University of Helsinki researchers received multi-million funding from the European research council

Researchers Hanna Vehkamäki, Lauri Aaltonen and Sarah Green have received multi-million funding from the European Research Council (ERC).

The grant recipients are Hanna Vehkamäki, professor of computational aerosol physics; Academy Professor Lauri Aaltonen; and Sarah Green, professor of social anthropology. The ERC Advanced Grant for established researchers is highly competitive, and for this round, nearly 2,000 researchers applied.

Grant of 2.4 million euros for physics

Professor Hanna Vehkamäki received a €2.4 million grant for her research group's project DAMOCLES - Simulating Non-Equilibrium Dynamics of Atmospheric Multicomponent Clusters.

The project combines several different computational and theoretical approaches in the study of atmospheric clusters, or groups of particles that form in the atmosphere. The goal is to develop methods for tracking the formation of the clusters step by step. The computational resources of the CSC IT Centre for Science play a key role in the project.

Professor Hanna Vehkamäki has served as professor of computational aerosol physics at the University of Helsinki since 2009. She leads a ten-person research group at the University’s Department of Physics.

Professor Vehkamäki previously received a €1.5 million ERC Starting Grant in 2010. Receiving two consecutive ERC grants is highly exceptional.

Grant of 2.5 million euros for medical research

Academy Professor Lauri Aaltonen received a €2.5 million research grant for the MYCLASS research project, which seeks to develop new kinds of diagnostics and drug treatments for uterine myomas. Myomas, benign growths that develop within the muscle tissue of the uterus, affect approximately one in four women by the age of 45, and are often accompanied by difficult symptoms such as exceptionally heavy menstrual bleeding, anaemia and pain. Myomas are the leading reason for hysterectomies.

Aaltonen’s research group has thus far gained a great deal of new information on the genetic background of myomas as well their development mechanisms. It seems that myomas are not a homogenous type of tumour, as their development mechanisms vary widely, and, consequently, a single drug treatment may not be effective against all of them. The new research project aims to develop diagnostic methods enabling the identification of the main characteristics of the tumours so that they can be classified. It would then be possible to find an effective treatment for each class. 

The ERC Advanced Grant is the second ERC grant Aaltonen has received. The term of his previous ERC Advanced Grant ends in May. This means his group has brought a total of €5 million in research funding to Finland.

Grant of 2.5 million euros for social anthropology

Sarah Green received a €2.5 million grant for the project Crosslocations in the Mediterranean: rethinking the socio-cultural dynamics of relative positioning. 

Green’s research project focuses on the Mediterranean area, which has become a crossroads of humanity. Among other topics, the project examines the networks of political borders in the region: the EU, Mediterranean countries, maritime borders, and military borders. According to Sarah Green, this approach highlights how the control of these borders is changing and impacting the current refugee situation as well as immigration. 

The multidisciplinary project has an ethnographic emphasis. In addition to the researchers, the project involves photographer Lena Malm, who will take photographs from the Mediterranean area as well as North Africa for the project. 

Originally from the UK, Sarah Green worked at the universities of Cambridge and Manchester before arriving in Finland. She currently works as professor of social and cultural anthropology at the Faculty of Social Sciences. Her research is specialised in the anthropology of places and borders, particularly in Europe. 

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