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UEF liput lipputangoissa

UEF presents awards to promising young researchers and excellent teaching practitioners

In its 10th anniversary celebration today, the University of Eastern Finland presented awards to promising young researchers and excellent teaching practitioners from each faculty. The Young Researcher Award was presented to Maija Surakka, PhD, Isabell Rumrich, MSc, Petri Pölönen, MSc, and Heli Hallikainen, DSc (Econ. and Bus. Adm.). The Excellent Teaching Practitioner Award was presented to University Lecturer Kati Kasanen, University Lecturer Katja Pajula, University Lecturer Esko Ryökäs and University Teacher Jonna Kosonen. The university’s 10th anniversary celebration took place at the Kuopio Campus on 20 February.

Excellent teaching practitioners teach to question things, too

The recipients of the Excellent Teaching Practitioner Award were selected on the basis of their accomplishments in teaching by an evaluation committee appointed by the Academic Rector. Together with previous years’ winners, the awardees form the Excellent Teaching Practitioner network, which seeks, for its part, to promote appreciation for teaching and to develop it further.

University Lecturer Esko Ryökäs delivered a thank you speech on behalf of the awardees. The speech focused, among other things, on what makes university teaching special: teaching is based on recent research and students are also taught to question things.

“We teachers are not role models in determining what is correct knowledge and how one should feel about things. At best, we are role models in knowing to question what we know now.”

“As one of us crystallised the essence of university teaching: ‘Don’t believe everything you think’”.

In the award statements, the awardees were acknowledged for their student-centred approach and active development of teaching, as well as for their use of diverse methods in teaching, studying and evaluation. Kati Kasanen works in the School of Educational Sciences and Psychology, Esko Ryökäs in the School of Theology, Jonna Kosonen in the Law School and Katja Pajula in the School of Pharmacy.

Meaningful work motivates young researchers

The Young Researcher Award is presented in recognition of an outstanding doctoral dissertation completed at the end of the early stage researcher career phase. Rector Jukka Mönkkönen and Academic Rector Tapio Määttä selected a promising young researcher from each faculty on the basis of professors’ nominations.

In the anniversary celebration, Petri Pölönen delivered a speech prepared jointly by the awardees, discussing factors that helped to maintain motivation and to overcome research-related challenges in the early stages of the research career. Among other things, these included an opportunity to do research on a full-time basis, having a profession where one can solve problems and work for better health and well-being for people, collaboration and internationality, and good supervisors.

“Good supervisors will let a young researcher test ideas that are different and even creative, but they will also step in when these ideas are infeasible or clearly deficient. Good supervisors do more than just help with the PhD project: they support one’s academic development and set an example in how to conduct research, how to write proposals, how to teach, and how to interact with other people.”

Children use expressions of time early on

The Young Researcher Award of the Philosophical Faculty was presented to Maija Surakka, PhD. Surakka’s doctoral dissertation, A location of time. The development of the expressions of time in children’s language, is an example of children’s language research. The dissertation explores how children aged from 2½ to 8 years learn to express time and temporality in their speech. The study shows that already at the age of 2½ years, children recognise the syntactic space of time-frames in utterances. At this "location", they start to practice the usage of the expressions of time. This observation is important, and it provides support for the idea of Construction Grammar of the significance of gestalts or speech patterns (constructions).  Maija Surakka’s doctoral dissertation was graded as eximia cum laude approbatur. According to Professor Anneli Kauppinen, the opponent in the public examination, the study as a whole is extensive, comprehensive and bravely experimental. Surakka has been actively involved in Langnet, a network for doctoral programmes in language studies, as well as in the Finnish Cognitive Linguistics Association, FiCLA. In 2018, the Society for the Study of Finnish presented Surakka with an award in recognition of one of her articles. Currently, Surakka works as a post doc researcher funded by the North Savo Regional Fund, which is one of the regional funds of the Finnish Cultural Foundation.

Maternal smoking has an impact on foetal development already during the 1st trimester of pregnancy

The Young Researcher Award of the Faculty of Science and Forestry was presented to Isabell Rumrich, MSc, whose doctoral dissertation Maternal smoking, birth outcomes and later life health: estimation of the developmental origin of disease burden shows that maternal smoking has an impact on foetal development already during the 1st trimester of pregnancy. The register-based, multidisciplinary study showed that maternal smoking increases the risk of low birth weight, low birth length and smaller brain size. This is an important finding, since earlier studies show that foetal exposure to harmful chemicals found in tobacco are linked to chronic cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, autism and depression later in life. The innovative approach developed by Rumrich constitutes a new tool that can be used to assess the effects of  foetal exposure to environmental stress factors also on a more general level, making it possible to correctly target risk management measures that aim to reduce adverse health effects. Rumrich’s doctoral dissertation comprises five articles and she is the lead author of all of them. Rumrich is a highly talented, active and hard-working young researcher who, in addition to her PhD project, has participated in the work of three international projects with a significant contribution. Rumrich has also successfully secured funding for her research. Furthermore, she has been involved in the planning of a four-year Academy of Finland project that focuses on foetal exposure to air pollution.

Extensive study on haematological cancers paves way for new treatments

The Young Researcher Award of the Faculty of Health Sciences was presented to Petri Pölönen, MSc, whose doctoral dissertation, Identifying targetable genes across hematological malignancies, will be examined tomorrow, 21 February 2020.  The exceptionally extensive and pioneering study offers new insight into the genetics of haematological cancers and shows that the type and stage of development of cancer cells are strongly associated with the clinical picture of the disease, patient prognosis and response to drugs. The study showed that the expression of genes and genetic characteristics can be used to identify cancer subtypes, which diminishes unnecessary therapeutic experiments and enables the development of targeted treatments. Pölönen’s use of statistical methods in the study is innovative and he has played a crucial role in their development. Pölönen is a hard-working and ambitious young researcher who, in addition to his PhD project, has supervised student theses, taught bioinformatics in Finland and abroad, and published nine scientific articles outside the PhD thesis in collaboration with various partners. Currently, Pölönen is finalising a research project that seeks to analyse the immunological characteristics of haematological cancers in order to enable the development of better immunotherapeutic methods.

Perceived trustworthiness in online commerce is a sum of many things

The Young Researcher Award of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies was presented to Heli Hallikainen, Doctor of Science (Economics and Business Administration). Hallikainen’s doctoral dissertation, Trustworthiness online – studies on individual differences, focuses on individual differences in how customers perceive trustworthiness online. The topic is highly relevant as online commerce continues to grow in popularity all over the world. Inherently, some individuals tend to be more resistant to using online commerce and services, and the study shows that cultural background and psychographic and demographic characteristics play a role in how customers perceive trustworthiness online. During her short academic career so far, Hallikainen has published 17 peer-reviewed articles in international journals and conferences, and shown exceptional talent in conducting high-level scientific research with scientific impact. Almost throughout her academic career, Hallikainen has worked in projects funded by Business Finland, actively and successfully attending to university-business cooperation and, in doing so, executing the university’s third mission, societal interaction.

For further information, please contact:

Rector Jukka Mönkkönen, +358 40 728 8057, jukka.monkkonen(a) (Young Researcher Awards)

Academic Rector Tapio Määttä, +358 50 575 1589, tapio.maatta(a) (Excellent Teaching Practitioner Awards)

awarded young researchers and teaching practitioners
From the left: Rector Jukka Mönkkönen, awardees Esko Ryökäs, Katja Pajula, Isabell Rumrich, Maija Surakka, Petri Pölönen and Heli Hallikainen, Academic Rector Tapio Määttä.