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Academy of Finland grants €18m in funding to Academy Research Fellows and Postdoctoral Researchers in natural sciences and engineering

(16 May 2014)

The Academy of Finland has granted a total of 18 million euros in funding for research posts in the field of natural sciences and engineering. Awarded by the Academy’s Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering, the funding goes towards 35 three-year posts as Postdoctoral Researcher and 20 five-year posts as Academy Research Fellow. In both of these funding opportunities, the number of applications was up by 25 per cent on the previous year. Consequently, the success rate was only 9 per cent.

A record-breaking number (51%) of those who received funding for a research post as Postdoctoral Researcher were foreign nationals. In recent years, there has been a huge increase in the proportion of foreign researchers among both applicants and funding recipients. Two-thirds of the foreign funding recipients had completed their doctoral degree in a foreign university before transferring to Finland to conduct research. Foreign researchers add to the international element of Finnish research, bringing with them new methods, perspectives and expertise. Women accounted for 34 per cent of funding recipients and 28 per cent of applicants. The average age of the new Postdoctoral Researchers is 32 years.

Examples of Postdoctoral Researchers funded:

Paavo Rasilo (Aalto University) is researching the energy efficiency of electrical machines. The research focuses on understanding and modelling the coupling between magnetic fields and mechanical deformation in the iron cores of the machines. The developed tools allow for the design of more efficient electrical machinery, which not only brings energy and cost savings to the machine manufacturers and users, but also contributes to the global effort in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Rasilo’s Postdoctoral Research term also includes a research visit to the Wolfson Centre for Magnetics at Cardiff University, UK.

Alexandru Ioan Tomescu (University of Helsinki) is seeking to provide novel and unifying models and efficient and accurate algorithmic solutions for the multi-assembly of genomic sequences. DNA sequencing can reveal quickly and cheaply short overlapping subparts of a genomic sequence. This technology has recently started to be applied to new mixed settings, where the genomic sample contains different but related genomic sequences. The multi-assembly of these short subparts back into the originating genomes is a challenging task. This project will provide models for and solutions to this problem. They will be implemented into tools that will help the medical research community better understand cancer and diseases related to microbial communities, and perform more accurate HIV and hepatitis C diagnosis.

Xiaoxue Zhang (Tampere University of Technology) is studying different methods to develop durable superhydrophobic surfaces, that is, surfaces that are extremely difficult to wet. Superhydrophobic surfaces represent a new type of multifunctional material with many promising functionalities. However, the surfaces suffer from weak durability due to their fragile surface structure and the fast degradation of the surface chemistry. The insufficient durability of artificial superhydrophobic surfaces has largely limited their use in industry. This project will work on three schemes using graphene, carbon nanotubes/polymer/ceramic composite and rare earth oxides to develop durable superhydrophobic surfaces. Part of the work will be carried out at Beijing University of Technology, China, and the University of Southampton, UK.

Record number of applications for funding for post as Academy Research Fellow

For the first time ever, the Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering received more than 200 applications for funding for a research post as Academy Research Fellow, 229 in total. This was a 25 per cent increase on the year before. The average age of the new Academy Research Fellows is 35 years, and half of them have postdoctoral experience from abroad. Foreign nationals accounted for 35 per cent and women for 15 per cent of the funding recipients.

Examples of Academy Research Fellows funded:

Ari Tuononen (Aalto University) is researching rubber-ice friction. The rolling resistance of tyres can account for one-third of the total fuel consumption of vehicles. Tuononen’s project concentrates on studying the friction process on ice. Ice friction is a complex phenomenon, because the roughness of the ice and the meltwater layer between the slider and the ice evolve during the sliding process. Tuononen proposes that rubber-ice friction can be described with a novel dynamic and fractal surface roughness theory, which is coupled with a multi-scale rubber energy dissipation theory.

Anu Kankainen (University of Jyväskylä) studies exotic nuclei in order to understand the origin of elements in the Universe. She will measure new data on exotic nuclei relevant for nuclear astrophysics using complementary techniques and facilities. Unique experiments on proton capture cross-sections will be performed at the first online storage ring facility TSR at HIE-ISOLDE, CERN. Since elemental abundances in the Universe are very sensitive to nuclear properties, such as masses, the gathered data will make modelling of the astrophysical processes more reliable. The astrophysical impact of the results will be studied in collaboration with leading nuclear astrophysicists at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics, USA. The results will increase our understanding of the studied astrophysical scenarios, and thus, the origin of elements in the Universe.

More information:

Postdoctoral Researchers:

  • Science Adviser Maaria Lehtinen, tel. +358 295 335 061, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi
  • Science Adviser Antti Väihkönen, tel. +358 295 335 140, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi

Academy Research Fellows:

  • Science Adviser Jan Bäckman, tel. +358 295 335 010, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi

Academy of Finland Communications
Communications Specialist Vesa Varpula
tel. +358 295 335 131
firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi

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