Research Training

FIMM is dedicated to excellence in research training in molecular medicine and to developing, enriching, and promoting the careers of junior and senior researchers. Together, our research groups, Technology Centre, and Biobank host approximately 80 junior (doctoral student and postdoctoral) researchers and 20 senior researchers. Our research and technology groups, team-oriented approaches and state-of-the-art technologies provide unique research experiences in molecular and translational medicine. Furthermore, our links in research and training networks such as the Nordic EMBL Partnership and EU-LIFE provide our researchers with numerous opportunities for expanding competencies, building collaborations, and advancing careers. Finally, FIMM’s research and technology units offer courses, seminars, workshops and symposia in an array of areas.

Through our doctoral training efforts and collaborations, doctoral candidates gain the necessary theoretical knowledge and practical skills to propel them forward in their research, as well as explore various future career options, both within and outside of the research arena. Doctoral candidates at FIMM are members of one of the eight doctoral programmes in the newly established Doctoral School in Health Sciences at the University of Helsinki and satisfy degree requirements from a University of Helsinki faculty, such as the Faculty of Medicine.

Postdoctoral and senior researchers as well as coordinators at FIMM gain independence, develop advanced practical skills, such as project and team management, and fine-tune their career path. FIMMPOD, our newly introduced postdoctoral and senior researcher professional development programme, encourages and facilitates mentoring, advances career development through workshops and exposure, provides networking and social events, and eases the path of recruitment.

FIMM’s PhD Student and Postdoc Council is a self-organized and managed body representing the junior researcher community and offering scientific, social and mentoring events.

2014 Brought the Launch of FIMMPOD

FIMMPOD, FIMM’s Postdoctoral and Senior Researcher Professional Development Programme, the first of its kind in Finland, kicked off in June 2014 with three interactive activities: What’s Your Pitch? Entrepreneurship event, Writing Persuasive Arguments workshop, and the launch of the FIMMPOD Grant Application Exchange Programme.

By focusing on four main themes - recruitment, mentoring, career development and networking - the goals of FIMMPOD are to:

During 2014, FIMMPOD activities included two institute level calls for new postdocs, monthly Brown Bag Career Lunch Discussions with leaders in various fields such as biotech, funding, pharmaceutical industry, academia, and others, as well as the start of the 2nd Mentor and Grant Application Exchange Programmes, training workshops, and a few social events. Events and activities are updated on the FIMMPOD Events webpage.

FIMMPOD Brown Bag Career Lunch Discussion with Jonathan Knowles.

Congratulations to FIMM’s 2014 Doctoral Degree Awardees!

Three FIMM doctoral candidates defended their dissertations and completed their doctoral degrees in 2014:

Ida Surakka’s dissertation in November.

University of Helsinki-Funded Doctoral Student Positions

2014 was a transition year for doctoral training at the University of Helsinki, and during the year all of FIMM’s doctoral candidates were transferred to the new doctoral training system, becoming members of the newly established Doctoral School in Health Sciences and one of the eight doctoral programmes in the school. With the new system came the option to apply for University-funded doctoral student positions. FIMM is proud to acknowledge the doctoral candidates who won these highly competitive, funded positions:

The doctoral candidates who won the University of Helsinki-funded doctoral student positions. From left to right: Balaguru Ravikumar, Prson Gautam, Sarang Talwelkar, Ashwini Kumar, Antti-Pekka Sarin.

FIMM-EMBL International PhD Training Programme

In 2014, we continued the systematic international doctoral student recruitment in collaboration with the Nordic EMBL Partnership and locally with the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT) to foster multidisciplinary collaboration. The aim of the programme has been to recruit outstanding, international and national doctoral students and provide them with diverse research training early in their academic careers.

Specifically, with the aims of diversifying individual research training and building connections and collaborations within FIMM and with our partners, this student-centered, institute-level rotation training provides doctoral students with a unique and exciting opportunity to explore different research areas and working environments, as well as experience a variety of science and technologies while making connections within and beyond the institute. During the training, doctoral students engage in projects with two to three different research groups during a six to nine month period prior to selecting a research group in which to remain for their complete doctoral studies. Since the rotational period naturally lends itself to building interests that cross over between research groups, in the EMBL spirit, the rotation students have a great opportunity to be involved in collaborative projects. In this video clip professor Samuli Ripatti talks about the rotation training.

After a highly selective review process involving more than 200 applicants expressing interest in research areas encompassing FIMM and HIIT, such as computational systems biology and medicine, cancer and human disease genomics, cancer biology, personalised medicine, medical systems virology, statistical genetics, and bioinformatics, we welcomed three outstanding students (~1 % of the applicants): Dmitrii Bychkov, Ella Karjalainen, and Janica Wakkinen to FIMM and HIIT as the newest FIMM-EMBL doctoral students. Read more about the new students and their experiences so far.

FIMM-EMBL doctoral students 2014. From left to right: Dmitrii Bychkov, Ella Karjalainen, Janica Wakkinen.

Building Bridges & Facilitating Training

FIMM’s researchers and coordinators organized several training events during 2014 in an effort to offer educational opportunities, as well as raise awareness of important areas of research and training.

Together with the Doctoral Programme in Biomedicine (DPBM) and National Graduate School of Clinical Investigation (CLIGS/VKTK), FIMM organized the second and third symposia of the Building Bridges series. The Building Bridges symposia series is arranged to bridge clinical and basic or translational research and provide examples of how teams of investigators are working together to advance personalised medicine approaches.

In May, we showcased the second symposium of the series, Bioimaging in Clinical and Translational Research in an effort to bridge experts in the field of biomedical imaging with those in translational and clinical research. With a spotlight on translation and diagnostics, the symposium introduced participants to the most cutting edge bioimaging research, how it applies to patient diagnosis and care, the benefits of imaging techniques, as well as opportunities and challenges in imaging infrastructure. With this symposium, we also offered an image analysis workshop “How to analyze microscopic images” with instructors, including top image analysis software developers and experts from Finland and abroad.

In November, we presented the third symposium in the series, Personalised Health and Genomics in Clinical and Translational Research, highlighting how genomics is used to improve our understanding of health and disease in the areas of cardiovascular disease and cancer. The lectures closed with a provocative look at where we go from here with presentations on the public funding strategies, business landscape, and healthcare practices around personalised medicine.

Moments from the Building Bridges Autumn 2014: Personalised Health and Genomics in Clinical and Translational Research.

In September, we partnered up with the PhDs to Business Life Project and a team from the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Helsinki to put on a three day symposium: INNOVATE, PROTECT, SPIN IT OFF and START IT UP! With three main areas of focus, this course provided breadth and depth in the topics of intellectual property (IP), innovation and entrepreneurship, spinoff companies and marketing. The sessions of the first day spanned IP topics from patent strategies and portfolios to how to find and use patents for gathering information to protecting IP rights. Innovation, specifically how to recognize and raise funding for moving it forward, and entrepreneurship were key topics of the second day. The symposium culminated in a final day illustrating successful spinoff companies and discussing the key lessons learned in moving from an idea to a company as a life scientist. The three-day symposium was open to the entire scientific community. A follow-up workshop fostered the development of ideas of teams of students and postdoctoral researchers. FIMM’s Evgeny Kulesskiy (High Throughput Biomedicine Unit) and colleagues were one of the winning teams selected by a panel of experts in venture capital, biotech investing, and innovation and business development.

Throughout the autumn, the FIMM-DPBM seminars course Perspectives in Molecular Medicine and Reflections on Academic Careers explored international, high profile academic research in molecular medicine, as well as provided students with the unique opportunity to engage in small group discussions with some of the world’s leading scientists, both scientifically and to seek career advice.

The Power of Self-Assembly

The students and postdoctoral researchers at FIMM are supported by the self-organized and managed FIMM PhD Student and Postdoc Council.

FIMM PhD Student and Postdoc Council in 2014.

The council is an institute-level organization for the student and postdoc community of FIMM. Established in 2013, the Council continued and expanded its efforts during 2014. Their activities included the FIMM Scientific Coffee Breaks, annual PhD Student Poster Session, initiatives of the Nordic Molecular Medicine Network (NMMN) Young Investigators Collaboration working to enhance inter-node activities in the Nordic EMBL Partnership and FIMM THINK DIFFERENT Seminar Series. In 2014, they added social gatherings and peer group mentoring in soft skills.

Poster Session award ceremony. The poster prizes were awarded to Mikko Muona, John Patrick Mpindi & Dmitrii Bychkov.

Doctoral Training Committee

During 2014, the Doctoral Training Committee (DTC) formed at FIMM with goals to develop a central admission process for all FIMM doctoral students and review, mentor and track the financial support for all of the nearly 60 doctoral students at the institute. In particular, the goals of the DTC are three-fold:

The first DTC was assembled with three group leaders and the research training coordinator. Efforts of the DTC proved fruitful with the institute approving a plan for central admission, interim review, and mentoring of doctoral students. During 2014, eight students underwent the new review process for central admission and another eight engaged in mentoring sessions with the DTC. The DTC felt that the new review process for central admission to FIMM was open, transparent and informative, as well as created insight into the overall FIMM picture in training and provided new ideas at the institute level. Furthermore, the system has built-in progress tracking and mentoring available for all FIMM doctoral students.

Doctoral Training Committee 2014-2015. From left to right: William Hennah, Emmy Verschuren, Gretchen Repasky, Janna Saarela. Missing from the picture: Johan Lundin.

EU Research Training Projects

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Project Description

Marie Curie International Reintegration Grant




Systems Biology Approaches to Novel Tumour Suppressors

Marie Curie Initial Training Network




Decipher Inter- and Intracellular Signalling in Schizophrenia


Research Training