Mycology team introduction

Heikki KiheriHeikki Kiheri  

Principal Scientist at KÄÄPÄ Biotech

From a very young age I have been passionate about nature and science. I grew up in Minnesota, USA, in a small Finnish immigrant community and spent my time roaming the forests and rivers. Education was not a challenge for me and I attended the University of Minnesota at the age of 14 to begin my bachelor's studies. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. This led to working in a variety of laboratory positions in industry but this did not satisfy my drive to work with nature. 

I then took part in the conservation and land management internship with the Chicago Botanic Garden. This internship placed me with the United States Geological Service (USGS) in Las Vegas where I spent the following year performing ecological vegetation surveys across the Mojave Desert, as well as working at the Nevada National Security Site (nuclear weapon test site in the 1950s and 60s). This work was very challenging and ignited my passion for ecological research. At the end of my internship I was hired by the USGS, but unfortunately due to budget cuts, the entire project I was part of was soon canceled. 

Left with no clear plan, I returned to industry work in quality control and R&D. This did not satisfy me for long, and with my family's advice I decided to apply for ecology masters degree programs in Finland. As a dual citizen, this provided an interesting new path in life where I could learn more of my Finnish heritage. Soon I found myself in a difficult position, as I had been accepted at all the universities I applied to. In the end, I chose the University of Helsinki Master's of Environmental Science and Natural Resources (MENVI) program. In the MENVI program I chose a microbiology focus and was offered a thesis project studying mycorrhizal fungi in Ericaceous shrubs. Finally working in my chosen field, I excelled in my studies and graduated with a thesis grade of Eximia Cum Laude Approbatur. 

My experience working with mycorrhizal fungi was well timed, as immediately upon graduation a position at the Natural Resource Institute Finland (LUKE) was offered for a doctoral researcher. I then began my doctoral studies at the University of Helsinki Microbiology and Biotechnology Programme (MBDP) in collaboration with LUKE. As a doctoral researcher at LUKE I worked on an international research project funded by the Academy of Finland studying the effects of nitrogen and phosphorus deposition on peatlands. This work was very challenging and required me to develop a wide variety of skills and collaborations. This experience was satisfying and has resulted in several publications, but I then felt a need to bring my knowledge from theoretical to applications that would benefit society. 

As the Principal Scientist at KÄÄPÄ Biotech, I have finally found the opportunity to bring leading scientific research on fungi to the real-world. Fungi represent a vast trove of potential for biotechnology, with applications across all fields of industry and agriculture. At KÄÄPÄ Biotech, I work as part of an expert team to realize these possibilities. This includes research and development of fungal species currently grown at KÄÄPÄ, refining and scaling of production species, new applications utilizing mycorrhizal fungi, and supporting research projects with collaborators at many universities and institutes. 



Javier MansillaJavier Mansilla

Technical and Laboratory Support at KÄÄPÄ Biotech (part time)

Specialized in new wild strains collection and maintenance; Technical research applied to mushroom growing.

Educational background in Forestry engineering, currently working as web developer.

Hobbies cover a wide and interconnected range of matters such mushroom growing and DIY electronics focused on monitoring and controlling growing environments.

Inspired by the use of low-tech philosophy as a way to make knowledge more affordable for everyone.