Aalto-Helsinki Team



The Aalto-Helsinki 2021 is an international team of 10 people with a shared ambition to conduct a unique synthetic biology research project. With expertise in various fields of biosciences and technology, 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 advising team consists of Pricipal Investigators Heli Viskari, Aalto University lecturer, Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems, and Markus Linder, Aalto University professor of Biomolecular Sciences. Additionally, we have supporting project advisors Dr. Ville Paavilainen, Institute of Biotechnology, and Sesilja Aranko, staff scientist at the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems, Aalto University.

Our aim is to design and prototype a synthetic biology project and participate in the world’s largest synthetic biology competition, iGEM, in November 2021 to showcase our project among other top universities in the world. The best way to follow our journey is through our blog and Instagram.

Our Project

The microbiota-gut-brain axis, a bidirectional communication pathway between enteric microbiota and the central nervous system, is a growing area of interest for researchers globally. Recent studies support the connection between the quality of diet, gut microbiota, and mental health through the regulation of metabolic functions (Mörkl et al., 2018). The large-scale study of gut metabolites could aid in diagnosing diseases, monitoring therapeutic efficacy and disease progression, and defining therapeutic targets (Humer et al., 2020). Despite great advancements in this field, a more comprehensive analysis of the interactions is necessary (Cani, 2018).

Our goal is to create a more advanced research tool - a localized, ingestible biosensor - that does not only enable real-time intra-intestinal metabolite measurements but also serves as a patient-friendly method of personalized risk-assessment. Prior studies suggest that there may be a connection between metabolites and mental health conditions, and we hope that our biosensor would enable researchers to better explore these preliminary associations. We aim to develop our biosensor to measure metabolites associated with mental health conditions, but we expect that the design can be further modified to provide a meta-analysis of metabolic cycles in a variety of enteric-related health issues, thus providing clinicians and scientists with a greater knowledge about gut microbiome associations.

We want to thank all our sponsors and partners who made our journey in the iGEM Competition possible. To learn more about our project, please visit our Team Wiki.


Sally Chesnut

Team leader, Wet lab

Student of Microbiology and Microbial Biotechnology MSc program at the University of Helsinki. Global Disease Biology BSc program at the University of California, Davis.


Emma Ryhänen

Team Vice-leader, Dry lab

Team vice-leader. Student of Environmental and Energy engineering BSc program at Aalto University and Biology BSc program at University of Helsinki.


Anni Lindfors

Wet lab

Student of Genetics and Molecular Biosciences MSc program at University of Helsinki. Molecular Biosciences BSc at the University of Helsinki.


Anniina Savolainen

Dry lab

Student of Biosystems and Biomaterials MSc program and Bioinformation Technology BSc program with Bioproducts minor at Aalto University.


Enrique de Dios Mateos

Wet lab

Student of Microbiology and Microbial biotechnology MSc program at University of Helsinki. Biotechnology BSc program at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.


Iiris Pitko

Dry lab

Student of Molecular Biosciences BSc program at University of Helsinki, minoring in computer science.


Joanna Jagdeo

Wet lab

Student of the Translational Medicine MSc program at the University of Helsinki. Human Biology BSc program with Immunology and Physiology minors at the University of Toronto.


Rupesh Balaji Jayachandran

Wet lab

Student of the Genetics and Molecular Biosciences MSc program at the University of Helsinki. Biotechnology BTech program at Anna University, Chennai.


Sofie de Sena

Dry lab

Student of Neuroscience MSc program at the University of Helsinki. Psychology BSc program and Statistics minor at Victoria University of Wellington.


Vilma Jäämuru

Dry lab

Student of Biotechnology MSc program at Aalto University. Chemical Engineering B. Ch. E. and Biochemistry and Chemistry minor at University of Minnesota, Twin-Cities.





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 and 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.


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@aaltohelsinki.com. 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.

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