Meet the current members of the Tracers in Molecular Imaging Group!
Sarparanta, Mirkka

I am a tenure-track associate professor in Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry  and the group leader of the Tracers in Molecular Imaging Group since January 2020. I have been a member of the TRIM team since the beginning of my Ph.D. studies in Radiochemistry in 2007. My Ph.D. studies were focused on the development of fluorine-18 -radiolabeled molecular imaging tools for the in vivo evaluation of porous silicon drug delivery systems, which sparked the interest to remain in the "margins" of radiopharmaceutical chemistry developing new molecular imaging tools to facilitate the translation of promising nanoscale drug delivery systems and materials from in vitro cell models to preclinical models. After my Ph.D., I trained years 2014–2016 under the mentorship of Dr. Jason S. Lewis as a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Radiology at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA. Upon return to Helsinki, my research has focused on the development and evaluation of multimodality imaging probes for nanocrystalline cellulose (CNC) and lignin drug delivery systems, and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in cancer immunotherapy with Acedemy of Finland Research Fellowship (2018–2023). I especially enjoy the multidisciplinary nature of radiopharmaceutical chemistry, which allows me to combine radiochemistry, biochemistry, cell biology, physiology, histology, and laboratory animal science without having to pick one discipline! I am currently a supervisor of three Ph.D. students at the Doctoral Programmes for Chemistry and Molecular Sciences (CHEMS-DP) and Doctoral Programme of Drug Research (DPDR). I also manage the Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry services provided by our group through the Helsinki in Vivo Imaging Platform (HAIP), part of HiLIFE, and Biocenter Finland. 

Nyman, Markus

I got my B.Sc. and M.Sc degrees at the University of Jyväskylä, testing radiation detectors. After that I started doctoral studies in the Gamma spectroscopy group at the accelerator laboratory of the Department of Physics, University of Jyväskylä. In my Ph.D. work I studied in-beam and decay spectroscopy of very neutron-deficient bismuth and astatine nuclei. After finishing the Ph.D. in 2009 I worked for one year as a laboratory engineer here in the Radiochemistry Laboratory, Department of Chemistry, University of Helsinki. After that I did some teaching, including the spring semester in 2011 as a primary school science teacher in Vantaa. Subsequently I went to work as a researcher in the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in Geel, Belgium, measuring cross sections of inelastic neutron scattering. After almost nine years in Belgium, I returned back to Finland in February 2021 to take up the formidable task of replacing Kerttuli Helariutta as the senior laboratory engineer here at the Department of Chemistry. I am responsible for the cyclotron, radiation detectors, radiation safety, teaching nuclear spectrometry, and other support for scientific research. I am looking forward to participating in the various interesting research programs that are being conducted here!

Imlimthan, Surachet

I am originally from Bangkok, Thailand. I earned a B.Eng. (Hons.) degree in Chemical Engineering from King’s Mongkut University of Technology Thonburi in Thailand, followed by an M.Eng. degree in Bioengineering from the University of Tokyo, Japan. I completed my Ph.D. in radiochemistry at the Tracers in Molecular Imaging (TRIM) Group, Department of Chemistry, University of Helsinki under the supervision of Dr. Mirkka Sarparanta. My doctoral dissertation focused on the development of theranostic nanosystems for drug delivery applications using naturally derived materials, such as cellulose nanocrystals and lignin nanoparticles. Following my Ph.D., I continued to pursue postdoctoral training at the Department of Nuclear Medicine, Bern University Hospital in Switzerland. My works there focused on radiosynthesis and preclinical evaluation of radiolabeled fibroblast activation protein (FAP) inhibitors for cancer diagnosis and radiotherapy. I recently rejoined to the TRIM group as a postdoctoral researcher and intend to develop my independent research career. My research interests range from pharmaceutically significant small-molecule structural modifications to macromolecular drug delivery systems combining radiopharmaceutical and radiation oncology techniques, all with the overarching goal of overcoming the limitations of traditional drugs and amplifying their therapeutic capabilities. My research skills include chemical synthesis, radiopharmaceutical techniques, and biomedical sciences, all of which are all well-suited to these multidisciplinary projects. Outside of work, I like to travel, jog, and play badminton. 

Biti, Anisa

I originally come from Albania, a beautiful country in  Southeast Europe. After high school, I moved to Italy to pursue a single-cycle Master´s degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology  at University of Siena. This degree  focuses on chemical, biochemical and chemical-pharmaceutical disciplines, with particular emphasis on practical laboratory activities. Due to this multidisciplinary approach I have a solid background not only in organic and medicinal chemistry but also in biology and other related disciplines. On the last year of my Master's degree I carried out my experimental thesis in the Drug Research Program at the University of Helsinki under the guidance of Prof. Jari Yli-Kauhaluoma as an Erasmus student. My thesis work  focused on the synthesis of novel nature-inspired compounds as quorum sensing inhibitors capable of tackling the bacterial biofilm of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a leading multi-drug resistant pathogen. During this experience I fell in love with Finland.

I started my Ph.D. studies in January 2020 under the supervision of Dr. Mirkka Sarparanta. My research project is focused on the development of PET and multimodal imaging tools for the tracking of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in vivo in the course of cancer immunotherapy. The future of drug discovery remains exciting and I think that radiopharmaceuticals will play a crucial role in this process.


Centanni, Alessia

I achieved a master’s degree after graduating from the University of Urbino (Division of Biomolecular Science, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology), Italy. Being a passionate student, I gained consolidated knowledge of fundamental subjects as well as related applied disciplines. During my study I became interested in pharmaceutical chemistry. This prompted me to carry out my experimental thesis in the Drug Research Program (DRP) at the University of Helsinki under the guidance of Prof. Jari Yli-Kauhaluoma as an Erasmus student. My thesis work at DRP aimed towards the synthesis of novel marine alkaloid derivatives as possible antileishmanial agents. Having enjoyed the academic working environment at the University of Helsinki, I pursued an Erasmus+ traineeship in the DRP in the same topic. During these experiences I fell in love with Helsinki city as well as research.

I started my Ph.D. studies in January 2021 under the supervision of Dr. Mirkka Sarparanta. My research project is focused on PET imaging tracers to visualize immune checkpoint inhibition and activated T cells in vivo in the course of cancer immunotherapy. What I love the most about my project is the multidisciplinarity, allowing me to develop a wide range of skills from different disciplines. I am confident gaining expertise in Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry will shape my future as a researcher and hopefully give my contribute to oncologic imaging.

Khng, You-Cheng

I obtained B.Sc. (Hons) in Molecular and Cell Biology from the National University of Singapore in 2018. I have started my doctoral studies in Doctoral Program in Chemistry and Molecular Sciences (CHEMS-DP) at the department of chemistry, University of Helsinki in September 2019. As I am keen on the multidisciplinary aspects in radiochemistry, my doctoral studies are in collaboration between TRIM and Radionuclide Fate and Reaction groups under the supervision of Dr. Mirkka Sarparanta and Prof. Gareth Law. My projects focus on the studies of radioactive cesium-rich microparticles (CsMP) released by the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) incident in 2011 and their behavior as well as the biological responses triggered in respiratory system.

Lumén, Dave

I am currently finalizing my Ph.D. thesis on the use of bioorthogonal chemistry to radiolabel nanoparticles and antibodies while working as a radiochemist at the Helsinki University Hospital.

Peltoniemi, Martta

I have a M.Sc. degree (2023) in Chemistry and Molecular sciences from the Faculty of Science, University of Helsinki. During my studies I focused especially on organic chemistry and radiopharmaceutical chemistry. My Ph.D. is a collaboration between Translational Neuropharmacology research group with Dr. Tuomas Lilius and Tracers in Molecular Imaging research group with Dr. Mirkka Sarparanta and will focus on the development of new radiolabeled tracers for the nuclear imaging of the glymphatic system and intrathecal drug delivery. 


Järvinen, Juiju

I started studying chemistry in 2018 as I am intrigued by various aspects of chemistry and other scientific fields. That's why I decided to focus my B.Sc. and M.Sc. thesis research on radiochemistry, which lets me explore several areas at once. For my bachelor's thesis, I researched how inhaled uranium particles dissolve in simulated lung fluid, phosphate-buffered saline, and ultrapure water. Now, for my master's thesis, I'm diving into tetrazine and sulfur(VI)-fluorine exchange chemistry, and radiolabeling with fluorine-18.

Valdes-Portas, Patricia

I graduated in Chemistry at Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM) on 2022 (specialization in Physical Chemistry). During my Bachelor's studies, I completed an internship at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) on protein interaction studies through the preparation of biological samples and interpretation of 2D and 3D NMR spectra. My B.Sc. thesis was based on magnetic-fluorescent probes in biomedicine, followed by a theoretical study on further structures through the use of DFT methods. After my B.Sc. I decided to come to Finland to pursue studies in radiochemistry. I am currently a student in the Master's Program in Chemistry and Molecular Sciences here at University of Helsinki. My Master's thesis will focus on the radiolabeling of synthetic cesium-rich microparticles resembling those released on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident to investigate their long-term biological and health effects.

Group Alumni

Dr. Outi Keinänen, Academy of Finland postdoctoral researcher (2020–2023) 

Jan Brokemper, M.Sc. student and research technician (2022–2023)

Topias Pöllänen, M.Sc. student and research technician (2022-2023)

Daniel Hauken, Erasmus intern (2022)

Luna Choulot, laboratory trainee (2022)

Elisavet (Eliza) Lambidis, doctoral researcher (2017–2022)

Sofia Otaru, doctoral researcher (2017–2022)

Sudeep Das, postdoctoral researcher (2018–2022)

Elina Pettilä, B.Sc. student (2022)

Jarno Hendriksen, laboratory technician trainee (2021)

Kristyna Kroftova, Erasmus exchange student (2021)

Asta Hilppö, B.Sc. student (2021)

Konstantin Matjusinski, B.Sc. student (2021)

Associate Prof. Anu J. Airaksinen, principal investigator and group leader (2006–2021)

Dr. Tiina Ujula, postdoctoral researcher (2018–2021)

Dr. Surachet Imlimthan, doctoral researcher (2016–2021)

Dr. Kerttuli Helariutta, Senior Laboratory Engineer (2001–2021)

Dr. Andreas Paulus, postdoctoral researcher (2019–2020)

Marlene Schlesinger, Erasmus exchange student (2020)

Senja Hakola, M.Sc student (2020)

Jarkko Lampuoti, M.Sc student (2020)

Martta H Peltoniemi, B.Sc student (2020)

Dr. Ana Fraguas Sánchez, postdoctoral researcher (2020)

Tatu Martinmäki, M.Sc student (2020)

Isa Coopmans, technician trainee (2020)

Iida Hirsso, M.Sc student (2019)

Iiro Rautsola, M.Sc. student (2019)

Adriana Filipek, Erasmus M.Sc. student (2018–2019)

Dr. Teija Koivula, postdoctoral researcher (1999–2019)

M.Sc. Marcus Lindgren, summer trainee (2018)

M.Sc. Osku Alanen, research assistant (2018)

Dr. Sanjeev Ranjan, postdoctoral researcher (2017–2018)

Dr. Ulrika Jakobsson, postdoctoral researcher (2015–2018)

Kirsi Kepsu, bachelor student (2018)

Anita Nurminen, bachelor student (2018)

Danni Ramdhani, visiting researcher (2017–2018)

Vilma Jallinoja, M.Sc. student (2017)

Pauline Lang, Erasmus M.Sc. student (2017)

Chiara Timperanza, Erasmus M.Sc. student (2017)