Dr Qasim Majid is a postdoctoral researcher within the Talman lab and the initiator of Art Meets Science.
Originally from Manchester, Qasim has lived and studied in Newcastle and London. Having completed his PhD from Imperial College London, Qasim relocated to Helsinki at the height of the pandemic in 2020 to commence his postdoc.
His postdoctoral research work investigates the effect the cells of the blood vessels (endothelial cells) have on the beating heart cells (cardiomyocytes) and whether the former can cause the latter to grow and divide to replace the beating cells lost during a heart attack. Alongside his research activities, Qasim delivers lectures and supervises young researchers in the lab. Qasim remarks that “organising Art Meets Science on top of these many responsibilities for the last 1.5 years has therefore been challenging yet incredibly rewarding”.
When asked to share his inspiration behind starting Art Meets Science, Qasim discusses the misinformation campaign brought to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic: “misinformation continues to plague public discourse. As a man of science, I feel as though I am in a privileged position in which I can attempt to address this pandemic of mistruths. As such, I proposed Art Meets Science to my lab head, Dr Virpi Talman & thereafter the Dean of the Faculty, upon arriving at the University of Helsinki during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020”.
Reflecting on his experience thus far, Qasim remarks “It has been incredibly fun yet extremely challenging balancing the organisation of this event with my other duties. Nevertheless, it has been a pleasure corresponding with all the artists on a regular basis and learning about their work. Through this project, I have grown to understand pieces of art and the field of art a little better. To this end, one can draw similarities between the two (i.e., the creative process and the multiple iterations required to achieve the final form) as well as differences such as the pursuit of facts to completely understand something versus the ambiguity & personal interpretation afforded by art”.
Thinking ahead to the upcoming exhibition, Qasim is most excited to finally meet all the participants in person and engage with the public. Having invited school-aged children to the event, Qasim is hoping to inspire the next generation of scientists and artists.
Qasim has been collaborating with Kirsi Syrlin and Gokhan Burhan.
You can read more about the research conducted within the Regenerative Cardiac Pharmacology group on their website.
Dr Virpi Talman is head of the Regenerative Cardiac Pharmacology group and a key player in the organisation of Art Meets Science:
Virpi describes herself as a “pharmacist by training and a researcher by spirit.”
As an Academy of Finland-funded Research Fellow in the division of Pharmacology and pharmacotherapy within the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Pharmacy, Virpi leads the Regenerative Cardiac Pharmacology group who aim to discover new ways to treat heart diseases. In addition to her research activities, Virpi is also responsible for teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students in addition to supervising young researchers.
Alongside Dr Qasim Majid, Virpi initiated Art Meets Science and has been a central light in the organisation of this event. This stemmed from a desire to promote discourse between science and the arts, both of which Virpi is highly passionate about, as well as wanting to find a way to discuss her research with the public in a way she hadn’t previously been involved in.
Reflecting on the project thus far, Virpi shares “organising the event has been a lot of work, but it has also been super inspiring! I loved meeting the artists with whom we collaborated, and I’ve been really encouraged by the positive feedback we have received”.
Looking ahead to the exhibition, Virpi shares her excitement for seeing the event come together and understanding how the artists have drawn inspiration from the research and channeled this into the pieces of art on display. Virpi continues and says “I am also looking forward to enjoying all the amazing art produced in the project and discussing our research with the public at the exhibition”.
Virpi has been collaborating with Kirsi Syrlin and Gokhan Burhan.
You can read more about the research conducted within the Regenerative Cardiac Pharmacology group on their website and via Virpi’s Twitter.
Professor Marjo Yliperttula is a Professor of Biopharmaceutics at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Pharmacy.
As a professor, Marjo is involved in teaching students throughout the academic ladder as well as leading her own research group.
When asked for her rationale behind participating in Art Meets Science, Marjo shares “I found this project to be very inspiring and a great way to share the research we conduct at the University with the public. Thus far, the project has been extremely interesting and stimulating, and has allowed me to get to know a range of new people including researchers and artists”.
Looking ahead to the exhibition, Marjo is hoping to see a great number of visitors at the exhibition with open minds and questions”.
Marjo has been collaborating with Petra Kaminen Mosher and Hannele Rekola.
Dr Tatu Lajunen is a University Researcher with dual positions at the University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland (UEF).
From hands-on experimental research to supervising young researchers, Tatu plays a multi-faceted role encompassing all areas of academic research. Further, he is the social media editor in the School of Pharmacy at the UEF, and editor-in-chief of the Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Pharmacy.
As an avid photographer with a keen eye for nature and architecture, Art Meets Science quickly caught Tatu’s attention. A project that combined various types of art with the promotion of rational science that aimed to make high-quality research accessible to the general public is one he had to be involved in during this age of misinformation.
Reflecting on the project thus far, he remarks that the project “has been very exciting and it has been a pleasure to see the active participation of various artists, each with their unique medium of art”.
Tatu works with Prof. Timo Laaksonen and has been collaborating with Emrecan Tanış and Sasha Stepanova. With a ‘slight bias’, Tatu summarises what he is most looking forward to from the exhibition: “I am super interested to experience the dance performance with fascinating costumes generated by our artist collaborators. Our research topic studies the very dynamic phenomena of light activation and treatment of difficult diseases, so it will be interesting to see how the dance performance choreographed by Emrecan, complete with fascinating costumes created by Sasha, will interpret this into their movement and visuals.
Further information about Tatu’s research within the Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology group can be found on their website.
Timo Laaksonen is a Professor of Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology at the University of Helsinki and Research Director (Chemistry) at Tampere University.
He studies how nanoparticles and molecular assemblies could be used to improve drug delivery. As the head of the lab, he is responsible for supervising PhD students and supporting post-docs, discussing their results, and looking for new ideas to research.
Like many scientists, Timo and his group share a passion for culture and the arts. Whilst this generally pertains to literature for Timo, he recognised the unique nature of Art Meets Science and remarked “it felt natural to support such a nice concept dealing with visual arts. Also, Qasim had a very good pitch about the project, and I felt confident that it would get done!”.
Throughout the project, Timo has observed an eagerness from his own group to actively participate in the project. He shares “the atmosphere has been really supportive. I have felt that the artists have also been truly interested in this, not just the scientists!”
Thinking ahead to the exhibition, Timo is excited to see the results of their own collaboration as he believes a dance performance inspired by their research with the dancers wearing costumes further inspired by the light aspects of their research will certainly be a unique site that will stand out and be remembered.
Timo works with Dr Tatu Lajunen and has been collaborating with Emrecan Tanış and Sasha Stepanova.
You can read more about the research conducted within the Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology group on their website.
Dr Eva Ramsay is a postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Heidi Kidron’s Transporter group at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Pharmacy.
Eva’s research is funded by the Academy of Finland and focuses on the impact of drug transporters in ocular (eye) drug delivery and pharmacokinetics (the study of how long it takes from the point a drug is absorbed to it being excreted).
Reflecting on her participation in Art Meets Science, Eva shares “colours have always inspired me, I get a lot of energy from walking in nature, attending art exhibitions or just wearing something colorful. Naturally therefore, I try to implement colours in my everyday life, whether that be in lab meeting presentations, poster presentations at conferences, or handicrafts with my children. Colours also help me learn new things!”.
Prior to Art Meets Science, Eva attended an art course led by Marina Zitting (one of our participating artists). This sparked a passion for oil painting, one that had left Eva wondering how she could combine these two passions: science and art. Upon hearing about Art Meets Science, Eva remarks “I knew this was something I had to join!”.
Reflecting on her experience thus far, Eva shares “It has been wonderful! I have been involved in both the organisation of the event and our own groups collaboration with Tiina Poutanen. I have gained a lot of energy from the project and channeled it towards my own research activities. In addition, it has been great to meet new and exciting people!”.
With respect to the upcoming exhibition, Eva is looking forward to the “energy, happiness, flashes of light, and bringing science to life with colours. I hope the pieces of art and their respective colours can help others to engage and learn something new and exciting about science!”
You can learn more about the transporter group on their website.
Laura Suominen is a second-year doctoral researcher from Finland, who works in Prof. Heidi Kidron’s Transporter group.
Lauras researches the genetic differences in drug transporter proteins located at the blood-brain barrier, a structure of cells that protects the brain from invading microbes and unwanted molecules such as toxins.
Having been passionate about art and science, Laura joined Art Meets Science to combine her two passions.
Thinking ahead to the exhibition, Laura is excited to see the work created by the artists and hoping to see the different aspects of the research that has inspired their art.
Aastha Singh is a PhD student in the Voutilainen lab where she is researching Parkinson’s disease.
Originally from India, Aastha moved to Finland 5 years ago to pursue her studies. Within the Voutilainen lab, Aastha’s research focuses on protein aggregation, a key driver of Parkinson’s disease, and drugs that could be used to prevent this process and thus treat this severe condition. As an active member of the academic community, Aastha is also involved in the teaching and supervision of undergraduate students.
Reflecting on the project, Aastha views Art Meets Science as “a great way to bridge the gap between scientific jargon and lay language and what better way to do it than through art”. The Voutilainen group has been collaborating with Lena Blankenstein-Holmström and Eva Adan and shares that “this project has been very different from my normal academic activities, and it has been refreshing to see one’s own research from the perspective of an artist and hear their interpretation of it. Something new and really fun!”
Thinking ahead to the exhibition, Aastha is excited to engage in “interesting and enriching conversation that can break barriers and incite curiosity” and meet all the participants in person.
Read more about Aastha’s research within the Voutilainen group on their website.
Tapani Koppinen is an Australian-Finnish PhD student in Prof. Merja Voutilainen’s group at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Pharmacy.
Tapani was born in Melbourne, Australia, before moving to Helsinki at a young age. After working briefly in a lab at the Meilahti campus, he joined the Voutilainen group to study the regenerative effects of novel drug compounds in models of Multiple Sclerosis, a debilitating neurological condition in which the nerve cells of the brain and the spinal cord lose their ‘coating’ that is essential for the fast transfer of signals from the brain to our organs.
Tapani remarks “the field of neuroscience and immunology have always been close to my heart, and both lend themselves nicely to artistic expression”. He continues: “In general, research is a challenging yet deeply rewarding field to work in, and this project sounds like a great medium to highlight our research. Discussing our work with the artists was very enjoyable”.
Looking ahead to the exhibition, Tapani is excited to see the different pieces of art generated via the other collaborations and is also eager to share his research with the general public.
Read more about Tapani’s research within the Voutilainen group on their website.
Manlio Fusciello is a PhD candidate who will soon graduate from Prof. Vincenzo Cerullo’s ImmunoViroTheraphy lab at the Faculty of Pharmacy.
Manlio is originally from Italy; however, he has travelled the globe before arriving in Finland having lived in the Netherlands and Canada.
The ImmunoViroTherapy lab focuses on using different microbes (including viruses), and specific cancer features to make the immune system the best weapon to fight against cancer. Manlio shares: “We are in essence using traditionally ‘unhealthy’ things to make us healthy again!”.
Manlio and the ImmunViroTherapy lab are collaborating with the illustrator and visual artist, Anna Stankevich. Manlio joined Art Meets Science because he believes the world needs to know more about the art hidden within nature and biology: “beauty is everywhere, especially in the way that evolution has shaped us”. He continues: “Science communication is lacking in today’s society, and I view this project as a great combination of beauty and science communication at the same time”.
Reflecting on the project thus far, Manlio states that “despite not being a talented artist myself, I have thoroughly enjoyed participating in Art Meets Science! Our collaborating artist, Anna, has done an amazing job throughout the project”.
Thinking ahead to the exhibition, Manlio is hoping to meet new people and inspire them about what humanity can achieve through science. He goes on to share, “I want to see the ‘wow moment’ in people’s eyes, the same moment we experience as researchers when we have discovered something potentially game-changing for the world”.
You can read more about the research conducted within the ImmunoViroTherapy lab on their website and Instagram.
Dr Shiqi Wang is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Pharmacy where she researches new drug delivery approaches.
Shiqi explains that her research “aims to develop new approaches and formulations that improve the transport of drugs to their target site. Specifically, I work with nanomedicine-based approaches where we use nano-sized particles to deliver biologic drugs, such as proteins and genes, into target cells. I would like to understand how the drug enters the cell and how we can make this process more efficient to improve therapeutic outcomes.”
Shiqi goes on to explain her reasoning for participating in Art Meets Science: “I joint the project because I enjoy outreach activities and promoting science to the general public. I am proud of my research, and it is exciting to convey my work in an artistic way. Learning how artists work and depict our research has been eye-opening. I would like to thank the organisation team for their great efforts.”
Thinking ahead to the exhibition, Shiqi is looking forward to interacting with the audience to learn how they perceive the art and the scientific ideas underpinning the piece.
Learn more about Shiqi’s research within the Nanomedicines and Biomedical Engineering lab on their website.
Dr Teemu Tomberg is a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Helsinki.
He has been constructing a new coherent Raman microscope and helping to conduct studies with it. Teemu remarks, “I had never seen a project like this before so was curious to see the outcome and therefore wished to collaborate with an artist”. Teemu continues “it has been great to see the interest shown by the artists for our work and it has also been educational observing how they perceive the research”. Teemu is looking forward to the exhibition and seeing the different ways other collaborations have been able to link science to the created pieces of art. He is also excited to hear comments from the general public and learn what they find interesting about his research.
Teemu is participating in the qCSI (Quantitative Chemically-Specific Imaging Infrastructure) consortium.
Dr Karmen Kapp is a university lecturer and researcher from the Tammela Laboratory at the Faculty of Pharmacy.
She received her MSc (Pharm) in 2011 from the University of Tartu, Estonia, and thereafter began her doctoral studies at the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Helsinki where she received her PhD (Pharm) in 2016.
Her research work focuses on natural product isolation and analytics. More specifically, she focuses on bioactivity screening of natural product extracts or isolated pure compounds. Her teaching responsibilities centre around courses in natural product drug discovery, chromatography, and microbiology.
She views the Art Meets Science project as a great opportunity to make science and research work more accessible to the public. Karmen also states “It is a great way to become better acquainted with the research work of other research groups and make new contacts. This, combined with the possibility to meet artists and participate in the creation of a piece of art, makes the project unique.”
Karmen has enjoyed the meetings and discussions with the artists collaborating with their research group – Polina Ilina and Marianne Valonlehto. Although she has not yet seen the completed piece of art, Karmen believes that both artists have made “great work and the art pieces will be gorgeous”. The project has also broadened her understanding of what is needed to produce and create artwork.
Karmen is a member of Professor Päivi Tammela’s bioactivity screening group. You can learn more about her research from the group’s website and Instagram.
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.
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 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.