Irma Thesleff (b. 1948) is an internationally recognised scientist with a research interest in the mechanisms of embryonic organ development. Although she is best known for her work on tooth development, she has also studied other ectodermal organs such as hairs and glands as well as cranial bones. For example, she has developed a mammalian tooth model that has allowed for an in-depth examination of both embryonic and evolutionary development.
Thesleff obtained her PhD in Dental Science in 1975. She has spent most of her career at the University of Helsinki, except for a postdoctoral stint at the National Institute of Dental Research in Bethesda, USA. Thesleff served as Academy Professor with funding from the Academy of Finland between 1998 and 2003, and headed the Academy’s Centre of Excellence in Developmental Biology from 2002 to 2007. She has received honorary doctorates from McGill University in Canada, KU Leuven in Belgium, the University of Debrecen in Hungary, the University of Gothenburg and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, the University of Oslo in Norway and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Thesleff has also been invited as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
She has received a number of prestigious prizes and awards, including the Anders Jahre Senior Medical Prize in 1999, the Isaac Schour Memorial Award in 2008 and the Finnish Dental Society’s Apollonia Award in 2009. In 2004, she was named Professor of the Year by the Finnish Union of University Professors (FUUP).
Thesleff received the honorary title of Academician of Science in 2014.