How was summer work in CoEBoC? Summer interns talk about their experience

CoEBoC laboratories were buzzing during the past summer even though most of the full-time researchers were enjoying the earned summer holidays. CoEBoC summer interns made sure that dust didn’t have time to land on the surfaces. Besides working on the research projects, the interns were integrated as full members of CoEBoC by taking part in seminars, group meetings and even conferences abroad.

Interns Harini Wickramaarachchige, Päivi Harju, Liina Koivisto and Sofya Kovalevskaya talk about their summer work experiences.

Text: Anastasiia Yiannacou, Promise Emeh, Oskari Kulta, Siiri Suominen, Miina Björninen
Photos: Amith Karunarathna, Anastasiia Yiannacou, Miina Björninen

Harini Wickramaarachchige (Adult Stem Cell Group)

Harini Wickramaarachchige got her summer internship through her Master’s thesis work. Photo: Amith Karunarathna

What are you working on?

Developing a vascular model with BMSCs from multiple myeloma and acute myeloid leukemia patient cell lines under the supervision of Arjen Gebraad. The aim is to see if the diseases affect the supportive function of the BMSCs to the vasculature structures.

Tell us about your background.

I’m from Sri Lanka and I had my BSc studies there in Biomedical science. I had some courses on animal models, in vitro models and tissue models which sparked my interest in this field.

How did you get here?

Finland is beautiful and popular amongst people in my home country. I wanted to see the happiest country in the world and that led to my master’s program here at Tampere University.

In my in vitro model course, I found the bone related research interesting and so approached Arjen about a thesis project. I got the thesis position and through that got a summer job at CoEBoC.

What are the highlights of your summer?

What stood out to me most in my work here was the technology that we have available to us. For example, back at home, we used small pasteur pipettes to aspirate media, here I got to use the suction – quite small thing but was still a shock. Many more shocks followed as I spent time in the different labs.

Outside of the lab, I was able to visit some nice places in Tampere like Rauhaniemi, Pyynikki tower and Näsinneula tower. I wish I had gone berry picking as well.

What are your future plans?

Resuming my thesis work! I have picked up so many skills from my work here so far, and I hope to be much more skillful at the end of my thesis work.

I am interested in Academia: research and teaching. So, I am looking for PhD positions here in Finland as going to my home country wouldn’t be a good option for me.

Advice for newcomers?

Don’t be afraid to apply for the position, apply and be confident that you can do it. Be friendly and talk to people, have a fun time. Don’t be afraid to ask when in doubt, here you get good guidance from supervisors and members of the group.


Päivi Harju (Neuro Group and Adult Stem Cell Group)

Päivi Harju does immunostaining for her samples to study them under fluorescent microscope. She has cultured human adipose derived stem cells and neurons together in hydrogels. Photo: Miina Björninen

What are you working on?
I have been coculturing neurons and human adipose derived stem cells in hydrogels on microfluidic chips and done cell characterization through immunocytochemical stainings.

Tell us about your background.
I’m a Cell Technology student doing my Master’s studies. I am already a Master of Science (Tech.). I graduated in 2011, and have since been doing programming in various fields in the industry. I applied to study Cell technology in 2020 at Tampere University and have been studying here since. In addition to working at CoEBoC for the summer, I also work part-time in the preclinical department with rats and mice.

How did you end up at CoEBoC?
I applied for the summer job position posted by CoEBoC. I was very thrilled to be accepted.

Why Finland and CoEBoC?
Finland because of convenience (close) and CoEBoC because of interesting job opportunities that are relevant to my field of study. Big plusses were internationality and how many different groups inside the university are working together.

What has been the highlight of your summer job?
Working with talented people and overall getting more experience on stem cells and mammalian cell culture. Positive surprises during the summer work have been to discover that human adult stem cells can be cultured and differentiated towards adipocytes inside hydrogels without preconditioning as well as maintained and cultured long-term. I also have to thank amazing supervisors, Miia Juntunen and Lotta Isosaari for guidance and Susanna Narkilahti and Susanna Miettinen for the interesting project I have been working on.

What are your future plans?
Future plans include a Master’s (Pro gradu) thesis and graduation. Possibly also starting doctoral studies after that depending on the possibilities. I would also like to continue programming in some form in the future.

Advice for newcomers?
Be curious and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. And of course, have fun!


Liina Koivisto (Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Group)

Among several projects, Liina Koivisto did 3D printing in the summer. She heads next to France for a student exchange. Photo: Anastasiia Yiannacou.

What were you working on?

My name is Liina Koivisto, summer intern of CoEBoC May-August 2022, during my internship I was involved in five projects: Translation of the upcoming course from Finnish to English, literature survey on conducting polymers, preparation of hydrogels and conducting rheological measurements and examining the printability window of Nivea cream and poloxamer by 3D printing it.  I also helped another summer worker Lotta Kääriäinen with planning cell culture experiments. My supervisors were Maiju Juusela and Hatai Jongprasitkul.

Tell us about your background.

Biomaterials and tissue engineering, biomedical devices and systems.

How did you end up here?

I learned about this group and possibility of getting a  summer internship from a friend beforehand. I decided to apply because I was interested in the research experience with laboratory practice.

Why CoEBoC and Finland?

I learned about CoEBoC while studying at Tampere University. It has been clear to me that research consortium of CoEBoC is one of the most popular research organization in the field of biomedical engineering. I was honored to be accepted as an intern there, and being able to learn and assist not only Finnish, but international researchers also. In addition, I developed skills on a variety of new scientific methods.

What has been the highlight of your summer job?

Seeding cells into biomaterials and assess its viability for the first time.

What are your future plans?

First, I will finish my bachelor studies in  August and then I will have one year exchange in France at “INSA” Institut National des Sciences Appliquées / National Institute of Applied Sciences, Lyon, France, at the Department of material science as a Master’s student.

Advice for newcomers

Expressing what would you like to learn more and be open for new knowledge because you never know what you are good for, until you try it.

Sofya Kovalevskaya (Heart Group)

What are you working on?

Sofya Kovalevskaya studies the effect of alcohol on liver-like cells that have been created using induced pluripotent stem cell technology. Photo: Fatma Zakzook.

I’m working in “the liver subgroup” of the Heart group under the supervision of Leena Viiri. My main goal is to differentiate human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) into hepatocyte-like (liver) cells, expose them to alcohol, and assess any differences in the mitochondria of the cells.

Tell us about your background.

I’m currently majoring in Biomedical Engineering at Tampere University. I have a bachelor’s degree in Energy and Environmental Engineering from Tampere University of Applied Sciences. I also completed a 5-month traineeship at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Professor Johansen’s group, where I participated in ischemia-related experiments.

How did you end up here?

I came to Finland in 2012 – my sister was already studying in Rovaniemi and told me that Finland is AMAZING. It’s also very close to Russia [home country], so I decided to move here to study. I was applying to different places to get a place to carry out my master’s thesis – I got a positive reply from the Heart Group, and that is how I ended up working in CoEBoC.

What has been the highlight of your summer job?

One of my biggest personal achievements was definitely learning how to use the confocal microscope. I also continued my projects and lab work independently after good instructions from my supervisor and colleagues, which made me believe in myself more as a researcher.

What are your future plans?

Finishing my master’s thesis is the first step! After that, I could see myself continuing for PhD, maybe, or to a pharmaceutical company.

Advice for newcomers

Don’t be shy to ask for help from others! Communication is the key, so I encourage starting networking right away.