Academy of Finland Newsletter, December 2010
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Neuroscientist, Academy Professor Riitta Hari new Academician of Science
Academy Professor Riitta Hari has been appointed Finnish Academician of Science. Riitta Hari is an internationally recognised and respected neuroscientist. She has developed methods and applications of human brain imaging and thereby contributed decisively to the progress of this branch of science. Hari’s current focus is on the brain basis of social interaction.
Director of the Brain Research Unit of the Low Temperature Laboratory at Aalto University School of Science and Technology, Riitta Hari and her team are widely known for their long-standing work in developing magnetoencephalography (MEG) and its applications. MEG picks up the weak magnetic fields of the brain, providing information about brain processing with millisecond resolution. The results have multiple applications in basic research, but also in the diagnostics and follow-up of brain diseases.
Hari has recently started her third five-year term as Academy Professor (2010–2014). She also directs the Finnish Centre of Excellence on Systems Neuroscience and Neuroimaging Research at Aalto University. The Academy of Finland has granted the Centre some EUR 2.7 million in funding for 2006–2011.
Hari is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences since 2004. She has been granted several prestigious awards and recognitions both abroad and in Finland, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Lisbon, the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine in Switzerland, the Justine and Yves Sergent Prize for Cognitive Neuroscience in Canada, the Award for the Advancement of European Science in Germany, and the Finnish Science Award.
Hari’s scientific publishing is extensive and internationally highly acknowledged. She has also been active in supervising a wide range of doctoral dissertations covering disciplines such as clinical neurophysiology, neurology, psychology, psychiatry, neuropaediatrics, audiology, physics, medical physics, neurosurgery and radiology.
Academy Professor Ilkka Hanski receives European Latsis Prize 2010 for Biodiversity
Academy Professor Ilkka Hanski from the University of Helsinki has been awarded the European Latsis Prize for his contributions to research on biodiversity in general and metapopulation biology in particular. Valued at EUR 74,000, the European Latsis Prize is funded by the Geneva-based Latsis Foundation and awarded by the European Science Foundation (ESF) to an individual researcher or a research team who, in the opinion of their peers, has made the greatest contribution to a particular field of European research.
Hanski is an internationally acclaimed pioneer in ecology who has changed the way of thinking in his field. Metapopulation biology – the study of species living in networks of fragmented habitats – has been his most pressing concern for more than 20 years. The lessons from his research have shed light on the mechanisms that maintain biodiversity and have given insight to its conservation. Hanski is best known for his work on the Glanville fritillary butterfly on the Åland Islands in southern Finland, which has become an important model system in population biology. The latest step is to try to identify the genetic basis of traits that underpin survival in fragmented habitats.
Academy President Markku Mattila elected as ESF Vice President
Professor Markku Mattila, President of the Academy of Finland, and Professor João Sentieiro, President of the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) in Portugal, have been elected as Vice Presidents of the European Science Foundation (ESF) for the term 2011–2013. President of the ESF is Professor Ian Halliday from the UK.
Established in 1974, the European Science Foundation is an association of some 80 Member Organisations from 30 countries. The Member Organisations are agencies funding basic research and academies of sciences in ESF member states. The Finnish Member Organisations are the Academy of Finland and the Delegation of the Finnish Academies of Science and Letters, which is a national cooperative body for Finnish learned societies operating in connection with the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies. The ESF promotes collaboration in scientific research in Europe, bringing together researchers from different countries through workshops, conferences and research programmes. It also develops strategic science advice for Europe. The ESF is an independent organisation whose activities are mainly financed by its Member Organisations.
Five Finnish researchers receive substantial ERC funding
Five researchers working in Finland have received substantial Starting Independent Researcher Grants for young researchers from the European Research Council (ERC). The maximum amount of the funding for a project is EUR 1.5 million for five years. The funding is targeted to individual researchers for setting up a research team to carry out the proposed project.
The ERC has two types of grants: ERC Starting Grants for early-career top researchers and ERC Advanced Grants for top research leaders with significant research achievements. In its competition for Starting Grants, the ERC awarded a total of EUR 580 million to 427 projects. Compared with the other Nordic countries, Finland came second after Sweden. Sweden received ERC funding for 20 researchers, Denmark for four and Norway for three researchers.
The Finnish ERC Starting Grant winners are Patrik Jones (University of Turku), Hannes Lohi (University of Helsinki), Atte Moilanen (University of Helsinki), Alberto Sanz (University of Tampere) and Hanna Vehkamäki (University of Helsinki). The Finnish ERC grantees have also been successful in national competitions for research funding and they have a strong link with the Academy of Finland, which has funded their research through, e.g., research posts as Academy Research Fellow, Postdoctoral Researcher’s projects and general research grants. Several of the Finnish ERC grant winners are also working within Finnish Centres of Excellence in research appointed by the Academy of Finland.
Finnish doctoral programme on European top 24 list in life sciences
Helsinki Graduate Program in Biotechnology and Molecular Biology (GPBM) at the University of Helsinki is the first doctoral programme in Finland featured by invitation on the EMBO Global Exchange Programme portal. The aim of the EMBO Global Exchange Programme is to initiate new and facilitate existing exchange, thereby establishing long-lasting cooperation worldwide. Initially the programme focuses on life scientists in India, China, Taiwan and Africa.
EMBO has collected a list of 24 leading PhD programmes across Europe as a resource for students considering postgraduate studies in Europe. This gives a flavour of the international culture, excellent training and variety of graduate programmes Europe has to offer. On average, only half of the students in these programmes are from the host country, and almost 20 per cent are from outside the EU.
With support from the Academy of Finland, GPBM has over the years emphasised internationality through enhancing recruitment and research collaboration. 54 per cent of the enrolled students are from countries other than Finland. Altogether 16 different nationalities are represented in the programme, making it the most international doctoral programme in Finland. GPBM is a doctoral programme of the Biocentrum Helsinki research organisation. It covers a wide range of areas in life sciences research, ranging from plant sciences to clinical work across campuses and faculty borders. The programme is administered at the Institute of Biotechnology, where about 40 per cent of the researchers are non-Finnish nationals.
Nordic research collaboration expected to provide solutions to climate and energy issues
Nordic research collaboration is expected to contribute to responding to challenges in future energy solutions and the management of climate change. Finnish research teams are therefore strongly represented in the new Nordic Centres of Excellence and research projects of the Top-level Research Initiative (TRI) launched by the Nordic prime ministers. The Initiative, which is jointly funded by Nordic research funding agencies and ministries, will focus on research on climate change and energy issues. It comprises six sub-programmes, two of which will focus on climate change research and four on energy research. In Finland, the Initiative is funded by the Academy of Finland and the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.
The themes of the sub-programmes within climate change research are effect studies and adaptation to climate change, and the interaction between climate change and cryosphere. The cryosphere is the term which collectively describes the portions of the Earth’s surface where water is in solid form. It is a predominant feature of the arctic and subarctic regions and large parts of the North.
Three new Nordic Centres of Excellence (NCoEs) will be funded within the TRI sub-programme “Effect Studies and Adaptation to Climate Change”; one of these is headed by Lauri Oksanen from the University of Turku and Finnmark University College (Norway). In his project, Oksanen and his team will investigate how to preserve the tundra in a warming climate. The NCoE also involves research teams from the Universities of Turku and Lapland and the Finnish Meteorological Institute. These teams are headed by Pekka Niemelä (University of Turku), Bruce Forbes (University of Lapland), Jouni Pulliainen (University of Eastern Finland), Erkki Korpimäki (University of Turku) and Jukka Käyhkö (University of Turku).
Two Finnish research teams are participating in the new NCoE “Climate Change Effects on Marine Ecosystems and Resource Economics”, headed by Erik Bonsdorff (Åbo Akademi University) and Marko Lindroos (University of Helsinki). Lasse Peltonen’s research team from Aalto University is involved in the NCoE “Nordic Strategic Adaptation Research”.
Three new NCoEs will also be funded within the sub-programme “Interactions between Climate Change and the Cryosphere”; one of these is headed by Markku Kulmala from the University of Helsinki. Kulmala’s project will focus on the role played by short-lived pollutants and aerosol-cloud interactions and their linkages with cryospheric changes and the climate. The project involves teams from the Universities of Helsinki and Eastern Finland and the Finnish Meteorological Institute. Besides Kulmala, the teams are also headed by Ari Laaksonen (University of Eastern Finland) and Gerrit de Leeuw (University of Eastern Finland).
The other NCoEs focusing on the interaction between climate change and the cryosphere will study changes in ice sheets, glaciers and permafrost. The teams researching ice sheets and glaciers are headed by Thomas Zwinger (CSC – IT Center for Science), Heikki Järvinen (University of Eastern Finland) and John Moore (Arctic Centre/University of Lapland). The teams studying permafrost are headed by Pertti Martikainen (University of Eastern Finland) and Timo Vesala (University of Helsinki).
The TRI sub-programmes focusing on energy research will investigate how to improve energy efficiency by means of nanotechnology, how to support wind power development and how to produce sustainable biofuels. The research on energy efficiency will develop environmentally friendly, paper-based batteries and nanocoatings with improved conductivity properties, for instance. The Finnish researchers involved in these projects are Maria Smolander and Lasse Makkonen from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Harri Lipsanen from Aalto University. VTT also participates in projects within the sub-programme focusing on biofuels. Together with the Strategic Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation CLEEN Ltd, VTT is also involved in one of the projects that will investigate wind power. The project aims to improve the predictability of winds, waves and ice formation. Further, one sub-programme will investigate carbon capture and storage.
Academy of Finland at a glance
The Academy’s objective is to promote scientific research of a high standard through long-term quality-based research funding, research and science policy expertise, and efforts to strengthen the position of science and scientific research. In 2010, the Academy makes decisions on research funding worth EUR 340 million. Each year about 5,000 people benefit from Academy research funding. For more information, go to www.aka.fi/eng or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.