ILS Mentor of the year 2016

On May 8th, the ILS Doctoral Program announced the awards for Mentor of the year 2016. Last fall, the ILS student council invited nominations from all ILS students, asking them to describe the appreciable qualities of their mentors.

A total of 8 nominations were received, highlighting the positive aspects of the mentors such as:

  • Letting the student to be independent
  • Letting them make decisions regarding their projects
  • Giving importance to brainstorming regarding the students project, especially in the beginning
  • Being excited about the students project
  • Motivating the students in the face of negative results
  • Availability
  • Having a social and friendly relationship with the student

Dr. Krister Wennerberg and Dr. David Fewer were chosen as the mentors of the year, based on the testimonials. Krister Wennerberg is a PI at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) and David Fewer works at the Division of Microbiology and Biotechnology, Department of Food and Environmental Sciences.

The awardees mentioned in their acceptance speech that they were extremely honored by receiving this award. They think that as a PI it’s also their responsibility to train the next generation of scientists, and a good way to do this is to get the students to be excited about their projects so that they are the ones who are driving it forward. And the best way to do that is to discuss about ideas and brainstorm with the students and let the student figure the way out himself/herself.

Nominations also included Eija Jokitalo (EM Unit, BI), Maarja Mikkola (Developmental Biology Program, BI), Susanna Fagerholm (Biosciences), Frederic Michon (Developmental Biology Program, BI), Andrii Domanskyi (BI), Eeva Sievi (DS Health) and Erkki Raulo (ILS) who were also acknowledged and felicitated at the event.

We congratulate both mentors and nominees and wish them to keep up their good work as role models.

ILS Student Council


Student in Spotlight – Pia Kinaret


Pia Kinaret is a PhD student at the Institute of Biotechnology, in the research group led by Dario Greco. She is studying alternative approaches for nanomaterial safety assessment, and has recently published an article on this topic. Congratulations Pia!

A suitable alternative for nanomaterial toxicity testing

Research digest:

The world is going nano! Nanoscience is a very rapidly growing field of research. Nanotechnology, nanostructure and nanoparticles are now commonplace terms and have revolutionized various aspects of our daily lives. Nanomaterials are already being used in cosmetics, cleaning products and our food, and have the potential to make supercomputers that will fit in our pockets. One very promising area is the use of nanoparticles as vehicles for drug delivery to targeted tissue sites such as tumor. But, how grave are the consequences when these particles pile up in the environment or inside us?

Technically, nanomaterials are any particles with at least one dimension less than 100 nanometers. The inherent shape and size of the nanomaterials makes them an oddball for our immune system to handle. Similar to asbestos, inhaled nanomaterials can be hazardous; cause severe asthma-type symptoms, granuloma formation, fibrosis and cardiovascular diseases. As the number of engineered nanomaterials is increasing exponentially, understanding the physiological effects of exposure to nanomaterials and developing toxicity standard for nanomaterials is of great importance. Therefore, Pia and colleagues [1] have studied an efficient and cost-effective method to assess nanomaterial toxicity.

The most common route of human exposure to nanomaterials is through respiration. State-of-the-art method for studying the airway-exposure of nanomaterials is via inhalation method, in which lab mice are exposed to aerosolized nanomaterial. However, this is cumbersome and time-consuming. Alternatively, this could be studied by oropharyngeal aspiration, in which the nanomaterial is introduced to animal airways as a liquid dispersion. Aspiration is much faster and cost-effective method compared to inhalation, however it is not yet clear whether the two methods are comparable.

Pia [1] studied the responses of lab mice exposed to carbon-based nanomaterials by inhalation and aspiration method at various doses. She found that the immune responses of the mice at low doses of aspiration were comparable to that of inhalation. Also, the responses at molecular level in terms of the gene expression changes and induced biological functions were also very similar. Pia thus concludes that aspiration is a valid alternative to the inhalation method for assessment of nanomaterial toxicity.

  1. Inhalation and Oropharyngeal Aspiration Exposure to Rod-Like Carbon Nanotubes Induce Similar Airway Inflammation and Biological Responses in Mouse Lungs. Kinaret P, Ilves M, Fortino V, Rydman E, Karisola P, Lähde A, Koivisto J, Jokiniemi J, Wolff H, Savolainen K, Greco D, Alenius H. ACS Nano. 2017 Jan 24;11(1):291-303.


Dance your PhD – Maarja Laos

“Creativity is a great motivator because it makes people interested in what they are doing. Creativity gives hope that there can be a worthwhile idea. Creativity gives the possibility of some sort of achievement to everyone. Creativity makes life more fun and more interesting.”   –   Edward de Bono


Here’s a submission from Maarja Laos, an ILS PhD Student and Student Council member, for the Dance your PhD contest organised by the Science magazine. No talk, only Dance! Kudos to Maarja for being able to put all the hard work to get it done and inspiring us fellow students to look at our projects from a creative perspective and add fun in our journey as scientists. Enjoy!



The cochlea of the inner ear functions to enable us to hear sounds. It contains hair cells that via the hair bundles on their apical surface detect sound waves and transmit them to the brain to generate hearing.

Human hair cells are very sensitive and die easily due to loud noise and other insults (e.g. some antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs). Unfortunately, following injury the surviving hair cells in mammals, including in humans, are unable to divide leading to a gradual deterioration of hearing.

Scientists are trying to restore human hearing by designing strategies to replace lost hair cells either by forcing the surviving hair cells to divide, by repairing the damaged essential parts of the hair cell, such as the hair bundle or by making the surrounding supporting cells to convert into hair cells. The cochlear auditory sensory epithelium containing the hair cells and supporting cells can be grown in culture on a filter membrane. The filter membrane is placed on top of a metal mesh so that the cells are located at the interface of the culturing media and air, allowing both nutrients from the culturing media and oxygen from the air to reach them.

Scientists face many difficulties trying to make these regenerative strategies to work. When mammalian hair cells are forced to divide, the cell division often fails, resulting in death of a cell or daughter hair cells with abnormal number of chromosomes. The strategies aiming to repair the damaged hair bundle of a hair cell are not able to fully restore the hair bundle, resulting in hair cells that are unable to properly detect sound. The strategies that convert supporting cells into hair cells usually produce hair cells that are not fully functional and retain characteristics of supporting cells. In my PhD project I have tried to understand the reasons why these regenerative strategies are not successful.


at Lammi Biological Station, April 14-15, 2016.

The 9th Finnish Cell Biology Symposium at Lammi is open to everyone interested so please feel very welcome to attend!

DEADLINE for registration and abstract submission is Friday April 1st, 2016. Number of participants is limited to 80.

Register at:

Confirmed speakers

Plenary lecture:  Pekka Lappalainen (Institute of Biotechnology, Helsinki): TBA

  • Johanna Englund (Katajisto lab, Helsinki): Stem cell activity in mammary epithelial cells is regulated by extracellular matrix attachment
  • Josef Gullmets (Eriksson lab, Turku): Nuclear lamins in stress and disease
  • Antti Hassinen (Kellokumpu lab, Oulu): Organizational interplay between Golgi N-glycosyltransferases
  • Noora Kotaja (Kotaja lab, Turku): RNA regulation in haploid male germ cells
  • Darshan Kumar (Jokitalo lab, Helsinki): TBA
  • Inari Kursula (Kursula lab, Oulu): TBA
  • Ying Liu (Hietakangas lab, Helsinki): A novel nutrition-dependent regulator of growth
  • Ponnuswamy Mohanasundaram (Eriksson lab, Turku): Vimentin regulates growth signaling
  • Ilya Nevzorov (Vartiainen lab, Helsinki): Unconventional nuclear import mechanism of myosin 1c
  • Ville Paavilainen (Paavilainen lab, Helsinki): Mycobacterial macrolide targets the Sec61 protein translocon to suppress immune responses
  • Nina Rintanen (Ylänne lab, Jyväskylä): Filamins as mechanosensors
  • Kari Vaahtomeri (Alitalo / Wihuri Research Institute, Helsinki): Mechanisms of dendritic cell entry into the lymphatic capillaries



Best Mentor Award 2015: A new annual tradition by ILS

It’s hard to describe what qualities a good mentor should have. When famous modern age photographer Ansel Adams was asked what role his father Charles Hitchcock Adams played in his life as a mentor, he credited him for “tenderly keeping alive his inner spark.”

In search of the best mentors, the ILS doctoral program asked its students to describe how they think their mentors fare and what these qualities are. On December 11th 2015, at its Seasonal party, the ILS doctoral program announced the award for ‘Best Mentor of the Year 2015’ . Out of 5 nominations, Docent Mikaela Grönholm was chosen by the ILS Student Council as the first recipient of this award, based on the testimonial written by the nominating student. Mikaela was described as “having a friendly personality, approachable, supporting and at the same time (she’s) hard, strict and teaches us how to deal with struggles and helps you find your own ways”. Other nominees which included Katarina Pelin (Viikki), Ville Hietakangas (Viikki), Krister Wennerberg (FIMM) and Peter Hackman (Biomedicum) were also acknowledged and felicitated at the event.


Mikaela or ‘Mikku’ as she is adoringly called by her students and colleagues, gave a brief acceptance speech including a few advises to the students:

  • Try to talk about science.
  • Try to find something that fascinates you in the research.
  • Be organized and if you think you already are than be more organized.
  • Ask for help. You are not supposed to do everything own your own. It’s okay to fail and try to learn from it.
  • Have fun and spend time with your colleagues and friends because friendships are important.

The ILS doctoral program wishes her heartiest congratulations and good luck for future. The ILS doctoral program is also proud to be initiating such a tradition among its students which encourages them to nominate their mentors highlighting a positive mentor-protégé relationship.