Academy of Finland Awards go to Matti Jalasvuori and Ville Kivimäki

15 Feb 2018

The Academy of Finland presents awards each year to two outstanding and distinguished researchers. The 2017 Award for Scientific Courage will be presented to Academy Research Fellow Matti Jalasvuori from the University of Jyväskylä and the Award for Social Impact to Postdoctoral Researcher Ville Kivimäki from the University of Tampere.

Jalasvuori has done groundbreaking research into the development of virotherapy to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. Kivimäki’s research deals with the social and cultural history of the second world war and post-war emotional history in the Finnish context.

The Academy of Finland Award for Scientific Courage is granted to a researcher who has shown exceptional scientific audacity, creativity or innovation in research. The Award can be granted for a novel or original research idea, for forward-looking work that cuts across scientific boundaries, or for a willingness to take risks in research.

The Academy of Finland Award for Social Impact is granted to a researcher who has significantly contributed to increasing public awareness of scientific research or the researcher’s job, inspired interest in science, actively contributed to public debate in society, or otherwise strengthened the role, application and impact of science and research in society.

The award ceremony will be held on Thursday 15 February at the Academy of Finland in Helsinki.

Award for Scientific Courage given to researcher of viruses and antibiotic resistance

The Academy of Finland Award for Scientific Courage is presented to Academy Research Fellow Matti Jalasvuori (b. 1982). Jalasvuori is a virologist whose research focuses on the use of viruses in the treatment of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. His work has spanned several different research topics over the years. For example, he has studied the connection between viruses and the origin of life, the evolution of viruses and sexual reproduction, and virotherapy as a cancer treatment.

“It was near the end of my studies that I realised that the transfer of genetic information from one organism to another is an essential element of life, one in which viruses play an important role. Our understanding of this process is however still very limited,” Jalasvuori says.

“This realisation has since acted as the connecting factor between my various research projects, which have often emerged from me pondering over scientific questions night after night. This type of horizontal gene transfer also has many practical applications, and it’s the main culprit behind the rapid spread of antibiotic resistance.”

Antibiotic resistance is one of the most significant and urgent risks facing medicine today. Jalasvuori studies how antibiotic resistance spreads via bacteria and develops novel virus- and plasmid-based techniques to stop the resistance from spreading. In his research, he combines expertise in virology in a bold, multidisciplinary way that affords an opportunity to find novel solutions to the practical challenges of antibiotic resistance.

Matti Jalasvuori received his master’s degree in 2007 and obtained a doctoral degree in molecular biology in 2010 at the University of Jyväskylä. During 2011–2014 he was an Academy-funded Postdoctoral Researcher at Jyväskylä. He did a postdoctoral stint in 2012 at Australian National University in Canberra.

He currently has funding for an Academy Research Fellow post for the period 2016–2021. In 2014, he was appointed as an adjunct professor (docent) of virus genetics at Jyväskylä. Jalasvuori and his team were part of the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in Biological Interactions Research (2012–2017). He also has funding from the UK Medical Research Council, among others.

He regularly collaborates with international research groups and actively publishes his findings in leading scientific journals. He has also published a popular book on viruses, life and the universe (Virus – elämän synnyttäjä, kuoleman kylväjä, ajatusten tartuttaja, available only in Finnish).

Historian wins Award for Social Impact

The Academy of Finland Award for Social Impact goes to Postdoctoral Researcher Ville Kivimäki (b. 1976). Kivimäki is a historian whose research has dealt with wartime social and cultural history and with the history of mental health and psychiatry.

Kivimäki’s research approach allows him to open discussion about topics in Finland’s history that have long been avoided, that have concerned many people and that may involve painful memories. His studies have shed light on the hidden effects of war, thus bringing the experiences of different generations closer together. The better we understand how war affects individual people and society, the better we can grasp the consequences of violent conflicts in our own time. Kivimäki’s research has been targeted at not only the scientific community but also the general public. He actively makes his research and historical data available to the public, and many of his publications are available in Finnish. The book Murtuneet mielet (‘broken minds’, only in Finnish) was chosen as the history book of the year and won the Finlandia Prize for non-fiction in 2013.

“Historians in particular have an audience also outside the scientific community. There’s a large, very civilised readership in Finland that’s interested in history research – whenever we organise public events on historical topics, they’re always packed to the rafters,” Kivimäki says.

“Together with this audience, historians engage in discussions about the relationship between the past and the present, and between the present and the future. Writing for this audience is as much the task of researchers as is writing for the international scientific community.”

Although Kivimäki acknowledges that it is impossible to measure the value or significance of this discussion, in many topics the social impact of history research is born out of dialogue with the public.

Ville Kivimäki received his master’s degree in Finnish history in 2002 at the University of Joensuu and earned a doctoral degree in Nordic history in 2013 at Åbo Akademi University. He was a researcher at the University of Helsinki in 2012–2014 before transferring to the University of Tampere. He currently has funding from the Academy of Finland for a Postdoctoral Research post at Tampere for 2016–2019. In 2017, he was appointed as an adjunct professor (docent) at Tampere. He also heads a team that is part of the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in the History of Experiences (2018–2025). He has been a visiting researcher at the University of Tübingen, Germany, at Yale University, USA, and at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Germany.

Encouragement through awards

This is the fifteenth time that the Academy of Finland Awards are presented. The recipients must be Academy Research Fellows or work as Academy-funded Postdoctoral Researchers. Nominations are submitted by the Academy’s research councils to the Academy Board, which makes the final decisions. The purpose of the Awards is to recognise and encourage outstanding researchers with dynamic career prospects and to highlight goals and objectives the Academy finds important. The winners are presented with a mouth-blown ornament entitled “The Moment”, designed by Miia Liesegang.

More information and inquiries

  • Academy Research Fellow Matti Jalasvuori, tel. +358 50 413 5092, firstname.lastname(at)
  • Postdoctoral Researcher Ville Kivimäki, tel. +358 50 432 8067, firstname.lastname(at)
  • Vice President for Research Riitta Maijala, Academy of Finland, tel. +358 295 335 002, firstname.lastname(at)

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