Academy of Finland to fund eight new Academy Professors

27 May 2015

The Academy of Finland has decided to fund eight new research posts as Academy Professor for the years 2016–2020. The new Academy Professors are Professor Pertti Alasuutari (University of Tampere), Professor Hannu Häkkinen (University of Jyväskylä), Professor Kai Kaila (University of Helsinki), Professor Samuel Kaski (Aalto University), Professor Matti Keloharju (Aalto University), Professor Riitta Lahesmaa (University of Turku), Professor Virpi Lummaa (University of Turku) and Professor Seppo Ylä-Herttuala (University of Eastern Finland).

The new Academy Professors conduct research in a wide range of disciplines: sociology; nanoscience and nanotechnology; neuroscience; computational data analysis; business economics and economics; biomedicine and cellular and molecular biology; ecology, evolutionary biology and ecophysiology; and biomedicine, clinical medicine.

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 2016–2020

A key theme in Pertti Alasuutari’s (University of Tampere) research is the links between the practices and the power relations of modern society. By studying the formation and functioning of several international organisations and the activities of national policy-makers both within them and within national politics, Alasuutari aims to address the question about the purpose of such networking from the viewpoint of national actors. The work is potentially internationally significant as it tries to strengthen social sciences research into culture and administration, making it more multidisciplinary and methodologically diverse.

Hannu Häkkinen (University of Jyväskylä) applies theoretical and computational methods to the study of the physical, chemical and bioconjugate properties of nanostructured metal-molecule interfaces. The research focuses especially on metal nanoparticles and nanostructures protected by organic ligand molecules and on new breakthroughs in their use as catalysts, sensors, components for molecular electronics, biocompatible labels and drug carriers. Häkkinen is based at the University of Jyväskylä (Department of Physics and Department of Chemistry) and at the Nanoscience Center (NSC), working in close collaboration with NSC teams and a number of foreign teams.

Kai Kaila (University of Helsinki) explores the significance of ion-regulatory proteins in brain development, plasticity and epilepsy. The goal of Kaila’s research is to produce new neurobiological data on, for example, the brain functions of newborn babies. Such data can be used in developing novel therapies of diseases such as epilepsy. The overall objective is to ease human suffering and ease the burden on society, both socially and economically. Kaila was Academy Professor in 1996–2006.

Samuel Kaski (Aalto University) develops computational methods for interactive multi-source data analysis and machine learning. They will be applied first to personalised medicine, but they will also be applicable to the ever widely available collections of datasets in science and data-based services. Current data analysis methods are ill prepared for the challenges underlying personalised medicine. Responses to treatments need to be predicted based on very small samples, even from only one, with a very large number of variables. Kaski is a pioneer in many areas of machine learning technology and applications, and he has contributed to several significant scientific breakthroughs in this multidisciplinary field. 

Matti Keloharju’s (Aalto University) term as Academy Professor involves three distinct yet related research projects exploring talent and success in business careers. Keloharju will investigate what the traits of a million Swedes tell about CEOs, how gender differences influence the effect of talent on career outcomes, and how business mergers and acquisitions affect the exodus of talent. Keloharju’s research is an international collaboration.

Riitta Lahesmaa (University of Turku) studies the development and functions of T cells. T cells play a crucial role in protecting the body against pathogens and cancer. Lahesmaa aims to study the mechanisms that lead to the differentiation of human T cells and why disturbances in this process may lead to diseases. The research will utilise comprehensive genome-wide analysis methods, cutting-edge computational data analysis and biobanks. The aim is to increase our understanding of the mechanisms underlying immunological diseases and find new, improved methods of therapeutic intervention.

Virpi Lummaa (University of Turku) studies natural selection in contemporary human populations. During her term as Academy Professor, Lummaa will investigate how the modern environment itself fuels human evolution and how demographic shifts to low birth and death rates affect the opportunity for selection or specific trait selection. She will use longitudinal demographic data from Finland spanning 350 years and more than twelve generations to look at how the strength and direction of selection on key fitness traits may have changed with the modernisation of societies. At present, Lummaa is reader in evolutionary biology at the University of Sheffield, UK. She will transfer to the University of Turku for her Academy Professorship.

Seppo Ylä-Herttuala’s (University of Eastern Finland) research is aimed at developing widely applicable novel technology for clinical gene therapy. Therapeutic angiogenesis with vascular endothelial growth factors could become a novel, minimally invasive new treatment for severe myocardial ischemia. However, this goal requires new vector technology. 

Read more about Academy Professors on our website under 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,tel.+358 295 335 126, and Science Adviser Satu Illman, tel. +358 295 335 119,firstname.lastname(at)

Academy of Finland Communications
Leena Vähäkylä, Communications Specialist
tel. +358 295 335 139

Last modified 28 May 2015
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