Academy of Finland selected seven new Academy Professors for 2015–2019

10 Jun 2014

The Board of the Academy of Finland has decided to fund seven new Academy Professors for the years 2014–2019. The new Academy Professors are Professors Paavo Alku (Aalto University), Elina Ikonen (University of Helsinki), Johanna Ivaska (University of Turku), Jukka Jernvall (University of Helsinki), Katri Räikkönen-Talvitie (University of Helsinki) and Timo Vesala (University of Helsinki). Professor Johanna Niemi (University of Turku) was selected as the recipient of the Minna Canth Academy Professorship in the field of equality and gender studies.

The new Academy Professors conduct research in a wide range of disciplines: evolutionary developmental biology, signal processing, cell and molecular biology, psychology, law as well as meteorology and atmospheric science.

The international experts who reviewed the applications said the selected Academy Professors are at the very cutting edge of research in their respective fields, both in Finland and abroad. For the first time women account for more than half of the new Academy Professors, which is an increase on the previous funding round. 

The aim of the Academy of Finland’s funding for research posts as Academy Professor is to facilitate full-time scientific research for internationally leading-edge researchers. Academy Professors are expected to greatly contribute to the progress of research in their fields and develop a creative research environment. At present, the Academy funds 44 five-year Academy Professorships in a number of disciplines. Two of the Academy Professorships are targeted posts, open for application every five years: the Minna Canth Academy Professorship and the Martti Ahtisaari Academy Professorship.

Academy Professors 2014–2018

Professor Paavo Alku (Aalto University) is one of the world’s leading researchers in his field. He is involved in an interdisciplinary research project aimed at developing new methods of statistical speech synthesis. His particular research interest is the role of the vocoder at the heart of statistical speech synthesis: the aim is to make use of signal processing methods that more accurately model the physiology of human speech production. The results of the research will have extensive application in the ICT sector, particularly in developing more natural speech interfaces.

Academy Professor Elina Ikonen (University of Helsinki) has made a number of significant scientific breakthroughs in cholesterol research. In her research project, Ikonen will investigate how cholesterol behaves in cell membranes, both under normal conditions and in human cholesterol-related diseases. The project aims to uncover novel mechanisms that dictate the distribution of cholesterol in cells, within cellular membranes, and cellular responses elicited upon cholesterol loading. Ikonen’s appointment is an extension to her current Academy Professorship.

Professor Johanna Ivaska’s (University of Turku) research focus is on the changes that occur in cells with the development of cancer metastases. Integrins are important cell adhesion receptors that regulate the division of cells and their movement in tissue. Changes in cell adhesion properties are a key factor in the formation of cancer metastases. The aim of Professor Ivaska’s research is to reach a fundamentally new mechanical understanding of how integrins work in cancer cells and to produce a roadmap of integrin receptor operation and communication chains.

Academy Professor Jukka Jernvall (University of Helsinki) is a recognised pioneer in the interdisciplinary field of evolutionary developmental biology. Using mammalian tooth development as a model, Jernvall has explored the biological principles that lie behind the individual’s three-dimensional phenotype. Jernvall’s current research focus is on sequencing the genome of the Saimaa ringed seal. Dentition varies widely among seals and the Saimaa ringed seal therefore lends itself well to an exploration of the principles of shape regulation. Jernvall’s appointment is an extension to his current Academy Professorship.

Professor Johanna Niemi (University of Turku) is appointed to the Minna Canth Academy Professorship. Professor Niemi’s research combines attention to methodological questions of jurisprudence with the reconciliation of work and the family, criminal policy and crime investigation. She is keen to understand how changes in notions of gender are reflected in justice and in studies of law, and on the other hand how gender is involved in the traditionally male-dominated field of criminal investigation.

Professor Katri Räikkönen-Talvitie (University of Helsinki) is interested in the effects of the foetal growth environment on an individual’s later life. The foetal programming hypothesis has it that adverse environmental conditions may permanently alter foetal mechanisms of physiological regulation in ways that at a later stage may lead to mental and physical vulnerabilities. Räikkönen-Talvitie is particularly interested in researching the adverse foetal events and mechanisms that lie behind the unfolding of this chain of events. She gives particular focus to pregnancy disorders and to foetal exposure to the stress hormone cortisol.

Professor Timo Vesala (University of Helsinki) explores biosphere feedback to climate, which has turned out to be crucial for understanding global climate change. Vesala’s research project has three main objectives: 1) to quantify the importance of the mechanisms determining the gas exchange between the studied system and the air; 2) to quantify how important the more detailed description of transport phenomena and phase transitions is for righter process description; and 3) to provide new field observation data and tested process models combining transport phenomena, phase transitions and metabolic processes to be further utilised in earth system models.

The Academy Professors are presented on our website at > About us > Who we are > Academy Professors.

More information:

  • Vice President for Research Marja Makarow, tel. +358 295 335 002, firstname.lastname(at)
  • Biosciences and Environment Research Unit: Director Laura Raaska, tel. +358 295 335 094, and Science Adviser Timo Sareneva, tel. +358 295 335 106, firstname.lastname(at)
  • Culture and Society Research Unit: Director Liisa Savunen, tel. +358 295 335 122, and Senior Science Adviser Hannele Kurki, tel. +358 295 335 052, firstname.lastname(at)
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Unit: Director Susan Linko, tel. +358 295 335 066, and Senior Science Adviser Ritva Taurio, tel. +358 295 335 115, firstname.lastname(at)
  • Health Research Unit: Director Jarmo Wahlfors, +358 295 335 126, and Science Adviser Heikki Vilen, tel. +358 295 335 135, firstname.lastname(at)


Academy of Finland Communications

Director of Communications Riitta Tirronen
tel. +358 295 335 118



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