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Postdoc researcher Katrina Räty and Senior Researcher Sarka Lehtonen.

YUFE Postdoctoral Programme’s appeal lies in career mentoring and collaboration possibilities

Canadian-born researcher Katrina Räty found herself in Finland again – this time as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Eastern Finland.

Katrina Räty, PhD, originally from Canada, returned to Finland to continue her career as a researcher, now with a grant from the YUFE Postdoctoral Programme. It happened by coincidence, as she learned about the YUFE postdoc position from a PhD student whom she is co-supervising. The criteria for the position were clear and straightforward, and she also got detailed feedback on the scientific part of her application from external reviewers.

“The position looked appealing since it had the aspect of collaboration and the career mentor. I think a mentor for a postdoc just related to their career is something missing in most places,” Räty says.

Räty wrote her Bachelor’s thesis in neuroscience at Carleton University, Ottawa. In 2011, she came to Finland, Helsinki, to do her Master’s degree studies in the MNEURO programme at the University of Helsinki. For doctoral research, she switched the topic to Parkinson’s disease and started to study a particular protein of interest in the disease, alpha-synuclein.

“I defended my PhD in 2019 and went on to do my first postdoc at the University of Cambridge in Maria Grazia Spillantini’s lab. She showed that alpha-synuclein is the main component of Lewy bodies, the aggregates found in Parkinson’s patients. This was a great place to really learn about alpha-synuclein. Afterwards I wanted to return to Finland and continue my research there. When I was trying to come up with ideas of a project to apply grants for, I thought of Šárka Lehtonen at the University of Eastern Finland, who was a reviewer of my PhD thesis. I knew she was doing excellent and interesting work with stem cells, so I suggested to combine this with my alpha-synuclein experience,”  Räty says.

YUFE collaboration enhances scientific renewal and openness

Katrina Räty applied for and received a contract with the YUFE Postdoctoral Programme. Currently, she is doing her postdoc research project as a member of the Human Brain Disease Modelling research group led by Sigrid Juselius Research Fellow Šárka Lehtonen.

Katrina Räty finds cooperation between UEF and the other YUFE universities a great way to enhance research collaboration. The experience of collaboration has been very positive, especially with the University of Antwerp.

“In the process, we also found other connections between UEF and the University of Antwerp, so we are creating a network of similar research interests. I think this will enhance scientific renewal and openness. Since the plan is for me to go to the University of Antwerp, then this will be a good connecting line between the two,” says Räty.

“A postdoc position will help move our research forward”

Katrina Räty’s mentor, Sigrid Juselius Research Fellow Šárka Lehtonen, is leading the Human Brain Disease Modelling research group at the A.I. Virtanen Institute for Molecular Sciences at UEF.

“Our main goal is to develop human-based models of disease, where we use mainly human-derived cells in the lab. Katrina’s project relates to the translational aspect of these cells in human disease. Therefore, receiving the postdoc position will help move this part of our research forward,” says Lehtonen.

Lehtonen hopes that Räty can visit the University of Antwerp and the collaborator’s lab to gain expertise on the methodology they have been using in a similar context.

“I expect that we will have an extensive collaboration with our partner there that benefits both of our groups and universities and based on others at UEF and Antwerp, that we could expand this to include their groups as well,” says Lehtonen.

For Lehtonen, the YUFE alliance seems a good way for young scientists to expand their network.

“I hope this will increase the internationality and exchange of people and ideas between UEF and other partner universities.”

For further information about the YUFE Postdoctoral Programme, please contact: