Three ERC Consolidator Grants awarded to the University of Helsinki

The recipients of this eminent funding are studying the movements of black holes, plant radial growth and large-scale statistical properties of solutions to equations with random coefficients

Three researchers working at the University of Helsinki have been awarded a Consolidator Grant by the European Research Council. The funding was granted to Ari Pekka Mähönen, Peter Johansson and Tuomo Kuusi for the term 2019–2023.

Ari Pekka Mähönen (@AP_Mahonen) serves as a research group leader at the Institute of Biotechnology (HiLIFE) and the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, studying plant developmental biology. Mähönen’s research group has developed novel methods for investigating how vascular cambium, a lateral meristem, drives radial growth in plants.

The aim of the research to be conducted by Mähönen’s group with the ERC grant is to investigate the function of the stem cells of cork cambium, another lateral meristems responsible for plant radial growth, and how the two meristems, cork and vascular cambia, together increase the thickness in plants. Understanding radial growth in plants is central to plant biology, and data gained from this study can be applied to crop and tree breeding.

Modelling black holes

Peter Johansson is professor of astrophysics at the Faculty of Science. The research of his group is focused on questions related to the formation and evolution of galaxies. Johansson’s ERC project Post-Newtonian modelling of the dynamics of supermassive black holes in galactic-scale hydrodynamic simulations aims to model the movements of supermassive black holes in galaxy collisions.

A supermassive black hole resides at the centre of every massive galaxy. When galaxies collide, the black holes inevitably approach each other, eventually merging together. A multiphase chain of events underlies this phenomenon, yet to be modelled in detail in a single simulation.

The ERC-funded project is based on KETJU, a new code written at the University of Helsinki which will enable such a simulation for the first time. The code will make it possible to model the movements of stars and black holes close to the central black hole with great precision. In addition, the code enables the study of gravitational waves in a manner previously impossible in regular galaxy simulations.

At the intersection of probability theory

The ERC-funded project of Tuomo Kuusi, professor of mathematics and statistics, is focused on problems at the intersection of probability theory, partial differential equations, and the calculus of variations. These areas are united by stochastic homogenisation: the study of large-scale statistical properties of solutions to equations with random coefficients.

In recent years, great theoretical advances in quantitative theory have been achieved, with Kuusi as an active contributor. In the ERC-funded project, the aim is to study several challenging problems both theoretically and in practice by using these new methods. Examples of practical applications include new mathematical approaches and methods of calculus that support the operations of the geothermal power plant developed by St1 Deep Heat Oy in Espoo.

Kuusi applied for funding from the ERC while serving as an associate professor at the University of Oulu. The grant will transfer with Kuusi to the University of Helsinki.

The European Research Council funds top-level basic research in all fields of science. So far, more than 70 applications submitted by the University of Helsinki have been successful in gaining ERC funding.

The ERC Consolidator Grant is available to distinguished researchers who have conducted research for 7 to 12 years after their doctoral graduation. There are no restrictions on the research field, but the recipients’ home universities must be located in Europe.


Read more about the University of Helsinki researchers who have been granted funding by the ERC


Ari-Pekka Mähönen

Peter Johansson

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