I am interested in signal transduction and how communication is organized at the cellular level in plants. In particular, I am interested in how receptors, which are localized in the plasma membrane of plants cells, perceive signals from the environment or other cells and relay those signals to other components inside the cell. I am also interested in how changes in protein-protein interactions determine the outcome of signal transduction processes.

I originally studied Anthropology/Human Biology at the University of Vienna, Austria. However, I rapidly developed an interest in genetics and molecular biology. For my Master thesis I joined the laboratory of Prof. Heribert Hirt and started to work with plants. My supervisors introduced plants to me as a highly interesting model system to study signal transduction and protein phosphorylation. So I continued my work as doctoral student with Prof. Heribert Hirt and Dr. Claudia Jonak.

After my PhD, I moved to Helsinki, Finland, to join the team of Prof. Jaakko Kangasjärvi to study reactive oxygen species (ROS) signaling. This move led to me estalishing my own group in Helsinki where we study protein phosphorylation, ROS signaling and the integration of signaling events.

Curriculum vitae

Dr. Michael Alois Wrzaczek, Docent – Research Group Leader, Lecturer

Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, Viikki Plant Science Centre, VIPS
Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Viikki Biocenter 3, Viikinkaari 1, PO Box 65
FIN-00014 Helsinki University, Finland
Office Phone: +358 2941 57773
E-mail: michael.wrzaczek@helsinki.fi
ORCID ID: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5946-9060
Personal webpage: http://www.wrzaczek.at
Research group webpage: https://www.helsinki.fi/en/researchgroups/plant-receptors
Researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Michael_Wrzaczek
Google scholar: https://scholar.google.fi/citations?user=o2a8L6oAAAAJ&hl=en

Education and degrees awarded

  • Docent in plant molecular physiology and bioinformatics, University of Helsinki, March 1, 2011.
  • Doctoral degree, University of Vienna, Dept of Microbiology and Genetics, Austria. Subject: Genetics. November 9, 2004. Group of Dr. Claudia Jonak. Title: “MsK1, a Glycogen Synthase Kinase from Medicago sativa, Modulates Plant Stress Tolerance”.
  • Master’s degree, University of Vienna, Dept of Microbiology and Genetics, Austria. Subject: Human biology. January 16, 2001. Group of Prof. Dr. Heribert Hirt. Title: “Characterisation of interaction partners of the Glycogen synthase kinase-3 homologues MsK4 and MsK5 in Medicago sativa”.

Other education and training, qualifications and skills

  • Selected for participation in the highly competitive Arabidopsis Molecular Genetics course at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, USA (June 29 – July 20, 2001).
  • University Pedagogics – Constructive alignment (UP1, 2 modules, 10 credits), autumn 2012.
  • University Pedagogics – Assessment of learning (UP4, 1 module, 5 credits), spring 2013.
  • University Pedagogics – Academic supervising (UP3, 1 module, 5 credits; autumn 2013).
  • “Leadership Program for Academic Staff at University of Helsinki” (winter 2013/2014).

Language skills

  • German – native speaker
  • English – excellent (self-assessment of language skills C2 for listening, reading, speaking and writing)
  • French – basic (self-assessment of language skills B1 for listening, reading, speaking and writing)
  • Finnish – intermediate (self-assessment of language skills B1 for listening, speaking and writing, B2 for reading)

Current position

  • Group leader and lecturer at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland

The Receptor-ligand signaling group (http://www.helsinki.fi/plantreceptors/) consists of Dr. Michael Wrzaczek (principal investigator), Dr. Kerri Hunter (postdoc), Mr. Matteo Citterico (doctoral student), Ms. Huiting Jin (doctoral student), and Mr. Ville Pennanen (doctoral student) .  

Previous work experience

  • Academy Research Fellow (September 1, 2014 – August 31, 2019), Academy of Finland (decision #275632), and group leader in the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology of Primary Producers (2014-2019; Primaarituottajien molekyylibiologian huippuyksikkö), Academy of Finland (decision #271832) starting from January 1st, 2014.
  • Junior group leader of the RLK, ROS perception and cell death team associated with the plant stress group of Prof. Jaakko Kangasjärvi. January 1, 2011 – December 31, 2013.
  • Post-Doctoral researcher and junior group leader at the University of Helsinki associated with the group of Prof. Jaakko Kangasjärvi funded by a Helsinki University post-doc project “Novel mechanisms in the regulation of programmed cell death in plants”. Period: January 1, 2008 – December 31, 2010
  • Post-Doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki in the group of Prof. Dr. Jaakko Kangasjärvi (Plant Stress Group) in the Academy of Finland-funded project “Functional genomics of oxygen radical perception and signaling in plants”. February 1, 2005 – December 31, 2007
  • Doctoral student at the Institute of Microbiology and Genetics, University of Vienna in the Group of Dr. Claudia Jonak. February 1, 2001 – December 31, 2004.

Funding:

  • Academy of Finland Research Project “Signal integration through plasma membrane-localized proteins during stress signaling in plants” (decision #323917; € 499 651) September 1, 2019 – August 31, 2023.
  • Academy of Finland Travel Grant 2018.
  • Academy of Finland Research Fellow – research costs (#312498; € 342 664) September 1, 2017 – August 31, 2019.
  • Academy of Finland Research Fellow – research costs (#283139; € 299 901) September 1, 2014 – August 31, 2017).
  • Academy of Finland Research Fellow “Understanding peptide ligands and their receptors in plants” (decisions #275632; € 434 485) September 1, 2014 – August 31, 2019.
  • Prime-X grant for proteomic analysis of secreted peptides in plant suspension culture (Collaboration with Dr. Hannele Tuominen, Dr. Simon Stael, Prof. Frank Van Breusegem, Prof. Kris Gevaert), March 2014.
  • Academy of Finland Travel grant 2014.
  • University of Helsinki Three-Year-Grant “Cell death regulation by small extracellular proteins in plants” (145 000 €). January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2015.
  • University of Helsinki Post-Doctoral Researcher grant. January 1, 2008 – December 31, 2010.
  • Coordinator for the application and leading junior group leader of the European Research Area Plant Genomics (ERA PG; http://www.erapg.net) consortium ”PROSIG”  (2009-2012) together with Prof. David Collinge and Dr. Michael Lyngkjær (Denmark), Dr. Silke Robatzek (UK), Prof. Stanislaw Karpinski (Poland) and Dr. Jan Willem Borst (Netherlands). Project was accepted for funding in 2008.

Supervision:

  • Supervisor doctoral students Mr. Matteo Citterico, Ms. Huiting Jin, and Mr. Ville Pennanen (ongoing) and previously for Ms. Aleksia Vaattovaara, Ms. Kerri Hunter and Ms. Niina Idänheimo (all defended).
  • Postdoctoral advisor for Dr. Sachie Kimura (2014-2019), Dr. Takamitsu Kurusu (2018 and 2019), Dr. Derek Collinge (2015-2016), Dr. Adrien Gauthier (2009-2015).
  • Supervisor for Master student Nghia Le Tri (2017) and graduate student Cuong Tran (2018).

Host and supervisor for exchange students and internship students:

  • 2019: Ms. Haruna Hirokawa (Ritsumeikan University, Japan), Mr. Petr Dvorzak (Palacky University Olomouc, Czech Republic), Mr. Denis Owczarek (University of Braunschweig, Germany), Mr. Jan-Niklas Weber (University of Braunschweig, Germany)
  • 2018: Mr. Markus Laurel (University of Helsinki, Finland), Ms. Maya Willkens (University of Braunschweig, Germany), Ms. Lena Meißner (University of Braunschweig, Germany), Markéta Luklová (Mendel University, Brno, Czech Republic), Mr. Simon Schmitz (University of Braunschweig, Germany)
  • 2016: Mr. Awais Zahid Muhammad (University of Hohenheim, Germany), Mrs. Rajita Thapa (Nepal)
  • 2015: Ms. Salla Jalkanen (University of Helsinki), Mr. Robin Moore (University of Helsinki)
  • 2014: Mr. Pawel Burdiak (Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Poland), Ms. Daniela Van Thiel (University of Braunschweig, Germany)
  • 2013: Ms. Susanna Tarkiainen (University of Helsinki)
  • 2012: Mr. David Kaufholdt (University of Braunschweig, Germany)
  • 2011: Ms. Jennifer Sand (University of Münster, Germany)
  • 2010: Mr. Hansjörg Stampfl (Gregor-Mendel-Institute, Austria)

Member of the follow-up group for:

  • Mrs. Pinky Dutta (University of Helsinki; Supervisor: Prof. Kristiina Mäkinen)
  • Mrs. Pooneh Sotoudehnia (University of Turku, Finland; Supervisor: Dr. Esa Tyystjärvi)
  • Mrs. Moona Rahikainen (University of Turku, Finland; Supervisor: Dr. Saijaliisa Kangasjärvi)
  • Mrs. Yafei Zhao (University of Helsinki, Finland; Supervisor: Prof. Paula Elomaa)
  • Mr. Raffael Lichtenberger (University of Helsinki, Finland; Supervisor: Prof. Ykä Helariutta).

Opponent and pre-examiner for Mrs. Rewaa Jalal (King Abdullah University of Science & Technology, Saudi Arabia; May 2019).

Member of reading and PhD committee (opponent) for Mr. Lorin Mignolet (Ghent University and VIB, Belgium; December 2014 – March 2015).

Merits in teaching and pedagogical competence

  • Courses:
    • “Adaptation in plants” – lecture course 2019.
    • “Plant physiology and biochemistry” – lecture course 2019.
    • “Cell walls in plants” – lecture course 2019, session on cell wall signal transduction (University of Helsinki, Finland).
    • “Adaptation in plants” – lecture course 2018.
    • “Plants in a changing world” – lecture course 2017 and 2018.
    • “Gene family evolution in plants” – invited teacher Tokyo University of Science, Noda, Japan, 2016 and 2017.
    • “Protein phosphorylation” and “Post-translational modifications” – invited teacher Tokyo University of Science, Noda, Japan, 2016 and 2017.
    • “Signal transduction in plants” – lecture course August 2016. I designed and managed the course and coordinated the teachers.
    • Practical course “Methods in molecular biology” (“Übung im Pflichtfach Gen- und Biotechnologie ”) at University of Vienna (2002-2004).
    • Practical course “Advanced Course in Plant Molecular Biology” (University of Helsinki).
    • Practical course “Advanced Computer Methods for Biologists” (University of Helsinki).

Other academic merits

  • Member of the Scientific advisory Board for the International Conference on Arabidopsis Research (ICAR) 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
  • Editorial Board member Journal for Plant Research.
  • Reviewing Editor for Frontiers in Plant Science.
  • Member of the steering committee of the Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme
  • Chair of the organizing committee for the 29th International Conference on Arabidopsis Research (ICAR) 2018 in Turku, Finland, June 25 to 29, 2018. Over 600 participants from Europe, Asia, Australia, North and South America and also Africa gathered for five days to exchange the latest discoveries in modern molecular plant science.
  • MASC (Multinational Arabidopsis Steering Committee) coordinator for Finland from 2014.
  • Panel member for National Science Center Poland (Poland, 2018).
  • Grant reviewer for DFG (Germany), NSF (USA), National Science Center Poland, the Einstein Foundation (Germany), OKTA (Hungary), BBSRC (UK), NWO (Netherlands) and FWO (Belgium).
  • Reviewer for international scientific journals including Nature Plants, Nature Communications, Plant Physiology, Annals of Botany, BMC Genomics, Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, Physiologia Plantarum, Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, New Phytologist, Journal of Plant Physiology, Scientific Reports, Molecular Plant Pathology, PLoS One, PLoS Biology, Journal of Experimental Botany, Plant Signaling and Behavior, Plant Physiology, Development.
  • Guest editor for the ROS special issue of Physiologia Plantarum (January 2010) together with Prof. Jaakko Kangasjärvi and Dr. Kirk Overmyer.
  • Organizer of the Finnish-Japanese Meeting 2016 together with Dr. Yagut Allahverdieyeva.
  • Organizer of the 2nd SPPS Career PI Meeting (Sweden, November 2015) together with Dr. Karin Stensjö.
  • Secretary for the organization of the 1st SPPS Early Career PI Meeting (Naantali, Finland, November 25-26, 2014)
  • Participation and assistance (responsible for computer systems) in the organization of the Plant Phosphorylation meeting in Vienna in September 2001.
  • Participation and assistance in the organization of the XVI FESPB conference in Tampere, Finland, August 17-22, 2008.
  • Member of the organizing committee for the Plant ROS 2009 meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 8-10 2009.

Scientific and societal impact of research 32 total publications in Google Scholar. Three publications currently under review, two preprinta on bioRxiv.