Heli Jantunen, Martti Koskenniemi and Merja Penttilä receive honorary title of Academician of Science

19 Jan 2023

Professor Heli Jantunen, Professor Emeritus Martti Koskenniemi and Research Professor Merja Penttilä have been awarded the honorary title of Academician of Science. President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö granted the titles at a presidential session today, 19 January 2023.

Professor Heli Jantunen’s expertise is in the field of materials science and engineering; Professor Martti Koskenniemi has his expertise in international law; and Research Professor Merja Penttilä has her expertise in biotechnology and synthetic biology. They are all highly distinguished scientists and scholars with a pioneering track record in their respective fields of research. Their work has wide-ranging relevance across different sectors of society and as such contributes to solving global challenges.

The title of Academician can be held by no more than 16 distinguished Finnish scientists and scholars at a time. The title of Academician of Science is awarded by the President of the Republic based on nominations by the Academy of Finland.

Energy-efficient electronics

Professor Heli Jantunen (b. 1958) has served at the University of Oulu as Professor in Technical Physics since 2004 and as Director of the Microelectronics Research Unit since 2008. She has won international recognition for her research in electronic materials, particularly her pioneering work in the field of electroceramics.

Professor Jantunen’s most outstanding research and application achievements are in the area of low-temperature cofired ceramics,which has great significance for business and industry. Overall, throughout her career, science, applications and industry have come together in an innovative and high-impact way. She has collaborated with more than 40 industrial partners and currently holds 76 patents.

Electronics relates closely to society’s different functions and operations from consumer electronics to industry, transport and medical technology. For this reason the overall energy efficiency of electronics is an important concern.

Heli Jantunen and her team have developed a novel room-temperature technique for the fabrication of electroceramic components, which are used extensively in data communications, the auto industry and consumer electronics. As fabrication temperatures can be reduced by over 1,000 degrees compared to earlier methods,energy savings are substantial. Furthermore, the method uses no raw materials that are harmful to the environment and requires no significant initial investment.

Heli Jantunen received her Doctor of Science in Technology degree at the University of Oulu in 2001. She spent ten years working in industry before returning to the university in 1999. In 2019, Heli Jantunen received the Finnish Parliament’s Innovation Award for Women and the Finnish Science Award granted by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. In 2018, she received the Nokia Foundation’s Recognition Award.

Critical legal studies is necessary for democracy

Professor Emeritus Martti Koskenniemi (b. 1953) has been Professor of International Law at the University of Helsinki since 1994 and founder and director of the Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights since 1997. He is one of the world’s leading international law scholars.

Martti Koskenniemi has contributed widely to the scholarly debate in the field of international law for the past 30 years. His main areas of research interest include the history of international law, state succession, human rights and the fragmentation of international law. He has always been keen to boldly explore new research subjects. Critical theory has provided the framework for Koskenniemi to address issues sidelined in traditional international law doctrine. This is also the basis for his active involvement in public debate in society.

Koskenniemi obtained his doctorate at the University of Turku in 1989. He has held visiting or part-time professorships at the University of Cambridge, the London School of Economics, the University of Melbourne and Sorbonne University in Paris. He has also served as a member of the UN International Law Commission. He was Academy Professor in 2005–2009 and 2013–2017. Koskenniemi received the Finnish Science Award in 2021.

Biobased products from living microbes

Merja Penttilä (b. 1956) has been Research Professor for Biotechnology at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland since 1999. Since the beginning of 2016 she has also served as a part-time Professor of Synthetic Biology at Aalto University.

Merja Penttilä’s major research interest is the development of new production processes that replace fossil raw materials. Her specific focus is on so-called cell factories, microorganisms that are engineered to produce biobased products for energy, health, materials and other applications.

Microbial cell factories can be used to produce almost anything: bioethanol, human antibodies, animal-based foodstuffs such as egg whites and new materials that combine the best qualities of natural materials, such as light weight, durability, flexibility and recyclability. The use of synthetic biology methods allows for computer-aided modelling of cell and enzyme functions and makes it possible to introduce changes into the genome that induce new biochemical reactions and improve cell production efficacy.

Merja Penttilä has worked extensively with a number of national and international companies to develop industry-changing applications. She is the founder of the Synbio Powerhouse ecosystem, which offers a collaborative platform for research organisations, businesses and investors in the synthetic biology field. Synthetic biology and bioproduction will have a significant future role in developing sustainable development solutions.

Merja Penttilä took her doctorate at the University of Helsinki in 1987. During her career at VTT in 2000–2017, she has been Centre of Excellence director, vice director and team leader in Academy of Finland CoE programmes. She has led EU research projects as well as major projects funded by foundations, and has served as a committee expert for multiple national and international institutes. Penttilä has published around 300 original scientific articles and holds some 50 patents.

Merja Penttilä received the Charles D. Scott Award in 2019 (Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, USA) and The Wihuri International Prize in 2012.

Photos of the Academicians are available to the media in the Academy of Finland’s materials bank.

Read more about Academicians of Science.


  • Paula Eerola, President of the Academy of Finland, tel. +358 295 335 001, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi
  • Johanna Myllyharju, Chair of the Board of the Academy of Finland, tel. +358 294 485 740, firstname.lastname(at)oulu.fi
  • Professor Heli Jantunen, University of Oulu, tel. +358 294 482 740, firstname.lastname(at)oulu.fi
  • Professor Emeritus Martti Koskenniemi, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 50 356 1506, firstname.lastname(at)helsinki.fi (available as of 23 Jan)
  • Research Professor Merja Penttilä, VTT, tel. +358 40 700 0163, firstname.lastname(at)vtt.fi

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

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