Introducing CoEBoC group leaders - Susanna Miettinen’s unorthodox path to leadership

Susanna Miettinen leads the Adult Stem Cell research group. The group focuses on researching various tissue models such as vasculature, bone, and muscle tissues, as well as clinical applications in bone and pelvic floor defects. Under her calm demeanor is a vigorous worker who also gives a great value for her free time.

Authors: Johanna Laakkonen, Promise Emeh, Miina Björninen
Photo: Miina Björninen

Far from straightforward

Susanna Miettinen’s interest in nature and animals attracted her to study biology at the University of Turku. Although her focus sh

Miettinen enjoys spending time in the calm forest, which helps to balance the hectic work schedule. In addition to relaxation, nature often provides delicious treasures to those who know where to look for.

ifted from animal ecology to cell biology, her studies nevertheless provided her with a solid foundation in cell and molecular biology and genetics.

Miettinen completed her Ph.D. studies on ovarian cancer in 2009 at the Department of Medicine in Tampere. In parallel to her PhD studies, while the funding for the Ph.D. project had some uncertainty, she started working on the TEKES project led by her supervisor Timo Ylikomi, who introduced her to fat stem cells. In the newly founded Regea in 2005, the topic was studied further, also attracting several other scientists. Eventually, her group was formed almost by itself – well before her own dissertation.

Murders and yarn addiction

When you have a demanding job, it is important to disconnect. For Miettinen, things such as mushroom picking in the forest and reading murder mysteries help with that. Also, knitting, which was her least favorite activity during comprehensive school, got Miettinen hooked during covid-19 years. Now she has several sweaters and other yarn work to prove that. “During a busy working period, I can’t even look at knitting instructions, as I might fully sink in the world of yarn”, she laughs.

Unique and passionate people

The research projects of the Adult Stem Cell group are very different from each other. The researchers in the group are also all unique. “Good guys! Everyone is different, everyone has their own strengths and areas of expertise”, Miettinen describes. However, Miettinen believes that their shared passion for research is what unites them. She wants to fuel this passion and see it bearing fruit.

You can choose the road less traveled

Miettinen’s initial struggle with research funding is a good example of how one’s plans going south might be a blessing in disguise. “Sometimes research really feels like banging your head against the brick wall. You’ve just got to get over the hard times. It takes a lot of sisu [Finnish word for word stoic determination]”. Miettinen’s sisu and the courage to seize new opportunities has led her on an interesting and exciting path.


Find more about Miettinen’s research group, here.