Emerging research areas of the University of Eastern Finland

Methods and Applications of Uncertainty Modelling

Modern, state-of-the-art scientific research and the development of new technologies increasingly seeks to make use of computational science technologies in the analysis of data and to replace traditional experiments with computer simulations in the study of different phenomena. However, the application of computational science technologies to new and increasingly complex phenomena is challenging due to the fact that mathematical models of problems involve uncertainties and simplifications, which are generally regarded as extremely difficult, if not impossible, to model and control.   The key theme of this research area is to develop computational methods based on mathematical and statistical modelling both for data analysis and for the controlling of uncertainties of mathematical models used in computer simulations. The main applications of the research area include medical imaging, photonics applications, sustainable management of natural resources (remote sensing in forests, mapping of water resources, management of industrial wastewaters), and climate change research (improving the accuracy of climate change models). The research area collaborates with several other UEF research areas, as well as with the Centre of Excellence in Inverse Problems Research.

Research area directors/ contact persons: Professor Marko Vauhkonen, Professor Ville Kolehmainen and Professor Jari Kaipio

Aquatic Research in Changing World

Understanding and solving human-activity-associated problems in aquatic environment constitutes a key challenge, as many environmental problems culminate in aquatic systems and organisms. The biological state of aquatic environments and the sufficiency of clean water resources are at risk due to, for example, mining and industrial activities, and municipal waste loads. A sustainable and comprehensive management of water ecosystems in an industrial environment calls for high-level application and integrated development of materials science, environmental science and aquatic biology. Concrete, multidisciplinary joint projects are necessary, especially since the emissions into water of the mining industry and other human activity (including sulphates, cadmium, uranium, chemicals, etc.) have both direct and indirect effects on aquatic organisms and, in consequence, on human well-being. When developing water purification methods, it is optimal to understand the quantity in which each load factor needs to be removed to reach the acceptable levels in regards to aquatic organisms, what are the best operating methods to achieve this. The research area focuses on the biology of the aquatic environment, water-related safety aspects and understanding their overall effects, as well as on the development of technologies to solve these problems. The research area's main focus is on the effects of the mining industry on aquatic environment, ranging from industry and controlling of industry-induced emissions to function of aquatic systems.

Research area directors/ contact persons: Professor Vesa-Pekka Lehto and Professor Raine Kortet

Effectiveness in Healthcare and Social Services

Effectiveness in Healthcare and Social Services is a joint research area of the UEF Faculty of Health Sciences and the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies. Effectiveness, evaluated with both clinical and patient-centred or customer-oriented outcomes, should be the primary determinant of resource distribution in healthcare and social services. However, this information is rarely collected or utilised even though vast amount of structural data (for example registers) are routinely produced. Efficient utilisation of these routinely collected data is one of the key goals of this research area. This requires multidisciplinary research efforts for data linkage, management, curation and validation, as well as development of novel methods.  

Examples of related disciplines include medicine, pharmacy, nursing science, social sciences, social and health economics, health informatics and computing sciences.  Concrete examples of research topics are effectiveness and cost-effectiveness analyses of drugs, procedures, services and operating models, utilisation of register and customer/patient documentation, and the development and validation of indicators and methods.

Research area directors/ contact persons: Professor Marja Vaarama and Professor Sirpa Hartikainen

Targeted Drug Delivery with Emphasis on Ocular Drug Treatment

Targeted drug delivery refers to the delivery of drugs to specific targets and to the targeting of effects at specific tissues.  This field plays a major role in drug development, especially when enhancing the effect of biological drugs and when delivering drugs to targets that are difficult to reach, for example the back of the eye, the brain and tumours.

We study the processes related to drug delivery and the materials and structures suitable for targeted drugs. Our research focuses on ocular drugs: we study disease mechanisms, search for drug targets, analyse drug delivery processes and develop new drugs and drug delivery methods. This multidisciplinary research area makes use of the methods of pharmacy, medicine, materials science, chemistry and mathematical modelling.

The significance of the research area is growing because the need for targeted drug delivery technologies is increasing as biological drugs are becoming more and more common. Ocular diseases and visual impairment caused by ocular diseases are increasing globally as the population ages, creating a need for new drugs and new technologies for the delivery of ocular drugs.

We actively collaborate with other universities, hospitals, drug industry companies and authorities. Our funding base includes funding obtained from the European Union, the US Food and Drug Administration, FDA, drug industry companies, and the Academy of Finland. Researchers in this field can pursue a career in the service of research institutes, drug industry companies, hospitals and outpatient clinics, pharmacies and drug authorities. 

Research area directors/ contact persons: Professor Arto Urtti and Professor Kai Kaarniranta

Bioinformatics in Health Sciences

Bioinformatics in health sciences combines data processing, statistics and information technology to solve research challenges in health sciences. Bioinformatics is the key to fully utilise the vast amounts of data, big data, generated by modern biomedical research. Bioinformatic methods are especially beneficial in individualized medicine where it enables the utilisation of large, genome-wide data sets. Bioinformatics is already a critical part of modern research in health sciences, and its role will only increase in the future. At the University of Eastern Finland, the bioinformatic research in health sciences makes the most of clinical study materials and large population samples governed by the university or Kuopio University Hospital. The deep knowledge related to gene regulation, including epigenetics, generated by the top research teams at the university is also applied to the research. Methods include modern tools in data analytics, data management and software development. The research ultimately aims to new discoveries that will improve human health, early diagnosis, disease prognosis and treatment modalities, as well as to develop new bioinformatic research methods and tools.

Research area directors/ contact persons: Professor Mikko Hiltunen and Professor Jorma Palvimo

Welfare Ruptures (MURTUMA): Recognising Uncertainties, Finding Solutions

The Welfare Ruptures research area addresses issues relating to welfare, well-being and health in Finland and focuses on two main lines of investigation: welfare deficits and welfare innovations. The research area brings together researchers from three UEF faculties: the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies (departments of social sciences, social and health management, business school and law school), the Philosophical Faculty and the Faculty of Health Sciences.

The two main lines of the research area are divided into four themes: The Disadvantages and Deficits theme focuses on issues related to inequality, poverty and disadvantages, while  the Dynamics in Social and Healthcare Systems theme carries out multidisciplinary research on social and health care services. The Isolation, Loneliness and Subjective Ill-being theme looks into the dynamics between loneliness, depression, individual behaviour and service structures. Finally, the Social Citizenship in Transformation theme focuses on the position of customers of social and health care services. 

The research area not only pinpoints welfare-related challenges in today's society, but also provides tools for facing these challenges.

Research area directors/contact persons: Professor Juho Saari