University of Helsinki awards three researchers for their outstanding doctoral theses

Manlio Fusciello, Annastiina Kallius and Agustin Zuñiga Corrales each received a €5,000 award for their doctoral theses on new cancer treatments, the Hungarian political regime and pervasive data science.

The University of Helsinki has presented its 2023 awards for outstanding doctoral theses to Manlio Fusciello, Annastiina Kallius and Agustin Zuñiga Corrales, who completed their doctoral degrees in 2023. The awards were presented by Chancellor Kaarle Hämeri on Tuesday, 7 May at the traditional gala for donors and grant recipients.   

The award criteria include not only scholarly merits, but also research impact in the field and society at large. The award sum is €5,000 each. 

Harnessing the immune system effectively against cancer  

Manlio Fusciello, PhD, who completed his degree at the Faculty of Pharmacy, was awarded for his thesis Cancer vaccines: anti-tumoral t-cell therapy on demand.  

In his thesis, Fusciello developed and investigated personalised cancer vaccines. He added a tumour-specific antigen to immune adjuvants to enable cytotoxic T cells to destroy malignancies.   

Cancer immunotherapies use the patient’s own immune system to find and eradicate cancer cells. Immune cells must be activated and instructed to be able to locate and destroy malignant tumours promptly.  

Fusciello’s doctoral thesis demonstrates that when the immune system is correctly controlled, it can be used effectively in the fight against cancer. The new treatment methods developed as part of his thesis have proved promising in mouse models and may provide long-term protection against cancer recurrence.   

Manlio Fusciello (b. 1989, Italy) Obtained his Bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology at the University of Ferrara, Italy, in 2012. He obtained a Master's degree in Biomedical Sciences at Maastricht University, the Netherlands, concluded by completion of international thesis at the University of Toronto, Canada, in 2014. After that he obtained his PhD in August 2023 at the University of Helsinki. He now continues his career as postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki and is attending an MBA at the Aalto University.

The doctoral thesis is of exceptional scope and quality, and the results obtained significantly promote practical applications in the field. The hypothesis and methods are innovative and creative, and lead to robust results that can in many cases be utilised via patenting.


Hungary’s illiberal political regime fulfils ‘fascist minimum’ defined by historians  

Annastiina Kallius, DSocSc, who completed her degree at the Faculty of Social Sciences, was awarded for her thesis Politics of knowledge in late 2010s Hungary: Ethnography of an epistemic collapse.  

The thesis examines the epistemic transformation in Hungary under the rule of the Fidesz party. Kallius demonstrates that liberalism has lost its position both politically and from the perspective of knowledge.   

“In practice, this means that facts and objectivity are determined in different ways in the new political regime because illiberal politics has brought to power a parallel sphere of veridiction,” Kallius says. 

This illiberal knowledge regime questions traditional Enlightenment-based understanding, according to which facts are founded on research knowledge, which in turn helps in making sense of the external reality. Instead, truth is aligned with political goals. When combined with political and economic power, the illiberal epistemology also affects those who do not believe in it.   

The doctoral thesis increases understanding of the links between the crisis of liberalism and the epistemic transformation. These are not limited to Hungary but affect the development of democracy elsewhere in the world too.   

In addition, the doctoral thesis posits that the Hungarian illiberal political regime fulfils, as a future-oriented, revolutionary system, what historians have identified as the ‘fascist minimum’.  

Annastiina Kallius (b. 1986, Finland) completed a BA in Politics and Development Studies at University College London in 2010 and an MA in Sociology and Social Anthropology at the Central European University in Hungary in 2014. She completed a DSocSc at the University of Helsinki in 2023 and continues here as grant-funded researcher.

The doctoral thesis skilfully uses written ethnographic material and develops a convincing argument based on both research literature and internal ethnographic material. The monograph successfully explores a social topic of current importance. 


Pervasive data science ensures sustainable development  

Agustin Zuñiga Corrales, PhD, who completed his degree at the Faculty of Science, was awarded for his thesis Pervasive data science: From data collection to end-user applications.  

Pervasive data science is an area of computer science aiming to develop solutions to social problems by combining the Internet of Things, pervasive information technology and data science.   

The thesis paves the way for the wide-ranging use of pervasive data science by presenting new methods. It also offers understanding of how pervasive IT can be used to collect information on social phenomena.   

The thesis demonstrates how pervasive IT solutions enable new applications when using the sensor and computing capacity of existing equipment. Moreover, it verifies the social benefits of pervasive data science by offering new applications to ensure sustainable development.  

Agustin Zuñiga Corrales (b. 1982 in Ecuador) completed a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Informatics and Computing Systems in Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador and a specialist qualification in Engineering in Industrial Automation in the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Before completing his doctoral degree, he graduated as a Master of Science from the University of Helsinki.  Agustin Zuñiga Corrales continues at the University of Helsinki as postdoctoral researcher.

The doctoral thesis is innovative and of exceptional quality. In addition to its academic impact, the thesis has social and economic impact as well as commercial potential for the use of low-cost detection and identification technologies.