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Professors and projects selected by the Academy of Finland to the FiDiPro-Programme 2010

FiDiPro Professor: Professor Yong-Hwan Lee, Seoul National University, South Korea
Professor Yong-Hwan Lee (b. 1961) has developed a comparative fungal genomics platform in South Korea and also established extensive international networks. He combines systems biology and advanced bioinformatics methods in fungal genomics research in a unique way. Professor Lee is one of the world-leading scientists in his field. 

Research project: Fungi associated with plants and forest trees play a fundamental role in the health of cultivated crops and boreal forests, affecting their vitality and productivity. Many of these fungi cause diseases to plants and forest trees, while others prevent diseases or enhance plant growth. Some fungi produce toxins dangerous to humans and domestic animals or spoil products in storage, while others (saprotrophs) cause problems by decaying construction wood and causing dry rot in buildings. However, fungi are also necessary as saprophytes for decaying organic matter and mineralisation of nutrients, and they play a key role in carbon cycling in nature. Comparisons at genomic and gene expression levels between three contrasting plant-fungus situations will help improve our understanding of key elements in the interactions and the evolution of these various forms. The project aims to develop a strong platform of theoretical expertise in fungal pathogenomics. The project combines two large areas of research: comparative fungal genomics and comparative pathobiology.

Finnish host and university: Professor Fred Asiegbu, Department of Forest Ecology, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 9 1915 8109, fred.asiegbu(at)helsinki.fi and Academy Professor Jari Valkonen, Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 9 1915 8387, jari.valkonen(at)helsinki.fi

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FiDiPro Professor: Robert Benny Gerber, University of California, Irvine, USA
Professor Robert Gerber (b. 1944) is one of the pioneers in the field of quantum dynamics simulations of molecular processes. His expertise is in the field of time-dependent quantum mechanical simulations of chemical reactions and molecular processes. 

Research project: The main research objectives of the project are water complexes of atmospheric interest, new directions in noble-gas chemistry, ices and chemical reactions on ice surfaces and in ice media, and conformational transition dynamics of biological molecules. Computational chemistry combined with spectroscopic studies is an excellent tool to investigate energetics and reactivity of water complexes. The project will study the stability of novel noble-gas compounds experimentally and theoretically, with emphasis on the temperature effects on their lifetimes.

Finnish host and university: Professor Lauri Halonen, Finnish Centre of Excellence in Computational Molecular Science, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 9 1915 0280, lauri.halonen(at)helsinki.fi

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FiDiPro Professor: Professor Robert Rollinger, University of Innsbruck, Austria
Professor Robert Rollinger (b. 1964) is an internationally highly recognised and active scholar of the ancient and classical Near East. He is one of the few scholars in the field who has in-depth knowledge of both Ancient Greece and the Near East. In his studies, Professor Rollinger successfully combines both these fields of study in a creative way.

Research project: The project will investigate the cultural, linguistic and literary relations between the Near East and the West, specifically Ancient Greece, by applying the methods of several disciplines within the humanities. The project will elucidate the relations between East and West on the basis of Akkadian, Greek and Arabic sources, searching for the historical roots of dichotomies and controversies. A key part of the research concerns the analysis of the formation of cultural identities in a multicultural environment.

Finnish host and university: Professor Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, Department of World Cultures, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 9 191 22092, jaakko.hameen-anttila(at)helsinki.fi

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FiDiPro Professor: Professor Juni Palmgren, Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden
Professor Juni Palmgren (b. 1949) has in-depth knowledge of statistical epidemiology and statistical genetics. She is an internationally recognised leading figure in promoting biostatistics at the intersection of mathematics, statistics and medicine. She has an extensive research profile that covers modelling and medical computing. Professor Palmgren is also chair of the Swedish Research Council eScience sub-committee and works actively for the promotion of Nordic research infrastructures.

Research project: For the first time in medical history, the technical prerequisites exist for merging cascades of molecular data from biological samples with clinical and epidemiological information on lifestyle, disease and health. Over the coming years, new insights will be gained into the complex multifactorial mechanisms underlying human health, with consequences for prevention, early detection, treatment and cure. The FiDiPro Professorship affiliation with the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland will add expertise in epidemiology and biostatistics to the Institute’s major research themes (human genomics, medical systems biology, and translational research).

Finnish host and university: Professor Jaakko Kaprio, Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 9 191 27595, jaakko.kaprio(at)helsinki.fi

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FiDiPro Professor: Dr Douglas R. Worsnop, Aerodyne Research Inc., USA
Dr Douglas R. Worsnop (b. 1952) is regarded as one of the leading scientists in research on aerosol particles. He is a world-leading scientist in analytical techniques and highly experienced in complex field studies. Dr Worsnop currently works as a FiDiPro Professor, and his present term expires at the end of 2010.

Research project: The main objective of the project is to investigate the importance of aerosol particles on climate change and on human health, with a particular focus on the growth of freshly nucleated nm-sized atmospheric aerosols by condensation of organic vapours and the effect of aerosol formation in aerosol dynamics. Modern engine technologies have dramatically reduced overall aerosol emission levels while enhancing the production of nanoparticles, which have significant, undetermined health effects, as they are emitted in urban areas with large human exposure. The project brings together physical and chemical measurement expertise to investigate the fundamental interaction of molecules, clusters and aerosols, from nanometer to micrometer scales.

Finnish host and university: Professor Markku Kulmala, Finnish Centre of Excellence in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Meteorology of Atmospheric Composition and Climate Change, University of Helsinki,  tel. +358 9 191 50756, markku.kulmala(at)helsinki.fi

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FiDiPro Professor: Professor Laurie S. Kaguni, Michigan State University, USA
Professor Laurie S. Kaguni is internationally recognised for her expertise in the structural and mechanistic biochemistry of mitochondrial DNA replication. She is particularly interested in investigating the molecular mechanisms that relate to the replication and expression of mitochondrial DNA genome and their regulation. The research combines biochemical and molecular genetics methods.

Research project: The project will analyse how the genes carried in mitochondrial DNA affect the disease-like characteristics of fruit fly mutants that are so-called models for human mitochondrial diseases. Such diseases include diverse and relatively rare neurological syndromes but also many cases of common conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, deafness and epilepsy. The project works to identify new genetic determinants and drug targets for understanding and treating mitochondrial diseases in humans.

Finnish host and university: Academy Professor Howard Jacobs, Finnish Centre of Excellence in Research on Mitochondrial Disease and Ageing, University of Tampere, tel. +358 3 3551 7731, howard.t.jacobs(at)uta.fi

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FiDiPro Professor
: Professor Robert L. Whetten, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA
Professor Robert L. Whetten (b. 1959) is one of the most distinguished international experts in the synthesis and characterisation of molecular nanostructures and nanoparticles. He has contributed significantly to the synthesis, isolation and characterisation of soluble C60 and related fullerenes as well as of superconducting alkali-fullerides. Professor Whetten was the first to realise and appreciate the distinct optical and electrochemical properties of gold nanoclusters, arising from the quantum confinement of valence electrons in the metal core.

Research project: The project will focus on investigating the synthesis, characterisation and application of chemically stabilised nanoparticles with precise molecular structures and functionalised properties. The aim is to functionalise the particles to be compatible with a wide variety of chemical environments. This provides a possibility to use these particles for applications in catalysis, non-sensing, photonics, bio-labelling, and molecular electronics.

Finnish host and university: Professor Hannu Häkkinen, Department of Chemistry, University of Jyväskylä, tel. +358 14 260 4719, hannu.hakkinen(at)phys.jyu.fi

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FiDiPro Professor: Professor Ralf Metzler, Technical University of Munich, Germany
Professor Ralf Metzler’s has a strong interdisciplinary approach in his research, combined with theoretical know-how. In his work, he combines the concepts and methods of physics in order to investigate key research questions of biological systems, such as the dynamics and functions of biomolecular systems in gene regulation.

Research project: The project will focus efforts to unravel questions related to the dynamics and functions of crowded cells. Particular attention is paid to gene regulations, translocation phenomena across cell membranes, and diffusion of biomolecular complexes as they are central to the functions of biological cells. The research will provide a better understanding of the underlying principles by which cellular dynamics takes place under crowded conditions. The scientific breakthroughs will pave way to biotechnological innovations in, for example, drug and gene delivery, design of new drugs and antibodies, and development of treatment for diseases related to perturbations in the genetic code.

Finnish host and university: Professor Ilpo Vattulainen, Department of Physics, Tampere University of Technology, tel. +358 400 510 592, ilpo.vattulainen(at)tut.fi

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FiDiPro Professor: Professor Luca Q. Zamboni, Université de Lyon 1, CNRS, France
Professor Luca Q. Zamboni (b. 1962) is an internationally recognised and leading scientist in the area of combinatorics on words and related areas. He is known as a researcher who is able to solve highly challenging research problems in the field and formulate new innovative research questions. Zamboni is regarded as a leading authority in the research of combinatorics on words. He has also made significant contributions to the research of algebra and dynamical systems.

Research project: The objective of the project is to establish an internationally significant research centre working on combinatorics on words. This is an extensive interdisciplinary project that will be working on a number of phenomena and research problems in the field. The project combines mathematics, computer science and physics.

Finnish host and university: Professor Juhani Karhumäki, Department of Mathematics, University of Turku, tel. +358 2 333 5613, karhumak(at)utu.fi

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Professors and projects selected by the Academy of Finland to the FiDiPro-Programme 2010
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