Marianne Valonlehto

Marianne Valonlehto is a visual artist and a photographer from Finland.

She expressed her delight in participating in Art Meets Science: “Firstly, I would like to say that I am incredibly pleased to be part of this important project. In this time of fake news and false information, it is so important to have projects and collaborations like this. This project has been an amazing opportunity to understand more about scientific research and to also understand different aspects of research projects. I was very pleased to get to know Polina and Karmen of the bioactivity-screening group and to hear about their interesting nature-related research projects. Nature brought us together. It was a great coincidence that they have also been focused on nature.” 

Marianne continues “it was fascinating to hear insights about antiviral compounds from chaga mushrooms and antimicrobial yarn from willow. It is so precious to have research and studies about our nature given all the potential that it has. Healing powers of nature!” 

When it comes to her art, Marianne aims to remind people about nature: “By `nature´, I mean our beautiful forests and wildlife, but also (our) nature, the true inner essences in us. The essence of being alive – the essence of our own nature.” With respect to the latter, she found it remarkably interesting to incorporate chaga mushrooms into her painting process. The emerging painting, “Whisper of Nature” is 100 cm x 108 cm and will be displayed at the Art Meets Science exhibition.  

In reference to the exhibition, Marianne shares her excitement: “I am really looking forward to seeing all the artwork and meeting all the people who have been part of this project. We all agree that the exhibition will be a great celebration and ending for this project and it will be so nice to finally meet all the people face to face!” 

You can read more about Marianne’s work on her website and Instagram 

Paula Kiuru

Dr Paula Kiuru is a docent of medicinal chemistry at the University of Helsinki, Finland.

She is a pharmacist with a background in organic chemistry and currently works as a university researcher and medicinal chemist in Professor Jari Yli-Kauhaluoma’s Medicinal Chemistry lab at the Division of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology.  

Presently, Paula is focusing on bioactive marine compounds against cancer, tuberculosis, and leishmaniasis. She has also participated in the discovery of novel antibiotics against gram-negative bacteria. Keeping with the faculty’s longstanding commitment to sustainability, Paula’s next scientific challenge will look to develop sustainable synthesis methods for drug molecules. 

When asked to share her motivation for participating in Art Meets Science, Paula remarks that “she has been interested in viewing and collecting art, so this project seemed a great opportunity to combine and disseminate my research by means of art. To this end, I like colourful chemistry and vintage laboratory glassware with many shapes. Also, the shapes of the molecular structures have always fascinated me.” 

Paula continues, explaining how “she is expecting a wonderful and thought-provoking exhibition which will show how pharmaceutical science can inspire very diverse, influential, and astonishing pieces of art. The collaboration with the artists has been very fruitful, and it has taught me how to present my science in a more comprehensible manner to broader audiences. It has also given me a perspective on making art and keeping with the faculty’s longstanding commitment to sustainability, I am happy about the recycling aspect in the piece of art.”  

Paula has been collaborating with Marina Zitting and Özgü Gündeşlioğlu. Follow Paula’s Twitter to learn more about her activities.

Özgü Gündeşlioğlu

Özgü Gündeşlioğlu is a Turkish ceramic artist-researcher who is based in Helsinki.

She focuses on experimental, process-based, collaborative, and improvised practices pertaining to ceramics. In addition to her artistic and academic works, she also gives private ceramic lessons. 

When asked to share her reasons for joining the project, Ozgu remarked “I believe that there is no hierarchy between tacit or codified knowledge. In order to create an interface between today’s divided institutes we just need to focus on the process rather than the outcome itself.”  

Özgü has collaborated with Professor Jari Yli-Kauhaluoma and Dr Paula Kiuru from the Medicinal Chemistry laboratory of the Pharmaceutical Chemistry Division and shares the following about her experience thus far: “Just like scientists experiment with different substances to produce viable products; I as an artist test alternative materials to achieve the right coating for my ceramics with respect to texture or colour. In this project, I wanted to unravel how the process of both artistic and scientific research have similarities. For this reason, I performed dozens of ceramic glaze experiments with materials that are regularly used in the lab such as silica, TLC paper, and disposable glass tubes.”  

You can read more about Özgü’s work on her website and on her Instagram 

Marina Zitting

Marina Zitting is a visual artist from Helsinki.

She utilises an array of techniques including oil and watercolours for her paintings, or charcoal and pastels for her drawings.  In addition to creating her own art, Marina actively teaches art to members of the community.  

Marina has created “After the storm”, a striking oil painting inspired by her collaboration with Professor Jari Yli-Kauhaluoma and Dr Paula Kiuru from the Medicinal Chemistry lab at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Pharmacy. Aside from creating this piece, Marina notes that Art Meets Science has been an interesting project to be involved in as it has allowed her to hear the views of the other participating members.  

You can read more about Marina’s work on her website and on her Instagram. 

Safak Er

Safak Er is a PhD candidate and member of our organisation team at Art Meets Science. She is from Izmir, Turkey, and has been living in Helsinki for 5 years. Currently, she is a doctoral candidate in the Airavaara research group, co-supervised by Mikko Airavaara and Andrii Domanskyi. She undertakes research and teaches at the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Helsinki.  

She is highly passionate about her research, a passion that has stemmed from a desire to contribute to society. Safak believes that science communication is needed to create a broader impact for our research, something that cannot be created solely by traditional research methods i.e. experiments or publishing in scientific journals.

According to her, science should be open to everyone, and scientists should do more to facilitate this. She quotes: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” 

She is very happy to contribute to Art Meets Science and says that the project is a great fit for her as it combines many interests. She defines herself as an extremely outgoing and easy to talk to individual who puts these qualities into effective use to communicate about science at any opportunity: “I regularly speak about my science with my family and school children…etc., I took over the University of Helsinki’s Instagram account, and I have also volunteered in events promoting education, technology, and science.”  

Safak says the last few months have been busy, helping to organise Art Meets Science as well as participating in her group’s collaboration. However, she has also found the experience to be extremely rewarding: “I feel more motivated when I get to undertake several different tasks at the same time and to meet new people.” Safak is looking forward to the opening day of the event the most: The art, the science, the people, and all the new conversations this event inspires within Helsinki’s communities can hopefully spark an interest in science.  

You can read more about Safak’s research within the Airavaara group on their website and follow her on Twitter.

Mikko Airavaara

Mikko Airavaara is a professor of pharmacology and drug development at the University of Helsinki.

He is originally from Kouvola and has now resided in Helsinki for many years. He is the group leader of the Airavaara group which focuses on neurons and glia of the brain, both of which are important to the brain’s health. The Airavaara group is based across Helsinki at both the Neuroscience Center, Mehilahti Campus, and the Faculty of Pharmacy, Viikki Campus. Mikko is also a teacher at the University of Helsinki.

He joined this project because it sounded exciting and, together with his research team, they liked the idea of highlighting their work with the public. He has enjoyed participating in Art Meets Science and expressed his delight that his research group was able to collaborate with the artist, Shannon Amey. He notes that Shannon’s abstract and colourful paintings fit their research topic nicely. Mikko is looking forward to interacting with new people, viewing the latest art, and participating in the general buzz of the event.  

Further information about the Airavaara group can be found on their website.

Shannon Amey

Shannon is a Canadian/Irish artist living in Finland.

She is a full-time professional artist and works out of her studio in Rauma, Finland. Her artwork is collected and exhibited internationally as she is both self-represented and gallery represented. Her work is available by commission appointments at this time.

She says that creating art is where she feels most like herself: “In making art I transition to a deep place inside that is both energising and calming. I connect to my most authentic self when I can create and make art without boundaries. My artwork is both intuitive and emotive. My paintings are translations of memories and experiences into abstract expressions.” 

She was very intrigued by the project and its innovative and collaborative nature. For her, this sounded like an exciting project to participate in: “I am always interested in participating in projects that are based here in Finland where I live.  My experience so far has been wonderful. It is very exciting to be a part of such  a diverse group of practicing artists. The specific research team (Airavaara lab) I have worked with has been very welcoming and generous in providing information and visual content. The presentations of the various researchers have been the catalyst in creating my painting for this show.” 

She is looking forward to learning more about the other collaborations between artists and researchers as well as seeing the pieces of art in the exhibition.   

For Art Meets Science, Shannon has created ‘Uncharted Territory‘.

You can read more about Shannon’s other work on her website and on her Instagram. 

Hear it from us: How Art Meets Science started

Virpi Talman and Qasim Majid at Viikki Campus, University of Helsinki

In 2021, two researchers from the Faculty of Pharmacy initiated Art Meets Science in Helsinki: Dr Virpi Talman and Dr Qasim Majid. Their colleagueship started at Imperial College London, England and it continues to flourish at the University of Helsinki. Below you can read it in their words, how it all started:

Qasim: Science has the power and potential to address many of the challenges facing humanity over the next century. However, as society becomes ever more polarised, the benefits of scientific research are marginalised. I have therefore been a long-standing advocate of imparting our research with non-scientists and encouraging spirited discourse about my own research and scientific practices at large. I believe art to be an excellent medium for this endeavour as it has the ability to entice a wide range of audiences, engage them in such conversation, and thereby allow for diverse opinions to be shared. I relocated to Helsinki in 2020 at the height of the pandemic and felt compelled to address the associated disinformation campaign. Upon starting employment at the University of Helsinki, I proposed this project to my boss, Dr Virpi Talman, who shared my enthusiasm for scientific dissemination and similarly wanted to draw on the expertise of the art and scientific communities to achieve this goal.   

Virpi: The first time we talked about this event with Qasim was when we applied for a research grant, and Qasim decided to include this as one of the public outreach activities we could carry out within the project. Although we did not get the funding, we thought that this would be a unique event to organise – something that has not been done in Finland before. We eventually decided to ask the leaders of the faculty if they would like to pursue this as a faculty-wide project, and upon receiving a green light, we decided to go for it (truth be told, not really knowing what we were getting into). For me personally, science and art bring a lot of purpose to my life – I work in science, and I enjoy art in many forms in my free time. I also think that communicating about our research to the public is crucially important, for what is science if it is not made available to everyone? This is especially true in this age of disinformation.  

Our aims

‘Art Meets Science’ is an ambitious, multidisciplinary, public engagement event that, for the first time in Finland, has facilitated collaborations between professional artists and research scientists. Inspired by the diverse and cutting-edge research conducted within the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Pharmacy, these collaborations have yielded bespoke pieces of art that will be displayed at a public exhibition held in Galleria Albert IX between the 6th of April – 23rd April 2022.  

In the age of misinformation, Art Meets Science looks to share the research carried out at the Faculty of Pharmacy in an accessible and intelligible manner with members of the public. By showcasing the science-inspired art generated through these collaborations, we look to stimulate discourse between scientists, artists, and the public, with a view to addressing scientific misconceptions. The exhibition aims to highlight talented artists, who are interested in science, to the University of Helsinki alumni, stakeholders and public. Further, we aim to inspire the next generation of scientists and artists, particularly those from underrepresented groups, by challenging preconceived perceptions surrounding these roles. Moreover, owing to the faculty’s longstanding commitment to sustainability, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of art will contribute to the world’s first professorship in sustainable pharmacy that looks to implement green principles in pharmaceutical teaching and research practices.