Find out who we are in the Saarikangas Lab.

Find out who we are

Juha Saarikangas

Associate Professor, Academy of Finland Research Fellow

Juha carried out his PhD work in the group of Pekka Lappalainen studying membrane bending mechanisms that allow cells to dynamically alter their shape in order to carry out functions such as migration, attachment, and communication. From 2011-2017, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the ETH Zurich in the group of Yves Barral, where his interests expanded to proteostasis, asymmetric cell division, cellular aging, and the connections between these processes. In August 2017, he started as an tenure-track Assistant Professor where his group is studying how spatial control of protein folding and assembly states give rise to phenotypic diversity.

Leena Kontturi


Leena received her MSc in Biomedicine in 2008 from the University of Turku and her PhD in Biopharmacy in 2014 from the University of Helsinki. After PhD studies, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Utrecht University, the Netherlands (2015–2018) and at the University of Helsinki. Research topics of her PhD and postdoctoral studies included cell therapy applications and nucleic acid delivery. Leena joined the group in spring 2019.  She is investigating the molecular mechanisms associated to the formation and stabilization of synaptic connections, focusing specifically on the processes leading to biochemical and anatomical compartmentalization and individualization of dendritic post-synapses. The aim of the studies is to enhance our understanding on mechanisms governing learning and memory. Leena is supported by the Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Magnus Ehrnrooth Foundation.

Kris Montrose


Kristopher completed his MSc in Biomedical Science in 2010 and his PhD in Biomedical Science in 2014 from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. His doctoral research, was biotechnology and cancer focused,  and centred on the use of cell penetrating peptides to deliver therapeutic agents into a range of different cancer cells. From 2014-2019 he was a post-doctoral fellow at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan. His research became neuroscience based, and involved analysis of the kinase Lmtk3, and its potential role in psychiatric disease. He also led a secondary project, which focused on mRNA regulation in neurons during synaptic plasticity. He joined the Saarikangas lab as a postdoc in June 2019, where he his now investigating the role of aging in producing adaptive phenotypes in early multicellular evolution. As he has worked on many different scientific topics, his research interests are extensive, but are focused on the molecular mechanisms which govern key cellular processes, such as cell maintenance, RNA regulation, neuronal plasticity, cellular aging and molecular chaperoning.

Uliana Semaniuk


Uliana received her MSc in Biochemistry in 2013 and her PhD in Biochemistry in 2022 from the Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University, Ukraine. Throughout her doctoral studies, Uliana dedicated her research efforts to exploring the influence of nutrition on the aging process of Drosophila melanogaster, with a particular emphasis on metabolic aspects. In October 2022, Uliana became a member of our research group. Her primary research interest now revolves around the investigation of the origins of early multicellularity. Specifically, she aims to elucidate how multicellular adaptations emerge and whether cellular senescence plays a pivotal role in the development of cell differentiation within a multicellular organism during the transition from unicellularity to multicellularity. Her work also encompasses an exploration of the metabolic alterations that accompany this significant evolutionary transition. Uliana is supported by the Human Frontier Science Program Scientists for Scientists Initiative.

Jurgita Paukstyte

PhD student

Jurgita received her Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology from the University of Vilnius, Lithuania in 2014. Her Master´s studies in Gothenburg University in Sweden were focused on molecular biology with specialization towards genomics and systems biology and were completed in 2016. She joined the group as a PhD student at the end of 2017. She is currently investigating the role of protein assemblies in the metabolic differentiation of yeast cells. She aims to uncover new adaptive mechanisms by which cells can dynamically regulate their metabolism. Jurgita is a member of the Doctoral Programme in Integrative Life Science.

Ellinoora Elomaa

PhD student

Ellinoora received her MSc in genetics and genomics in 2020 from the University of Helsinki, as part of the Master’s Programme in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences. She joined the group as an intern in 2018, and completed her Master’s thesis work there during 2019–2020. Her Master’s thesis work was focused on biochemically characterizing the role of a protein-protein interaction in the context of radial glial cell division and cortical development. Currently Ellinoora is working as a PhD student and is a part of the Brain & Mind Doctoral Programme. She is investigating the protein conformational changes associated with synaptic strengthening, with the aim of discovering novel molecular mechanisms underlying memory formation. Ellinoora is supported by the Finnish Cultural Foundation.

Aukust Yrtti

Undergraduate research student

Aukust received his Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology in 2022 from the University of Helsinki and continued his studies in biochemistry and structural biology study track in the Master’s Programme in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences. Aukust joined the group as an intern in 2022 and has continued working as a research assistant. Aukust is currently working on his Master’s thesis focusing on proteostasis and its effect on aging phenotypes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. 

Open positions

Interested in joining the lab?

Contact us to check out the possibilitites to join the team: