Academy of Finland selects new Postdoctoral Researchers in biosciences, health and environmental research

28 Apr 2022

The Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment today decided to fund 32 new posts as Postdoctoral Researcher. In its funding decisions, the Research Council placed emphasis on the high scientific quality of the research, networking that supports the researcher’s career and independence and the intention to engage in international cooperation.

In addition to the high scientific quality of the research plan and the qualifications of the applicant, the Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment particularly stressed how the research and research environment support the applicant’s networking and career development towards greater independence. The Research Council was pleased to note that, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the researchers’ plans demonstrated an aim towards internationalisation and establishing international contacts.

According to Professor Jussi Kukkonen, the Chair of the Research Council, all Postdoctoral Researcher applications were of a high standard. All funded applications received a rating of either 6 or 5.

Kukkonen said: “Funding was granted to talented researchers with innovative applications that also showed the researchers’ active approach to developing their own careers through changing research environments and establishing collaborative networks.”

The new Postdoctoral Researchers receive funding for three years. The Research Council’s total funding for the new posts comes to nearly 9 million euros. The success rate was approximately 15%. Around 53 per cent of the funded Postdoctoral Researchers are women, compared to 60 per cent of the applicants.

Postdoctoral Researcher funding supports the most talented researchers who have recently completed their doctoral degree in gaining competence for demanding researcher or expert positions. It is also aimed at assisting the transition towards an independent research career.

In line with the Academy of Finland’s general funding policies, Postdoctoral Researchers are required to be closely connected to the Finnish scientific community so that the funding benefits Finnish research and society. The funding is intended for the Postdoctoral Researcher’s salary, personal research costs as well as international and national mobility.

The Research Council funded several scientifically excellent researchers. Here are a few examples:

Sami Lehtinen (University of Jyväskylä). Sami Lehtinen received funding for a research project that aims to improve our mechanistic understanding to help predict the effects of environmental change on ecosystem structure and to facilitate future development of best practices for ecosystem conservation. Atlantic cod in the North Atlantic Ocean is a commercially and ecological important species, which in many locations collapsed thirty years ago due to overfishing. Despite many attempts to recover the populations, they have shown little signs of recovery and may be facing extinction within a few decades. It is important to understand how the underlying drivers and characteristics of the species in the ecosystems inhibit or prevent recovery of collapsed cod populations. Lehtinen’s project aims to explore how the individual behaviour of species scale up to the level of ecosystem dynamics and evolution.

Lea Mikkola (University of Turku). Lea Mikkola will make use of the latest technologies to investigate and clarify the cell and tissue-specific disease mechanisms underlying hip joint osteoarthritis. Hip joint osteoarthritis is a common disorder that leads to thousands of joint replacements in Finland annually. In addition to deteriorated health and a decreased quality of life, osteoarthritis causes significant financial losses that are estimated to multiply in the next decades due to ageing populations. Mikkola’s project aims to produce new knowledge to improve the general understanding of the development of the disorder. The results of the project could aid the development of better targeted diagnostic and treatment options. The project has potential to present remarkable advancements in medical science and to provide essential foundations for future osteoarthritis studies.

Juuli Raivola (University of Helsinki). Juuli Raivola was granted funding for a project that will provide insights into how signalling receptors found in ovarian cancer cells drive cancer progression and how the cancer growth could be stopped by targeting the expression of these receptors. Ovarian cancer is one of the most common gynaecologic cancers, and it often has a high mortality rate. This is due to resistant and metastatic forms of the disease that often cause relapses. The project will use ovarian cancer cell lines and patient-derived cells to study the events driven by the receptors. In parallel, Raivola will develop molecules that bind explicitly to these tumour-specific receptors and block their function.

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