SCI Awards 2020 celebrate our successes in a challenging year

Members of our community who’ve helped us carry on during Coronavirus situation are recognised in annual awards

The School of Science annual awards are given each year at the christmas party. This year, festivities were moved online. Several of the prizes recognised the hard work many have done to allow the school to carry on its work during the pandemic. Nominations for the SCI awards are open all year round. 

Here are the awardees, with messages written by their colleagues who nominated them.

Alumnus of the Year  

Kyunghyun Cho

Department of Computer Science

Kyunghyun Cho is an associate professor of computer science and data science at New York University. Cho obtained his Bachelor’s degree from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in 2009, and both his Master’s degree and PhD from Aalto University. He graduated from the Master’s Programme in Machine Learning and Data Mining, MACADAMIA, with distinction in 2011. Cho continued his research in the group of Professors Juha Karhunen and Tapani Raiko, and defended his PhD in 2014.

Kyunghyun Cho is one of the pioneers of neural machine translation, the inventor of the gated recurrent unit (GRU) and well known for his works on neural attention mechanisms. He is one of the most cited researchers in the field of deep learning and natural language processing. Cho is an inspiring example of a talented student who started his research career in Aalto and leaped to a successful international career.

The Maculaser logo

Innovation of the Year    

Ari Koskelainen, Teemu Turunen, Ossi Kaikkonen, Mooud Amirkavei, and Jani Tirronen: Maculaser

Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering

Maculaser is a promising new treatment for vision-threatening eye diseases including diabetic macular edema and age-related macular degeneration that affect the life of over 400 million people and cause over 400B€ direct healthcare costs. Most cases are left untreated due to a lack of effective therapies. The team developed a novel temperature-controlled laser treatment method and a clinically feasible treatment device. The method combines laser heating of the 15 μm thick retinal pigment epithelium at the bottom of the eye with accurate electroretinography-based temperature control.

Maculaser startup company was founded in September 2020. Given the prospective medical excellence, the novel treatment will have a major impact on the field of ophthalmology.

Also nominated: Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas & Roosa Piitulainen; Juha Koivisto & Antti Puisto; Mikko Möttönen, Antti Laitinen, Pertti Hakonen & Visa Vesterinen; Robin Ras; Jussi Rintanen;Jouni Rantanen, Yohann Le Bourlout, Saif Bunni, Emanuele Perra, Gösta Ehnholm, Nick Hayward & Heikki Nieminen

Pauliina Ilmonen with some of her equipment

Scientific Communication Award       

Pauliina Ilmonen  

Department of Mathematics and Systems Analysis

“Pauliina has been super active during this exceptional year explaining the spreading of the virus to the general public in various media. She is enthusiastic and engaging, and a great role model for girls and young women. Two years ago in her Shaking up Tech presentation, she stated that ‘Science geeks rock!’. She’s definitely a rock star of statistics.”

See Pualiina on Yle’s A-studio: 

Also nominated: Minna Günes & Bernadette Gehl-Väisänen; Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas; Aino Tervo, Jaakko Nieminen & Risto Ilmoniemi 

Mari Knuuttila

Service Person of the Year

Mari Knuuttila       

SCI Learning Services

“Mari is always positive and in a good mood and leads her team creating a pleasant atmosphere for all. Mari is the spirit of SCI Learning Services. She is genuinely proud of her team and supports everyone to do their best.”   

“Mari always listens to and acts in the best interest of students and makes things happen with her efficient attitude. She is a person with exceptional commitment and service attitude.  Always puts students first. Listens to teachers. Listens to all.”

"Mari has developed SCI LES into a true service organization that focuses on the students and on supporting the work of the academic staff. Mari’s service attitude is reflected in all levels of SCI LES.  During this year Mari has been at the forefront solving the challenges caused by the Covid-19 crisis and carried the main burden, allowing the rest of LES to focus on their normal duties.

 Also Nominated: Tiina Aulanko-Jokirinne, Kenrick Bingham, Yulia Guseva, Anu Haapala, Marita Kattelus, Kristoffer Meinander, Mikko Mikkola, Aino Roms, Alexander Savin, Katariina Toivonen, Heini Vehmas

Teaching Assistant of the Year

Shamsiiat Abdurakhmanova

Shamsiiat Abdurakhmanova    

Department of Computer Science

“Oustanding work on preparing course material as well as the student support for FiTech flagship courses Machine Learning with Python and Deep Learning with Python.”  

“Shamsi makes math understandable! She has made very clear teaching material and always understands what we are trying to ask even though our questions may be a bit vague due to us not understanding something. And she always answers fast and to every question. Also she asks for student input during course so she can adjust her teaching accordingly.”

“All the lectures given by this TA were amazing. She made the Deep learning course easier. She is the best TA this year without any doubt.”

Jaakko Harjuhahto

Jaakko Harjuhahto           

Department of Computer Science         

“Jaakko worked in 2011-19 on the Software Project 1-3 courses. Each year, he acted as a coach for 1-3 teams which developed software for companies. Jaakko paid a lot of attention to his teams, doing everything possible to maximize their learning and project success. Every year, he received excellent feedback from his teams. Jaakko continuously analyzed how to improve the role of the coach. He actively shared his insights to new coaches and students, and still continues this despite of switching jobs.”         

“Jaakko is a good role model, especially for the students and younger assistants. He has been an inspiring teacher for several years with deep commitment and sincere attitude. He has been able to utilize his strong industrial engineering knowledge and connections in his work. But despite of the long industrial experience, he has been able to keep an academic heart and a curious mindset with him throughout all the different course implementations and other educational tasks he has had.”

 Also Nominated: Letizia Iannucci & Alena Shchevyeva; Martin Kidron; Thaha Mohammed; Paavo Raittinen; Tran Tien 

Janne Halme

Teaching Award

Janne Halme          

Department of Applied Physics

“Janne is natural born educator with excellent ideas and enthusiasm to develop new content in his role as an innovation agent of PHYS. He has had a central role in developing a new type of short course on IPR and entrepreneurship, delivered for the first time this autumn. His great commitment and way of facilitating the discussions has been central in keeping the intensive course easily accessible.”

“Janne has made exceptional contributions to the teaching at the department, notably through his commitment to coordinating and teaching the international Master’s programme in Advanced Materials for Innovation and Sustainability. His science and technology curriculum uniquely integrates innovation and entrepreneurship education. As an Innovation Agent, he supports commercialization and also Art-Science collaboration.”

Math teaching team

Department of Mathematics and Systems Analysis

"Department of Mathematics and Systems Analysis transferred all the basic courses and exams of mathematics to remote mode very efficiently in spring 2020. More students than ever participated in these courses and overall the credit points given by the department increased by more than 30% compared to the previous year. In addition, the department offered summer courses online. In the autumn 2020 the departments’ service teaching was done in hybrid mode with lectures online and exercise sessions on campus. Due to the restrictions in group sizes, there were 150 exercise groups, and in the beginning of the semester the department stretched to organize even more groups to serve the high number of students.

To accept the award on behalf of the department we have: Pekka Alestalo, Ragnar Freij-Hollanti, Harri Hakula, Björn Ivarsson, Jukka Kohonen, Jarmo Malinen, Georg Metsalo, Anssi Mirka, Ville Turunen, David Radnell, Matti Harjula

Also nominated: Tommi Junttila, Jukka Suomela, Barbara Keller, Jami Kinnunen, Jukka Luoma, Lauri Saarinen, Fabricio Oliveira, Petri Salo, Risto Sarvas

Kenrick Bingham

Team-building and Co-operation Award

Kenrick Bingham  

Department of Mathematics and Systems Analysis / SCI Technical Services

Kenny has had a key role this year in enabling the shift to hybrid mode of working for the School of Science and the Department of Mathematics and Systems Analysis. He has a wide general picture of the matters of the School and department. He is extremely helpful and positive in all possible ways. Kenny is helpful and inspiring, professional, and multiply skilled person when it comes to IT issues.

“Sometimes I wonder what are Kenny's tasks according to his job description - he knows about everything and at the same time is friendly and helpful. He is dedicated to helping others and in particular making researchers' life easier.”    

“Kenny is a genuinely cheerful and positive person. There is no such bad weather he wouldn’t cycle to work. And even if it would sleet horizontally, he would sing out very good morning to the department. A savior of mornings!”  

Kristoffer Meinander

Kristoffer Meinander      

Department of Applied Physics 

"Kristoffer Meinander is a cornerstone of the local physics community. On top of his other duties in facilities management and safety, he was responsible for coordinating and communicating the COVID response at PHYS this year. He did so tirelessly and efficiently by ensuring our Department was kept up to date. Together with other PHYS facilities staff, he also facilitated enabling online booking of lab spaces and was responsible for continuous monitoring and communicating attendance to other Aalto services. His efforts have ensured we have suffered minimal losses and our experimental work has resumed quickly and smoothly.

"On top of that Kristoffer is extremely considerate and positive, an attentive listener and always ready to help, no matter if the request is big or small- he is a real pleasure to work with!           

Also nominated: CS-IT/Science-IT led by Jaakko Kotimäki and Mikko Hakala; Sari Salmisuo; Milica Todorovic & Bernadette Gehl-Väisänen

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