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UEF presents Young Researcher Awards and the first-ever Doctoral Supervisor Award

The Young Researcher Awards were presented to Adriana Della Pietra, Heli Mutanen, Mervi Rantsi and Matias Rusanen. The university’s first-ever Doctoral Supervisor Award was presented to Taina Yli-Juuti.

The University of Eastern Finland presented awards to young researchers in recognition of their excellent doctoral research at the Young Researchers’ Evening held on Monday, 25 March 2024.

UEF’s Young Researcher Awards were presented to Adriana Della Pietra, PhD, Heli Mutanen, Doctor of Education, Mervi Rantsi, PhD, and Matias Rusanen, PhD. This year, for the first time, the Doctoral Supervisor Award was presented to Research Director Taina Yli-Juuti at the Department of Technical Physics. Rector Jukka Mönkkönen and Academic Rector Tapio Määttä selected the awardees on the basis of the faculties’ proposals.

The Young Researchers’ Evening is an annual event of the university which focuses on the work and academic career possibilities of young researchers. A video recording of the Young Researchers’ Evening will be available on the university’s Vimeo channel.

Innovative research on migraine pain generation and therapies

The Young Researcher Award of the Faculty of Health Sciences was presented to Adriana Della Pietra, PhD, for her doctoral dissertation entitled Pro-nociceptive Role of Piezo1 Channels and the Anti-nociceptive Effects of Endocannabinoids in the Trigeminal System Implicated in Migraine Pain.

In her doctoral research, Adriana Della Pietra clarified new mechanisms of migraine pain generation and identified the endocannabinoid system as an innovative approach that may lead to new therapies for migraine pain. The impact of her research is significant since migraine is a global challenge, affecting 15% of the population. 

Della Pietra is skilled in many modern techniques, creative, hardworking, and ambitious. In less than four years, she published six papers as the first author. She has also received several personal grants for her research and actively presented her work in many international meetings. 

She has also started as the Young Editor in The Journal of Headache and Pain, which is the top journal in the field. At the moment, Della Pietra works as a postdoctoral researcher at University of Iowa, in the Carver College of Medicine.

Societally significant insight into young adults’ educational and professional paths

The Young Researcher Award of the Philosophical Faculty was presented to Heli Mutanen, Doctor of Education, who works as a University Teacher in the School of Educational Sciences and Psychology at the University of Eastern Finland.

Mutanen’s doctoral dissertation in the field of adult education, entitled Kamppailua toimijuudesta ja identiteeteistä: nuoret aikuiset koulutuksen ja työn marginaalissa ja aktivointitoimenpiteissä (‘Struggle for Agency and Identities: Young Adults on the Margins of Education and Employment’), is of societal importance, as it adds to our understanding of young adults participating in youth activation measures, namely workshops, and struggling with their professional and educational paths.

Mutanen’s dissertation examines young adults’ relationships to education and work, and to our society where education and employment are valued, and agency required. The findings increase scientific understanding of how young adults perceive and interpret their situation and the support services available to them, as well as the expectations directed at them by society. The findings can be used in the development of guidance and instruction by educational institutions and workshops, and of youth services.

Health economics research benefits the treatment of memory disorders 

The Young Researcher Award of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies was presented to Mervi Rantsi, PhD, for her doctoral dissertation in the field of health economics, entitled Health Economic Evaluation of Implementation Strategies for Reducing Inappropriate Medication Use in Older People with Dementia.

In her doctoral dissertation, Rantsi examined implementation strategies aimed at reducing potentially inappropriate medications in older people with dementia. The findings can be directly applied in the treatment of memory disorders. Traditionally, implementation has not been studied in health economics, and Rantsi has advanced implementation research both in Finland and internationally.

Rantsi has played a key role in the establishment of the multidisciplinary Implementation Research Network, and she has represented Finland in the European Health Economics Association’s Early Career Committee. The significance of her doctoral dissertation is further highlighted by the launch of research collaboration with her opponent, which has culminated in a joint project proposal submitted to the Research Council of Finland.

Currently, Rantsi works as an acting University Lecturer in health economics at the University of Eastern Finland.

Internationally impactful research addressing the diagnostics of sleep disorders

The Young Researcher Award of the Faculty of Science, Forestry and Technology was presented to Matias Rusanen, PhD.

The findings presented in Rusanen’s doctoral dissertation in the field of applied physics, entitled Self-Applied Electroencephalography Sensor Techniques for Home-Based Sleep Recordings, have significantly advanced research addressing the development of diagnostics for sleep disorders both in Finland and abroad. The impact of Rusanen’s research may even be regarded as a scientific breakthrough, as the methods and recommendations developed therein have already been adopted by an extensive international research project, and they have been used as a basis for changes proposed to the clinical diagnostics of sleep disorders.

Over the course of his doctoral dissertation project, Rusanen published seven scientific articles. As a researcher, Rusanen enjoys international recognition, as evidenced by several invitations to speak at international conferences, and the Young Investigator Award granted by the World Sleep Society. Rusanen continues his research career as a post doc researcher at the Université Grenoble Alpes in France.

An encouraging, inspiring and solution-oriented doctoral supervisor 

The university’s first-ever Doctoral Supervisor Award was also announced in the Young Researchers’ Evening and was presented to Research Director Taina Yli-Juuti of the Department of Technical Physics.

According to the award statements, feedback given by Yli-Juuti is constructive and encouraging, and she knows how to draw inspiration from, and provide inspiration to, doctoral researchers. She fosters a pleasant work atmosphere and is interested in the well-being and coping at work of those she supervises, as well as in what is going on in their lives. She also supports and encourages the career development and personal growth of her supervisees.

Yli-Juuti encourages doctoral researchers to independently try and find solutions to their research problems. Her solution-oriented and positive approach does wonders in alleviating anxiety among those working on their doctoral dissertation. 

In addition, Yli-Juuti shows respect equally to everyone, regardless of academic hierarchy. She also encourages academically junior members in the group to engage in discussion and express their opinions.

For further information, please contact: 

Merja Lyytikäinen, University Lecturer, UEF Doctoral School,