Tarja graduated from the University of Cologne in Germany in the field of Biology, where she also obtained her Master’s degree. During her undergraduate studies she set her focus on ecology and biodiversity, writing her thesis about the impact of predators on colony formation in choanoflagellates, single-celled Protozoa, closely related to animals. Fascinated by these organisms, she went to Berkeley in California for two months for a practical training in the King Laboratory which focuses on the evolution of animal multicellularity.
During her Master studies she expanded her knowledge about marine ecology, biochemistry and bioinformatics, completing with a thesis about transcriptomic studies of choanoflagellates.
She is currently a PhD student in the Burkhardt Laboratory, supervised by Dr Pawel Burkhardt (MBA) and Professor Thomas Richards (University of Exeter) and funded by the MBA through the Anne Warner studentship. The group focuses on the evolution of synaptic proteins. Tarja’s project deals with the origin of postsynaptic signalling machineries. Model organisms used in this study are sponges and of course her favourites: choanoflagellates.