Profile & Activities

Plants are central to life on this planet. They produce the oxygen we breathe, are the main source of our nutrition along with fibre and bioenergy. Plants are also a rich source of pharmaceutical and other novel products. The rapidly increasing demand of food and fibre together with the requirement for sustainable energy such as biofuels requires extensive research and training of experts in different areas of plant sciences.

The central aim of the Doctoral Programme in Plant Sciences (DPPS) is to meet these challenges to fulfil the ever growing needs for well qualified and highly motivated researchers in modern plant sciences and its industrial applications in Finland and globally.

  • molecular plant biology
  • genetics
  • genomics and breeding
  • physiology and biochemistry
  • developmental biology
  • pathology and biotechnology
  • plant production
  • ecophysiology
  • systematics
  • bioenergy

A doctoral degree in the DPPS comprises a doctoral thesis and 40 credits of doctoral studies. The studies are divided into scientific content and transferable skills studies.

Part of the studies can be completed flexibly by presenting your research at scientific conferences, teaching, supervising/mentoring others, writing popular articles and attending relevant seminars.
Visit our study planning instructions for current doctoral students on the University's Instructions for Students pages.

The programme organises scientific content courses under four different themes, an annual symposium on 'hot topics' as well as a seminar series where you can present your research to your peers. You can also complete doctoral-level courses from other Finnish Universities, as well as from international Universities and research institutes.

Courses in research ethics and transferable skills are offered throughout the academic year by the Doctoral School in Environmental, Food and Biological Sciences (YEB).

In addition to the doctoral thesis, 30 credits of scientific content studies and 10 credits of general competence studies must be completed.

The DPPS get-together / annual meeting is organised off campus at the end of the spring term. The event is aimed at doctoral candidates, supervisors and alumni.

Research visits to other Universities and international institutes are organised at the beginning of the autumn term. Priority is given to DPPS members who are nearing the end of their thesis work, in order to make important contacts for possible future careers. Previous visits: 2019 - Plant Systems Biology, VIB, Ghent, Belgium; 2018 - Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, Germany; 2017: Umeå Plant Science Centre, Umeå, Sweden.

DPPS Cafés are organised approximately once a month for all DPPS candidates to discuss with their peers topics related to studies and research.

DPPS members have the chance to participate in writing retreats at the various University of Helsinki biological stations. Articles, book chapters, review articles and other text can be written over a few days of concentrated writing.


Plant Club seminars are held once a month for the Viikki Plants community. Talks are given by doctoral candidates and post-doctoral researchers.

Spring 2021 seminars are held exclusively online via Zoom

13th January 2021
Introducing the new Professor in Forest Genomics and Breeding
14:15 Tanja Pyhäjärvi, Faculty of Agriculture & Forestry

17th February
14:15-15:30 ViPS communication event
Come and learn how to better communicate your research to other scientists, the general public, policy makers and funding bodies. Guest speakers: Tuomas Aivelo & Elina Raukko.

17th March
14:15 Lingping Zhu, Faculty of Agriculture & Forestry
Two polyketide reductases recruited from the ancient sporopollenin biosynthesis to defense-related parasorboside biosynthesis in Gerbera hybrida
14:35 Lingling Ye, OEB, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences & Institute of Biotechnology
Cytokinins initiate secondary growth in Arabidopsis roots through a set of LBD genes

14th April
14:15-15:30 Gene editing workshop
Organised by Alan Schulman, Teemu Teeri & Ari-Pekka Mähönen

19th May
14:15 Xavier Zarza, OEB & Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences

10 attendances = 1 ECTS
20 attendances = 2 ECTS
Presentation = 1 ECTS
Plant Club maximum credits = 3 ECTS
Contact Karen Sims-Huopaniemi to have your credits awarded (dpps-office(at)

Since 2014, many doctoral candidates have defended their theses and have gained employment positions both in Finland and abroad.


51) Yan Yan (5 February)
Long-term exposure to solar blue and UV radiation in legumes: pre-acclimation to drought and accession-dependent responses in two successive generations
Supervisors: Pedro Aphalo, Fred Stoddard & Victor Sadras
Software Engineer, Hansen Technologies, Finland


50) Eija Virolainen-Arne (3 December)
Plant oxygen deprivation stress and function of plant mitochondria under anoxia
Supervisor: Kurt Fagerstedt
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland

49) Shreya Saha (20 November)
VPg-eIF(iso)4E interaction, coat protein production and virion formation in potato virus A infection
Supervisor: Kristiina Mäkinen
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland

48) Neha Rai (17 November)
Perception of solar UV radiation and blue light by plants: photoreceptors, transcriptome and environmental acclimation
Supervisors: Pedro Aphalo, Tarja Lehto & Luis Morales
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Geneva, Switzerland

47) Satu Ruokolainen (22 October)
The MADS world of floral regulators in Gerbera hybrida
Supervisors: Teemu Teeri & Paula Elomaa
Sales manager, Thermo Fisher Scientific,  Finland

46) Juan Alonso Serra (27 August)
Molecular and mechanical control of plant secondary development
Supervisors: Ykä Helariutta & Kaisa Nieminen
Postdoctoral researcher, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France

45) Fang Wang (11th June)
Effect of light on water balance through gas exchange
Supervisors: Pedro Aphalo & Matt Robson
Research coordinator, Aalto University, Finland

44) Craig Brelsford (4th June)
Light quality affects leaf pigments and leaf phenology
Supervisor: Matt Robson
Technical Writer/Instructional Designer, Bitville, Finland

43) Nashmin Ebrahimi (29th May)
Selenium biofortification in crops and its cycling in the agroecosystem
Supervisor: Mervi Seppänen
Research scientist, ProFarm Technologies Ltd., Finland

42) Linping Wang (26th May)
Identification of chemical inhibitors for RNase III of Sweet potato chlorotic stunt virus (SPCSV)
Supervisor: Jari Valkonen
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland


41) Kerri Hunter (13th December)
The cysteine-rich receptor-like kinase CRK2 during stress responses in Arabidopsis thaliana
Supervisor: Michael Wrzaczek
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland

40) Kai Wang (29th November)
Protomyces Comparative Genomics and Modulation of Arabidopsis Immunity
Supervisor: Kirk Overmyer
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland

39) Mukrimin (31st October)
Heterobasidion – conifer pathosystem: Host mycobiome and evaluation of potential resistance markers
Supervisor: Fred Asiegbu
Lecturer, Hasanuddin University, South Sulawesi, Indonesia

38) Yu Sun (11th October)
Phylogeny and biogeography of liverworts (Marchantiophyta), evidence from the Southern Hemisphere family Schistochilaceae and the cosmopolitan genus Herbertus (Herbertaceae)
Supervisor: Xiaolan He
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland

37) Mirko Pavicic (2nd October)
Multifaceted roles of RING-type ubiquitin E3 ligases : reverse phenomic approaches
Supervisor: Kristiina Himanen
Post-doctoral researcher, Oakridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, USA

36) Aleksia Vaattovaara (28th June) Awarded the best PhD thesis prize of 2019!
Evolution of the DUF26-containing proteins in plants
Supervisors: Michael Wrzaczek & Jarkko Salojärvi
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland

35) Friederike Gehrmann (17th May)
Effects of Microclimatic variation of snowmelt and temperature on Subarctic-alpine and Arctic Plants
Supervisors: Heikki Hänninen & Timo Saarinen
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Umeå, Abisko, Sweden

34) Maria Kalliola (10th May)
Phytohormone-related crosstalk in pathogen and stomatal responses in Arabidopsis thaliana
Supervisor: Mikael Brosché
Trainee, Ministry of Finance, Finland

33) Ali Amiryousefi (19th March)
Supervisors: Jaakko Hyvönen & Péter Poczai
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland

32) Swarnalok De (17th January)
Interactions of potyviral protein HCpro with host metionin cycle enzymes and scaffolding proteins viracose in potato virus A infection
Supervisor: Kristiina Mäkinen
Visiting researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland

31) Yafei Zhao (9th January)
Functional characterization of transcription factor LEAFY in Gerbera hybrida
Supervisors: Paula Elomaa & Teemu Teeri
Visiting researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland


30) Samia Samad (10th August)
Regulation of vegetative and generative reproduction in the woodland strawberry
Supervisor: Timo Hytönen
Post-doctoral researcher, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Alnarp, Sweden

29) Juha Immanen (18th June)
Cytokinin signaling in hybrid aspen cambial development and growth
Supervisor: Ykä Helariutta
Research scientist, Natural Resources Institute, Finland

28) Elina Kettunen (4th May)
Diversity and evolution of dark filamentous microfungi on plant exudates
Supervisor: Jouko Rikkinen
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland


27) Tanja Paasela (15th December) Awarded the best PhD thesis prize of 2017!
The stilbene biosynthetic pathway and its regulation in Scots pine
Supervisor: Teemu Teeri
Post-doctoral researcher, Aalto University, Finland

26) Mikko Piirainen (13th December)
Taxonomic and phylogenetic studies on Salicornioideae (Amaranthaceae)
Supervisor: Pertti Uotila
Research scientist, Finnish Museum of Natural History, Finland

25) Marja Rantanen (15th September)
Light and temperature as developmental signals in woodland strawberry and red raspberry
Supervisors: Timo Hytönen, Pauliina Palonen & Paula Elomaa
Research scientist, Natural Resources Institute, Finland

24) Kean-Jin Lim (25th August)
Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) heartwood formation and wounding stress: A view from the transcriptome
Supervisor: Teemu Teeri
Associate professor, Zhejiang A&F University, China

23) Pär Davidsson (30th June)
Oligogalacturonide signalling in plant innate immunity
Supervisor: Tapio Palva
Senior researcher, Hushållningssällskapet, Sweden

22) Mantas Survila (28th April)
Immune Responses to Pathogen Infection in Arabidopsis
Supervisors: Tapio Palva & Pekka Heino
Research Scientist, Lexogen GmbH, Austria

21) Juha Kontturi (10th February)
Type III polyketidesynthases from Gerbera hybrida
Supervisor: Teemu Teeri
Quality control scientist, Nanoform, Finland

20) Lauri Reuter (9th December)
Plant Cell Factories: Production of hydrophobin fusion proteins in plant cell cultures
Supervisors: Anneli Ritala, Jussi Joensuu & Teemu Teeri
Founder & Partner, Nordic FoodTech VC, Finland

19) Viacheslav Spirin (11th November)
Taxonomy and phylogeny of brown-rot fungi in the Antrodia complex (Polyporales, Basidiomycota)
Supervisors: Tuomo Niemelä, Otto Miettinen
Research scientist, Finnish Museum of Natural History, Finland

18) Hannu Hotti (14th October)
The killer of Socrates exposed - Coniine in the plant kingdom
Supervisors: Heiko Rischer, Kirsi-Marja Oksman-Caldentey & Teemu Teeri
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland

17) Elli Koskela (2nd September) Awarded the best PhD thesis prize of 2016!
Genetic and environmental control of flowering in wild and cultivated strawberries
Supervisors: Timo Hytönen & Paula Elomaa
Post-doctoral fellow, Centre of Research for Agricultural Genomics, Barcelona, Spain

16) Sedeer El-Showk (30th May)
Auxin and cytokinin interactions regulate primary vascular patterning during root development in Arabidopsis thaliana
Supervisor: Ykä Helariutta
Freelance journalist for Nature Communications

15) Hanna Help-Rinta-Rahko (22nd April)
The interaction of auxin and cytokinin signalling regulates primary root procambial patterning, xylem cell fate and differentiation in Arabidopsis thaliana
Supervisor: Ykä Helariutta
Researcher, Finnish Food Authority

14) Hany El Sayed Bashandy (23rd January)
Flavonoid metabolomics in Gerbera hybrida and elucidation of complexity in the flavonoid biosynthetic pathway
Supervisor: Teemu Teeri
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland

13) Niina Idänheimo (18th December)
The Role of Cysteine-rich Receptor-like Protein Kinases in ROS Signalling in Arabidopsis thaliana
Supervisors: Jaakko Kangasjärvi & Michael Wrzaczek
Post-doctoral researcher, Aalto University, Finland

12) Susanna Keriö (11th December)
Terpene analysis and transcript profiling of the conifer response to Heterobasidion annosum s.l. infection and Hylobius abietis feeding
Supervisor: Fred Asiegbu
Post-doctoral researcher, Oregon State University, USA

11) Venla Jokela (27th November)
Regulation of flowering and canopy structure in timothy (Phleum pratense L.)
Supervisor: Mervi Seppänen
Account manager, Eurofins Viljavuuspalvelu Oy (agro soil testing laboratory), Finland

10) Linda Garlant (1st October)
Interaction between Hormone and Apoplastic ROS Signaling in Regulation of Defense Responses and Cell Death
Supervisor: Minna Pirhonen
Research assistant, Scientific Institute of Public Health, Belgium

9) Enjun Xu (12th June)
Interaction between Hormone and Apoplastic ROS Signaling in Regulation of Defense Responses and Cell Death
Supervisor: Mikael Brosché
Assistant Professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China

8) Mehmet Ali Keçeli (8th May)
Crosstalk in Plant Responses to Biotic and Abiotic Stresses
Supervisors: Tapio Palva & Gunter Brader
Plant Pathologist at MAY Agro Seed Company, Turkey

7) Ulla Holopainen-Mantila (20th March)
Composition and structure of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) grain in relation to end uses
Supervisors: Kurt Fagerstedt, Annika Wilhelmson
Research scientist, VTT, Finland

6) Martin Broberg (20th March)
Genetic profiling of the interactions between soft rot Pectobacterium species and plants
Supervisors: Tapio Palva, Minna Pirhonen
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland

5) Fuqiang Cui (16th December)
ROS signaling, phytohormone signaling and toxin tolerance: defense mechanisms in Arabidopsis thaliana against Botrytis cinerea
Supervisor: Kirk Overmyer
Associate Professor at the Zhejiang A& F University, China

4) Emad Jaber (31st October)
Pathobiology of Heterobasidion -Conifer tree interaction: Molecular Analysis of Antimicrobial peptide genes (Sp-AMPs)
Supervisor: Fred Asiegbu
Scientific Advisory Consultant, HelsinCo, Helsinki, Finland

3) Hamid Khazaei (26th September)
Leaf traits associated with drought adaptation in faba bean (Vicia faba L.)
Supervisor: Fred Stoddard
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Saskatchewan, Canada

2) Oswalt R. Jiménez (26th June)
Genetic improvement of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) using local germplasm assisted by molecular markers
Supervisor: Helena Korpelainen
Researcher, Nicaragua

1) Kati Mouhu (10th January)
Molecular control of the yearly growth cycle in wild strawberry
Supervisors: Paula Elomaa, Timo Hytönen
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Helsinki, Finland

Progress of each doctoral candidate in the DPPS is monitored with the help of annual thesis committee meetings and the use of the digital platform tool THESSA.

Committee members act as mentors to doctoral candidates, guiding and providing advice throughout the whole doctoral degree and education. Membership in a thesis committee is a position of trust, and all interactions between the doctoral candidate and the thesis committee are considered confidential.

The tasks of the thesis committee are to

  • ensure that the doctoral candidate's coursework supports the thesis project and provides the expected skills
  • ensure that the doctoral work is scientifically valid and suitable for a thesis project
  • evaluate the progress and future plans of the thesis project including overseeing the timely graduation of the doctoral candidate
  • support the doctoral candidate in both scientific and other issues, and address any potential problems, bringing these to the attention of the doctoral programme if necessary
  • support the doctoral candidate in career planning

At least two external expert members in addition to the doctoral candidate and supervisor(s) make up the thesis committee. It is good to have these members already selected at the beginning or very early stages of your doctoral studies.

The external members must hold the necessary qualifications to assess the progress of the dissertation and research work and who are impartial in relation to the supervisor(s) and the doctoral candidate at the committee's appointment stage.

Although you and your supervisor are free to choose the external members, please bear in mind that at least one expert must hold the qualification of a docent (or equivalent) and all members must be impartial in relation you and your supervisor(s). Conflicts of interest are:

  • close personal ties (family members, other relatives)
  • joint research projects
  • same research group
  • joint funding
  • joint publications in the last three years
  • collaborators

External committee members may come from the University of Helsinki, but may also come from other universities or research institutes in Finland or abroad. It should be noted that neither the DPPS nor faculties can offer financial support for their travel expenses. It is also advisable that at least one of the group members is familiar with the requirements for a PhD degree at the University of Helsinki.

Thesis committee meetings should be held at least once a year until thesis defence, but may be organised more frequently if this is seen to be beneficial. Organising the meeting is the responsibility of the doctoral candidate. Remember to leave enough time to plan the date and time of the meeting as committee members are usually very busy and not able to reschedule their work at short notice.

Each meeting will vary in it's nature according to the progress and stage of the doctoral candidate. Each meeting should also allow time for the doctoral candidate to speak freely to the thesis committee members while his/her supervisor(s) is/are not present.

The THESSA digital platform tool sends annual automatic reminders to doctoral candidates and their supervisors regarding reporting. Annual reports are generated in THESSA and supervisors and thesis committee members read and comment on these in the annual meetings. Final conclusions are written after the meeting and the annual report is closed.

The first thesis committee meeting and report should be held and submitted within the first few months
of starting doctoral studies.

The information provided in the report is important for the the doctoral candidate, his or her supervisor(s) and the doctoral programme, where it is used in various administrative tasks and reports.

More information can be obtained from the doctoral programme office and THESSA.

NOTE: Doctoral candidates who received their post-graduate study rights before 1.1.2018 AND/OR are not registered in THESSA should contact the doctoral programme office to discuss annual meeting reporting options.