Dr. Joni H. Ylostalo
Biography: I was born and raised in Finland in a city that is on the Arctic Circle and hosts the home of Santa Claus. My curiosity for science began at an early age when staring salt crystals and various bugs through my microscope. I really dove into the science world during high school and would spend most of my time learning about math, chemistry, physics, and biology. After high school, I did my military service and got some valuable combat medicine training. However, the most important things in my life happened during the following summer when I became a Believer and met my future wife.
I began my university science studies at University of Oulu in Finland and really enjoyed all the various science subjects from math to biology while spending my spare time taking part in as many Christian activities and ministries as possible. After receiving my Bachelors degree in Biochemistry and starting my Masters studies, I headed to the US to the Center for Gene Therapy at Tulane University. I began my protein biochemistry studies there and spent a few years cloning, expressing, purifying, and studying an extracellular matrix (ECM) protein collagen IX. After receiving my Masters from the University of Oulu, I continued the protein biochemistry studies with various mutant forms of collagen IX and other ECM components.
Once you think that your path is set, God often has something else in mind. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of my research and I found myself stranded on I-10 with my wife, 2-month-old daughter, and our dog. God is amazing, and eventually we were able to return to New Orleans and I changed my graduate studies to stem cell biology. The next few years I spent using microarrays to study gene expression changes in mesenchymal stem/progenitor cells (MSCs) during culture expansion and differentiation to other cells.
After receiving my Doctorate in Biomedical Sciences from Tulane University, I headed for Texas and began my postdoctoral work at Texas A&M Institute for Regenerative Medicine. For several years, I had the opportunity to expand my MSC research program more towards the translational side. We discovered a novel way to pre-activate the MSCs to express and secrete potentially therapeutic molecules by culturing them in 3D. After my postdoctoraI work I served as an Instructor at Texas A&M and also as an adjunct faculty member at UMHB. I joined UMHB as a full-time faculty member fall of 2014 and started teaching students about the wonders of biology and medicine both in the classroom and in the laboratory.
Whenever I am not doing science I like to work out, read, cook, cheer for my favorite sports teams, and spend time with my family. I especially enjoy our various Texas and out-of-state trips and also the time I get to spend with my First Baptist Church Belton family. Feel free to talk science, faith, or life in general with me as I enjoy sharing my experiences in all these things.