Academy Professor Eva-Mari Aro (b. 1950) has been Professor of Plant Physiology at the University of Turku since 1998. Aro’s area of specialty is plant molecular biology. She has introduced a whole new area of strength of photosynthesis research into the Finnish scientific landscape. At the same time, her laboratory has grown into one of the world’s premier centres of photosynthesis research.
In recent years, Aro and her team have focused their efforts on studying how photosynthesis can be harnessed to produce compounds beneficial to humankind following the principles of sustainable development. Aro’s research applies methods of synthetic biology to the efficient production of chemicals and energy using photosynthetic organisms, mainly cyanobacteria.
Rather than harnessing cyanobacteria for the production of biomass – the conventional route in bioenergy-related studies on algae – Aro works to develop “living factories”, cells that can convert solar energy into fuels and useful chemicals. It is hoped that research in this area could provide a breakthrough that would contribute to fully replacing the fossil fuels.
Aro has noted the fast pace at which the societal significance of research is growing. “Research is a fundamental condition both for creating new applications and for providing policy-makers with evidence-based advice. In a world as fragile and small as ours, scientific advice has become more important than ever before. My own sense of responsibility in this issue roused some ten years ago, but I hope that younger researchers are more aware and informed than I was.”
Aro’s current term as an Academy Professor funded by the Academy of Finland ends in 2018. She has previously served as Academy Professor also in 1998–2008. In 2008–2013 she helmed the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in Integrative Photosynthesis and Bioactive Compound Research at Systems Biology Level. Currently, she heads the Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology of Primary Producers (2014–2019).
Aro has received several international distinctions and awards and she holds numerous positions of trust both in Finland and abroad. In addition to being actively involved in many scientific and science policy networks at EU level, she serves on several selection committees for major international science prizes. At present, Aro is Vice-President at the Bureau of the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC). The Council provides independent scientific advice to European policy-makers under three programmes: Energy, Environment and Biosciences.
The Finnish Union of University Professors selected Aro as Professor of the Year in 2013.
- Academy Professor Eva-Mari Aro, University of Turku, tel. +358 2 333 5931, evaaro(at)utu.fi