Contact Information.

Kaprio group/twin study
Department of Public Health
Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM)
P.O. Box 20, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland

Jaakko Kaprio

Jaakko Kaprio acted as the Director of FIMM until 31.1.2018. Since 2001, Kaprio has served as a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at the Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki and as Research Professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Jaakko Kaprio obtained his M.D. degree in 1976 and his Ph.D. in 1984 from the University of Helsinki. He has trained abroad at the University of Southern California, Indiana University and University of Michigan in 1987-1989. During 2007-2011 he was the Director of the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in Complex Disease Genetics. During 2013-2017 Kaprio held a Professorship of the Academy of Finland.

He has been in a key role in collecting several Finnish twin cohorts for the University of Helsinki and in planning the long-term follow-up studies of the twins. 

Professor Kaprio’s  central research interests have been in the study of substance use and addictions, nicotine dependence in particular. He has authored and co-authored > 1100 scientific articles throughout his career, supervised > 50 PhD students, and has received multiple awards. 

Jaakko Kaprio Researchportal profile

Sari Aaltonen

Sari Aaltonen works as a senior scientist in the group of Prof. Jaakko Kaprio. She is broadly interested in physical activity behavior in humans and holds a title of Docent in Physical Activity Epidemiology at the University of Helsinki. She has received her PhD in Sports and Exercise Medicine from the University of Jyväskylä and spent one year as a visiting researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, LA, USA.

Sari Aaltonen Researchportal profile

Bram Berntzen

Bram Berntzen, PhD in Population Health, is a postdoctoral researcher in Kaprio Group investigating polygenic risk scores of obesity, lifestyle behaviors, and long-term (36 y) BMI trajectories in genetically identical and non-identical twin pairs. 

Bram Berntzen Researchportal profile

Jadwiga Buchwald

Jadwiga Buchwald, Doctoral Candidate, Groups Kaprio and Pirinen has a master’s degree in statistics from the University of Helsinki. She is especially interested in applying statistics to issues related to public health. Her PhD focuses on the genetics of nicotine metabolism which is assumed to affect smoking behaviour such as how much you smoke and how easy it is for you to quit. As a biomarker for nicotine metabolism, we use the nicotine metabolite ratio (NMR) (3-hydroxycotinine / cotinine). 

Jadwiga Buchwald Researchportal profile

Gabin Drouard

Gabin Drouard is a doctoral researcher in the Kaprio group since September 2021. He holds an engineering degree (~MSc) in mathematics applied to life sciences and a Master of Science in epidemiology. His research focuses on the integration and use of multi-omics data to study complex traits, most often using twins from the Finnish Twin Cohort (Finntwin12, older FTC).

Gabin Drouard Researchportal profile

Kauko Heikkilä

Kauko Heikkilä  works as a consult in Group Kaprio. Task as a consult of group Kaprio is to make data more usable by sharing silent information. I try to solve data usability problems when emerging, making  details more identifiable for quicker access. All data metadata can be delivered as an Excel file with dataset information with variables and their labels (hopefully soon a better version could be delivered), or they can also be input to a menu driven program some day. Another task is to finalize the dissertation, hopefully latest before June 2020.

Kauko Heikkilä Researchportal profile


Teemu Palviainen

Teemu Palviainen Bioinformatician/Statistician, MSc (statistics), working on various research projects on the twin study project based on usage of genomics or questionnaire based data as well as having tasks related to maintaining and handling of project’s research database.

Teemu Palviainen Research portal

Maarit Piirtola

Maarit Piirtola currently works at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki. Maarit does research in Public Health related to Health Behaviors (smoking, physical activity, sedentary behavior/ sitting, sleep), body mass index and mental health. In addition, she has projects in Geriatrics, Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Medicine related to Fall & Injury Prevention and Improving Functional Ability. Her current project is 'Sex difference in depression among Finnish Twin Cohort'.

Maarit Piirtola Researchportal profile


Mia Urjansson

Mia Urjansson, medical laboratory technologist, has been working as a Clinical Research Nurse in the Kaprio Group since 2013.  Her current work in the group is project coordinating, assisting in planning the new studies and ethical applications. She has the main responsibility of all contacts with study subjects, coordinating new study visits and interviews, data handling and returning the results for the subjects. Laboratory maintenance is also a one part of her job.


Zhiyang Wang

Zhiyang Wang is a doctoral researcher at Group Kaprio since 2021. He received MSc In epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. His doctoral project focus on the effect of exposome, the totality of the environment, on mental health among adolescence and young adulthood and its genetic component and interaction. Moreover, the concept of exposome could be extended to “one health” and “planetary health”.

Zhiyang Wang Researchportal profile


Alyce Whipp

Alyce M Whipp (PhD Public Health) is a post-doctoral researcher in Kaprio Group investigating adolescent mental health (behavior and emotional problems) in the context of epidemiology, metabolomics, proteomics, and environmental exposures (exposome). She is also currently working on a heritability of wellbeing project with the Netherlands Twin Registry. Additionally, she currently teaches professional soft skills (academic writing, presenting, pitching, peer review) and edits academic texts (manuscripts, dissertations, grants).

Alyce Whipp Researchportal profile

Stephanie Zellers

Stephanie Zellers, Ph.D. in Psychology, is a postdoctoral researcher in the Kaprio Group interested in substance use across the lifespan. She utilizes longitudinal twin data  and her work is informed by clinical psychology, developmental psychology, psychiatric genetics, and public health. Her current research program evaluates the developmental course of substance use and dependence from adolescence to mid-adulthood, as well as its risk factors, outcomes, and environmental moderators.

Stephanie broadly seeks to understand the causes and consequences of substance use and psychopathology, from risk factors like impulsivity and permissive environments to outcomes like substance dependence. She aims to understand why people use substances, what effect it has on their lives, and how we can intervene or prevent substance-related problems. She uses sophisticated study designs and longitudinal twin data to hone in on specific pathways to understand how genes and the environment lead to substance use, addiction, and related psychosocial phenomena.

Stephanie Zellers Researchportal profile