Sistonen, Xu and Wassholm are awarded the 2023 Chancellor’s Prize at Åbo Akademi University
Professor Lea Sistonen, Professor Chunlin Xu and Senior Lecturer Johanna Wassholm each receive a prize from Chancellor Carl G. Gahmberg for their successful research at Åbo Akademi University. The prizes are awarded during the Science Carnival in Vaasa 17.11.2023.
Lea Sistonen, Professor of Cellular and Molecular Biology, is awarded the Chancellor’s Grand Prize for her groundbreaking research on cellular stress responses. Since 1994, she has been running a research laboratory with the objective of uncovering the fundamental mechanisms that regulate gene expressions in cells and their response to intracellular and environmental signals.
Sistonen’s research is above all dedicated to cellular stress responses, more specifically the regulation of protective proteins produced by cells in response to various stress stimuli. Sistonen has demonstrated that the HSF family of proteins, or proteins that act as heat shock transcription factors, are unique, since they are able to mediate different transcription programmes depending on the type of stress they are exposed to. This is an important discovery also for cancer research, as we seek to better understand the ways in which cell damaging stress under different conditions. Sistonen and her research team have also succeeded in identifying mechanisms that enable cells to repair themselves.
Alongside her position as a professor at Åbo Akademi University, Sistonen has, among other things, been the group leader of the Turku Bioscience Centre, and a professor of molecular biology at the University of Bergen, Norway. She was awarded a five-year Academy Professorship by the Academy of Finland in 2004. The Academy Professorship is one of the highest research positions in Finland. Sistonen also supervises undergraduate and graduate students. To date, she has supervised more than 50 master’s theses, 23 doctoral theses and 27 postdoctoral researchers.
”Sistonen’s outstanding contribution within scientific research on an international scale as well as her commitment to passing on the scientific tradition to students and young researchers is highly commendable. Sistonen publishes groundbreaking results in prestigious scientific journals and has established herself as an important figure within her field of research. “She also actively promotes networking and mobility within the scientific community in Europe,” says Carl G. Gahmberg, Chancellor of Åbo Akademi University.
Chunlin Xu, Professor of Chemistry of Renewable Materials, is awarded a Chancellor’s Award for diverse basic and applied research in materials chemistry.
Chunlin Xu is a highly successful researcher within the university´s profiling areas “Technologies for a Sustainable Future” and “Solutions for Health”. He is a multidisciplinary scientist with experience in biomass chemistry, biopolymer chemistry, carbohydrate biotechnology, materials science and advanced analytics.
His research areas are in renewable materials and advanced analytics. His research focuses on bio-based functional materials for novel applications, providing society with sustainable solutions and facilitating green transition. Professor Xuis research leader of wood and paper chemistry since 2019.
In addition to his academic career, Xu has established particularly strong connections to various industries, both in Finland and internationally. He is also actively involved in teaching and currently supervises about 10 PhD students and several master’s theses. He also organizes summer schools for researchers and industrial participants.
”Chunlin Xu is a brilliant researcher with an outstanding ability for networking and cooperation with industrial partners, colleagues, and international contacts to create creative entities. In a relatively short time, Xu has managed to take his science to completely new heights. Throughout his career, he has successfully obtained significant and external research funding and is making a success of his innovative research projects, creating a research environment that is both innovative and has a strong focus on sustainability. Professor Xu’s efforts strengthen the entire faculty” says Gahmberg.
Johanna Wassholm, Senior Lecturer in Russian and Nordic History and Specialist Researcher at Åbo Akademi University, is awarded the Chancellor’s Prize for her extensive research into the joint history of Finland and Russia and for her contribution as a contemporary social debater.
Wassholm has in many ways been a pioneer in her field of research. She has successfully participated in several research projects and has also been recognised for her teaching. Her research interests focus on Finnish-Russian relations, national and linguistic identification, history culture and the uses of history, ethnicity and mobile trade, as well as deportations and forgery. Throughout her work, she has contributed in particular to the understanding of the history of Russia and Finland in the 19th century as well as to the uses of history in today’s society, especially when it comes to Finland’s relationship with Russia.
She is an active social debater, editor and writer who has addressed contemporary issues such as vaccine resistance or historical culture and the (mis)use of history in Russia through both columns and interviews in media.
” Wassholm actively comments and debates on contemporary social issues in national and Swedish media. Her academic work is characterised by sharpness, clarity and rigour and her studies are of high quality, combining theoretical clarity and empirical precision. This approach also shapes her teaching and she is a much appreciated teacher who inspires students to study Finland from a broader perspective. “Wassholm’s multifaceted research is crucial for a small university, and her collaboration with colleagues as well as her active role as a public debater is highly appreciated,” says Gahmberg.
The laureates have been selected by a prize committee on the basis of faculty proposals and the quality and impact of their research. The prize fund of 40,000 euros will be divided, so that Sistonen receives 20,000 euros and Xu and Wassholm 10,000 euros each.