Introducing CoEBoC group leaders - Minna Kellomäki explores new frontiers in biomaterials research

Minna Kellomäki is a Director of CoEBoC and Principal Investigator of the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Group (BMTE) with a sharp focus on developing hydrogels for body-on-chip research. Alongside her extensive knowledge in biomaterials and tissue engineering, Kellomäki is also recognized for her skills in innovation management and education.

Authors: Anastasiia Yiannacou, Oskari Kulta, Miina Björninen
Photo: Jonne Renval

From polymer-ceramic composites to hydrogels 

During her Ph.D. at the Tampere University of Technology, Minna Kellomäki spent a year at the Queen Mary University of London, where she expanded her expertise in the field of biomaterials. Shortly after defending her Ph.D. in 2002, she started as the leader of BMTE.

“The group was kind of inherited from my supervisor, Professor Pertti Törmälä, who soon after my promotion stepped down from academia to develop his own company”, Kellomäki mentioned.

“Initially, the group’s scientific research centered around polymer-ceramic and self-reinforced composites, which throughout the years has transitioned to focus on different types of hydrogels”, Kellomäki explains.

”I am happy that many of my past MSc and Ph.D. students have an active career in a variety of biomaterial companies and organizations”, Kellomäki says.

Now as part of CoEBoC, the BMTE hydrogels play an important role in supporting the 3D cell culture environment in micro-sized chambers. Chambers are the “heart” of the body-on-chip systems, the place in which human-like tissues and organs are developed for research.

Dedicated researchers exploring new biomaterials  

Currently, BMTE has several talented researchers actively engaged in the development of biomaterials, particularly hydrogel properties, and characterization. Some of the group’s researchers are also affiliated with the commercial sector for example via Brinter Oy, a Finnish biotechnology company focused on 3D bioprinting solutions. In addition to hydrogel research, the aim within CoEBoC for the future is to create single-component and multi-component systems for monitoring and controlling oxygen in body-on-chip systems.

Both smiling after a hilarious performance in an HTM (heelwork to music) competition, Minna Kellomäki and her bearded collie Solmu (pedigree name Jakailu Opal). Their speedy routine to Kikka’s “Moottoripyörä on moottoripyörä” gave them an award for the next upper class and left the judges and audience in good mood for the rest of the day!

Essential skills toward a productive work schedule 

Kellomäki is currently serving as the Director of CoEBoC and group leader and has previously served as the Head of BioMediTech, and Dean of the Faculty. The responsibilities as the lead have developed her skills to manage numerous obligations simultaneously.

Fast reading is one of the skills which you can develop to save some time during a hectic schedule. “Probably, I have been quite a fast reader, so I do not have to spend much time reading e-mails to see a general idea”, Kellomäki says.

Kellomäki thinks that delegating effectively is a critical skill that requires understanding other personalities.  The ability to balance tasks depends on personality, early-career scientists prefer to focus on one task at a time while others are able to focus on multiple unfinished tasks at once.

“No one is ready with all the skills which are needed, we can always work on new skills and figure out what we need to improve”, Kellomäki states.

Stress relief through hobbies and animal interaction 

Kellomäki likes to stay active also during her free time. After 25 years of folk dancing, Kellomäki switched to horseback riding, already years ago. Also, she enjoys long-distance running and training dog dancing with her dogs.

“Animals can shift our focus away from work-related thoughts. Horses can sense when you are not paying attention, and then they can mentally disappear (sometimes even physically) and you might find yourself on the ground”, Kellomäki laughs.


Both BMTE and Kellomäki are active at Twitter. Follow @Kellomaki_Group and @minna_kellomaki to get the latest updates.