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Eija Jokitalo (University of Helsinki)

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About this episode

#45 — Eija Jokitalo is the Director of the Electron Microscopy Unit at the University of Helsinki whose work focuses on understanding organelle structure during cell division. We chat about why she believes imaging is key to solving biological problems, alternative career pathways inside a core facility and her outreach work in schools.

We also hear about how she juggled a career in science with parenthood, the joy of model organisms and why she thinks bigger may not always be better in science!

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This is an automated transcript and may not be 100% accurate.

Intro/Outro (00:00:01):
Welcome to The Microscopists, a Bitesize Bio podcast hosted by Peter O’Toole, sponsored by Zeiss Microscopy. Today on The Microscopists.

Peter O’Toole (00:00:14):
Today on The Microscopists I’m meeting with Eija Jokitalo, Principal Investigator, and the Director of Electron Microscopy unit at the University of Helsinki. And we’ll hear about her passion for imaging.

Eija Jokitalo (00:00:26):
I remember falling in love with, with microscopy in my very early studies in, in higher chemistry work,

Peter O’Toole (00:00:36):
Her outreach were helping to inspire the next generation of microscopists in school.

Eija Jokitalo (00:00:42):
I have been a couple of times teacher in, in this high school course, which is combining arts and science, and

Peter O’Toole (00:00:52):
We discuss her work imaging organelle partitioning during cell division,

Eija Jokitalo (00:00:56):
Kind of first own projects in Helsinki about how, how ER, partitions during, during our mitosis

Peter O’Toole (00:01:08):
And the importance of alternative career paths in core facilities,

Eija Jokitalo (00:01:13):
The scientific careers are very different and, and they need to be evaluated differently because if you are really good in your job as a researcher in core facility, you don’t have these first or last or for papers

Peter O’Toole (00:01:32):
All in this episode of The Microscopists. Hi, welcome to this episode of The Microscopists. Today. I’m joined by Eija Jokitalo. I’ve said that that wrong. Haven’t I Eija

Eija Jokitalo (00:01:49):
No, it, it was fine.

Peter O’Toole (00:01:51):
Ah, anyway, from the University of Helsinki working in the Institute of, Bio technology, a good old hardcore technologist. And if you’re watching on YouTube, you’ll also see that Eija got a brilliant electron microscope image in the background, which is the more you, you look at it, the more you see is absolutely brilliant. A thank you for joining me today.

Eija Jokitalo (00:02:13):
Hi, nice to be here.

Peter O’Toole (00:02:15):
I, I, I think, I dunno how many years we’ve known each other from various meetings mm-hmm , but probably most noticeable from the Advanced Imaging Courses at the VIB, I think is probably where, I got to know you best from all of those and teaching gone with Chris Geurin’s, Saskia Lippens and their teams and Sebastian Munck over there. But yeah, I’m, I’m there primarily talking about light microscopic, light microscopes, light microscopy, and you are there talking about electron mm-hmm microscopy in an advanced, light microscopy course. So where did your passion for electron microscopy come from?

Eija Jokitalo (00:03:00):
It started as a passion for imaging. So it, yeah, like my, I remember falling in love with, with microscopy in my very early studies in, in biochemistry where I did, you know, very simple immuno flourescence imaging. And, and then during my PhD, I decided that I want to become an electron microscopist. So I was thinking of my kind of future post position or place based on where I could kind of combine cell biology and, and start doing electron microscopy. And already, when I, I left to do my postdoc, my kind of plan was to come back to Finland to, to to start electro microscopy to land in electron microscopy. And that’s what I did.

Peter O’Toole (00:04:04):
And, and big time, obviously you you’re very well known now in the, in the world for your electron microscopy. I’m gonna take you back though. You said that you got interested at an early age doing your biochemistry. So I presume that was your, your undergraduate.

Eija Jokitalo (00:04:18):
Yes. Yes.

Peter O’Toole (00:04:19):
So where was your undergraduate degree?

Eija Jokitalo (00:04:21):
I, I have studied in University of Helsinki, so I, I started first first year was chemistry and then continued in, in the biochemistry. And so, so my master’s is in, in biochemistry. And, and then, then when I started doing my thesis, there is some additional courses that you take. And then, then that was when I kind of specialized in cell biology. So I haven’t really studied biology at all. and, and so I, I don’t know names of any plants or birds or anything . So I often get a little bit Kinda that, what kind of biologist you are, and , so I’m, I’m the one that kind of goes deep into the cellular level.

Peter O’Toole (00:05:24):
So how, how did you find that transition from chemistry to biochemistry to biology? How tough was that or was it easy, just a natural progression or actually, was it quite tough going?

Eija Jokitalo (00:05:35):
Well, no, it, it, for me, it has been really natural, but it was also influenced by, by strongly by one person Marja Makarow of my, my PhD supervisor. I, she gave some lectures about pro glyco and, and, and using yeast as a model system to study protein secretion. And, and I, I, I just felt that, you know, finally everything makes sense. And, and I, I went to Marja’s and told her that, you know, I want to do my thesis in your lab. And, and she said that, yeah, I, I don’t have any funding at the moment. and I said that, yeah, that’s, that’s a pity because I really don’t want to go anywhere else. And, and finally she said that, okay, let’s see how it, and, and the first year I had like, you know grants for always couple, you know, couple of months, but, but by the end of the first year Marja could kind of big research grant and actually then could kind of give me a co contract to the end of the PhD project. So I was in the end, you know, lucky , but I was, I, I, I, yeah, it, it was kind of the idea that at that time it made so much sense to use yeast as, as some model for self biology. It was so easy to, you know, delete genes and, and study the effects. And, and I, I think that that was the time when I was kind of guided the secretary pathway and, and I’m still there. So , you know, in the peak. So you see two of my favorite organs, ER, and culture. And I, I started studying protein folding in ER, during my PhD. And then I went to do my post-doc in Graham Warren lab in London. And there, I studied the partitioning of golgi during my doses. And, and then instead of going further on the PA secretary pathway, I actually ended up in the retro credit transport route and was transported back to the ER and I in Helsinki, when I started my own research team I kind of continued little bit in the same theme as in, in Graham’s lab. So studying organal partitioning during mitosis, but going back to the ER. So, so my kind of first own projects in Helsinki were about how, how ER, partitions during, during mitosis. And, and since that, it has been kind of first quite concentrated on ER, and lately now more on, on, in general kind of how the organal shape supports its functions.

Peter O’Toole (00:09:15):
So I, I, I’ve got two questions on the back of that. So I’m gonna ask the scientific one first, actually. So what’s your bigger passion, the advancement and utilization of electron microscopes or that that process going to ER, and mitosis?

Eija Jokitalo (00:09:36):
They are totally connected,

Peter O’Toole (00:09:40):
Very, very

Eija Jokitalo (00:09:42):
It’s I’m, I’m kind of my, as my own, the most kind of the biggest research topic I can kind of think of is the, organel, and structure, but I wouldn’t like to study that using any other tools. So, so imaging and, and visualization and seeing them is the key. So as, as a microscopist and as a, so I’m, I’m a head I’m lead a EM core facility. So we are of, you know, my, my facility, we have around hundred projects each, each year, and we also do a lot of collaboration projects. So through these collaborations, I’m, I’m studying kind of really wide range of, of model organisms, different kind of research questions. And this, this is really fascinating too, but, but always when there is a chance of, of making a detour to, to ER culture, I will take it.

Peter O’Toole (00:11:03):
I, I thought the one bit that was interesting there. Well, it was all interesting. The, the one bit, I think to pick up on those, you have a hundred, 100 projects going through using the microscopes. It’s a huge number of projects and the electron microscopes, the importance of different technologies, underpinning science. And I, I, I would imagine the range of scientific questions you are addressing using the electron microscope in those a hundred projects, one range from cancer research to newer biology, to the fundamentals of developmental biology. Microbiology probably encompass all those aspects. So , yeah, I guess some people go to science, wanting to do cancer research, cuz they’re very passionate for personal reasons about cancer or Alzheimer’s or whichever else, and you a position, as with many core facilities across the world, to actually be helping all of those type of studies. And without that expertise in electron microscopy, it couldn’t be done. How hard do you find it, balancing all those projects and getting, allowing them time, equitable time on the microscopes staff support time because some of these applications are quite difficult and they need expert hands and, and that all needs funding as well as the direct grant. How, how do you find balancing all of that? Mm-Hmm

Eija Jokitalo (00:12:25):
so in my core team, I have three technicians and two researchers and, and our, of these hundred projects, you, you know, bit over half of them is just providing service. So my technicians are providing service on sample preparation, making thin sections, and then we provide training for the users to use the microscopes. And actually the, the electro microscopes are much way easier to use than light microscopes so, so it, it, it, it doesn’t take that, we spend roughly five hours per person providing the training. And in that time they learn how to put the sample in focus, select the magnification take photos, which, which is kind of the, the basic things. They, they need to learn to be able to take the pictures. And then again, you know, they, they have to spend time in learning how to interpret the data and, and these, again, we provide in kind of support, but in these kind of service projects, we are not scientifically involved. So we just provide the support. And then on the collaboration projects, we are scientifically involved and, and they are the key is kind of communication. You, you know, we, we are good what we do. We know how to interpret the data and, you know, take the pictures and, and recommend, what kind of sample prep to use. But at the same time, we don’t know the, the research questions and, and we cannot be experts on, you know, every model organism. There are so, so, so the successful projects are where, where, you know, we really communicate well and, and the, the collaborator understands stay model and they research questions. And then we will, we bring the technology and then when we kind of operate together, we, we actually get the, the results.

Peter O’Toole (00:15:04):
And so you have three technicians, two research officers.

Eija Jokitalo (00:15:08):
Yes.

Peter O’Toole (00:15:09):
And these career parts are in the grand scheme of time are relatively new type of positions within universities. And it’s interesting to get an understanding of the type of person that wants that type of role people

Eija Jokitalo (00:15:26):
Going to that, you know, the success, why, why I’m kind of really happy at what I’m doing is that actually, you know, I have a great team. So two of my technicians have been EM technicians over 30 years. And, and the, the third technician actually is, is my former postdoc . So she has also a long kind of experience in, in, and, and then my researchers, Ilia and Helen, they all, both also have been in, in, in the unit over 10 years. So, so we have really developed things together and, and it’s very different from the time when I started, but you are correct. The, the infra personnel is kind of a, a new concept. And in Helsinki university, I am actually, I have been leading work working group who have been making a kind of carrier model for INFRA personnel. And we, it was beginning of February this year. We actually presented it to the, the high our Institute board. And, and now the University HR is kind of working based on this model and, and some of the key issues there are that, that we actually in core facilities the is especially the, the scientific careers are very different and, and they need to be evaluated differently because if you are really good in your top, as a researcher in core facility, you don’t have these first or last author papers, but you have actually a lot of these papers where you are in the middle, actually, then the way to, to evaluate how successful you are, is asking the questions that, that, what was your impact on this paper that without your work and without this EM part, you know, would this paper have been accepted at all, or, or, you know, how much it traced the, the level of the paper. So, so we have to even kind of formula different kind of criteria, how to evaluate the, the persons, you know, when thinking how, how they kind of progress in their career. And, and of course, this has been little bit the same for me. I I’m, I’m kind of evaluated as through my scientific achievements, and, and then sometimes it’s, it’s you know, not so clear that how much credit I can take from, from all these collaboration projects or, or should I, is, is my, my scientific profile, just, you know, the work that we do in my, my tiny group.

Peter O’Toole (00:18:59):
I, I think you are, I’m glad you mentioned this. I’m bring something up in a moment that I’m doing at work at the moment. I think the scientific profile is not just on your own scientific is on the facility, it’s on your impacts and expertise in the microscopy, which is academic in a way as well. And so I, I tend to go hand in hand, I, and I’m just looking at job descriptions at the moment, and for new staff coming in and there’s templates for technical staff, there’s templates for postdoctoral staff, but actually a lot of our staff, our technical staff, but, but they have that academic traits to them and they have to have that academic side to them as well. So they, they kind of sit In between these two groups, I would say they are more on the technical side. And I think we should say that we pride. I think that’s a, a really good role cause we are multitaskers, but the same time many of our staff are posts to hire mm-hmm , you know, they, they become a group’s post for that moment in time where they need that expertise. Yes. And how you evaluate that, even how you job put a job description for pay scales is very difficult. Mm-Hmm yes,

Eija Jokitalo (00:20:13):
This, this is we, we need to kind of create this third personal category. And, and this is actually what we proposed very clearly that, that we, we kind of made a list of top titles, but we also made a very kind of bold proposal that we really need to have, you know, a third personal category created. And, and that of course, you know, involves a of legal, technical things. It will take several years, but it’s, it’s kind of how in the future, you know, things should go in, in the, in the core facilities, you know, we don’t, we provide service, we maintain instruments, very expensive instruments, but we also do research and we develop things. So, so there is both the technical aspect and, and then the, the research aspect,

Peter O’Toole (00:21:21):
I, I I’d be interested to see that document at some point you say, I just playing with it at York at the moment. York has fantastic scales. They’re very on par par and it’s well rewarded, but I do think there’s, there’s an opportunity to, to look at if we can make it more clear promotional scales and so forth as well. Mm-Hmm now going back, you said you did your PhD in London,

Eija Jokitalo (00:21:44):
Sorry. Postdoc

Peter O’Toole (00:21:46):
Sorry postdoc in London. Yes. How did you find living in, in London compared to Helsinki?

Eija Jokitalo (00:21:51):
very, very different, but yeah, I, I was, I actually, when I came to London, I came, I came there with my seven years old daughter as single mother and I had to, and, and I, I had a au pair and it, you, you know, it wasn’t that easy, but the, the work itself was so interesting that, that I, I still think that those three years were kind of the, you know, the peak of my my, my time. I, I really we, we found in London a kind of corner in, in the kind of Northeast where, where there was kind of the Epping forest started. So it was little bit like, you know, similar what we have here. So every Sunday we could kind of go for walks on a forest and, and, and it wasn’t that crowded and kind of

Peter O’Toole (00:23:03):
You found so, so I was going one of the questions I was gonna ask you when, when was probably the most fun time of your career, but it sounds like that was probably your,

Eija Jokitalo (00:23:11):
That, that yes, there was, there was so much kind of you, you know, we were a big lab, we were 15 postdocs and everyone was fully committed to work. And, and we, we really worked hard, but also the, the, you know, we had a freedom to, to start the projects and, and, and see where they kind of take us. And, and of course the resources were, you know, we had our own transmission, electron microscope, just, you know, for the lab. So I was sharing that microscope with one technician and one student. So, so no heavy booking

Peter O’Toole (00:23:57):
Yeah. But now how many electron microscopes do you have?

Eija Jokitalo (00:24:00):
Okay. We have five.

Peter O’Toole (00:24:03):
Yeah. See, even just lots of users. Yeah.

Eija Jokitalo (00:24:06):
But not, you know, , there’s much more users and, and of course nowadays, you know, I, I, I, I don’t get to do, you know, the, the things I’m best , so I’m my, my, you know, nowadays I, I’m just kind of following from the back when my students are, or, you know, someone else is, is doing the fun things.

Peter O’Toole (00:24:37):
But, so how did you find that transition of moving from the, the driver to the backseat driver, to the part of the person back in the taxi rank, just the, what they should be doing and hearing where they needs to go next?

Eija Jokitalo (00:24:49):
Well, it happens structurally, so you, you, you know, you don’t notice it in a way. It it’s, it it’s kind of, I think it’s quite natural devolvement.

Peter O’Toole (00:25:02):
And do you, you enjoy the way it’s evolved.

Eija Jokitalo (00:25:06):
Yes. Because, and there, there has been other things that, that has come along. Of course. Yes. It’s, it’s stressful for, to make applications and reports all the time. But, but for example I think that one of the really best features in core facilities is kind of the networking. So in, in Finland we, we are small country and we don’t have that much resources. So, so I think that quite early on, you know, 2009, we formed this kind of [inaudible] Finland networks. And for example, in that all the, in, in, in all of the universities in Finland, the imaging units were kind of networked. And since that time we have jointly made our strategy that who specializes in what, and what kind of instruments we, we apply. And, and for example, in that strategy, we decided that, that, you know, we want to specialized on 3d EM, and, and then the others have supported us in the applications to get the microscopes for that. And, and then at the same time, I, I know that I don’t need to provide everything for our users, that there are some techniques where I can then just send my people my, our users that, you know, why don’t you contact? And, and this way, you know, we are not kind of competing with each other. We are competing against the other networks, platforms, but, but we have this strategy and, and, and it, it’s, it’s something that has come to replace kind of that. Yes, I’m not, I, I don’t have that to, to, you know, make experiments in the lab anymore, but it’s, it’s kind of a new type of thing, which, which I also enjoy a lot.

Peter O’Toole (00:27:34):
So have the mass spec community, the genomics community, have they got their acts together in such a good way as well? Or are they very much,

Eija Jokitalo (00:27:43):
Yes. We, we, in, in this Bio Finland network, we have 19 platforms.

Peter O’Toole (00:27:49):
Ah,

Eija Jokitalo (00:27:50):
So, so basically,

Peter O’Toole (00:27:52):
Cause that means you’re competing against them and they’ve got their act together as well. Otherwise you,

Eija Jokitalo (00:27:56):
Yes, yes, yes. But, but so, so the, in the, yes, but, but you, you always have, have that network support and, and everyone’s doing this kind of strategic, so it’s easier to compete as one out of 19 than, you know, alone with these 58 applications. And then it’s much more like, you know, on the, of the evaluators.

Peter O’Toole (00:28:29):
So thinking of networks, it’s not just the national network, international networks are equally important. So what’s your favorite meeting?

Eija Jokitalo (00:28:42):
You know, I’m, I’m, I have this dual thing in everything. So as a cell biologist, it’s the, ASCB, which I try, I, I haven’t, I, I, I don’t participate every year, but I, I try to go as often. So, so it’s, it’s great. I, I, I like the, the kind of the atmosphere and, and, and seeing people and, and also meeting all kind of ex postdoc friends and , you know, so, and, and then, then as a kind of microscopist you know, the SCANDEM meeting yeah. That’s that’s for social event things. Yeah. So

Peter O’Toole (00:29:42):
That’s based around Scandinavian groups.

Eija Jokitalo (00:29:44):
Yes. Yes. So that’s just, you know, meeting all the, all the vendors that represent kind of Nordic countries and then meeting all the colleagues. So that, that is most like, you know, the events that, that kind of happen outside of the, the [inaudible] and, and, and then, then then, then the, every second, or in a way in every fourth year is the International Electron Microscopy Society meetings. And, and, and then every fourth year is the European counterpart for it. So these, these big meetings, we, we have kind of really big instrument exhibitions and, and, and then, then everyone to tries to, to come. And of course, you know, the international meetings have provided me a way to travel to , you know, everywhere in the world. I have been in the first one I participated was in South Africa in , 2003. And then since then I have been in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, Japan in SAP, in Sydney last time it was in Sydney and then in Prague.

Peter O’Toole (00:31:19):
So where was this one

Eija Jokitalo (00:31:21):
That that’s in the [inaudible] meetings? So that’s, that’s a lunchbox and we were starting at this kind of lecture seminar. And I was kind of very, very proud of being able to use the topics with some noodles

Peter O’Toole (00:31:44):
And on your lapof as well, which is cool. So IMC and EMC. And of course, I, I guess you, I’m gonna tell you off now, the first thing you should have said was EMC is my favorite one, obviously Come over. Cause you, you are helping run one aren’t you coming up soon?

Eija Jokitalo (00:32:02):
Yes. So, so I’m, I’m organise in the, the organizing team for the next EMC meeting. It was scheduled to happen in August, 2020. And, and it was unfortunately canceled quite in the last minute we had already kind of abstract submissions going on and, and so on. And, and it was delayed for four years. So, so hopefully the, the next meeting will be in 2024 in Copenhagen. So SCANDEM Scandinavia and microscopic society is kind of the, the host organizer and, and I’m, I’m chairing the life science symposium. Yeah. So it’s, it’s a huge privilege, but it also, again, a great way of, of networking and, and really working, connecting with people all over the Europe and, and making plan.

Peter O’Toole (00:33:16):
Yeah. So I, I, I very much looking forward to it cause I, I was going to 2020 and I look forward, hopefully we’ll get to 20, 24 for it. I, I, I know obviously Klaus, Sandra, Julio, all part of that team that are helping yes. Assemble it as well. Now you sent me another picture, which is

Eija Jokitalo (00:33:40):
yes.

Peter O’Toole (00:33:41):
Which looks like a map of the world, but I’m not sure it is. What is it? Yes.

Eija Jokitalo (00:33:45):
It, it is , it is a picture made by a high school student. A and, and this picture is one it’s, it’s actually a framed picture on, on, on the wall of, of our unit and another kind of new or different kind of feature in my work is that I, I, I host visits for the high school students. So, so when they, they, they just come to, to, to see visit the university. And, you know, when, when they are kind of fi preparing themselves to the entrance exams for the university and, and it’s always kind of fun to, to see these students who get young every year , but, but in addition, I have been it started after one of these visits and, and, and then developed into actually a course. So I have been couple of times teacher in, in this high school course, which is combining arts and science. So, so it’s actually, it’s me and, and the school’s art teacher, a biology teacher and physics teacher, and, and the physics part of course, is kind of thinking how the microscopes operate and, and kind of going little bit in the physics behind the imaging. And then, then the biology is actually the, the, the teacher and the students. They bring different types of samples with one afternoon. In my lap, we prepare typically we, we, we, we prepare SCM samples and then, then we select from our collections, some sections, and then another afternoon the the students can use all of our microscopes. So, so they can take whatever kind of images they want. And, and then the third part is making art of it. So, so we provide little bit introduction. The, the, you know, the is imaging software kind of, and, and, and in, in this picture Avie has it’s it’s, it is kind of thin section emits of, of a culture cell. And then she has colored it to look like the, a map.

Peter O’Toole (00:36:39):
So you are letting high school children, usual microscopes, which cost how much money

Eija Jokitalo (00:36:46):
A lot. the, the, the, the one we got last summer was 9.6 960,000 Euro. So, so close to a million euros, the TMS, the standard TMS are not so expensive. You can get a really nice one and a camera with half a million, but of course we have someone there to watch . So, so we don’t trust. Yes. So, so the students actually one challenge with the students is to, to make them use, to remember that they will use the microscope camera, because what, what is quite often happens is that they have their cell phones and they take, they just from the monitors . And I try to them that, you know, I have, I I’m, I’m providing you access to these 200,000 euro camera. Why don’t you use it? instead,

Peter O’Toole (00:37:51):
It’s not great though. Cause it shows they’re engaged and they want a picture to take home, to show their parents or their friends say, look, what I’ve seen, look what it is cause you, they, they, I come on, we all take pictures of everything these days. Don’t go look what I saw. They put it up on social media and that’s great. And I, I, I love the contrast to a 200,000 pound camera on your TM to your a few, a few euros worth of camera that’s on those, but you are also into photography is a hobby.

Eija Jokitalo (00:38:24):
Yes. But I’m I’m and that’s, that’s one picture it’s, it’s kind of reflection of some moss growing on a tree on, on the, on the river. And, and what I, I like this is that it’s not so easy to say that what is kind of the, the, the real thing and what is actually the reflection of the water. So I’m not good in, in photography that’s, that’s, sure, but, but this is one of the, I, if I look the pictures I have taken, I think that almost half of them are either running water or some kind of reflections on the water. I, I don’t know what fascinates me on those, but

Peter O’Toole (00:39:10):
So is this yours as well?

Eija Jokitalo (00:39:12):
Yes. This picture I told to, you know, that’s, that’s where I live. So I live in this really far east corner of Europe where sea freezes every winter, and this is actually a sunset on a frozen sea and the picture is taking around two 30 in the afternoon. So, so the, in, in December, the sun goes down before 3:00 PM and, and I, I, I don’t think, well, we can see on the background, there is already some snow. Yeah. The, the, the sea is maybe not. So thick the eyes yet that I would, I didn’t want to walk on it, but, but around January time you can drive your car on the, on the, on the sea.

Peter O’Toole (00:40:12):
So how, how have you found, and you obviously got a daughter. How old is your daughter now?

Eija Jokitalo (00:40:17):
Sorry.

Peter O’Toole (00:40:17):
How old is your daughter?

Eija Jokitalo (00:40:19):
My daughter is 33 33.

Peter O’Toole (00:40:23):
And just a one daughter?

Eija Jokitalo (00:40:24):
Yes.

Peter O’Toole (00:40:25):
Okay. How did you find in the early parts of your career balancing your work life? Bringing up, you said you’re a single parent bringing up a child or doing your post-doctoral research, developing your academic career on back of that after that, how, how did you find balancing on that?

Eija Jokitalo (00:40:42):
Well, you know, again, it was very natural because she was born, you know, before I kind of became a researcher, she was born already during my, my masters studies. So it has been all the time, you know, the two us. And

Peter O’Toole (00:41:04):
And what has she got? What has she got on to do?

Eija Jokitalo (00:41:06):
Well, she’s a Vet,

Peter O’Toole (00:41:09):
So keeping some sort of science in the family

Eija Jokitalo (00:41:12):
well, she, she she’s doing she, she works in a, in a hospital, so, so yeah, not, not, not the scientist, but really doing clinical work, but she’s actually in UK now, she moved in the beginning of the year to, to do a specialization on ophthalmology.

Peter O’Toole (00:41:35):
Oh, OK.

Eija Jokitalo (00:41:36):
UK. So where

Peter O’Toole (00:41:37):
About where about is she?

Eija Jokitalo (00:41:39):
In Portsmouth.

Peter O’Toole (00:41:42):
Okay.

Eija Jokitalo (00:41:43):
Or haven’t so, so very south. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:41:48):
I have a niece who’s a Vet down south in Portsmouth.

Eija Jokitalo (00:41:52):
Yeah. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:41:54):
But that, that’s, that’s really cool. You must be very proud of her as well. And succeeding through. So your other hobby

Eija Jokitalo (00:42:01):
Is yes.

Peter O’Toole (00:42:03):
Is patchwork.

Eija Jokitalo (00:42:06):
Yes. I’m, I’m doing any type of craft, craft, handy craft, but that’s, that’s like art quilt. Yes. So some embroidery and things, anything to do with manipulating fabrics. I, I love colors and, and then sewing and, and just doing things. And I, I think that’s kind of the balance to the scientific, but

Peter O’Toole (00:42:36):
How did you take the picture? Cause I can see one hand. I can see another finger, which is on hand.

Eija Jokitalo (00:42:40):
That’s not it’s, it’s someone my friend has taken the picture, so it’s, it’s my, my, my fingers. And, and yeah, ,

Peter O’Toole (00:42:49):
I, I was just trying to work that to one hand. I can see another finger, so two hands and a picture I thought that’s

Eija Jokitalo (00:42:55):
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:42:56):
That,

Eija Jokitalo (00:42:56):
That would make, I, I, I, I belong to this group of 10 women and we meet, we, we are kind of around Finland. We meet couple of times per year and, and we organize one kind of exhibition roughly per year. So, so during these meetings, we planned the theme and, and do kind of practical plan. And then everyone is doing the kind of art pieces solo part. And then we meet again when we kind of set up the meeting and, and, and that part is actually, we, we spent four days in, in a small island. And of course, when going to island, you cannot take a showing or much of the material with you. So the instructions were that everyone takes a white shirt and then a couple of needles and then some thread. And then over these four days, we were just going around the island, enjoying the views and staying wherever and, and sewing. And, and then, you know, in the end, the, the, these, we’re not really looking shirting.

Peter O’Toole (00:44:22):
A truly well knitted network. One could say, yeah, I’m gonna ask you some quick fire questions. So PC or Mac

Eija Jokitalo (00:44:33):
PC,

Peter O’Toole (00:44:34):
You’d be that McDonald’s or burger king.

Eija Jokitalo (00:44:38):
Mm McDonald’s. I don’t like smoke at all. So burger king. I don’t, yeah. It’s it’s smoked stuff. No,

Peter O’Toole (00:44:48):
That that’s fine. Early bird or night owl,

Eija Jokitalo (00:44:52):
Night owl.

Peter O’Toole (00:44:53):
Oh, okay. I’d say just like Lucy Collinson, it’s only with electron microscopy in the dark. I’m sure. Tidy or messy as a person

Eija Jokitalo (00:45:04):
Tidy

Peter O’Toole (00:45:06):
Tidy, Maximist or minimalist.

Eija Jokitalo (00:45:11):
Maximist, everything’s kind of full of stuff, yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:45:15):
Mighty maximist impressive. Okay. Tea or coffee,

Eija Jokitalo (00:45:20):
As you know, you don’t know, you know, the dirt looks really ugly in, in microscope, so, so, you know, we need to keep things tidy.

Peter O’Toole (00:45:30):
No, that is very true. Tea, coffee,

Eija Jokitalo (00:45:33):
Tea, never coffee.

Peter O’Toole (00:45:36):
Ooh, chocolate or cheese,

Eija Jokitalo (00:45:38):
Chocolate, never cheese.

Peter O’Toole (00:45:42):
I like this certainty. This is not yes. TV or book.

Eija Jokitalo (00:45:50):
Audio book,

Peter O’Toole (00:45:51):
Audio. Good, great jokes. So get, get in the middle audio book. Watch your favorite film.

Eija Jokitalo (00:45:59):
[Inaudible] cafe.

Peter O’Toole (00:46:01):
Sorry.

Eija Jokitalo (00:46:02):
[Inaudible] cafe.

Peter O’Toole (00:46:04):
I don’t know it. Oh, no. Okay. That’s one to look up. What’s your favorite Christmas film?

Eija Jokitalo (00:46:14):
I don’t have any.

Peter O’Toole (00:46:16):
Oh, okay. What’s your pet hate?

Eija Jokitalo (00:46:21):
So what my pet hates.

Peter O’Toole (00:46:23):
Yeah. What annoys you?

Eija Jokitalo (00:46:28):
When they want me I don’t like cleaning after them.

Peter O’Toole (00:46:37):
That’s fine. What do you most love? What, what an item that you would a luxury item that you most love?

Eija Jokitalo (00:46:47):
Hmm. My sewing machine.

Peter O’Toole (00:46:51):
Oh, good enough.

Eija Jokitalo (00:46:51):
I have a really fancy one.

Peter O’Toole (00:46:53):
Good answer. So next question. What is your favorite item of clothing then?

Eija Jokitalo (00:46:59):
Mm, it must be some of my woolen and socks.

Peter O’Toole (00:47:05):
Oh.

Eija Jokitalo (00:47:05):
I have like a huge basket of them, so

Peter O’Toole (00:47:09):
Of woolen socks

Eija Jokitalo (00:47:10):
Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:47:11):
All paired up together.

Eija Jokitalo (00:47:14):
Yeah. Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:47:16):
Nice. do you prefer to cook or to be cooked for?

Eija Jokitalo (00:47:25):
I like to control things, so I would prefer cooking.

Peter O’Toole (00:47:28):
Okay. And what is your signature dish then? What is your best dish that you cook?

Eija Jokitalo (00:47:40):
I, yeah, anything, you know, depends who’s coming For, for my, my sister’s kids, you know, they want to have, they, they, you know, prefer meatballs. My daughter is a vegan, so , you know, some vegetarian, if I ask my lab to visit, it would be some kind of a meat thing in the oven. okay.

Peter O’Toole (00:48:10):
What, what is, what is your least favorite food?

Eija Jokitalo (00:48:15):
Well, I know to fish and, and seafood, so anything and also seaweed. So basically anything coming from sea.

Peter O’Toole (00:48:25):
Okay. Ooh. That’s not so easy. Did I ask you, I don’t think I asked you Wine or beer?

Eija Jokitalo (00:48:35):
I think beer goes the same category as coffee. So it’s just the bitterness. That, that feels strange. There’s actually, I, I I’m collecting statistics. So usually people who don’t drink coffee, they don’t like beer or, and vice versa. So it’s, it’s not easy to find a coffee lover who doesn’t drink beer

Peter O’Toole (00:49:01):
So it’s wine red or white wine?

Eija Jokitalo (00:49:05):
Only white.

Peter O’Toole (00:49:07):
Only white. Yes, because the Red’s too bitter.

Eija Jokitalo (00:49:11):
Yeah. Mm-hmm my, my taste parts are like, you know, from the 10 years old, I guess , actually you started with thinking what was when, when we met properly the first time. And, and from this again, meeting what I remember best is us sitting in this really nice restaurant with Chris and Tom and listening to their stories about great wines.

Peter O’Toole (00:49:50):
Yeah.

Eija Jokitalo (00:49:50):
And I have feeling that we were kind the listeners in this stories. So, so Chris and were kind of the, the really wine.

Peter O’Toole (00:50:03):
Yeah. So, so that was Chris [inaudible] and Tom Deerinck from Mark Ellisman lab, wasn’t it? Yes. But they, they like their Californian wines and they, they know their

Eija Jokitalo (00:50:11):
Yes. But it was great stories. It’s, it’s, you know, interesting to listen to people who are enthusiastic, or, you know,

Peter O’Toole (00:50:24):
But tell me, were you not sitting there drinking your wine, listening to him, talk about it and thinking, well, talk about it, but can you order the next bottle please? we, we’re not thinking that Chris, we order by, cause Chris never lets it go empty. He’s am joking, obviously. Okay. So moving forward I think your inspiration was probably one of your early supervisors from what you said earlier.

Eija Jokitalo (00:50:55):
Mm-Hmm

Peter O’Toole (00:50:56):
What would you say your favorite publication is that you’ve author or co-authored for whatever reason, do you have a favorite, a fond, a favorite publication?

Eija Jokitalo (00:51:07):
Yes. I, I think it is, it is the first one where I’m the the last author, my, my, my first students Mia’s first paper, which, which was published in JCP in 2007, where, where we show the, the, how, how ER, partition or that ER, undergoes this kind of structural transformation.

Peter O’Toole (00:51:41):
That’s a, that’s a very nice answer. Mm-Hmm , it’s good. That first out, your lab, your group, your research. Mm-Hmm,

Eija Jokitalo (00:51:48):
That’s really cool. I’m I, I, I, I haven’t supervised that many students kind of on my, I, I have co supervised a lot of my kind of students also from my, my collaborators, but, but I, I have four students, you know, fully kind of responsible and I’m so proud of each of them, you know, it’s, mm-hmm, , I, I think those are kind of the really great moments. And I think those are the biggest achievements in a way of, of really supervising, you know, the, the kind of making new researchers and, and, and, and guiding the, to this.

Peter O’Toole (00:52:36):
Yeah. Which is a good point. That’s the important part. You’ve got an academic career, which is doing your primary research and developing it, but at the same time, you’re developing careers alongside that. And as you’ve already mentioned, you do your outreach alongside that. And I think this is a picture of your, your re

Eija Jokitalo (00:52:55):
Yes, yes. This, this is in the middle. There is these two guys [inaudible] they are my students. And then the rest is my, my em facility team. And, and we are all in the same boat. unfortunately the boat was so small that it was safe to stay, you know, on a crowd, not, we, we didn’t go to the lake, but

Peter O’Toole (00:53:22):
So, so, so quite literally, so for those who are listening it, they are all in the same small, very small boat, which is quite a task for eight, eight people at the same time.

Eija Jokitalo (00:53:34):
Yes, yes.

Peter O’Toole (00:53:36):
But you are not in it.

Eija Jokitalo (00:53:37):
I am there in the middle with the black hair or dark hair.

Peter O’Toole (00:53:41):
You can’t change the color of your hair that doesn’t help.

Eija Jokitalo (00:53:44):
I, I, it all the time ,

Peter O’Toole (00:53:47):
So who took the picture then?

Eija Jokitalo (00:53:50):
This, this picture was taking in vascular during the dinner in SCANDEM meeting. So,

Peter O’Toole (00:53:58):
So there’s plenty of, yeah,

Eija Jokitalo (00:54:00):
Yeah.

Peter O’Toole (00:54:00):
Just in case I sailed off with it. You need to be careful on that. Where do you see the next big challenge for microscopy? What, what needs to change, what would be the next big step, if you could

Eija Jokitalo (00:54:21):
This, this is very personal view and, and not really, I’m sure it’s not the, the right answer, but, but what, what I, I see now that there is a trend that we go we try to automate everything, and we go bigger and bigger. We, we want to collect always bigger volumes and higher resolution. And I don’t think that that increases the understanding of, of, you know, the scientific question necessarily. So I’m, I, I, don’t kind of, you know, I don’t like that trend so much. So I, I, for example, I’m waiting that someone kind of reinvents stereology again, like, you know 800, you know kind of mathematical approach, which has been around long time. So, so instead of everyone to trying to just make lots 3d volumes and segment objects, I think that we could actually use stereology and start analyzing, you know, and, and, and, and, and, and get, I I’m IM I love pictures. I want to see everything. And in the end, I want to make them in the numbers. And I think that we should remember that in EM, you know, the power is that we see the structures and the, in the right surroundings and, and we should pay attention to analyzing the structures and the surroundings and, and try to go kind of, you know, not to decorate things, but, but really measure and, and, and, and analyze things and go

Peter O’Toole (00:56:43):
Hand in. Do you not think that by getting more volumes, bigger dataset, you can make more measurements in a more quantitative way?

Eija Jokitalo (00:56:51):
Yes. But is that always necessary? You, you know, in, in the sterility, it, it shows that you can actually, you, you know, instead of calculating a areas from, from every slice, you take every 20 slice and you actually can quite nicely predict. So the same is little bit that you know, I, I, I think that I, I would, I think all these correlative is, is the key, so, so we should always kind of get the bigger picture with something else and, and then EM, for the details and, and yeah, so, so maybe that’s, that would be maybe the right answer for me that where we are going is to, to correlative imaging. So, so one emitting technique is not going to solve anything, everything and there isn’t one or the others, but, but really what we should kind of, and what we have, or already, of course the work has started. So we are trying to, to connect and, and combine the, the different, EM, imaging modalities.

Peter O’Toole (00:58:20):
Yeah. So, so going from the, the collated light to electron microscopy, which of course then gives you the volume, the size, the portion You left the electro microscope to concentrate, focus to where it’s

Eija Jokitalo (00:58:32):
3D. And, and we, we have also tried to connect MRI imaging and this diffuser denser imaging with 3d three 3d EM, where we get kind of functional data and from the MRI images from, you know, some brain activities and, and then, then go from there to, to EM,

Peter O’Toole (00:59:07):
Which is for anyone, listen, who’s, who doesn’t understand the technologies or around that linking from an MRI to a light microscope is very challenging to go from an MRI to an electron microscope, which almost bypasses that little bit is incredibly challenging. And Eija we are now up to the hour mark

Eija Jokitalo (00:59:28):

Peter O’Toole (00:59:29):
Oh, Eija That is one that, that has gone. So stupidly fast. I I’ve, I’ve just gotta ask you two really quick questions. What did you want to be when you were 10 around that as a young girl,

Eija Jokitalo (00:59:43):
Hairdresser

Peter O’Toole (00:59:44):
Hairdresser, mm-hmm, that answer? What would you be if you could be anything today?

Eija Jokitalo (00:59:55):
I think I have pretty much I’m doing what I wanted to do. I, I have followed one path. I haven’t just treated to what I’m doing, but I, I, I, I really I don’t think I have other options. The, because options, when I started studying, I, I was thinking that would it be some kind of crafts or science and, and it was a great advice from my mom that you all of also need a hobby, that there is a risk. If you making, you know, your most passionate hobby as a kind of profession, how do you then balance, you know, things?

Peter O’Toole (01:00:46):
I love that answer because that’s why I never became a professional footballer simply cause I,

Eija Jokitalo (01:00:51):
Yes,

Peter O’Toole (01:00:52):
There might have been another reasons as well, but I’ll just go with that one. Eija on that note, thank you very much for joining me for this version, the podcast, everyone who’s watched or listened, please, don’t forget to subscribe to whichever challenge you are listening to. And actually you’ve heard a, I talk about all, all sorts of Lucy Collinson has talked about Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz is part of the, ASCB and helps lead all of that. Jeff Lichtman does that big volume. So there’s plenty of other podcasts. You can go back onto to hear similar content, but, you know, Eija I really enjoyed the hearing about the career progression, the importance of jobs within this type of area of research and facilities and the challenges that you are trying to solve in, in Helsinki itself. And actually not just saying there’s a problem, but actually doing something about it. And then taking up to senior management, say, look, here we are, this is what we need. And the fact that they’re empowering you to do that, I think is a great credit to Helsinki as well in supporting that. So Eija I can’t wait to catch up soon. Thank you.

Eija Jokitalo (01:01:55):
Okay. See you soon. Bye.

Intro/Outro (01:01:58):
Thank you for listening to the microscopy, a bite size bio podcast, sponsored by Zeiss microscopy to view all audio and video recordings from this series, please visit bio.com/micr.

 

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