Two prestigious scientific awards were presented at a ceremony co-organised by Aalto University and the World Cultural Council, held in in the Dipoli Hall, Espoo on 17 November 2014: The Albert Einstein World Award of Science & the José Vasconcelos World Award of Education.
The Albert Einstein World Award of Science was received by esteemed enzymologist, Professor Sir Philip Cohen for his 40-year research into the communication between cells. Conferred for excellence in the field of university teaching, the José Vasconcelos World Award of Education award was bestowed on Professor Federico Rosei from Canada.
Sir Philip Cohen is well-known for the research he has carried out on the phosphorylation of proteins at Dundee University in Scotland. Phosphorylation is one means by which the proteins in our cell membranes control the flow of small molecules into cells and communicate between cells. Dating back to the 1970s, Professor Cohen's research has helped scientists understand how, for example, the complex cellular communication that controls the levels of sugar in our organs through the delivery of insulin works. Complications or disruptions in the message transfer from one cell to another can lead to all kinds of illnesses such as diabetes and certain forms of cancer. This research has already had an impact on the treatment of these conditions.
"We're working with six of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies," says Sir Philip Cohen.
Such cooperative initiatives have already produced tremendous advances in cancer medications.
"Several drugs are currently being clinically trialled, and the first of which, intended to treat skin cancer, has already been approved," the professor continues.
Sir Philip Cohen is one of the most-cited biochemistry researchers in the world. His work has also made a remarkable impact on the lives of Dundee's 140 000 inhabitants. Thanks to the endeavours of Cohen's research institute, a host of important companies have been attracted to the city. So much so, in fact, that 16% of the regional economy in Dundee is bioscience-based.
"When I started out here, there were only a handful of biochemists. Now, up to 10 000 people are either directly or indirectly working in biosciences in the area. I could have never imagined this when my research career began," Sir Philip remarks.
The José Vasconcelos World Award of Education award was received by Federico Rosei, Professor and Director of the Centre for Research at the University of Quebec, Canada. The award is conferred biannually to experts in the field of university teaching or the transference of scientific knowledge. Previous recipients of the award include Sir David Attenborough, famed for his BBC wildlife documentaries.
Federico Rosei has a long track-record of excellence in the field of teaching. Among other things, Professor Rosei has toured the world as an ambassador for the latest research in the energy sector. Federico Rosei has delivered lectures in 40 different countries on the topic of energy-efficient LED lighting, third generation solar panels, and the sustainability of energy reserves.
"Finland is the 41st country," he remarks during his celebratory lecture, delivered in Otaniemi just before the awards ceremony.
Many of his lecture trips take him to developing countries such as Ethiopia, India, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.
Rosei sees his own research team as an important tool in the transference of research. In 2002, the team included more than 90 researchers in 25 countries and in 6 different continents. Many of these researchers have successfully continued this research in their own countries.
"For me, science is a global project. And it's really important that we give motivated students an opportunity to get involved. I'm not interested in where they come from or what they believe in, so long as they want to work hard and are passionate about research," says Rosei as he explains his recruitment policy.
Federico Rosei has also organised Survival Skills courses for researchers around the world. These courses are designed to assist students and researchers in developing the professional skills they need when job seeking and applying for work. These skills are often not part of normal university education. Rosei has even written a book on the basis of this course, entitled "Survival Skills for Scientists."
But why should a researcher make such an effort to advance the cause of teaching?
In Federico Rosei's opinion, all we need to do is think about the basic task set for universities.
"It's our job to educate people and not just to focus on research."
Aalto University President Tuula Teeri was also recognised at the awards ceremony. She was conferred with the Educational Merit Medal.
In conjunction with the awards ceremony, honorary mentions were conveyed on six young Aalto University researchers for the international significance of their work: Camilla Hollanti, Katri Kauppi, Mauri Kostiainen, Matti Kuittinen, Jani Romanoff and Hele Savin.
World Cultural Council Awards
The Albert Einstein World Award of Science and José Vasconcelos World Award of Education are annually conferred by the World Cultural Council. Founded in 1981, the Council rewards outstanding work in the fields of science, arts, and teaching yearly. The 2014 WCC Awards Ceremony was hosted by Aalto University. Further information: www.consejoculturalmundial.org
Aalto Academic Summit week – 16th to 20th November 2014
The awards ceremony kicked off the Academic Summit at Aalto University. The summit includes seven sessions discussing different perspectives on the role of universities in society. The sessions will be attended by an international cohort of experts in innovation and representatives of the business sector and academia.
Photos: Lasse Leklin