Academy of Finland selected seven new Academy Professors for 2014–2018

4 June 2013

The Board of the Academy of Finland has selected seven new Academy Professors for the years 2014–2018. The new Academy Professors are Professors Eva-Mari Aro (University of Turku), Sirpa Jalkanen (University of Turku), Matti Lassas (University of Helsinki), Jukka Pekola (Aalto University), Markku Peltonen (University of Helsinki), Asla Pitkänen (University of Eastern Finland) and Petri Toiviainen (University of Jyväskylä).

Marja Makarow, Vice President for Research at the Academy, is keen to emphasise the fact that the Academy Professors represent the elite of Finnish science in their respective fields. They are also very well-known and esteemed internationally. According to the international reviewers, the selected Academy Professors all have great potential to achieve major scientific breakthroughs in their fields.

The Academy’s funding for Academy Professors is intended for fixed-term, full-time research. Academy Professors are in an employment relationship with the universities where they work.

There were 42 Academy Professors at the beginning of 2013. The term of some of these Academy Professors will expire at the end of the year. The new Academy Professors are presented in a separate appendix and on our website at > About us > Who we are > Academy Professors.

More information:

  • Vice President for Research Marja Makarow, tel. +358 29 533 5002
  • Biosciences and Environment Research Unit: Director Laura Raaska, tel. +358 29 533 5094, and Science Adviser Timo Sareneva, tel. +358 29 533 5106
  • Culture and Society Research Unit: Director Raija Matikainen, tel. +358 29 533 5072, and Senior Science Adviser Hannele Kurki, tel. +358 29 533 5052
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Unit: Director Susan Linko, tel. +358 29 533 5066, and Senior Science Adviser Ritva Taurio, tel. +358 29 533 5115
  • Health Research Unit: Director Jarmo Wahlfors, tel. +358 29 533 5126, and Senior Science Adviser Merja Kärkkäinen, tel. +358 29 533 5053


Academy of Finland Communications
Communications Director Maj-Lis Tanner
tel. +358 29 533 5114


APPENDIX: Persons appointed to research posts as Academy Professor for term from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2018


Eva-Mari Aro (b. 1950) is Professor in Molecular Plant Biology at the University of Turku. She is one of Finland’s leading pioneers in molecular plant biology research and has created a new area of strength in Finnish biology research. She enjoys a wide international reputation: her laboratory has grown into one of the world’s premier centres of photosynthesis research. In recent years, Professor Aro and her team have focused their efforts on studying how photosynthesis can be harnessed to produce clean, carbon dioxide neutral energy for humankind. Their research has the potential to lead to a radical breakthrough in bioenergy production.

Professor Aro is Director of the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in Integrative Photosynthesis and Bioactive Compound Research, which is based at the University of Turku and the University of Helsinki. In addition to holding numerous positions of trust, she is closely involved in the work of European bodies promoting solar fuel research and in international scientific organisations committed to advancing plant biology and photosynthesis research. Professor Aro has received several international distinctions and awards. She has previously served as Academy Professor in 1998–2008.


Sirpa Jalkanen (b. 1954) is a University of Turku professor whose research specialisation is in the fields of biomedical and clinical medicine. Professor Jalkanen is one of the world’s leading researchers in the area of lymphocyte migration in the human immune defence system. It is expected that her team will achieve pioneering results in this critical area of biomedicine, particularly in the treatment of autoimmune diseases and in preventing the spread of cancer.

Professor Jalkanen is Director of the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in Host Defence Research. The CoE’s main research interests lie in the mechanisms controlling the movement of viruses, bacteria and cancer cells and in how they can be rendered harmless by a functional defence mechanism. During her term as Academy Professor, the focus of Professor Jalkanen’s research will be on the mechanisms controlling the movement of cells in and out of lymph nodes. Her research is conducted as part of the Strategic Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation SalWe.

Professor Jalkanen has served as Academy Professor on two previous occasions, in 1996–2001 and 2002–2006.


Matti Lassas (b. 1969) is a professor at the University of Helsinki. His research is in the field of applied mathematics. Professor Lassas holds a senior leadership role at the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in Inverse Problems Research and is Director of the Doctoral Programme in Inverse Problems. The CoE has been instrumental in the growth of a major research cluster focusing on inverse problems at the University of Helsinki. Professor Lassas himself has made important, breakthrough contributions in the areas of invisibility cloaking and electromagnetic wormholes. This phenomenon allows scientists to construct invisibility cloaks that hide electromagnetic or acoustic waves.

Professor Lassas’s research plan for his term as Academy Professor is divided between the mathematical theory of inverse problems and the development of natural sciences and engineering applications. This implies a research focus on imaging, stochastics and mathematical analysis, but the applications side will also require excursions into geosciences and other areas. Professor Lassas will be continuing his work to research invisibility cloaking and related optical tools, imaging of the Earth’s crust, general gravitation theory, the accuracy of inverse problem solutions to heat conduction and wave equations and inverse problems in atmospheric physics. The anticipated results may lead to invisibility cloaking solutions particularly in the fields of optics and acoustics, more reliable solutions to inverse problems in technology and physics, and to a more accurate description of the structure of the globe and atmospheric phenomena. One of the most revolutionary new technological applications is 3D imaging of paper.


Jukka Pekola (b. 1958) is a professor at Aalto University, where he is Director of the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in Low Temperature Quantum Phenomena and Devices. Professor Pekola is a physics researcher whose work on the thermal conductivity of nanostructures has set new standards in this field. His experimental studies in the middle ground between classical and quantum physics are unique on a world scale. The micro and nano-scale thermometers and refrigerators he has developed are cutting-edge achievements in nanophysics.

Professor Pekola’s research project is concerned with nanostructure thermodynamics. This is a very topical subject that attracts considerable international interest because understanding the thermodynamic behaviour of nanostructures is paramount to the development of quantum computers. His second aim is to experimentally determine the basic unit of electrical current, i.e. the ampere, by calculating individual electrons. If successful, this would be a major breakthrough, meaning that the current SI definition of ampere could be replaced by a quantum mechanics definition.

Professor Pekola has previously served as Academy Professor in 2000–2005.


Markku Peltonen (b. 1957) is a professor at the University of Helsinki whose research specialisation is in the field of historical sciences. Professor Peltonen is one of the world’s leading scholars in the modern history of thought, and he has an extensive network of international contacts. An important strength of Professor Peltonen’s research plan is that it will generate new knowledge about the early-modern participatory politics and representative democracy. He challenges several prevailing analyses of political participation and offers a new interpretation of the importance of participatory politics to political thought and state formation.

Professor Peltonen’s study on “Participatory Politics and State Formation in Early-Modern England: Monarchy, the Public and Democratic Distrust” cuts across the disciplines of history and political science. His aim is to demonstrate that earlier research has underestimated the extent of political participation, ignored its background, misunderstood its historical significance and failed to address its importance to state formation and early-modern political thought. Professor Peltonen contests the Habermasian concept of communicative rationality and its contribution to explaining early-modern participatory politics and state formation. This is a highly significant and influential research theme.


Asla Pitkänen (b. 1959) is a professor at the University of Eastern Finland. Her neurosciences research ranges from the cellular and molecular level to experimental animal models and brain imaging. Professor Pitkänen is well respected in the epilepsy research community and is regarded as one of the world’s leading scientists in her field. During her term as Academy Professor, she will be working to identify the early pathophysiological changes following brain damage and leading to epileptic seizures. Epilepsy is the most common serious neurological disorder, and the development of effective treatments will require a better understanding of the pathogenesis of epilepsy. International reviewers expect that Professor Pitkänen’s research will lead to significant breakthroughs. Her research findings may pave the way to the development of new treatments for epilepsy and even to the prevention of epilepsy caused by brain damage. Worldwide there are some 60 million epilepsy sufferers, in Finland the figure is around 54,000. One-third of epilepsy sufferers have symptoms that cannot be suppressed by medication. The best treatment for epilepsy is prevention.

Professor Pitkänen is actively involved in national and international organisations, businesses and universities. To date she has received ten awards; five of these are international awards.


Petri Toiviainen (b. 1959) is a professor at the University of Jyväskylä whose research interests are in the areas of music research, psychology, computational data analysis and systemic and cognitive neuroscience. Professor Toiviainen is Director of the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Music Research. He is an internationally recognised scholar in the field of systematic musicology, specialising in the modelling of music cognition and computational methods of music analysis. His research is applied in the context of music therapy, music education and in the playing of music.

Professor Toiviainen’s research plan “The Dynamics of Music Cognition” is multidisciplinary in its orientation, combining basic research and methodological development with practical applications, such as hardware construction and modelling. His aim is to gain a deeper understanding of the role of the body and the brain in music perception. To do this he is studying the correlations between musical feature dynamics, corporeal dynamics and neural dynamics as well as the relationship between music processing and the listener characteristics. Another area of interest is the connection between embodiments of music and neural processing of music. It is believed this research will increase knowledge about the mechanisms involved in embodied and cerebral processing of music, and particularly the role of the motor system in perceiving and enjoying music.


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