Academy of Finland selects 10 new Academy Professors

16 Dec 2020

The Academy of Finland today decided on funding for ten new research posts as Academy Professor for the period 1 September 2021–31 August 2026. Academy Professors are internationally leading-edge researchers in their field who are expected to have great scientific impact in the scientific community and in society at large.

In the call for proposals, a total of 249 researchers submitted letters of intent. Of these, 31 applicants were invited to the second call stage. The number of researchers applying for funding for an Academy Professorship hit a record high. In the previous call in 2017, there were 193 applicants at the letter of intent stage. The new Academy Professors will receive salary funding for up to five years.

International experts reviewed the applications at both the first and second call stage. The reviews focused on the scientific quality, innovativeness and novelty value of the proposed research and assessed the potential impact of the research in the scientific community. At the second call stage, the reviewers also focused on the quality of the applicant’s research environment and collaborative networks.

Professor Johanna Myllyharju, who chaired the General Subcommittee, which made the decisions, said: “The call shows that Finland has a very large number of internationally high-quality researchers who approach research problems in a unique way.”

As the new Academy Professors begin their term in September next year, there will be a total of 26 Academy Professors. Seven of the current Academy Professors will end their terms at the end of 2020. The next Academy Professor call has been planned for 2023.

The new Academy Professors are: Yrjö Helariutta (plant biology), Pasi Ihalainen (history), Jukka Jernvall (developmental biology and physiology), Ari Laaksonen (meteorology, atmospheric science, climate research), Karri Muinonen (astronomy), Heikki Pihlajamäki (law), Otso Ovaskainen (ecology, evolutionary biology, ecophysiology), Katariina Salmela-Aro (developmental and educational psychology), Anu Wartiovaara (biomedicine) and Guoying Zhao (computer science).

Yrjö Helariutta studies the vascular development of plants and trees, especially phloem development and function. He combines research on trees, especially the economically significant birch, with research on forest tree improvement and wood materials science.

Pasi Ihalainen explores political representation, analysing tensions between parliament and the people from the age of revolutions to the 21st century. Using the concepts of representation and popular sovereignty, Ihalainen will investigate historical and present-day constructions, deconstructions and reconstructions of parliamentary legitimacy in political discourse. He will search and analyse digitised parliamentary records from Finland and a number of other European countries.

Jukka Jernvall conducts research in the field of evolutionary developmental biology, examining the development and formation of teeth. A particular focus of Jernvall’s research are how the cusps, the parts of the teeth that grind or cut the food, are shaped. Although the developmental regulation of teeth in general is today well known, it is not yet known how the shape of these cusps is regulated. Jernvall’s project will develop a new computational model to identify what in tooth development is critical for proper contact between the teeth.

Ari Laaksonen will study climate change and particularly the mechanisms behind deposition ice nucleation in the atmosphere. Laaksonen will examine ice nucleation on mineral, organic, black carbon and biological aerosol particles via laboratory experiments and molecular simulations. This will lead to improved descriptions of ice nucleation. The more detailed descriptions can then be implemented in climate models.

Karri Muinonen does research in astronomy and will study electromagnetic scattering. Scattering and absorption of light occurs in practically all systems of matter and electromagnetic radiation. Measuring, observing and theoretically modelling this interaction can provide information about the systems’ physical and chemical properties down to length scales of a fraction of the wavelength. The research facilitates observations of planetary objects such as asteroids.

Heikki Pihlajamäki makes use of comparative legal history to explore how the early modern colonial laws of England, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal evolved. He will set the colonial laws in two contexts: the historical continuation that links the colonial experience to the Middle Ages and the early modern context of continental European empires. The project will also systematically compare early modern overseas legal orders with each other.

Otso Ovaskainen will conduct research to generate new information about global biodiversity. Ovaskainen will focus on its current distribution, the drivers of its dynamics, and how it can be expected to change due to ongoing global changes. One of the aims of the project is to generate unprecedented global data on biodiversity, especially for fungi and arthropods, which comprise a major part of biodiversity but for which systematic globally relevant data are currently lacking.

Katariina Salmela-Aro studies the effects of climate change on young people’s wellbeing. The research is focused on the emotional, cognitive, behavioural and social consequences on youth development. The aim is to examine both positive effects, such as empowerment and social cohesion, and negative effects, such as dimensions of stress and anxiety.

Anu Wartiovaara aims to explore the role of mitochondrial metabolism in nervous system health and disease. She wants to clarify novel active roles of mitochondrial signalling in modifying the whole-cellular metabolic environment and behaviour in different nervous system cell populations. In addition, she will examines how these functions change in metabolic stress and disease conditions. The research can provide new information on mechanisms behind neurodegenerative diseases, and it may provide opportunities for developing new targeted therapies.

Guoying Zhao will utilise novel computer vision and machine learning methodology to investigate how artificial intelligence (AI) can identify human emotion. In addition to visual cues based on expressions, AI can also identify suppressed and unseen emotional signals. The study can help advance the emotional intelligence of AI-based solutions and improve understanding of the significance of emotions in the context of human-computer interactions. The research knowledge generated can accelerate innovations for real-world e-teaching and security applications.


  • Funding decisions
  • Professor Johanna Myllyharju, Chair of the Board of the Academy of Finland, Chair of the General Subcommittee, tel. +358 294 485 740, firstname.lastname(at)
  • Riitta Maijala, Vice President for Research, Academy of Finland, tel. +358 295 335 002, firstname.lastname(at)
  • Ritva Taurio, Senior Science Adviser, Academy of Finland, tel. +358 295 335 115, firstname.lastname(at)
  • Maiju Gyran, Senior Science Adviser, Academy of Finland, tel. +358 295 335 015, firstname.lastname(at)
  • Timo Sareneva, Science Adviser, Academy of Finland, tel. +358 295 335 106, firstname.lastname(at)
  • Helena Vänskä, Senior Science Adviser, Academy of Finland, tel. +358 295 335 036, firstname.lastname(at)

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

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