User:Jernej Turnsek

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I am a postdoctoral research scientist in Krishna K. Niyogi's laboratory in the Department of Plant & Microbial Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. I grew up in the Land of Green Gold, Slovenia.


Biomineral Formation and Morphogenesis

I am interested in how biological systems produce and shape bioinorganic hybrid materials. My research focuses on molecular, cell, and evolutionary biology of phytoplankton biomineralization. I employ reverse genetics, imaging, omics, and bioinformatics in biosilica-producing heterokont algae Thalassiosira pseudonana and Synura petersenii to decipher the molecular basis of this remarkable vesicle-based, sunlight-driven nanotechnology.

Understanding of biosilica morphogenesis in these environmentally ubiquitous organisms will advance our knowledge of its link to global nutrient cycles including silicon and carbon. It will provide new insights into how biomolecules interact with inorganic surfaces with implications for the origin of life and biomaterials design.

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(A) Thalassiosira pseudonana is a marine diatom here shown in girdle band (left) and valve (right) orientations. Image credit: Assaf Gal. (B) Left: Synura petersenii is a freshwater synurophyte covered in silica scales. Right: False colored Synura petersenii scales (teal: porous base plate, yellow: raised central keel, gray: upturned and inrolled rim). Image credit: Guangwei Min.

Polyamine Biosynthesis, Metabolism, and Function

Polyamines are widely conserved polycationic metabolites with pleiotropic cellular effects, however, their precise molecular functions remain largely elusive. I study unconventional polyamines involved in diatom biomineralization and (organellar) polyamine homeostasis in phytoplankton more broadly.

Disorder, Low Complexity, and Compositional Bias in Proteins

Intrinsically disordered and low complexity proteins are the hallmark of biomineralization processes. I am interested in the role these protein features play in relation to biomineral formation and morphogenesis as well as in their origin and evolution more generally.


  • The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Grant GBMF4958 (August 2015–July 2018)

Contact Information

GSAS-Turnsek Jernej.jpg

Jernej Turnšek, PhD
Department of Plant & Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley, 431 Koshland Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720

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  • Turnšek J et al. 2021. Proximity proteomics in a marine diatom reveals a putative cell surface-to-chloroplast iron trafficking pathway. eLife 10:e52770. DOI
  • Faktorová D et al. 2020. Genetic tool development in marine protists: emerging model organisms for experimental cell biology. Nat Methods 17:481–494. DOI
  • Conrado RJ et al. 2012. DNA-guided assembly of biosynthetic pathways promotes improved catalytic efficiency. Nucleic Acids Res 40:1879–1889. DOI



Creative Writing

Science Art

In the News


  • PhD, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Harvard University, 2020
  • MSc, Biotechnology, University of Ljubljana, 2012

Endurance Sports

I am an avid multisport athlete having competed in numerous open water swimming, running, cycling, and triathlon races including two marathons and two Half Ironman triathlons. I was a competitive basketball player prior to transitioning to endurance sports.

Personal Records

  • Half Ironman triathlon | Timberman 2016 08/2016: 5h 24' 02"
  • Olympic distance triathlon | Mass State Triathlon 07/2016: 2h 17' 24"
  • Sprint distance triathlon | Mission Bay Triathlon 10/2017: 58' 33" (qualified for The 2018 Olympic-Distance Age Group National Championship)
  • 26.2 | Baystate Marathon 10/2013: 3h 30' 55"
  • 13.1 | Boston's Run to Remember 05/2013: 1h 26' 30"
  • 10k | Mardi Gras 10K 02/2017: 38' 26"
  • 5k | Triton 5K 04/2017: 18' 32"

Sci-fi Vignettes

I've become interested in sci-fi microficton after learning about postcard size stories by Arthur C. Clarke and his contemporaries. "Short Tales from the Mothership" event at the UCSD Geisel Library promotes this elegant genre.

Recently Read

  • Born on a Blue Day (Daniel Tammet) (currently reading)
  • Hero (Rhonda Byrne)
  • The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)
  • Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (Shunryu Suzuki)
  • Indian running (Peter Nabokov)
  • The Doors of Perception (Aldous Huxley)
  • Deep Simplicity (John Gribbin)
  • Pravica (Srečko Kosovel)
  • Karantena. Rim. (Janko Petrovec)
  • Rojstvo teorema (Cedric Villani)



Slovenian Language and Culture