Oscar Kivinen, kuva: Mikko Raskinen. Maaria Nordman, kuva: Veera Adolfo

Väisälä project grants to Assistant Professor Oscar Kivinen and Assistant Professor Maaria Nordman

Forms of support for setting up a research group are rare in Finland. The Väisälä project grant, worth €150 000, was awarded by the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters for the second time this spring. The awarded grants will be used to study algebraic geometry and the movements of the Earth’s crust in Antarctica.

The Väisälä project grant is intended for researchers at the early stages of the tenure track (assistant professor level) to set up their research group and cover the group’s research costs. Eligible fields are physics, mathematics, geophysics, astronomy and meteorology. The funding provided by the Academy is flexible and can be tailored to the applicant’s needs.

The three-year project grant worth €150 000 was awarded to two researchers from Aalto University.

Algebraic geometry

The main focus of the research conducted by Assistant Professor Oscar Kivinen is on algebraic geometry and representation theory and their relations to string theory. Algebraic geometry studies solutions to systems of polynomial equations, whereas representation theory studies the representation of various algebraic structures by matrices. These are basic structures in mathematics, with numerous applications e.g. in quantum physics, machine vision, cryptography and data science. String theory can be used, for example, when studying the packing of long molecules, such as DNA.

“The Väisälä project grant allows me to expand my research team and also invite international visiting scholars to Aalto,” says Kivinen. “The fields mentioned above are still underrepresented in Finland compared to the global scientific community and I believe that the awarded project grant will help remedy this situation.”

Crustal movements in Antarctica

The project of Assistant Professor Maaria Nordman studies the movements of the Earth’s crust in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica.

“The awarded grant allows us to expand the research group in terms of the direction of research and possibly recruit new researchers. Our group has studied the same phenomena in the northern hemisphere where observations are easily available. It is interesting to expand the area of research to Antarctica where there are significantly fewer observations,” says Nordman. “In Antarctica, the ice sheet is still largely in place, so it is an interesting and challenging environment due to the conditions.”

Information about crustal movements under the Antarctic ice sheet is necessary, for example to measure changes in the ice mass more accurately. These measurements can be used to derive predictions of how the ice sheets will affect the rise of the global sea level. A better understanding of crustal movements also improves the time series underlying global coordination systems, improving the quality and accuracy of these systems.

Väisälä project grants were awarded for the second time this spring. Piloted last year, the grant has received a warm and enthusiastic welcome, with 21 applications arriving to the Academy by the deadline.

“All the applications we received this spring were of outstanding scientific quality,” says Vice-President of the Academy, Professor Heikki Mannila. “There is an obvious need for this type of funding in Finland to support the establishment of individual research groups.”

More information:

Finnish Academy of Science and Letters
Secretary General Pekka Aula
tel. +358 40 703 0952

Oscar Kivinen
Assistant Professor, Aalto University
tel. +358 50 5732 881

Maaria Nordman
Assistant Professor, Aalto University
tel. +358 50 3533 852