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UEF presents awards to accomplished young researchers

The University of Eastern Finland presented Eveliina Ojala, Doctor of Theology, Maryam Samavaki, PhD, Timo Pekkala, MD, and Pasi Hirvonen, Doctor of Social Sciences, with the Young Researcher Award 2020. Rector Jukka Mönkkönen and Academic Rector Tapio Määttä selected a promising young researcher from each UEF faculty on the basis of nominations made by thesis supervisors. The award winners were announced in the Young Researchers' Evening organised online this Wednesday.

Topical, interdisciplinary and internationally relevant topic

At the Philosophical Faculty, the Young Researcher Award was presented to Eveliina Ojala, whose doctoral dissertation in the field of religious education addresses the challenges social media poses on sense of community in confirmation school. The topic is internationally unique and highly interdisciplinary, combining the perspectives of theology, information and communication technology, social media research, youth research, social psychology and educational sciences. The topical nature of the dissertation has been highlighted due to an increased need for distance learning, and it has also attracted widespread media interest. 

Alongside writing her doctoral dissertation, Ojala has served in various expert roles, including as a communications officer for her doctoral programme and as a student member of the programme's steering committee, as well as in the organising committee of a scientific conference and as a co-editor of a scientific journal. 

A major step forward in solving equations

At the Faculty of Science and Forestry, the Young Researcher Award was presented to Maryam Samavaki, who discovered new solutions to the Navier-Stokes equation as part of her doctoral dissertation. The Navier-Stokes equations were written already in the 1800s, but they still remain rather poorly understood. The equations can be used to describe and predict, for example, sea currents and the movement of air around an aeroplane wing. Thus, they have extensive potential for utilisation, for example, in the design of aircraft or in the formulation of distribution models. The importance of Samavaki’s research topic is illustrated by the fact that the Clay Mathematics Institute has promised a million-dollar reward to anyone how can prove the existence and uniqueness of a solution to the Navier-Stokes equations in the three-dimensional space. The solutions discovered by Samavaki are one major step forward in this direction.

Maryam Samavaki currently works as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Eastern Finland in a project linking the fields of mathematics and photonics.

New methods for predicting dementia and brain changes

At the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Young Researcher Award was presented to Timo Pekkala. The results of his doctoral dissertation help to identify the risk of dementia at an early stage, i.e., at a time when preventive measures can still be taken. In his doctoral dissertation, Pekkala used innovative modelling methods to identify, on the basis of risk factors, the risk of dementia and certain related neurodegenerative brain changes without difficult and expensive clinical examinations. Pekkala’s thesis was selected among the top ten medical dissertations by Mediuutiset in 2020.

Pekkala completed his medical training alongside doing his doctoral research. He also holds an MSc (Technology) degree in applied mathematics from Aalto University. Pekkala's uniquely broad and multidisciplinary expertise is particularly valuable in this era, where complex information is generated at an accelerating pace and good management of results and their rapid and effective interpretation are required.

New information on group interaction in changing organisations

The Young Researcher Award of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies was presented to Pasi Hirvonen. In his doctoral dissertation, he studied organisations’ interaction practices by applying the positioning theory in a new, unique way. The results of the doctoral dissertation help to understand and develop the activities of changing organisations, and they offer new information for research into group interaction in the context of social psychology. The doctoral dissertation was approved with the grade laudatur. Last year, Hirvonen was also recognised with a doctoral dissertation award by Savon Sanomat. In addition, he was selected as the winner of the Young Scholar Award 2019 by the International Conference on Management Cases. 

Hirvonen has authored more than 10 scientific articles and he collaborates not only with the leading international names of his field, but also across scientific boundaries. He has secured roughly 100,000 euros of research funding. Hirvonen is a well-liked teacher and an influencer who actively gives interviews to the media and writes about his research to the general public. 

Young researchers play a major role

In his speech, Human Resources Director Jouni Kekäle addressed researchers’ career models. 

“The EU aims to harmonise the Member States' career models for researchers. The goal is to include criteria relating to open science, among other things. This is being discussed on the national level, but also individual universities, including the University of Eastern Finland, are reviewing and developing these independently.”

Rector Jukka Mönkkönen emphasised that the future lies with young people, and the future of research with young researchers. 

“This is why we present awards to our distinguished doctoral researchers every year. At the same time, we emphasise the importance of the whole younger generation of researchers for science, and the role of research-based knowledge in society.”

For further information, please contact:
Rector Jukka Mönkkönen, +358 40 728 8057, jukka.monkkonen(a)