Areas of expertise
Shortly: didn't study much in high school, graduated, got bored, did some farm work, got interested in plant science and agriculture, started studying photosynthesis at the university of Turku and worked my way up to doing a PhD under the supervision of Dr. Esa Tyystjärvi. And here I am.
I am interested in figuring out the mechanisms of the inevitable light induced damage to proteins involved in photosynthetic light reactions, with special emphasis on how some of the weirder and less studied micro- and macroalgae deal with the damage in different light conditions.
I am particularly invested in figuring out how certain kleptoplastic sea slugs are able to steal chloroplasts from their prey algae and maintain the stolen chloroplasts (kleptoplasts) functional in isolation inside their own cells. In light of what is known about the damage to chloroplast proteins during photosynthesis, I would not advise a slug, that theoretically should not possess the genetic tools to deal with the constant repair of the photosynthetic apparatus, to try and branch out to become a long-lasting leaf, but instead stick to being a slug and just digest its food. All of it. But these sea slugs, with the help of evolution, pay no heed to such advise and do what they do: keep on photosynthesizing with stolen goods.
In order to tackle this enigma, I am implementing a variety of biophysical and biochemical methods, as well as old fashioned observations by naked eye (and microscope), on a system comprised of the kleptoplastic slug Elysia timida and its algal prey Acetabularia acetabulum. Since I come from a plant science background and have reason to believe that the answer lies partially in the very specific algae eaten by the slugs, I have also included another species of these algae, Vaucheria litorea, into my repertoire. The most famous photosynthetic sea slug, Elysia chlorotica, grazes on Vaucheria and this slug is capable of maintaining the kleptoplasts functional for almost a year. While the crown jewel, the slug itself, has yet eluded me, the alga Vaucheria litorea by itself provides an ample playground of discovery to mess around in.
Perhaps one day we will be able to mimic the slugs in stealing and maintaining chloroplasts and other cell organelles (an ongoing project...), but today is not that day. For that day to come, there is still plenty of grunt work to be done in the lab.
If you are interested in finding out more or partaking in the research, don't be afraid to drop me an email.