Year 2018 awards ceremony at the Christmas Coffee

The Department of Computer Science at the University of Helsinki awards annually members of its staff for excellence in research, its teachers for their work to improve the quality of teaching, as well as a person or a group who has had a positive impact to the department as a working place or who have otherwise done a great job.

From left-to-right: Antti-Pekka Tuovinen, Veli Mäkinen, Sasu Tarkoma, Teemu Roos, Indrė Žliobaitė, Leo Leppänen and Henrik Nygren. Photographer: Petri Kutvonen.

The awards of the year 2018 were given to the following persons:

Senior Teacher Award: University Lecturer Matti Luukkainen "Software engineering techniques, software production and the software engineering lab in particular have been transported into an era of agile methods. These advancements can be considered to have social significance, since they fundamentally affect students’ ways of working in the software industry (...) Courses are being developed together with course assistants, employing methods originating in agile software engineering. Matti Luukkainen’s courses are known for kaizen, or continuous improvement."

Junior Teacher Award: Research Assistant Henrik Nygren "Henrik Nygren is an earnest, altruistic and top-calibre teacher working behind the scenes. He carries the main responsibility for the development of Test My Code, Quiznator and the other digital systems used in teaching at the Department of Computer Science. Through these systems, Henrik has furthered the establishment of courses that serve the entire nation, such as Cyber Security Base with F-Secure and Elements of AI."

Senior Researcher Award: Assistant Professor Indrė Žliobaitė "IIndrė Žliobaitė is a rapidly rising star in academia. Her citation figures have grown strongly, and she is the principal author of the first article from the Department approved by the journal Nature – shedding new light on the famous Red Queen hypothesis. Indrė is an active member of the academic community in relation to esteemed scientific journals and conferences, for example. Her research opens an entirely new avenue for applications of machine learning and data science."

Junior Researcher Award: Doctoral Student Leo Leppänen "Leo Leppänen has been extremely productive in postgraduate studies, having already published thirteen peer-reviewed scholarly articles, in the role of principal author for about half of them. In addition to research, Leo’s strength lies in the broader application of science and system development – he completed a significant share of the work for the development of Valtteri, an election news generating bot, which produced more than 750,000 bulletins on the local elections of 2017."

Person of the Year Award: Associate Professor Teemu Roos "The Elements of AI course organised by Teemu Roos and Reaktor Oy has achieved recognition that is exceptionally extensive for a university course, gaining the Department of Computer Science significant positive attention. The course embodies the third duty of the University of Helsinki, public engagement: the course has attracted many participants in Finland and abroad – more than a hundred thousand individuals. It is a reminder of how business collaboration can be conducted in all domains of the University’s duties."


Veli Mäkinen

Christmas speech by Head of Department Sasu Tarkoma

Dear Colleagues and friends,

Welcome to the Department’s xmas coffee.  It is great to see you all here. Now some words about today’s program. It is time to listen to an excellent musical performance by Anna-Mari Ablouh and Arto Wikla, mention some of the key highlights of the year, and announce the departmental awards. 

This year has been very good for the Department. This has been the 51st year of the Department and the first year with the new Faculty organization structure.  Our vision of being and educating “the architects of the future digital world” is going strong.  We have excelled in the three key dimensions: research, education, and societal impact. I will briefly go through the main highlights in these three dimensions.

The number of professors has been growing from 16 in 2017, to 24 now, and then 29 next year with our plan reaching to 30 professors in the near future. What is more, we can recruit one university lecturer next year.  

This year Keijo Heljanko has started as full professor and we have recruited many tenure track professors since the Winter of 2017: Arto Klami, Michael Mathioudakis, Indré Źliobaite as assistant professors.  Matti Järvisalo, Laura Ruotsalainen, Petteri Nurmi, Kai Puolamäki as associate professors. 

We have very successfully launched two new centers with Aalto University, namely the Finnish Center for AI (FCAI) and the Helsinki Centre for Data Science (HiDATA). Both centers are doing very well and achieved wide visibility. We are now waiting for the Academy of Finland decisions in the flagship call. FCAI planning and prepation has been led by Petri Myllymäki and Patrik Floreen from our university. Let’s hope that FCAI receives funding, this would be a major boost for AI research in Finland. We have almost completed the recruitment for the 8 tenure track professors for HiDATA.

We have almost doubled the level of external funding granted to the department each year. To give some numbers, our external funding was 5,4 MEUR in 2014 and now it is 8,4 MEUR. The external budget has increased linearly each year.

Our degree programs are among the most popular at the university. We have 22% increase in the B.Sc. program applications this year. Altogether we give out about 30 000 credit points each year. Thus we have a great responsibility over major and minor studies at the Faculty. 

We have good news regarding the share of women at the department. The share of women starting in our degree programs has increased 24% since last year to 28%.  We now have three female professors.  

The Department is growing and we have now completed the renovation of the ubicampus smart space: ubi@Physicum. We have the first researchers moving in the first week of January to the place. The ubicampus is looking very good, we have many new services and a living lab environment for 60 researchers. This space will be the first ubicampus pilot with new technology supporting work and wellbeing.  I would like to thank Haba for chairing our Ubicampus task force and Petri Savolainen for excellent coordination.

We have had significant impact in the digitalization aspects of our university spanning strategy, infrastructure and education. I would like to mention TOSKA, our code academy, and OodiKone pioneered by Matti Luukkainen and Kjell Lemström. Oodikone is now being taken into use by degree programs for study related analytics.

Opening our education and developing our MOOC portfolio have been important topics during the year. Teemu Roos has given us a very tough record to beat, over 100 000 students enrolled in the Elements of AI MOOC. We have also continued to develop our MOOCs pioneered by Arto Hellas. One of the strategic goals is to open our education and make it easy to find our courses and then once aptitude is demonstrated gain study rights. We have received a significant funding for the Digital Education for All project (DEFA) led by Kjell Lemström that is now opening our education in collaboration with other universities in Finland.  

We are looking forward to a really great year 2019. To start, we received very good top publication impact ranking in the Academy of Finland “State of Scientific Research in Finland” report. One important activity will be research evaluation panel interviews. I recommend everyone to have a look at our excellent report that summarizes our recent achievements very well. The research evaluation is also an opportunity to get to know our results, networks, ways of working and strengthen and build on them.  

I would also like to thank the University Services (YPA) for excellent support. Without YPA we would all need to do even more administration.

I would like to thank everyone for their great work and support for the department and wish you merry xmas and holiday season and happy new year!