Lab Members

Johanna Ivaska – The Boss

Brief background (Link to CV): Johanna Ivaska is a Professor of Molecular Cell Biology at the University of Turku in Finland. After obtaining her PhD at the University of Turku and following a post-doc in the laboratory of Peter Parker in CR-UK London Research Institute, she started her own group at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. In 2013, she joined the University of Turku Bioscience Centre where she currently leads the “Cell Adhesion and Cancer” group. In 2015, she was awarded the highly prestigious national research professorship from the Academy of Finland. Her primary research relates to the biological role of integrins in cancer progression and, in particular, integrin-mediated cell adhesion and migration, cell-matrix interactions and mechanosensing, and the molecular mechanisms governing endosomal traffic of integrins and growth factor receptors in cancer. She is recognized as a leader in her field with numerous commissions of trusts including editorial duties in leading scientific journals, organization of international conferences and as a member of scientific advisory boards. She is regularly invited to speak globally at internationally recognised conferences (Gordon Conferences, EMBO meetings, ASCB) and institutes (MIT, Mount Sinai New York, Cancer Research UK, Institute Curie, Institute Pasteur, UCL, King’s College, University of Cambridge, IFOM Milan, IBEC Barcelona, MPI Cologne and University of Geneva). In addition to reviewing for the European Research Council, Johanna has also been a recipient of major research grants including an ERC StG, an ERC CoG and 3 x ERC PoC grants. She has also been a member of the LS3 CoG panel. Johanna’s contributions to research have been recognised through elected memberships to EMBO and to the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters. In 2011, she was awarded the Anders Jahre Prize and, in 2017, the Orion pharma research prize and the A.I. Virtanen medal for internationally recognized excellence in biomedical research.

Contact: johanna.ivaska[at]utu.fi / hellyeh.hamidi[at]utu.fi

Megan Chastney – Postdoc

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Ivaska lab, interested in the role of mechanical forces in cancer progression. I obtained my Bachelors in Biochemistry at the University of Manchester, UK, where I then obtained my PhD in the laboratory of Prof Martin Humphries at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Research, using proximity biotinylation to investigate mechanisms of mechanotransduction in pancreatic cancer. My work now focuses on how cells respond to mechanical stimuli via integrin adhesion complexes and the cytoskeleton during laryngeal cancer progression.

Contact: megan.chastney[at]utu.fi

James Conway – Postdoc

I am a postdoctoral research fellow working on image-based screening approaches and cancer invasion. During my undergraduate studies at the University of Adelaide in Australia, I majored in Chemistry and Biochemistry, conducting an honours degree in the lab of  Prof. Greg Goodall working on the development of miRNAs as therapeutics in neuroblastoma. Moving to the lab of Prof. Paul Timpson in Sydney, my PhD focused on the development of a intravital imaging approaches to track therapeutic responses in areas of low oxygen in live mouse xenografts. My work is now centred around the development of new fluorescent FRET reporters for RNAi screening of the phosphatases that regulate integrin activity. 

Contact: james.conway[at]utu.fi

Gautier Follain – Postdoc

Coming from France, I’m a joint Postdoctoral researcher working in J. Ivaska and G. Jacquement laboratories. I obtained my Bachelors, in Cell Biology and Physiology, and, Masters, in Developmental Biology and Stem Cells, from the University of Strabourg. I then joined the lab of J. Goetz to study the impact of hemodynamic forces on the metastatic cascade. Now, I am working on the role of cell protrusions during PDAC intravascular arrest, adhesion and extravasation.
A good working day starts with cell culture, keeps on going with imaging of zebrafish embryos and finishes with a beer.

Contact: gautier.follain[at]utu.fi

Hellyeh Hamidi – Research Support Coordinator

Originally from the UK, I did my PhD in the laboratory of Prof Martin Humphries in the Wellcome Trust Cetre for Cell-Matrix Research, University of Manchester. I then did a postdoc with Prof Rachel Lennon, before moving to Finland for my current position. I try my best to take care of the group, to manage visibility of the lab, help in scientific writing and to be the communication bridge between academics and admin. It is a busy job but I love it!

Contact: hellyeh.hamidi[at]utu.fi

Aleksi Isomursu – PhD Student

Originally from the north of Finland, I acquired my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Jyväskylä, while working in the laboratories of J. Bamford and T. Kuopio. My undergrad studies and time spent abroad as an exchange student both shaped my interest in human malignancies and cell-matrix interactions; consequently, I sought to join the Ivaska lab as a PhD student. My current projects revolve around cancer cell mechanotransduction, inclucing mechanosensitive transcription factors and mechanically directed cell migration. Outside work, I like to relax by exercising and catching up with friends.

Contact: aleksi.isomursu[at]utu.fi

Niklas Jäntti – PhD Student

I did my Master’s thesis work in the Ivaska Lab investigating the role of the sorting receptor SORLA in the endosomal trafficking of the growth factor receptor HER2. I’ve been a PhD student in the lab since September 2019, studying the interplay between cancer cell adhesion, cytoskeletal dynamics and membrane trafficking and exploring the regulatory network that coordinates these processes, with the goal of identifying new mechanisms to prevent metastasis. What I enjoy most about working here is the great people, the dynamic atmosphere and the possibility to do some world-class microscopy. During my free time I like to do sports such as bouldering or swimming and I also sing in a choir and play the guitar.

Contact: niklas.z.jantti[at]utu.fi

Jasmin Kaivola – PhD Student

I am a phD student at the Ivaska lab and I’m working on integrin regulators and mechanosensing in cancer. I previously studied biochemistry at University of Turku (BSc and MSc). During my studies I worked as a research assistant on hormonal regulation of breast cancer (Lab run by Prof. Pirkko Härkönen). 

Contact: jasmin.e.kaivola[at]utu.fi

Petra Laasola – Biomedical Laboratory Scientist

I previosuly worked at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland as part of the biochip-team, where I helped to test, develop and prepare Cell Spot Microarrays (CSMA). I then joined the Ivaska lab several years ago where I help in the day-to-day running of the lab. I have experience in many other molecular biology techniques including immunoprecipitation, PLA, tissue staining, immunofluorescence and FACS analysis.

Contact: petra.laasola[at]utu.fi

Martina Lerche – Postdoc

I am a PhD student with a crush on mechanosensing. I grew up in the Finnish archipelago and obtained my Master’s in Biosciences from Åbo Akademi University (master’s project done in the laboratory of Professor Cecilia Sahlgren). My research focus is integrin activity regulation and trafficking, and how these processes are affected by the properties of the ECM. To better understand these questions I have set up both the RUSH-system and traction force microscopy in our lab. I do most of my experiments on micropatterns or hydrogels as plastic seems a bit passé. A perfect day is made up from a long run, strong coffee, great colleagues and some intriguing microscopy.

Contact: martina.lerche[at]utu.fi

Mathilde Mathieu – Postdoc

I am a French postdoctoral researcher. I did my master at the University Paris IV and the ENS Paris Saclay. For my PhD, I worked in Clotilde Théry’s lab at the Institut Curie in Paris, where I studied the trafficking of tetraspanins towards their secretion into different types of extracellular vesicles. My postdoc project focuses on how cancer cells migrate from the stiff tumor environment to softer environments. Outside the lab I like to go to rock concerts, visit art museums and travel to explore the world around me.

Contact: mathilde.mathieu[at]utu.fi

Paulina Moreno-Layseca – Postdoc

I’m an Academy of Finland postdoctoral researcher originally from Mexico. I did my PhD at the University of Manchester, UK with Prof C. Streuli, and a postdoc in Hamburg, Germany, working with Dr S. Veltel before joining the Ivaska lab. I’m interested in integrin traffic controlled by Rab21, the actin cytoskeleton and their interplay during cancer progression. The key to a great day is listening to cheerful music, tea and biscuits, lots of microscopy, plenty of scientific debates, efficiency and good results!​

Contact: paulina.morenolayseca[at]utu.fi

Hanna Parkkola – Postdoc

I am a postdoctoral researcher with special interest in translational cancer research. I studied Health Biosciences at the University of Turku and obtained my MSc in Drug Development studying invasion proteinases in head and neck cancer. I then joined Endor Nanotechnologies S.L. and the University of Barcelona, to work on my PhD project which consisted of development of a nanoparticle-based drug delivery system for cancer drugs. My postdoc position in the Abankwa Lab at Turku Bioscience focused on affecting tumorigenesis through interfering with RAS activity. I also got a chance to acquire skills in protein chemistry in Ulla Pentikäinen’s lab working on a joint drug discovery project. Now my research with RAS continues from a new perspective, aiming at activation rather than inhibition, studying if cancer cell death can be reached through a novel way.

Contact: hkpark[at]utu.fi

Nicolas Pasquier – Joint PhD student

Originally from France, I did my Master of Engineering at the ESPCI Paris. I am currently doing an internship where I aim at building a MCF10A-based 3D model to study the effect of Rab21 and Swiprosin1 on breast acini formation and the integrin trafficking within them. As from September 2020, I will start a joint PhD between the Ivaska Lab and the Jaulin Lab at the Institut Gustave Roussy (Villejuif, France) where I will study the role of oncogenic and mechanotransduction alterations in the focal-adhesion pathway on the colorectal metastasis polarity. A perfect day starts with a cup of coffee, continues with great colleagues and lots of microscopy, an insane amount of music (listening and playing), a good run, and ends with a nice beer with friends!

Contact: nicolas.pasquier[at]utu.fi

Jenni Siivonen – Biomedical Laboratory Scientist

I have been an Ivaska lab member for several years and I help in the day-to-day running of the lab. I have experience in many techniques including but not limited to recombinant protein production, RNA and DNA isolation, imunofluorescence and western blotting.

Contact: jenni.siivonen[at]utu.fi

Maria Taskinen – PhD Student

I am a PhD student investigating cell adhesion and actin cytoskeleton in cancer and stem cells. I am originally from the region of South Karelia, and obtained my Bachelors and Masters in Biochemistry at the University of Turku. I did my master’s thesis work in Ivaska Lab studying the role of MASTL in cancer cell adhesion. During my PhD, I have further studied how MASTL regulates actin cytoskeleton and stemness. In addition, I have studied integrin mediated adhesions and actin cytoskeleton in human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC). A perfect day at work is made of cell imaging, music, coffee and great colleagues.

Contact: matask[at]utu.fi

Our Alumni

PhD Students

  • Mitro Miikhinen (thesis defended 2021) – now studying statistics at University of Turku, FI.
  • Martina Lerche (thesis defended 2021) – now postdoc, Clare Waterman’s lab, NIH, US
  • Siiri Salomaa (thesis defended 2020) – now postdoc, Kevin Chalut’s lab, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Johanna Lilja (thesis defended 2020) – now postdoc, Johanna Joyce’s lab, University of Lausanne, CH
  • Aki Stubb (thesis defended 2019) – now postdoc, Ewa Paluch’s lab, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Pranshu Sahgal (thesis defended 2018) – now postdoc in the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, US
  • Jonna Alanko (thesis defended 2016) – now postdoc in the Michael Sixt lab, IST, Austria
  • Riina Kaukonen (thesis defended 2016) – now postdoc in Turku Bioscience Centre
  • Nicola De Franceschi (thesis defended 2016) – next step: postdoc in Institute Curie, FR
  • Reetta Virtakoivu (thesis defended 2015) – now postdoc in Institute of Biomedicine, FI
  • Antti Arjonen (thesis defended 2013)
  • Gunilla Högnäs (thesis defended 2013) – now postdoc University of Tampere, FI
  • Anja Mai (thesis defended 2011)
  • Juha Rantala (thesis defended 2011) – now CEO at Misvik Biology and Principal Investigator at the University of Sheffield, UK
  • Jonna Nevo (thesis defended 2011) – now MD, Oncologist
  • Karolina Vuoriluoto (thesis defended 2010) – now Drug Safety Specialist, Orion Corporation
  • Saara Tuomi (thesis defended 2010) – Next step: Postdoc at the Danish Cancer Society
  • Teijo Pellinen (thesis defended 2009) – now Senior Researcher at Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), Helsinki, Finland
  • Elina Mattila (thesis defended 2009) – now Senior Scientist at Orion Pharma, Finland

Master‘s Students

  • Max Grönloh
  • Niklas Jäntti
  • Nuria Barber Perez
  • Rafael Saup
  • Maria Rafaeva
  • David Kühl
  • Taru Varila
  • Sonja Vahlman
  • Paula Rasila

Postdocs

  • Hussein Al Akhrass – July 2021; next step: R & D Manager, Boehringer and Ingelheim, Vienna, Austria
  • Elisa Närvä – April 2021; next step: Principal Investigator, Pluripotency & Cancer Laboratory, Institute of Biomedicine, University of Turku, Finland!
  • Jaroslav Icha – October 2019; next step: Application Specialist, Promega, Prague, Czechia
  • Emilia Peuhu – August 2019; next step: Principal Investigator, Peuhu lab, Institute of Biomedicine, University of Turku, Finland!
  • Guillaume Jacquemet – August 2019; next step: Principal Investigator, Cell Migration Lab, Åbo Akademi University, Finland!
  • Ilkka Paatero – August 2019; next step: Head of Zebrafish Facility, Turku Bioscience Centre, University of Turku
  • Camilo Guzmán – October 2018; next step: Facility manager (Nanophotonics) at the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, Portugal
  • Maria Georgiadou – August 2018; next step: Senior Researcher at Orion Pharma, Finland
  • Mika Pietilä – until 2017; next step: Medical Advisor, Astra Zeneca, Espoo, Finland
  • ​Anja Mai – until 2016; next step: Researcher at BerGenBio, Bergen, Norway
  • Antti Arjonen – until 2015; next step: Senior researcher at Misvik Biology Ltd, Turku, Finland
  • Ghaffar Muharram – until 2013; next step: Scientist at University of Lille, Lille, France
  • Jeroen Pouwels – until 2013; next step: group leader at Turku Bioscience Centre, Turku, Finland
  • Stefan Veltel – next step: lecturer at University of Applied Sciences, Bremen, Germany