenging puzzles like origami, and being in nature by activities like scuba diving and hiking.

Mikko Airavaara, PhD | Group Leader

My passion is increasing the quality of biological and molecular pharmacology as well as in disease models. We are doing it from our local niche, with internationally evaluated funding, and together with exceptional international collaborators. Modern pharmacological research is based on molecular biology and in understanding fundamental biological phenomenon at the molecular and cellular level. By combining modern tools in biology and pharmacology, we can find new drug targets, validate them, demonstrate proof of concept, and in the long-term develop new therapies. My extensive combination of expertise provides a solid ground for this. I am looking for students who feel passionate about our research interests to develop entirely new things.

At the faculty level, I will work to end drifting of talented students, and we can do this by providing opportunities to find out personal and academic interests. I will also work towards providing possibilities for our students to be trained abroad at laboratories with exceptional quality. At the University level, I will work towards increasing international collaboration and postdoctoral training in high-quality laboratories. At the national level, I promote internationally evaluated funding. I believe these are the critical factors for the success of Finland both at academic and economic levels. 

In my free time, I like to ski, fly fish, and make ultimate passes in floorball and football.  I also enjoy various forms of art and lyrics of Neil Young are dear to me "There's more to the picture Than meets the eye".

Alumni

Post doc

Dr. Andrii Domanskyi, 2014-2015 ⇒ Academy of Finland research fellow, Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki

PhD

Kert Mätlik 2012-2017 ⇒ Post doc, Rockefeller Univerisity, USA

Anna-Maija Penttinen 2012-2017 ⇒ Post doc, Université de Montréal, Louis-Eric Trudeau laboratory, Canada

Kuan-Yin Tseng 2013-2017 ⇒ Post doc, neurosurgeon, Tri-Service General Hospital and National Defense Medical Center & Tzu Chi University, Taiwan

Katrina Räty (o.s. Albert) ⇒ Post doc, University of Cambridge, UK

Jenni Anttila 2012-2019 ⇒ Post doc, University of Helsinki, Laboratory of Neurotherapeutics / Tuomas Lilius laboratory

Maryna Koskela 2012-2022 ⇒ Post doc, University of Helsinki, Institute of Biotechnology

Ilmari Parkkinen 2019-2023