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Academy Research Fellows chosen based on high scientific quality and chances to renew science

6 May 2019

The Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment has decided to fund 25 new 5-year posts as an Academy Research Fellow. Besides high scientific quality of the application and qualifications of the applicant, the Council emphasised the importance of the applicant’s positive career development. The Council also assessed the applicant’s chances to renew science with bold new initiatives.

The aim of the funding for an Academy Research Fellow is to offer researchers wide and versatile possibilities for independet research. The funding enables the researcher to establish their own research group and develop research in their field. Academy Research Fellows are expected to have effective national or international networks. They are also encouraged to engage in international collaboration.

The Academy Research Fellow funding granted by Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment covers approximately 11 million euros. The September 2018 call received 144 applications, of which 17 per cent were funded. 48 per cent of the funded Academy Research Fellows are women. Women accounted for approximately 50 per cent or the applicants. All the funded applications received a rating of either 6 or 5 in their expert reviews.

 “A significant number of the applications were scientifically of very high quality. The Council decided to fund especially researchers with a positive career development who had written a scientifically excellent and innovative application,” says Ursula Schwab, chair of the Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment.

As per the Academy of Finland’s general funding policy, Academy Research Fellows are required to be closely connected to the Finnish scientific community so that the funding benefits Finnish research and society. This means that the funding will be administered by a Finnish organisation. The granted funding is meant to be used for the Academy Research Fellow’s own salary. However, the funded researchers will be invited to a separate call for funding for research costs, where they can apply for funding to cover the the costs of the research group.

The Council funded several scientifically excellent Academy Research Fellows, including:

Ilkka Kronholm from the University of Jyväskylä studies epigenetic changes. The chemical groups related to DNA and the proteins linked to DNA can partly control the functions of the genes. These epigenetic changes can in some cases be passed down to the next generation. If they are inherited, the changes can affect the orgamism’s ability to adjust to changing environments in both long and short terms. The results of the research project help us understand the significance of epigenetic changes in evolution and heredity.

Kirsi Ketola fron the University of Eastern Finland studies prostatic cancer, which is the most common cancer type for men and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the Western countries. For a quarter of the patients the prostatic cancer develops during the treatments into a so-called neuroendocrine tumor which is very aggressive and will lead to death within a year of the diagnosis. The aim of Ketola’s research is to study the protein that has been found especially in this cancer type. She strives to develop medication to stop this protein from functioning. The research results make detecting aggressive prostatic cancers easier than before. Then their progression and spreading can hopefully be slowed down.

Katharina Kujala from the University of Oulu studies the peatland microbes that can be exposed to toxic metalloids such as arsenic and antimony, for example due to atmospheric fallout or mine water. Several types of microbes have developed abilities to use these toxic metalloids. There has been no prior research on which microbes can do this, how active the microbes are, and which mechanisms are behind this development. The project researches the diversity and activity levels of the genes related to transformations in arsenic and antimony, analyses the processes that are significant in the circulation of toxic metalloids, and isolate microbes that could possibly be used in biological water purification.

Yann Salmon from the University of Helsinki studies carbon and water transport in trees. Phloem transport is a central research subject in plant ecology which has proven difficult to test with experimental measurements as the phloem’s functions are easily disturbed. Salmon aims to study the processes of phloem transport and test their effect on distribution and drought tolerance of different trees. The research is mainly carried out in Finland, with additional cooperation in Australia, Europe and the (sub)tropics. The project provides new information for the development of forestry methods, especially in regions that suffer from extreme climate phenomena.

More information

Academy of Finland Communications
Vesa Varpula, Communications Specialist
tel. +358 295 335 131
firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi

Last modified 7 Nov 2019
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