NAD Fellow year: 2024

Janika Ruuska

MSc in Neuroscience, University of Helsinki

Lab rotations - pre-PhD year

Lab Rotation 1

Neurobiology Research Unit, Copenhagen University Hospitals – Rigshospitalet w/PI Associate Professor Patrick MacDonald Fisher

Janika is learning about applying positron emission tomography (PET) scans to assess brain serotonin 2A receptor binding in pigs and humans. She is shadowing PET (and MRI) scans for on-going projects in pigs and humans evaluating receptor occupancy following drug administration and analysing previously acquired data to learn about the analytic pipeline. The projects focus on psychedelic receptor pharmacology and, relatedly, she is aggregating and reviewing published psychedelic PET studies to learn about its applications.

Lab Rotation 2

Palner Lab, Department of Clinical Research, University of Southern Denmark w/PI Associate Professor Mikael Palner

Janika is working on a project related to neuroimaging in rats. She is measuring the long-term changes in metabolic connectivity between brain regions following treatment with the psychedelic compounds 2C-B. Long-term changes in connectivity will inform us about potential treatment possibilities using this drug in the future.

Lab Rotation 3

Psychiatric Center Ballerup w/PI Professor Nadia Micali

Meet Janika Ruuska

With a varied research background, Janika Ruuska has honed in on her research interests – and she is excited to pursue her goals and make new research connections in Denmark through the NAD PhD programme.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology, Janika did three years of research work before continuing her education:

“I was involved in breast cancer research for three years, and during that time I understood that research is for me, but also that I would need to find a field that truly excites me,” Janika explains.

After careful consideration, Janika ended up pursuing a master’s degree in Neuroscience at the University of Helsinki:

“During the master’s programme in Neuroscience, everything was too interesting, and I wanted to know everything. We needed to take an internship, and I ended up in a research group that studied anxiety disorders. There, I realised that I was on the right path, but also that something was still missing. One day, my supervisor at the time found a position through Twitter (…) and that happened to be in Australia,” Janika explains.

Janika ended up completing her master’s thesis in at the Monash University in Melbourne, Australia in a group especially focusing on anorexia and psilocybin use in animal models. In her future PhD project, Janika would love to continue research in this or a similar field:

“I would be super interested in research about eating disorders, but it is a small field, so I think that mental health disorders in general are what I want to focus on. Serotonin signaling is one thing I also studied in Australia I would like to investigate further, and then psychedelics as well,” Janika says.

While Janika has a strong and varied research background, especially within animal models and molecular studies, she sees the rotations as a great opportunity to broaden her scope and gain applicable skills, and she is especially excited about being involved in more clinically oriented research labs. For her first rotation, she will join the group of Associate Professor Patrick MacDonald Fischer in the Neurobiology Research Unit at Rigshospitalet.

Having lived and studied in several different countries, Janika knows a thing or two about establishing a network abroad – and she is looking forward to meeting the Danish neuroscience community:

“This is the fourth country I will be living in, and I love creating new connections. I think it is good to work around the world because collaboration really happens across borders,” Janika says.