Assistant Professor, Academy of Finland Research Fellow
Juha carried out his PhD work in the group of Pekka Lappalainen studying membrane bending mechanisms that allow cells to dynamically alter their shape in order to carry out functions such as migration, attachment, and communication. From 2011-2017, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the ETH Zurich in the group of Yves Barral, where his interests expanded to proteostasis, asymmetric cell division, cellular aging, and the connections between these processes. In August 2017, he started as an tenure-track Assistant Professor where his group is studying how spatial control of protein folding and assembly states give rise to phenotypic diversity.



Leena received her MSc in Biomedicine in 2008 from the University of Turku and her PhD in Biopharmacy in 2014 from the University of Helsinki. After PhD studies, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Utrecht University, the Netherlands (2015–2018) and at the University of Helsinki. Research topics of her PhD and postdoctoral studies included cell therapy applications and nucleic acid delivery. Leena joined the group in spring 2019.  She is investigating the molecular mechanisms associated to the formation and stabilization of synaptic connections, focusing specifically on the processes leading to biochemical and anatomical compartmentalization and individualization of dendritic post-synapses. The aim of the studies is to enhance our understanding on mechanisms governing learning and memory.


Kristopher completed his MSc in Biomedical Science in 2010 and his PhD in Biomedical Science in 2014 from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. His doctoral research, was biotechnology and cancer focused,  and centred on the use of cell penetrating peptides to deliver therapeutic agents into a range of different cancer cells. From 2014-2019 he was a post-doctoral fellow at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan. His research became neuroscience based, and involved analysis of the kinase Lmtk3, and its potential role in psychiatric disease. He also led a secondary project, which focused on mRNA regulation in neurons during synaptic plasticity. He joined the Saarikangas lab as a postdoc in June 2019, where he his now investigating the role of aging in producing adaptive phenotypes in early multicellular evolution. As he has worked on many different scientific topics, his research interests are extensive, but are focused on the molecular mechanisms which govern key cellular processes, such as cell maintenance, RNA regulation, neuronal plasticity, cellular aging and molecular chaperoning.

PhD student
Jurgita received her Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology from the University of Vilnius, Lithuania in 2014. Her Master´s studies in Gothenburg University in Sweden were focused on molecular biology with specialization towards genomics and systems biology and were completed in 2016. She joined the group as a PhD student at the end of 2017. She is currently investigating the role of protein assemblies in the metabolic differentiation of yeast cells. She aims to uncover new adaptive mechanisms by which cells can dynamically regulate their metabolism. Jurgita is a member of the Doctoral Programme in Integrative Life Science.

Research assistant

Ellinoora received her MSc in genetics and genomics in 2020 from the University of Helsinki, as part of the Master’s Programme in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences. She joined the group as an intern in 2018, and completed her Master’s thesis work there during 2019–2020. Her Master’s thesis work was focused on biochemically characterizing the role of a protein-protein interaction in the context of radial glial cell division and cortical development. Currently Ellinoora is working as a research assistant in the lab. She is investigating the protein conformational changes associated with synaptic strengthening, with the aim of discovering novel molecular mechanisms underlying memory formation.

Technical assistant / Visiting PhD student

Kai received his Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences from Fudan University, China in 2017. His undergraduate studies were focused on the asymmetric cell division of neural stem cells in zebrafish and the role of phosphotyrosine signaling in the origin of animals. He started his PhD in Quantitative Biosciences at Georgia Institute of Technology in Fall 2017. Mentored by William Ratcliff, he studies the origin of multicellularity by experimental evolution of choanoflagellate and budding yeast, the latter of which has been continuously evolved for more than 1000 days so far in Ratcliff Lab and forms macroscopic "snowflake" yeast. Starting September 2020, he is visiting the group to collaborate on a project that investigates the de novo evolution of cell differentiation in the macroscopic snowflake yeast using bulk and single-cell RNA-seq as well as quantitative fluorescence microscopy. 

Undergraduate research student

Rosa graduated from the University of Barcelona in 2019 after completing her Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences. In her last year of studies, she came to our lab as an Erasmus Student in order to perform her Bachelor’s thesis and ended up staying as a research assistant. Last spring, she got admitted in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences Master’s Program in the University of Helsinki. Currently, she is a full-time student pursuing the Cell and Developmental Biology study track and continuing in our lab as a part-time researcher.