New Academy Research Fellows selected – scientific quality of applications at high international level

12 May 2020

The Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering has decided to grant funding for 22 new posts as Academy Research Fellow. The Research Council’s total funding for new Academy Research Fellows comes to around 9.7 million euros.

In addition to salary funding, the Academy Research Fellows will receive funding to cover costs of setting up a research team and other research costs. The Research Council has set aside 8.8 million euros to fund the research costs of the new Academy Research Fellows over the next five years.

The highest overall ratings of 6 or 5 was given to 45 per cent of the applications submitted. Only 24 per cent of these could be funded. The overall success rate was around 11 per cent. In the funding decisions, the Research Council emphasised the importance of the applicant’s qualifications and the high scientific quality of the research.

Professor Reko Leino, Chair of the Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering, said: “This year we received a great number of internationally high-quality applications from almost all the fields of research within our remit.” Women account for 32 per cent of the funding recipients and 15 per cent of the applicants.

Examples of funded researchers

Ana Diaz Rubio from Aalto University studies dynamic metasurfaces. Metasurfaces have opened new and exciting possibilities to realise properties beyond those available in natural materials. Rubio aims to investigate metasurfaces and identify entirely unexplored means to manipulate their electromagnetic properties. The effects of temporal variations in meta-atom parameters are still unknown. Rubio intends to find answers to how time-modulation changes the phenomena of bianisotropy and how dynamic metasurfaces can be applied to the design of practical devices.

Joonas Ilmavirta from the University of Jyväskylä focuses on mathematical seismology. The classical Newtonian view is that planets move on curved paths because of the force exerted by the Sun. However, Einstein postulated that planets move straight in a curved geometry whose curvature is caused by the Sun. In his research project, Ilmavirta proposes a similar change of views to seismology. Sound waves from earthquakes are not curved due to variations in sound speed, but they move straight in a somewhat exotic geometry determined by the variations. Such a geometrisation of elasticity allows the use of the powerful tools of modern geometry to tackle problems such as determining the interior structure of the Earth or Mars using surface measurements.

Matti Rissanen from the University of Tampere explores autocatalytic oxidation – autoxidation and autoignition – of hydrocarbon emissions caused by human activities. These processes have far-reaching consequences for pollutant formation and related air quality but also for modern combustion engines aimed at cleaner energy production. The same gas-phase chemistry that leads to spontaneous formation of air pollutants can generate significantly cleaner energy by combustion, when run under careful control. Rissanen aims to improve research methods to better understand these processes. The project uses a combination of flow reactor investigations and high-level theoretical calculations to uncover novel reaction pathways. The team’s earlier work on biogenic compound oxidation serves as a crucial starting material for the project.

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