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Research on virtual acoustics and mathematical inverse problems receive prizes

Tapio Lokki and Mikko Salo receive 2011 Academy of Finland Awards

27.10.11

Two outstanding researchers were recognised at the Academy of Finland’s Science Gala in Helsinki on Thursday 27 October 2011.The Academy of Finland Awards were presented to Academy Research Fellow, Adjunct Professor Tapio Lokki from Aalto University School of Science, and Academy Research Fellow, Adjunct Professor Mikko Salo from the University of Helsinki. Lokki was recognised for the social impact of his work and Salo for his scientific courage.

Virtual acoustics researcher recognised for social impact

Academy Research Fellow, Adjunct Professor Tapio Lokki is undoubtedly one of the world’s foremost researchers of acoustics and audio signal processing. With his work, Lokki has proved that scientific research is of vital importance and highly applicable, and that it has major social impact. He has also significantly contributed to increasing public awareness of science and the researcher’s job in different media.

Lokki and his research team at the Department of Media Technology at Aalto University are working to develop novel, physically-based room acoustic modelling methods with a view to creating authentic auralisation, that is, virtual auditory environments. Their research will help us to better understand and predict the acoustics of acoustically demanding spaces. The team’s research is highly multidisciplinary with elements not only from acoustics, signal processing and audio technology but also from psychology, information technology, music and architecture.

During the past two years, Lokki’s research team has been the first in the world to combine sensory evaluation methods, used in wine and food tasting, with research in concert hall acoustics. By using innovative research methods, the team has been able to generate more detailed knowledge of what people hear and what they listen to in concert halls. To record the acoustics of concert halls, Lokki’s team used a calibrated loudspeaker orchestra that simulated a real symphony orchestra to play music exactly in the same way in every recorded concert hall. After extensive tests, the team has defined sensory profiles for the studied halls in order to explain people’s preferences, that is, to better understand why certain concert halls have, as people say, good acoustics. “In the long term, our research results will help design more functional concert halls and other public spaces. A better understanding of human perception and the propagation of sound in closed spaces will provide us with more tools for design work,” Lokki explains.

For Lokki, acoustics is an extremely fascinating research topic: “Yes, you can listen to music in an echoless space, but it would sound rather dull, though. You need to have a room where music is played in order to make music really come alive. That’s why it’s so interesting to try to understand how a room affects the tone. How sound behaves in a given space is such a complicated phenomenon that it’s extremely difficult to grasp. That’s why it’s a constant source of inspiration.”

The Academy of Finland Award for social impact is granted to researchers who have significantly contributed to increasing public awareness of scientific research or the researcher’s job, inspired interest in science, actively contributed to public debate in society, or otherwise strengthened the role, application and impact of science and research in society.

Mathematician researching inverse problems recognised for scientific courage

Academy Research Fellow, Adjunct Professor Mikko Salo is a highly versatile mathematician who is based at the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Inverse Problems at the Universities of Helsinki and Jyväskylä. Salo has provided an excellent example of an unprejudiced scientist by tackling the anisotropic Calderón problem, a very complex inverse problem that, so far, has yet to be solved. Salo’s wide scope of expertise is also demonstrated by his many articles on pattern recognition together with the Information Processing Laboratory of the University of Oulu. Salo has also been closely involved in the Finnish mathematics community and has actively contributed to increasing knowledge in the field. Besides being a merited scientist, Salo is also known as a very well-spoken lecturer.

In his research, Salo focuses particularly on inverse problems in medical imaging and seismology. Inverse problems often entail trying to form images from within unknown objects by means of indirect measurements made from outside these objects. Such measurements can be made by using a number of different methods, such as X-rays, electric currents or sound waves. To produce images from these measurements poses a very complex mathematical problem. Inverse problems can accordingly be used to apply mathematical methods in a number of application scopes.

In the anisotropic Calderón problem that Salo is researching, three-dimensional objects are visualised by means of electrical measurements made at their outer parts. This extremely complex mathematical problem has been studied since the 1980s. In his article published in 2009, Salo introduces new approaches to the problem and solves it in certain specific cases. His work is a breakthrough that combines methods from different sub-fields of mathematics and opens the problem for further studies. Of particular interest is the connection between Salo’s article and the area of invisibility research, which seeks to create materials that could direct light rays to bend around an object (in the style of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak). Artificial metamaterials have been used for this, as there are no known, naturally occurring materials that would be suitable for invisibility purposes. Salo’s research explains this phenomenon and provides a mathematical proof that there are certain natural anisotropic materials that cannot be used as invisibility cloaks.

“I’m very happy that the Academy of Finland Award is granted to a scientist researching inverse problems and mathematics. This recognition also highlights the importance of basic research in mathematics. The award definitively encourages and inspires me to carry on my research with important and challenging questions in the field. I’m fully confident that inverse problems research and Finnish mathematics will achieve excellent results also in the future,” Salo says.

The Academy of Finland Award for scientific courage is granted to researchers who have shown exceptional scientific audacity, creativity or innovation in their work. The award can be granted for a novel or original research idea, for forward-looking work that crosses scientific boundaries or for a willingness to take risks in research.

Academy of Finland Awards are encouragement for researchers

This was the ninth time that the awards were announced. Recipients of the Academy of Finland Awards shall have a research post as Academy Research Fellow or work as an Academy-funded Postdoctoral Researcher. Nominations are submitted by the Academy’s Research Councils to the Academy Board, who makes the final decision. The purpose of the awards is to recognise and encourage outstanding researchers with dynamic career prospects and to highlight goals and objectives the Academy considers important. The recipients are presented with a mouth-blown ornament, entitled “The Moment”, by Miia Liesegang.

More information:
– Vice President for Research Riitta Mustonen, Academy of Finland, tel. +358 9 7748 8220, riitta.mustonen (at) aka.fi
– Tapio Lokki, Aalto University School of Science, tel. +358 40 578 2486, tapio.lokki (at) aalto.fi
– Mikko Salo, Universities of Helsinki and Jyväskylä, tel. +358 40 724 9811, mikko.salo (at)helsinki.fi

– Photos of Tapio Lokki and Mikko Salo are available on 27 October on the Academy’s website at www.aka.fi/en-GB/A/Academy-of-Finland/Media-services/Photo-gallery. To find the photos, search with the winners’ names.
- Introductory videos (with English subtitles) on the winners will be posted on 28 October on the Academy’s website at http://www.aka.fi/fi/A/Tiedeyhteiskunnassa/Tiedetapahtumat/Tiedegaala/.

Academy of Finland Communications
Communications Specialist Terhi Loukiainen
tel. +358 9 7748 8385, +358 40 828 1784
terhi.loukiainen (at) aka.fi

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