New Academy Research Fellows from the Research Council for Biosciences and Environment

(28th April 2011)

At its meeting on 28 April 2011, the Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Biosciences and Environment selected 14 new Academy Research Fellows. The appointees will start their term in September 2011. The Research Council allocated a total of some EUR 5.5 million for the salaries of the new Academy Research Fellows.

The Research Council for Biosciences and Environment received a total of 89 applications for research posts as Academy Research Fellow by the October call deadline. Women accounted for 48 per cent and foreigners for 37 per cent of the applicants. The success rate was around 16 per cent.

The aim of Academy Research Fellow funding is to provide an opportunity for the most talented and advanced researchers to develop their skills in academic leadership and establish themselves as independent researchers. In particular, the Research Council wanted to promote the career development of talented researchers. The researchers’ suitability for the research post as Academy Research Fellows and their ability to work as research team leaders were also considered as important criteria. The Research Council also paid attention to the proportion of women and the equal distribution of research fields among the appointees. In addition, the Research Council stressed the importance of international mobility and international collaboration.

The new Academy Research Fellows have completed their doctorate no more than 3–9 years ago. The Academy Research Fellow term is five years. The funding covers the researcher’s salary and the appointees can apply for funding for their research costs from the Academy. The Research Council will make separate decisions on this funding in June.

The new Academy Research Fellows are researching e.g. the following topics:

Petri Ala-Laurila (University of Helsinki): Our ability to see in vastly varying conditions depends critically on the outstanding performance of vision. Vision begins in the neural circuits of the retina, which operates with a remarkable fidelity. Ala-Laurila is researching the novel signal processing mechanisms and their adaptive dynamics at the synaptic and cellular-element level across the entire neural circuit of the retina in conditions where only a handful of light quanta underlie detection. In his research, Ala-Laurila combines several fields of biosciences and natural sciences.

Mari Sandell (University of Turku): Taste is an essential component of food. People experience their own personal sensory worlds, which may result in expressions of highly personal food preferences regardless of nutrition recommendations. Bitterness, with 25 taste receptors, is known to be the most complex taste sensation. In her research, Sandell combines taste sensations, taste properties and eating behaviour. She will also investigate the key taste molecules that contribute to the bitterness of selected berries and vegetables. The multidisciplinary research is an interesting combination of food and nutrition sciences and public health issues.

Anke Kremp (Finnish Environment Institute): In systems with a low number of species, the diversity of key species may functionally replace the stabilising role of community diversity. In the Baltic Sea, the phytoplankton community is often dominated by a single or a few species that form dense and even toxic algal blooms. Kremp’s project studies the population diversity of such species and examines its role in ecological processes and adaptation to changing environment conditions. The effects of climate change on the Baltic Sea ecosystem is a very topical research theme. Kremp has gained her Master’s degree in Germany and completed her doctorate in Helsinki.

More information:

  • Senior Science Adviser Tiina Petänen, tel. +358 9 7748 8263, tiina.petanen(at)
  • Science Adviser Harri Hautala, tel. +358 9 7748 8408, harri.hautala(at)
  • new Academy Research Fellows in biosciences and environment liite 28.04.2011.pdf (in Finnish)

Academy of Finland
Vesa Varpula
Communications Specialist
tel. +358 9 7748 8458

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