Excellence in Research
The University of Turku is a scientifically strong, multidisciplinary university where new research possibilities are sought especially in disciplinary interfaces and interdisciplinary research. This page features Academicians and Academy Professors as well as flagships of research, Centres of Excellence, and research projects funded by ERC at the University of Turku.
Academicians of Science of the University of Turku
Based on nominations made by the Academy of Finland, the President of the Republic of Finland may confer the honorary title of Academician (of Science) to highly distinguished Finnish or foreign scientists and scholars. The title of Academician can be held by no more than sixteen Finnish scientists and scholars at a time.
Eva-Mari Aro is a pioneer of plant molecular biology research in Finland. She has introduced a whole new area of strength of photosynthesis research into the Finnish scientific landscape. At the same time, her laboratory has grown into one of the world’s premier centres of photosynthesis research. In recent years, Aro and her team have focused their efforts on studying how photosynthesis can be harnessed to produce compounds beneficial to humankind following the principles of sustainable development. Aro’s research applies methods of synthetic biology to the efficient production of chemicals and energy using photosynthetic organisms, mainly cyanobacteria.
Kaisa Häkkinen’s research interests include the history and development of the Finnish language, its phonetic and morphological structure, the history and etymology of Finnish words and the history of language research. She is known, first and foremost, for her studies into the origin and history of words. In the 2000s, she has taken a special interest in studying old literary Finnish and the Finnish language in the works of Mikael Agricola. Häkkinen’s scientific production is extremely high-quality and high-impact. She has also devoted much effort to disseminating results in her field of research to wider audiences.
Sirpa Jalkanen is one of the world’s leading researchers of the migration mechanisms of immune cells. Among her key accomplishments are the discovery and characterisation of trafficking molecules that regulate inflammatory diseases and the spread of cancer. Together with her research team, she has produced a number of groundbreaking results and innovative observations that have turned previously held conceptions about immunology and vascular biology on their heads. She conducts high-risk, high-gain research with potential to yield significant results to advance the treatment of severe inflammatory diseases and prevent the spread of cancer.
Arto Salomaa concentrates on mathematical logic in his research, with the focus on formal languages and automata theory. Among other things, he is one of the creators of the theory of DNA calculation. In the 1960s, Salomaa became interested in the mathematical challenges posed by computers. His field of research is the mathematical theory of computer science, where he has focused on creating a theory for cryptography and DNA calculation. He is one of the most important developers of the theories for automation and formal languages. Salomaa was a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Turku in 1966–1998.
Academy Professors of the University of Turku
Proficient researchers, who can be regarded as contributing to the progress of research within their own field, can be appointed as Academy Professors. Research posts as Academy Professor are intended for fixed-term, full-time research work. Academy Professors carry out their own research plan, supervise their own research team and provide guidance to junior researchers.
Olli Raitakari (Academy Professorship 2019–2023) studies whether ancestral exposure may cause intergenerational effects on obesity-related phenotypes, cognitive function and psychological well-being. The studied exposures are tobacco smoke, persistent organic pollutants and accumulation of psychosocial adversities. Raitakari performs a large field study across three generations: the participants from the national Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study and their parents and offspring. The aim is to test ancestral exposures that may cause intergenerational effects on obesity-related phenotypes, cognitive function and psychological well-being. The project collects serum, blood and semen samples for epigenetic marker analysis to provide understanding of the mechanisms of intergenerational transmission in humans. These links have thus far not been verified in humans. Raitakari has also served as Academy Professor in 2012–2016.
Hannu Salmi (Academy Professorship 2017–2021) is interested in research questions of cultural virality in the early nineteenth century, a period of central importance to the birth of modern Europe. The European boundaries were redrawn after the French Revolution, and at the same time cross-border movement gathered momentum in the wake of technological change. The growing influence of the press from the 1820s onwards contributed to advancing the development. Salmi uses methods of text mining to trace forms of cultural contagion and virality in digital newspaper archives. Ultimately, his aim is to offer a reinterpretation of the whole concept of culture. His research will shed new light on the phenomenon of information and communications by developing a methodologically and conceptually innovative approach to a period that is quite well known in historical research.
Flagships of Research
The Academy of Finland’s Flagship Programme is an instrument that supports high-quality research and increases the societal impact emerging from the research. The University of Turku is in charge of two flagships of research.
InFLAMES aims at identifying new targets for drug development together with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. The flagship project of the Academy of Finland also develops diagnostics so that targeted therapies could be designed for individual patients.
InFLAMES is a joint effort of University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, lead by Professor and Academician Sirpa Jalkanen.
Centres of Excellence in Research
The Academy of Finland's Centres of Excellence (CoE) are success stories of Finnish research. They are at the cutting edge of science in their fields internationally.
The University of Turku is part of three Centres of Excellence of the Academy of Finland during the period of 2018–2025.
Professor of Digital Culture Jaakko Suominen is the leader of the research group in the CoE in Game Culture Studies coordinated by Professor of Hypermedia Frans Mäyrä from the University of Tampere.
Professor of Space Physics Rami Vainio is the leader of the research group in the CoE in Research of Sustainable Space led by Professor of Space Physics Minna Palmroth of the University of Helsinki.
Professor of Theoretical Physics Sabrina Maniscalco is the leader of the research group in the CoE in Quantum Technology coordinated by Professor of Physics Jukka Pekola of Aalto University.
In addition to the Academy of Finland’s Centres of Excellence, the University of Turku also coordinates a Nordic Centre of Excellence funded by NordFrosk.
Research Funded by the European Research Council (ERC)
A funding organisation of the European Union, the European Research Council (ERC), advances the highest quality research across all fields with long-term competitive funding. There are currently five research projects funded by ERC at the University of Turku.
The project studies the evolution of growing old, and the reasons behind the differences as well as variation in related health, survival, and reproduction success by using a long-lived mammal, the Asian elephant, as a research subject. The demographic data of the working elephants in Myanmar collected since the 1920s is combined with the physical and behaviour data of the elephants collected by the research group. The funding period of the project is 1 Jan 2016–31 Dec 2021.
The research project is led by Professor Virpi Lummaa.
The project develops mathematical modelling methods which can be used in defining the health risks of an individual from the extensive protein data of longitudinal follow-up studies. The research project also studies the early signs of type 1 diabetes, the adverse effects of cytostatic treatment, and the behaviour of renal cancer on molecular level. In addition, the research group is developing mathematical methods for studying the patient and molecule registers of biobanks. The funding period of the project is 1 Jun 2016–31 May 2022.
The research project is led by Professor Laura Elo.
The study that encompasses three generations will examine the impact of parental smoking, exposure to environmental toxins and psychosocial stress on the health of the children and grandchildren. The project examines the so-called epigenetics, i.e. heritable traits that are not caused by DNA. Epigenetic, heritable changes have been discovered in animal tests, but their significance to human health has not yet been discovered. The funding period of the project is 1 Nov 2017–31 Oct 2022.
The research project is led by Professor Olli Raitakari.
Research on bullying prevention has so far focused on average effects of anti-bullying programs and mainly concerned universal, preventive measures. While important, this has overshadowed attempts to uncover how exactly school personnel intervene in particular bullying cases and when and why that fails. CHALLENGE will open up new research horizons by shifting the focus from average program effects to the characteristics and conditions of youth who remain victimized or continue bullying despite targeted interventions. The project is part of The KiVa Antibullying Program developed at the University of Turku. The funding period of the research project is 1 Oct 2020–30 Sept 2025.
CHALLENGE is led by Professor Christina Salmivalli
The aim of the research project is to find new materials that are suitable for storing energy. A suitable material needs to have multiple, partly contradictory, qualities. Some materials are not suitable due to, for example, inadequate solubility or since the cell voltage of the battery is too low. The project develops means to avoid these restrictions and the aim is to develop batteries suitable for storing renewable energy. The funding period of the project is 1 Jan 2021–31 Dec 2025.
The research project is led by Associate Professor Pekka Peljo.