The Aalto-Helsinki 2020 is a multidisciplinary team of 10 people with a shared ambition to conduct a unique synthetic biology research project. With expertise in various fields, such as: biosystems and biomaterials engineering, microbiology, bioinformatics, molecular biosciences, chemistry, biotechnology, chemical engineering and physics, our team has the capability to conduct an exceptional research project that requires multidisciplinary skills, ambition, and innovation. Thus, Aalto-Helsinki is an extremely diverse team that truly represents the spirit of Aalto University and University of Helsinki by bringing the various fields of study together for higher value creation.

Our main advisor is Heli Viskari, Aalto University lecturer, Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems. Our advising team also includes Minna Poranen, Principal Investigator at the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, and Markus Linder, Aalto University professor of Biomolecular Sciences.

Our aim is to design and prototype a synthetic biology project and participate in the world’s largest synthetic biology competition, iGEM, in November 2020 to showcase our project among other top universities in the world.

The best way to follow our journey is through our blog and Instagram.


Tytti Jämsä

Aalto University

Team Leader. Student of the Biotechnology MSc program at Aalto University. BSc degree in Biotechnology and Chemical Technology from the same university. Her favourite things in life are enjoying tea, playing the guitar and spending time in nature.


Carla Coll Costa

University of Helsinki

Team Vice-Leader. Student of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology MSc program at the University of Helsinki. BSc degree in Genetics from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), Spain. Her main interests are Evolutionary Biology and Population Genetics. In her free time, she loves going bouldering and hiking, preferably in the mountains. She is extroverted, curious and outgoing.


Daria Pająk

University of Helsinki

Student of the Genetics and Molecular Biosciences MSc program at the University of Helsinki. BSc degree in Biotechnology from the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland. She has an interest in medical biotechnology, oncology and immunology.


Emilia Barannik

Aalto University

Emilia has a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology from Tampere University. Now she is continuing her MSc (Tech) studies at Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering, major in Biotechnology. In her free time she works out at the gym and loves to cook.


Gustav Åberg

Aalto University

Student of the major in Biosystems and Biomaterial Engineering from the Life Science Technology MSc program at Aalto University. BSc degree in Biotechnology and Chemical Technology from the same university. Recently he has acquired heaps of indoor plants, and is currently struggling to find any vacant sunny windowsill space.


Natalia Lindholm

Aalto University

Student of the major in Biosystems and Biomaterial Engineering from the Life Science Technology MSc program at Aalto University. BSc degree in Biotechnology and Chemical Technology from the same university. When she is not passionately studying life sciences or being fascinated by nature, she keeps herself active with group gymnastics, friends and family.


Amanda Sandelin

University of Helsinki

Amanda is studying at the Bachelor’s programme in Science in the chemistry study track at the University of Helsinki. She is interested in biochemistry and applied to the Aalto-Helsinki team to get the opportunity to take theory to practice. In her free time she enjoys cooking, baking and crocheting.


Artur Gynter

Aalto University

Student of the Bioinformation Technology BSc program at Aalto University. He is interested in machine learning and computational biology. In his free time he enjoys programming, playing video games and going to the gym.


Julia Manninen

University of Helsinki

Student of the Molecular Bioscences BSc program at the University of Helsinki. In her free time she likes to read books, listen to music and play D&D.


Maria Rajakenttä

University of Helsinki

Maria is currently wrapping up her bachelors degree in Theoretical Physics at the University of Helsinki. In the fall, she will start her studies in the Master’s Programme in Life Science Technologies at Aalto University, probably majoring in neuroscience. Her hobbies include ballet, boardgames and walks in forest.



International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) is an international synthetic biology competition originating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, USA. The iGEM competition challenges students to design and implement a project within a short time frame using innovation, design, experimental work, modelling applications.

The broader purpose of our project is to promote and increase the understanding of synthetic biology in Finland and around the world. Synthetic biology is a field of science and technology that combines biology with engineering principles. The basic principle is to design new genes, genetic devices, metabolic routes and entire organisms to create novel products and production pathways. Standardization is also a key component of this process, which is why one goal of the iGEM competition is to maintain the "BioBrick part registry" - a library of standardized genetic parts.

Synthetic biology has the potential to provide valuable solutions to many of today's problems. However, media and the general public still sometimes see genetically modified organisms rather as a threat than an opportunity. We work responsibly and take safety and ethics carefully into account in our project design and laboratory work. We conduct research that is safe for us and the environment.

Our Project

In recent years there have been a growing concern about presence of pharmaceuticals in water. These compounds are problematic due to their persistence and the fact that they remain biologically active. Even in relatively low doses they may have a negative impact on environment and human health. In addition to that the consequences of interactions of many different pharmaceuticals are unknown and may have a synergistic negative effect.

A particularly problematic example are macrolide antibiotics, which in addition to above mentioned issues, also carry another risk: development of antibiotic microbial resistance. EU has determined macrolides to be of high priority to monitor and to determine efficient ways of their degradation, which will most likely lead to new legislation in the nearest future. This will create a need for a cost and energy-efficient ways to quantify their concentrations in treated water.

However, these substances are present in rather low concentrations, which makes their monitoring challenging. Current methods, which include mass spectrometry are quite expensive and required trained personnel. In order to solve that issue, we aim to create an onsite macrolide biosensor for use, among others, in wastewater treatment plants, which will be an intuitive, easy to use, cheap and energy-conscious alternative to the currently available tests. To learn more about the progress of our project visit our wiki.


We are an independent, student-driven team of passionate students, who have a strong will to create new synthetic biology solutions. However, we could not do this without the support of our partners. If you or your organization would like to support us in any way, contact us at team (at) All of our supporters will be mentioned on this page, as well as in our presentations and posters. Additional benefits, such as social media visibility can be negotiated.


We are a student-driven team that will participate in a synthetic biology competition: International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM).

We believe that science has great potential, if practiced responsibly and safely. We are happy to discuss our project, synthetic biology, the competition or science in general. You are welcome to reach us on Instagram or Facebook.

We also intend to organize workshops and present at events, as long as current situation allows it. Regardless of that, we plan to create an educational app exploring the field of synthetic biology.

If you would like to interview us or write about us in the media, feel free to contact us through our team email We are more than happy to help.

Warm thanks to all who have contributed to our iGEM journey! This project would not be possible without them.