Our team members hold expertise ranging from molecular biology and proteomics to horticultural practices. Please get in touch with us following the links below.
Saijaliisa Kangasjärvi, Group leader

Saija got her PhD on photosynthesis research at the University of Turku in 2002, and became an independent group leader focusing on plant stress signaling in 2009. In September 2020 she was appointed as an Associate Professor in Translational Plant Sciences at the University of Helsinki. Her position is shared between the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences  and the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry. Saija is also the director of the Masters Programme in Integrative Plant Sciences.

You can find Saija at:

Viikki Biocenter 3, 6th floor, Office 6712


Building B, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Office 120

Julia Vainonen, University researcher

Julia got her PhD on chemistry at the Moscow State University in 2003 with specialization in protein chemistry and enzymology. During her postdoctoral research she focused on stress response and signaling in plants using biochemical and proteomics methods. Julia got a title of Docent in plant physiology and plant molecular biology at the University of Helsinki in 2011. Now she works as a University researcher studying stress signaling in plants and the role of protein post-translational modifications in signaling pathways.

You can find Julia at:

Viikki Biocenter 3, 6th floor

Moona Rahikainen, Academy of Finland Post-doctoral fellow

Moona got her PhD on plant defence and stress signalling at the University of Turku in 2018. In her research, she studied the post-translational regulation of plant stress responses with focus on the protein phosphatase 2A and organellar signalling. During her first post-doc period at the University of Turku, she dived into a new topic and investigated the potential of edible macroalga of the Baltic Sea as raw material for food and feed applications. Currently, she works as an Academy of Finland post-doc fellow and is interested in how plants integrate stress responses with their developmental program. More specifically, she investigates how plant seedlings cope with stress induced mitochondrial dysfunction.

You can find Moona at:

Viikki Biocenter 3, 6th floor

Hirofumi Ishihara, Post-doctoral researcher

Hiro got his PhD on Bioinformatics and Genome research from Bielefeld University in 2007. During his research career, he has been interested in understanding the mechanisms of plant growth. In his previous research at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, he investigated the regulation of carbon allocation to plant growth during the diel light/dark cycle. His experimental approach included use of 13CO2 labelling combined with liquid or gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. From 2021, Hiro Joined Crop Light to investigate how different type of light spectrum change quality of leafy vegetables using system-oriented approaches and multilevel “omics” as tools.

You can find Hiro at:

Building B, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Office 119

Alexis Porcher, Post-doctoral researcher

Alexis got his PhD on redox metabolism and development of ornamental plants at the University of Angers (France) in 2020. Thereafter he changed his research topic and developed new weed control methods based on physical treatments for one year as post-doctoral fellow at the Pascal Institute (Clermont-Ferrand, France). At the end of 2021Alexis joined Crop Light to work on plant stress with focus on stress recovery. His project tackles mitochondria-plasma membrane interactions and their post-translational control in mitochondrial stress signaling.

You can find Alexis at:

Viikki Biocenter 3, 6th floor, room 6311.

Arttu Mäkinen, Doctoral researcher

Arttu joined Crop Light at the end of 2021 after finishing his master’s studies in horticultural science at the University of Helsinki. He is interested in the interfaces between applied plant biology and horticultural technology and is now working on his PhD on leveraging the properties of artificial light in advanced indoor plant production systems. Arttu’s general topics of interest include e.g. greenhouses, vertical farms/plant factories, LED-technology, photobiology, imaging technologies, plant phenotyping, and greenhouse control and automation systems.

You can find Arttu at:

Building B, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Office 117

Ilona Varjus, Doctoral researcher

Ilona graduated with her Master’s degree from the University of Turku in 2020 and got accepted in the doctoral programme of plant sciences at the University of Helsinki in 2021. She is currently working as a Doctoral researcher, focusing on the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in stress signalling in disease resistance and senescence. She aims to translate her basic knowledge to indoor cultivation and resolve how lighting affects disease resistance in kale cultivars.

You can find Ilona at:

Viikki Biocenter 3, 6th floor

Anastasia Rinas, MSc student

Anastasia studies in the Masters Programme in Integrative Plant Sciences. She has been enthusiastic about botany ever since she was introduced to the subject and has never been happier about her career path. She has done two Erasmus-exchanges in Ireland and is currently working as a MSc student in the Crop Light group. She is interested in the effects of climate change on plants’ dynamics, deforestation, crop productivity and global food security. She has also gained experience at the LUOMUS Botany Unit as an intern in the Vascular Plants Team. She finds the work on plants incredibly interesting.  She has learned many different protocols, facts and routines of laboratory work. The work environment has been encouraging and supportive with wonderful colleagues she feels have opened the door  her as a botanist and scientist.

Lluís Gurrea Olivella, MSc student

Lluís got his bachelor's degree in biology in Barcelona, and is now studying in the Integrative Plants Sciences Master's Programme. He has an interest in applied plant sciences and how that can help us in the future. He is currently doing his MSc thesis in the Crop Light group, working in the natural variation of glucosinolates and biomass among kale varieties.

You can find Lluís at:

Building B, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Office 120