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UEF presents awards to four accomplished young researchers

The Young Researcher Awards were presented to Pauliina Lukinmaa, Atte Eskelinen, Juan Miguel Valverde Martínez and Rosemary Mwanza.

The University of Eastern Finland presented awards to young researchers in recognition of their excellent doctoral research at a Young Researchers’ Evening held on Tuesday, 14 March 2023.

UEF’s Young Researcher Awards were presented to Pauliina Lukinmaa, PhD, Atte Eskelinen, PhD, Juan Miguel Valverde Martínez, PhD, and Rosemary Mwanza, LLD. Rector Jukka Mönkkönen and Academic Rector Tapio Määttä selected a promising young researcher from each UEF faculty on the basis of nominations made by PhD thesis supervisors.

The Young Researchers’ Evening is an annual event of the university which focuses on the work and academic career possibilities of young researchers. During the evening, Director of Impact Minna Hendolin also talked about the key moments of her career as a young researcher.

A video recording of the Young Researchers’ Evening will be available on the university’s Vimeo channel.

Increasing understanding of LGBTIQ+ activism in Russia

The Young Researcher Award of the Philosophical Faculty was presented to Pauliina Lukinmaa, PhD. Lukinmaa’s doctoral dissertation is topical, increasing our understanding of contemporary Russia and its struggling civil society, transnational networks of gender and sexual minorities, and various subtle forms of activism that are easily overshadowed by those that are more visible and Western-centric.

In her dissertation, Lukinmaa demonstrates the ability to conduct subtle and insightful ethnographic analysis that is respectful of the people being studied. The dissertation is based on extensive observational and interview data. In their statement, the opponents commended the work, e.g., on providing a comprehensive and vivid description of the rhizomatic networks activists operate in, on posing relevant research questions, and on the theoretical discussion being a combination of both Western and Russian debate.

In addition, Lukinmaa reflects, in an exemplary manner, the position of the researcher in relation to their research field, as well as ethical issues.

Pioneering research led to a model of osteoarthritis

At the Faculty of Science, Forestry and Technology, the Young Researcher Award was presented to Atte Eskelinen, PhD. Eskelinen’s doctoral dissertation deals with osteoarthritis and with its underlying biomechanical and inflammatory mechanisms.

Combining computational and experimental research, the pioneering dissertation led to the development of a computational, joint-level model of osteoarthritis. The findings of the dissertation can be used to develop solutions that support patients with osteoarthritis, as well as health care. International collaboration for example with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has played a major role in Eskelinen’s research.

Speaking volumes of the scientific and societal significance of the work are Eskelinen’s nomination for the Young Investigator Award in the Conference of the International Society of Biomechanics in 2019, and the Journal of Orthopaedic Research Excellence Award in Basic Science in 2022.

Valuable research enabling increasingly precise measurements of the effects of pharmaceuticals

The Young Researcher Award of the Faculty of Health Sciences was presented to Juan Miguel Valverde Martínez, PhD.  In his thesis, Juan Miguel Valverde Martínez developed approaches for deep learning-based segmentation of pre-clinical magnetic resonance images (MRIs).

The research is extremely valuable, for example, in the pre-clinical phases of drug development, because it enables more precise, faster, and cost-efficient measurements of the effects of the pharmaceuticals. The developed methods are among the first ones using deep learning in this context.

As a demonstration of his commitment to open science, Valverde Martínez has published all the source code of the developed methods under an open-source license. In addition, Valverde Martínez completed the thesis, which was highly interdisciplinary, in just 4 years’ time.

Interdisciplinary approach to Environmental Law

At the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies, the Young Researcher Award was presented to Rosemary Mwanza, LLD. The dissertation of Rosemary Mwanza examines how the right to a healthy environment could work as a regulatory response to the grave impacts of corporate environmental harm.

The research is of scientific and social significance for several reasons. It offers a thorough and nuanced understanding of the obstacles and dilemmas of implementing the right to a healthy environment, and it proposes new concepts that may guide our understanding on how the right to a clean and healthy environment could be advanced and be implemented effectively to protect humans and the environment from corporate environmental damage.

The dissertation has been described as cutting-edge, extraordinary, and pioneering work, that pushes the boundaries of the interface between environment and human rights and contributes significantly to knowledge in the field.

In addition, Rosemary Mwanza’s dissertation showcases her ability to apply an interdisciplinary approach to her topic by drawing on insights from socio-legal studies, environmental justice, critical legal studies, political theory, and sociology.