Happy international women’s day!

Dear all,

On this special day for women,  I would like to share wise words given by Professor Wartiovaara. I had a lucky lunch moment with her one day when we were planning the 3rd year anniversary for WILS. After we chatted about women in science and  the need for mentoring and support, she sent me this kind and supportive mail in the evening on the same day. I was touched by the kindness and immediate reaction from her. Especially because I can see those words are truly coming from her experiences and I see daily how she is actively working on what she describes.

I shared her message  on the last moment of our 3rd year anniversary seminar day, and I was positively surprised by a lots of requests from the audience to share it on the blog, so that they can keep for the future moments. Professor Wartiovaara kindly gave a permission to share her message.


My “ASW principles”, the take home messages for these female colleagues were:
Women can do a lot for each other
Mentor junior colleagues – give also positive feedback, be available, support in background
Act for equality  in a kind and constructive way – be strict when needed, but don’t let yourself to be agitated
Network, unite, take a chance when it is offered, don’t think ahead or consider too much if there is an interesting suggestion made for you.
Speak in workshops. Ask questions. Allow own opinions to be expressed. Don’t let yourself be interrupted when speaking.
Administrative tasks. Learn to say no.
Be less perfectionist in one area of life
Go to work outside Finland, take an au pair or similar
Get or hire help – home and office.
Pay attention to hidden inequality and actively act against it.
Cite women scientists’ work.
Shake everyone’s hands in a meeting. Shake hands when they leave.
Learn your women colleague’s family names and use them. Women are too often remembered by their first name – or not even with that one. “The blond woman who gave the talk yesterday”.
Recognise your own prejudice: do you equally appreciate and cite the work of female and male scientists?
Aim to treat people equally – not considering their status in society, their gender, race etc.
Let’s keep these in mind and support each other!
Happy international women’s day!!
Fumi Suomi Ph.D.

WILS 3 years party 24th January 2020!

Dear colleagues,

The year is coming to an end, and we are all hopefully still enjoying a relaxing holiday season. In the WILS Helsinki network we would like to thank all of you for the active participation and support of our events during the past year. Also, with excitement we look forward to the next one, as in January 2020 our network turns 3 years!
Therefore, we would like to invite you to celebrate the three years of our activities on January 24th at 2pm to 5pm in the Biomedicum Faculty clubJoin us for an afternoon of panel discussion on current and future directions of equality in the life science fields, followed by networking and cake and bubbly drinks.
Panelists joining the discussions with us include:
  • Dr Miho Nakamura, Adjunct Professor, Department of Clinical Medicine, Institute of Biomedicine, University of Turku,
  • Dr Henna Tyynismaa, group leader, RPU Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki
  • Lea Urpa, organiser of Science Basement, graduate student, University of Helsinki
  • Moderated by our WILS crew
To register please fill the e-lomake below, 16th of January the latest!
Also, feel free to spread the word about the event among your (female and male!) colleagues. We are very much looking forward too seeing many of you celebrate with us in January!
Best wishes on behalf of WILS Helsinki,
Johanna and Fumi

WILS Lunch with Dr Valerie Weaver/ November 8th at Biomedicum

Dear all,

The WILS network has the privilege to organise lunch with Dr Valerie Weaver before her seminar on Friday November 8th. In addition to her ground breaking work in the field of tumor and mechanobiology, Dr Weaver has mentored several post docs and PhD students and has been involved in organising eg. power hour for female researchers during Gordon research conferences.  She has kindly agreed to meet with our network to discuss on topics related to women in academia. This is an excellent opportunity to meet with one very successful PI to talk about how she made it in the academia and everything else you would be interested in, science or equality related.
The lunch is sponsored by WILS and will take place in Biomedicum seminar room 4 from 12-1pm. There is room for 10 people, so if you are interested in meeting with Valerie please reply to Johanna Englund by email soon (first come, first serve!). Dead line for registration is Friday 1st of November.
On behalf of WILS,
-Johanna Englund

WILS event “Check your blind spot: Exploring unconscious gender bias”

Dear colleagues,
Welcome to our next WILS event “Check your blind spot: Exploring unconscious gender bias”, that will be held on the 27.11 from 14:00 – 16:00 in Biomedicum, meeting room 8-9.

What is unconscious bias? Why should you care? Why does it matter to personnel evaluation and recruitment?

Members of the Helsinki Association of Women Researchers (https://blogs.helsinki.fi/tutkijanaiset/) will talk about unconscious gender bias in Academia. Unconscious gender bias affects everyone, men and women. You may think of yourself as fair and impartial, however, our own bias can be elusive.  Come and learn about it!

On behalf of WILS Helsinki
-Blanca Fernández López, PhD

Shine theory for science


Have you already heard about the Shine theory? Probably yes, since once you look around, it seems to be everywhere. However, if you are like me, you may have not realized what and how big of a thing it is and even more, how important it can be especially for women in science.

Shortly, the term “Shine theory” was originally coined by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman to describe the mutual investment of friendship and commitment to collaboration between women. The simple idea behind the Shine theory is that “If you don’t shine, I don’t shine”. In other words, helping other women shine: feel confident and secure and be the best they can, will in the long run pay you back. The essence of applying Shine theory can be described as “a practice of cultivating a spirit of genuine happiness and excitement when your friends are doing well, and being there for them when they aren’t” (quote from Shinetheory.dot.com).

This does not however mean just networking or colleting a list of acquaintances you might ask a favor later, or investing time to every single person you meet during wine and cheese in a conference. Rather, it is a more personal, long-term commitment to helping and supporting your peers, true friendship or companionship.

I see many benefits to women in science to practice the Shine theory. Firstly, as in the senior level female scientist are far fewer than men, women need to support each other instead of competing with each other. Collaboration will get you so much further than competition. Secondly, letting your peers in the lab or fellow speakers in a seminar or a conference shine, by reinforcing their views or ideas, and helping them to speak out, will eventually lead to a positive cycle for yourself as well.

One of the main goals of our WILS network is to empower female scientists, and thus making use of the idea of Shine Theory will lead to exactly that. So help out your fellow (women) scientists. Rely on their expertise and knowledge, invite them as speakers to seminars, suggest them as grant and article reviewers. Help them to become better scientists not only by giving (much needed and appreciated!) critique of their work, but also by complimenting when they have good ideas and results. You will shine as well!

More to read and listen to:





Text by Johanna Englund, Ph.D.

Women In Life Science Symposium 2019

Hi all!
We are organising our first Women In Life Science (WILS) Symposium.
Date: 28, May, Tuesday
TIme: 14-16
              Yliopistonkatu 4
00100 Helsinki
Please check the programme below and and join us at the Think Corner to learn what we do! 


We will serve some drinks and snacks.
Follow us in Twitter: @HelsinkiWils

WMN Lunch with Dr. Melissa Caimano

WILS organized a monthly lunch with the Monday Viikki seminar guest speaker, Dr. Melissa Caimano. It was a great opportunity for women students and postdocs to meet with her and discuss interesting topics, including Lyme disease, as well as the current opportunities for women scientists. We had a great time and went over designated time.

from left counterclockwise: Sergei Belanov, Maryna Koskela, Polina Stepanova, Anamaria Balic, Satu-Marja Myllymaki, Melissa Caimano. Photographer: Susana Garcia.



– Anamaria Balic, Ph.D.

Seminar notification-‘Astrocytes as primary players in disease and physiology’ and Where do scientists come from’

We are very excited to announce an upcoming visit of two remarkable scientists.

Shane Liddlelow (NYU Neuroscience institute, Langone Health, USA) and 

Joshua Burda (Cedars-Sinai, Los Angeles, USA).

They will star two events: 1) seminar day on ‘Astrocytes as primary players in disease and physiology’ and 2) a career development day aimed for students and postdocs: ‘Where do scientists come from’

To register for either or both of the events (and student/postdoc lunch), please follow the link: https://elomake.helsinki.fi/lomakkeet/97593/lomake.html


1)   ‘Astrocytes as primary players in disease and physiology’, 23.5 (Thursday) 10-14.30, Haartman Institute, Lecture hall 1, Haartmaninkatu 3. 

The seminar is focused on active roles of astrocytes in normal physiology and their mechanisms and contributions in disease. The seminar is of high relevance for anyone who has ever wondered what CNS cells do if something goes wrong, and whether what they do always makes sense. Spoiler: maybe not. Come and learn about ‘astrocytes the saviors’ and ‘astrocytes the killers’, and make your own conclusions. See more info below, and the detailed program will follow soon.


10-12am: Keynote talks by early career independent investigators: 

Shane Liddlelow NYU Neuroscience institute, USA 

Joshua BurdaCedars-Sinai Medical Centre, Los Angeles, USA 

Reactive gliosis is found in various pathologies ranging from brain trauma to neurodegenerative diseases. Recent studies by the invited speakers, who also contributed as postdocs to work of leading astrocyte biology groups of Ben Barres, Stanford University and Michael Sofroniew, UCLA, have identified that the response of astrocytes is context-specific with primary contribution to CNS health. While reactive gliosis is critical for recovery e.g. after spinal cord injury, astrocytes may also acquire neurotoxic properties and contribute to neurodegenerative disorders and in aging The findings are currently transforming the field and a) challenge neuron-centric paradigms of central nervous system diseases b) transform the view on how the central nervous system cells react to various insults, and what reactive gliosis actually is.

12-13am: Student and postdoc lunch with speakers  (registration on first come, first served basis via link: https://elomake.helsinki.fi/lomakkeet/97593/lomake.html)



13.00 – 13.25  Olesia Ignatenko ‘Mitochondrial dysfunction causes cell-type specific pathology in the brain’

13.25  – 13.50  Gulayse Ince-Dunn ‘Mitochondrial control of glia-vasculature interactions in the retina’

13.50  – 14.15.  Sarka Lehtonen ‘Severe phenotype of human astrocytes in Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease

2)  ‘Where do scientists come from’, 24th, May, Friday 10-12am, Faculty club (top floor above 5th floor), Biomedicum, Hartmaninkatu 8.

A conversation-based career development seminar with visiting and local PIs. We will get to know the personal career experiences of group leaders, and openly discuss various aspects of academic life. Besides being excellent scientists, the leaders of discussion are enthusiastic about the topics of academic life and career, mentoring, and the process of growing up as a scientist. Of note, Shane was trained by the late Ben Barres, whose legacy of outstanding contribution in building the community, promoting the equality, and the mentoring ideas is worldwide appreciated and will live long after.

Don’t miss the opportunity! We will have a free format discussion, so please bring along all your questions, thoughts, fears and hopes related.

Leaders of discussion:

– Joshua Burda, Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre, Los Angeles, USA 

– Shane Liddlelow NYU Neuroscience institute, USA 

– Sara Wickström, University of Helsinki

– Liisa Kauppi, University of Helsinki


Supporting moderators:

– Olesia Ignatenko, PhD student

– Fumi Suomi, Post Doc


To register for either or both of the events (and student/postdoc lunch), please follow the link: https://elomake.helsinki.fi/lomakkeet/97593/lomake.html

The limited number of slots to meet the speakers is available, please contact olesia.ignatenko@helsinki.fi


Relevant publications by invited speakers:

Liddelow SA Modern approaches to investigating non-neuronal aspects of Alzheimer’s disease FASEB J 2019

Liddelow SA, et al.,  Activated microglia induce neurotoxic reactive astrocytes via Il-1α, TNFα, and C1q. Nature 2017

Clarke LE, Liddelow SA, Chakraborty C, Münch AE, Heiman M, Barres BA (2018) Normal aging induces A1-like astrocyte reactivity. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2018

Gibson EM, Nagaraja S, Ocampo A, Tam LT, Wood LS, Pallegar PN, Greene JJ, Geraghty AC, Goldstein AK, Ni L, Woo PJ, Barres BA, Liddelow S, Vogel H, Monje M Methotrexate chemotherapy induces persistent tri-glial dysregulation that underlies chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment. Cell 2018

Yun SP, Kam TI, Panicker N, Kim S, Oh Y, Park JS, Kwon SH, Park YJ, Karuppagounder SS, Park H, Kim S, Oh N, Kim NA, Lee S, Brahmachari S, Mao X, Lee JH, Kumar M, An D, Kang SU, Lee Y, Lee KC, Na DH, Kim D, Lee SH, Roschke VV, Liddelow SA, Mari Z, Barres BA, Dawson VL, Lee S, Dawson TM, Ko HS. Block of A1 astrocyte conversion by microglia is neuroprotective in models of Parkinson’s disease. Nat Med. 2018 


Anderson MA, O’Shea TM, Burda JE, Ao Y, Barlatey SL, Bernstein AM, Kim JH, James ND, Rogers A, Kato B, Wollenberg AL, Kawaguchi R, Coppola G, Wang C, Deming TJ, He Z, Courtine G, Sofroniew MV. Required growth facilitators propel axon regeneration across complete spinal cord injury. Nature, 2018

Anderson Mark A, Burda Joshua E, Ren Yilong, Ao Yan, O’Shea Timothy M, Kawaguchi Riki, Coppola Giovanni, Khakh Baljit S, Deming Timothy J, Sofroniew Michael V. Astrocyte scar formation aids central nervous system axon regeneration Nature, 2016 

Ren Y, Ao Y, O’Shea TM, Burda JE, Bernstein AM, Brumm AJ, Muthusamy N, Ghashghaei HT, Carmichael ST, Cheng L, Sofroniew MV. Ependymal cell contribution to scar formation after spinal cord injury is minimal, local and dependent on direct ependymal injury. Sci Rep. 2017

Burda Joshua E, Sofroniew Michael V  Reactive gliosis and the multicellular response to CNS damage and disease Neuron, 2014

-Olesia Ignatenko

-Fumi Suomi

Women network event rescheduled to 26.10.2018

Dear colleagues,

We would like to inform you the reschedule of our next event in Meilahti campus,  Sharing experiences with women scientists. Since there is an EMBL symposium at the same time, we decided to change the date. We are sorry for the last minute notification.

The new date is: 26.10.18, Friday.

Time: 14-16

Place: Biomedicum I, Seminar room3, P-floor


Prof. Elina Ikonen, Prof. Anna-Elina Lehesjoki and Dr. Gulayse Ince-Dunn, will share with us their personal experience as women scientists and we will have an open discussion afterwards. Following the networking, we will have a more informal hour with drinks and dinner for those interested.  Everyone (men/women) is welcome!!

Please, register for the event in the link below until 25.10.


-Blanca Fernández López