Eyes on epithelia
The principal focus of Soile Nymark´s research is on stem-cell derived retinal pigment epithelial cells. They hold great promise for treating eye diseases.
Postdoctoral Researcher Soile Nymark’s research interests focus on the functions of the retina and retinal pigment epithelial cells. As a scientist, she is driven by the sheer joy of discovery and the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of medicine.
What was your dream job as a child?
What led you to study engineering?
Mathematics and physics were always my favourite subjects at school. As a high school student I decided that I wanted to pursue a career that involved both. I became acquainted with the work of medical physicists while my mother was undergoing treatment for cancer, and I originally set out to specialize in medical physics at Helsinki University of Technology. But I gave up my youthful dream as my interests shifted towards other research areas.
You completed a doctorate at Helsinki University of Technology in 2009. What was the topic of your dissertation?
My dissertation explored the light adaptation and signalling mechanisms of retinal rods and cones. I conducted my dissertation research under the supervision of Professor Ari Koskelainen.
Who? Soile Nymark, 37 years
- Born in Oulu, Finland.
- Received her doctoral degree from Helsinki University of Technology (currently Aalto University) in 2009.
- Her dissertation was titled “Phototransduction in Retinal Rods and Cones: Effects of Temperature and Background Light, and an Application for Testing Drug Delivery”.
- Member of the Computational Biophysics and Imaging Group (CBIG) led by Professor Jari Hyttinen in the Department of Electronics and Communications Engineering at TUT.
- Has previously worked at Helsinki University of Technology and Boston University School of Medicine, USA.
- Hobbies: playing the viola in Tampere Academic Symphony Orchestra (TASO), exercise and jogging, cross-country skiing, reading, crocheting.
- Family: husband and three children.
How has your career progressed since you graduated with a doctorate?
After my graduation I spent two years at Boston University School of Medicine. I came back to Finland in autumn 2011, when I got the chance to join the Computational Biophysics and Imaging Group (CBIG) headed by Professor Jari Hyttinen and continue my research on eyes and eye diseases in Tampere. Since autumn 2012, I’ve occupied a position in Hyttinen’s group as a postdoctoral researcher funded by the Academy of Finland.
What is your current research project?
I’m using electrophysiological and imaging techniques to study the functions of the retina and the retinal pigment epithelium, which keeps the retina alive. The aim is to gain a better understanding of eye diseases and accelerate the development of new treatments. Research is carried out in close collaboration between the groups led by Jari Hyttinen at TUT and Adjunct Professor Heli Skottman at the University of Tampere.
How would you describe your average day at work?
On a typical day I’m at the lab measuring currents through various ion channels from single cells using patch clamp technique. In healthy cells, ion channels function in certain ways and are located in specific areas. We use, for example, confocal microscopy to determine the exact location of the ion channels under laboratory conditions. My work in the lab also involves the maintenance of the cells and cells lines that I’m investigating.
At the moment, the principal focus of my research is on stem-cell derived retinal pigment epithelial cells. They hold great promise for treating eye diseases. Besides lab work, I use various methods to analyse the measured data, write papers and funding proposals, teach, supervise doctoral students and attend international scientific conferences.
What drives you as a scientist?
My motivation comes from the joy of discovery and from the knowledge that challenging measurements carried out in collaboration with my Finnish and international colleagues have the potential to yield new data on biological systems and reshape the landscape of medical research.
You spent your post-doc conducting research in Boston. How would you rate the experience of working abroad?
I worked at Boston University School of Medicine from 2009 to 2011. That was a very important period in my life. I saw first-hand that there’s a wide variety of possible methods and practices for performing research. I learned to apply new measurement technologies and got to work in a city that is a world-renowned academic hub. Still, the most valuable thing that came out of the experience is my extensive network of professional contacts. I now have collaborators among the foremost authorities and research groups in my field throughout the United States.
What do you consider your most significant achievements?
Naturally, I don’t have a string of scientific breakthroughs under my belt quite this early on in my research career. One of my greatest accomplishments to date is working in Boston and building a broad network of contacts, which is a gift that keeps on giving. I also count my postdoctoral research fellowship granted by the Academy of Finland among my major achievements. As for my personal life, I’m extremely grateful that I’ve managed to have both a family and an interesting and stimulating job.
What are you hoping to achieve in your career? How do you want to change the world?
Right now I’m busy seeking funding for my own research group. Somewhere along the line I hope to secure a position leading to a professorship. My ultimate goal is to contribute to the development of new treatments for currently incurable eye diseases.
How would you describe TUT as a scientific community?
I joined TUT relatively recently, but I’ve been delighted to see that my colleagues here are actively pursuing joint research projects and are positively disposed towards collaboration.