Meet the people!
Maija Sierla, Principal Investigator

Maija received her BSc from the University of East Anglia (Norwich, UK) and MSc from the University of Helsinki (Finland) followed by a PhD from Imperial College London (UK). Maija has a long-standing interest in plant stress and environmental signalling. She first gained experience in bacterial and fungal pathogen-induced defence signalling in plants in the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK (Anne Osbourn and John Rathjen groups). During her PhD at Imperial College London she studied the role of ion channels in the regulation of programmed cell death and stress responses (Bart Feys group). As a postdoctoral researcher in the group of Jaakko Kangasjärvi at the University of Helsinki, she studied reactive oxygen species-mediated stomatal regulation and identified novel components in ROS-mediated guard cell signalling pathways.  

Maija established her research group at the University of Helsinki in 2020 and she is an Academy of Finland Research Fellow and a PI within the Centre of Excellence in Tree Biology. 

Personal interests: family, friends, exploring nature 

Kerri Hunter, Postdoctoral Researcher

Kerri completed undergraduate studies at the University of Manitoba (Canada) and University of Helsinki (Finland) with a major in biotechnology. She earned her doctorate in the field of plant science at the University of Helsinki, where she focused on a receptor-like protein kinase and its molecular functions during stress response signalling. After continuing this work briefly as a postdoc, she then joined the Plant Environmental Signalling group to characterize the GAAP family of ion channels and their role during cell death and stress tolerance. 

Personal interests: music, concert photography 

Tiago Gomes Nunes, Postdoctoral Researcher

Tiago studied Biology at the University of Aveiro (Portugal) and got his master’s degree at the University of the Basque Country (Spain) focusing on plant ecophysiology. Tiago earned his doctorate at the University of Heidelberg (Germany), where he worked on grass leaf development and functionality in the grass model Brachypodium distachyon. Afterwards, Tiago joined the Plant Environmental Signaling group to investigate cell-autonomous and non-cell autonomous mechanisms regulating stomatal function in Arabidopsis and in silver birch trees.  

Personal interests: music, languages, traveling 

Nerea Valdebenito Alamar, Doctoral Researcher

Nerea studied Biotechnology at Universitat de València (Spain) and received her master’s degree in Agricultural Sciences from University of Helsinki (Finland). She has gained experience in plant molecular biology methods and in plant physiology during her work at the Institute of Plant Molecular and Cell Biology – Spanish Research Council (IBMCP-CSIC; Spain) and from training received at the University of Helsinki during her studies. She joined the Plant Environmental Signalling Group in 2021 as a doctoral researcher and her research is focused on stomatal regulation, specifically on the role of calcium fluxes which determine stomatal movements and gas exchange events. 

Personal interests: Crime & mystery novels, traveling, languages 

Jasmin Kemppinen, Doctoral Researcher

Jasmin obtained her BSc and MSc from the University of Helsinki, majoring in plant physiology and development. Her Master's project focused on chloroplastic ROS signalling and the molecular regulation of light stress. In 2021, she embarked on her PhD journey in Sierla's group with the support of the Emil Aaltonen Foundation grant. Jasmin's current research investigates the role of a leucine-rich repeat receptor-like protein GHR1 in stomatal immunity networks. Her primary interests include the mechanisms of pathogen perception and the modulation of diverse signals leading to stomatal closure. Through her work, she aims to identify GHR1's interactors in stomatal immunity signalling and shed light on the rapid cellular events governing this essential defence mechanism.

Personal interests: painting, orchids, writing

Roosa Haajanen, Doctoral Researcher

Roosa studied genetics and molecular biology at the University of Oulu (Finland) where she obtained her BSc and MSc degrees majoring in plant physiology. During her master’s studies, Roosa focused on the endosymbiotic interaction between Methylobacterium extorquens DSM13060 and Scots Pine. She has also gained valuable experience in working with Marchantia polymorpha while studying at Tohoku University (Japan) in a research-oriented exchange program. Roosa joined the Plant Environmental Signalling Group as a doctoral researcher to study guard cell CO₂ signalling and interactomics in Arabidopsis thaliana.  

Personal interests: Houseplants, movies, languages