The Laboratory of Structural Biology, headed by Associate Professor Juha Huiskonen, was established in September 2017. The current and former members of the laboratory are introduded here. Please get in touch if you would like to join us!
Associate Professor of Structural Biology, Director
Juha Huiskonen completed his Ph.D. project on cryo-EM of membrane containing bacteriophages in the group of Sarah Butcher at the Institute of Biotechnology in 2006. The next three years he was a visiting post doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Insititute of Biochemistry in Munich, in the group of Kay Grünewald, at the Department of Molecular Structural Biology, headed by Wolfgang Baumeister. In 2010, Juha started a research group focussing on virus-host cell interactions at the University of Oxford, Division of Structural Biology, headed by Dave Stuart and Yvonne Jones. This research project was initially funded by the Academy of Finland, Medical Research Council (UK), and later by an ERC Consolidator Grant. Juha was recruited to HiLIFE as a Tenure Track Associate Professor in 2017 where his group continues to study structures and interactions of macromolecular complexes. In September 2020, Juha started as the Director of the Institute of Biotechnology.
Senior Researcher, Principal Investigator
Elina Roine started as a Senior Researcher in the Laboratory of Structural Biology in the beginning of 2019. For her PhD she studied the role of extracellular filamentous protein structures, for example pili, in the pathogenesis of Pseudomonas syringae. Her post-doctoral research as a Marie Curie Individual Fellow at the University of Leiden focused on type IV protein secretion in Agrobacterium tumefaciens. She moved to the laboratory of Professor Dennis Bamford (University of Helsinki) to study molecular interactions of prokaryotic viruses with their hosts. She was awarded the title of Docent in Molecular Microbiology (2011) and served as a University Lecturer in General Microbiology (2012–2018). Currently she also acts as an editor in the Journal of General Virology handling the manuscripts in the field of prokaryotic virology.
Ilona Rissanen earned her PhD in 2014 from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Her PhD project in the group of Jaana Bamford was focused on the crystallographic investigation of an extremophile bacteriophage, and incited her lasting interest in the study of viral structures. From 2014 to 2017, Ilona was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford working with Thomas Bowden, whose group investigates the structure and function of viral glycoproteins that are the key determinants of pathogenicity for emerging viruses. In 2017, Ilona was awarded Postdoctoral Researcher funding by the Academy of Finland to study the molecular mechanism that govern virus–host interactions of pathogenic hantaviruses. Her current research takes place both at the University of Oxford and University of Helsinki.
Esa-Pekka Kumpula completed his Master’s degree from the Department of Biochemistry, University of Oulu in 2011. A biochemist at heart, he worked briefly in the group of Rik Wierenga, where he discovered a passion for structural biology. He then pursued his PhD in the group of Inari Kursula at the Center for Structural Systems Biology / Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Hamburg, Germany and then at the Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine in Oulu. His PhD focused on structure–function relationships in malaria parasite actins, combining his past experience in crystallography and biochemistry. Esa-Pekka joined the lab in 2018 as a postdoc and aims to complement his structural biology expertise with electron microscopy techniques.
Xiyong Song obtained his PhD at the Institute of Biophysics (IBP), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 2018 and did his postdoctoral research at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine from 2019 to 2020. His past researches focused on the structural biology of the viral proteins, especially the nucleoproteins of the single-stranded RNA viruses/HBV and the glycoproteins of the coronaviruses with a approach including biochemistry and cryo-EM. Xiyong joined the lab in 2021 as a postdoc and his project is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of vesicular transport combined with single particle and tomography (cryo-ET) methods.
Xun Lu completed her PhD in Biochemistry in North Carolina State University in 2013. She joined as a postdoc Oak Ridge National Laboratory. There, her study focuxed on structures of protein/DNA complexes that are involved in DNA replication/transcription/repair. The main techniques she used were X-ray/neutron crystallography and small angle scattering. In 2017, Xun moved to Finland with her husband. She joined the lab in 2021 as the lab manager. Xun is thrilled to be back doing science, and eager to learn from her colleagues.
Ashwini Kedari completed her bachelor’s degree from India and later moved to Finland where she obtained her MSc. in Protein Science and Biotechnology from the University of Oulu. She was awarded Swiss-European Mobility Traineeship to carry out her master’s research project at the University of Zurich. Ashwini joined the Laboratory of Structural Biology as a doctoral student in 2020. She is working under the supervision of Ilona Rissanen, where her project focuses on the structural basis of virus-host interactions. In her doctoral research, she will combine cryo-EM and X-ray crystallography techniques to unravel the molecular mechanisms and architecture of viral proteins.
Evans Kofi Eshriew completed his undergraduate degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada. He did his Master's studies in Protein Science and Biotechnology at the University of Oulu. For his Master's research project, Evans visited the laboratory of Henning Stahlberg at the University of Basel. Evans has interdisciplinary research interests in microbiology, cellular and molecular biology, structural biology and biophysics and he is currently pursuing his PhD research with us. His goal is to combine different biochemical and biophysical approaches together with cryo-EM to elucidate the structure and functions of macromolecular complexes.
Liina Hannula joined the laboratory for her Master’s project in 2019, optimizing Rift Valley Fever virus-like particle purification for structural studies. She completed her MSc degree in the Microbiology and Microbial Biotechnology programme at the University of Helsinki in 2020. Starting from 2021, Liina has been working on her PhD under the supervision of Ilona Rissanen and Juha Huiskonen. In her PhD project, she will explore the interactions between emerging viral pathogens and the host immune response using structural biology tools. Her goal is to contribute to the development of effective interventions against emerging viral disease by uncovering basic mechanisms of antiviral immune responses.
Vahid Abrishami completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s studies in Iran and then moved to Madrid to do his Ph.D. in the laboratory of José María Carazo at the Spanish National Center for Biotechnology where he focused on the development of new image processing and machine learning algorithms for cryo-EM single particle analysis. After his Ph.D. Vahid moved to the Spanish National Center for Cardiovascular Research where he applied deep learning methods to analyze fluorescence microscopy images. Vahid joined the lab in spring 2018. He improved cryo-EM single particle analysis methods by developing image processing techniques to resolve structures of flexible macromolecular assemblies. In October 2020 Vahid left the group to join a company where he continues to use his coding and image data analysis skills.
Maryna Green completed her PhD degree at the University Oulu in the group of Petri Kursula. Since then she has been working at the University of Helsinki as a postdoctoral researcher focused on structural biology of membrane proteins, being also responsible person for the protein crystallization infrastructure headed by Tommi Kajander. Maryna has a broad expertise area in protein biochemistry including protein expression in bacteria and insect cells, purification using different chromatography methods and characterisation by SAXS, CD, and SLS techniques. Her main role in the group was production and purification of virus-like particles for structure determination by cryo-EM. Maryna left the group to join the laboratory of Ville Paavilainen in October 2020.
Selvaraj Muniyandi obtained his Master's degree in Biological Sciences (2007) and a Ph.D in Macromolecular crystallography (2013) both from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore with Prof. M. Vijayan at Molecular Biophysics Unit. He joined Werner Kuehlbrandt’s laboratory at the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics as a postdoc and worked on electron microscopy of protein two-dimensional crystals and helical filaments until 2016. After a brief stay in the Astbury Centre, Leeds, working on X-ray crystallography of viral proteins, Selvaraj joined the lab in 2018. In his projects, Selvaraj combined multiple modes of cryo-electron microscopy and crystallography towards understanding mechanistic details of cellular processes. In June 2020 Selvaraj started in a new position in the group of Pekka Lappalainen at the Insitute of Biotechnology .
Nejc Kejzar completed his Bachelor's studies in Biochemistry in 2018 at University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. He is pursuing a Master's degree in Theoretical and Computational Methods at University of Helsinki and has a wide range or interests - from quantum mechanics, theoretical and computational biophysics to structural biology. Nejc joined the lab in 2018 as a trainee in cryogenic electron microscopy. His goal is to effectively combine molecular dynamics simulations with cryoEM structures to better understand the dynamics of biomolecules, down to the very quantum level. After his traineeship with us, Nejc received a six-month HiLIFE-Edu traineeship to join the laboratory of Ingo Greger at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge to conduct his Master's thesis research. After completing his MSc, Nejc started a DPhil (PhD) training at the University of Cambridge.