Postdoctoral researchers are employed either by the University of Helsinki or by Aalto University but the research themes intersect the strategic plans of the cities. In practice, cities draft research themes and topics, while the University of Helsinki or Aalto University are responsible for recruiting the most suitable postdoctoral researchers. In addition to their own faculties, postdoctoral researchers work as part of the interdisciplinary Urbaria PostDoc forum.
The contract periods of the current postdoctoral researchers extend until 2025. So far, the co-creation program has started by a kick-off meeting where postdoctoral researchers and city representatives discuss research topics. As the research progresses, postdoctoral researchers give presentations of their results and present other current research in their field. The cities, in turn, provide postdoctoral researchers with materials, cases and contacts, as well as present current urban policy and plans.
The current postdocs of Urban academy are Nilay Kilinc, Yu-Shan Tseng, Anna Zhelnina, Basile Finand, Niharika Singh, Haoxuan Sa ja Elif Erdoğan Öztekin. Read more about them below!
Elif Erdoğan Öztekin is a postdoctoral researcher working at Aalto University's Department of Architecture. Elif's background is in architecture and design, and her expertise is particularly in the field of sustainable design.
In her current research project, Elif focuses on the practices of participatory urban planning and the transitional phase of the sustainability transition. She uses an interdisciplinary research approach and an experimental approach in her efforts to develop working methods for cities. At the same time, she collaborates closely with cities, urban actors, and local communities in co-producing knowledge and action.
Niharika Singh is a computer engineering graduate with extensive experience in building intelligent green communication networks using network algorithms and machine learning. She specializes in the field of artificial intelligence with a specific focus on reinforcement learning.
Niharika works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Urban Research Institute in Urbaria and the Department of Computer Science. She is involved in the CousCOUS project, which addresses air quality challenges by assisting cities in designing climate-healthy urban areas, considering future traffic flows and population structures. The project combines the fields of artificial intelligence, atmospheric sciences, and social sciences.
Basile Finand is a postdoctoral researcher in evolutionary ecology who is interested in how species adapt to current environmental changes. He applies an integrative approach, utilizing various tools such as modeling, experiments, and fieldwork at different scales to address his research questions.
In 2023, Basile Finand joined Urbaria and the Urban Ecosystem Group at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Helsinki to continue studying habitat fragmentation, with a particular focus on its history. The aim is to understand how the previous configuration of the landscape affects the composition of current beetle communities and their life history traits in the urban forests of Helsinki.
Haoxuan Sa has been working as a postdoctoral researcher at Urbaria since January 2023, focusing on the theme of "Migration & housing." Sa completed her doctoral degree at the University of Helsinki in spring 2022.
During her research tenure, Sa focuses on the issues of diversity in migration and urban housing in the Helsinki metropolitan area, starting from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. She uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze the housing experiences, housing decisions, and housing paths of different migrant groups in the metropolitan area.
Yu-Shan Tseng investigates the impact of algorithms on participatory democracy, decision-making, and everyday practices. The research focuses on how machine learning or algorithms affect people's emotions and actions, as well as the broader political implications they have in creating new forms of citizenship and urban politics. Tseng is particularly interested in examining cases that utilize open-source algorithms, which are claimed to be an alternative to profit-driven mainstream digital technologies.
In a urban collaboration project, Tseng studies the Omastadi platform of the City of Helsinki, which is used for participatory budgeting, as well as other forms of digital participation. The goal of the research is to understand how algorithms and digital technologies redefine democratic practices, urban space, and politics.
Anna Zhelnina has completed her doctoral degree in sociology at the City University of New York. Her research interests include urban residents' participation and the mechanisms used by political actors in cities to promote their visions of urban futures.
During her research tenure, she has focused on examining and developing research methods that consider the complexity of urban political relationships, particularly emphasizing the significance of emotions and micro-interactions, which often go overlooked in traditional urban research. Her research interests also encompass how urban dynamics can inclusively involve various actors, including grassroots organizations, business entities, and decision makers.
Nilay Kılınç has a multidisciplinary background that combines social sciences, geography, and social anthropology. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, specializing in the field of Immigration and Mobility Studies. The topic of her thesis was the experiences of return migrants from Germany to Turkey and their opportunities to build a better life and identity in their home country.
Since September 2020, Nilay Kılınç has been working as a postdoctoral researcher at Urbaria, focusing on the research theme of "Urban Inequality." Her research centers on the social and professional networks of highly skilled Turkish immigrants in three Nordic capital cities: Helsinki, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. Her aim is to explore the differences in diaspora spaces provided by these three cities and the various opportunities these cities offer for the highly skilled immigrants.
Isabel Ramos Lobato has researched the processes of participation and marginalization in social environments, specifically from the perspectives of education and housing. She has examined the interaction between social-spatial and educational segregation by studying parents' primary school choices after the elimination of school district boundaries in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. Lobato analyzes the differences in school choice practices and the underlying value systems among parents from different educational backgrounds. The doctoral research also examined the role of parents' childcare networks in shaping primary school selection strategies and communicating about them.
In her research conducted in Finland, Ramos Lobato similarly focused on school segregation in the Helsinki area. She explored the relationship between regional segregation and school segregation, as well as the utilization of positive special treatment funds in Helsinki's elementary schools.
Seona Candy's research focuses on sustainable food production and the analysis of urban systems, as well as interdisciplinary futures studies. Seona Candy utilizes both quantitative and qualitative research methods, particularly in scenario work and modeling.
In her research project at Urbaria, Candy concentrated on the issues of sustainable land use in the peripheral areas of the Helsinki metropolitan region, specifically from the perspectives of food production, carbon neutrality, and urban resilience. During her time in Urbaria, Seona Candy worked closely in collaboration with capital region cities, particularly with the City of Vantaa.
Lasse Tarkiainen completed his doctoral degree in sociology and demography at the University of Helsinki in 2016. His research topics revolve around the social and regional determinants of health and mortality, as well as changes in health inequalities over time.
In his research at Urbaria, Tarkiainen examined health inequalities between residential areas and the connection between the socio-economic characteristics of residential areas and residents' health and other attributes. Establishing causal relationships, known as neighborhood effects, in research is notoriously challenging, but the aim of the study was to identify potential causal effects using Finnish population-level registry data and quasi-experimental research frame.
From 2019 to 2022, Cristina Bratu conducted research on the impacts of housing construction on migration and the effects of deregulating housing stock on the housing market. In her research she primarily collaborated with the housing units of the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa.
Cristina has also been interested in understanding how immigration affects the labor market and housing market, and has empirically examined these issues from the perspectives of both the native population and immigrants.