P R E F A C E
From the point of view of the Physics Department the most significant event in 1997 was the decision made by the University to introduce a new model for allocating basic funding among faculties. The most disputable elements of the model are the coefficients by which master's degrees in different disciplines are weighted in the computation algorithm of the budget funds. The present values of these coefficients are unfavourable for the exact sciences, including physics. Funding should be compared to that in other physics departments in Finland.
According to a recent report by the Academy of Finland on the state and standard of science in Finland, the Physics Department makes a significant contribution to research and education in physics in our country and its activity in both areas is productive. This strengthens my belief that our Department can continue to expect significant outside financial support in the future.
During 1997 the Department has raised its public profile. We have commenced an alumni program by making contact with all our previous graduates and informing them about the present activities of the Department. The extensive teaching program of the Department has been presented in two brochures, "Department of Physics, ECTS Information Package 1997-1998" and "Fysiikan ja teoreettisen fysiikan opetusohjelma 1997-1998" (The Teaching Program for Physics and Theoretical Physics 1997-1998). The new-style 1996 Annual Report describing the research and teaching activities of the Department was aimed at a broad audience. It was distributed not only at university level but also to all our previous graduates since the 1960s and to sixth forms and colleges, the highest level of school education in Finland.
The research activity of the Department has gained new impetus. Space Physics became an official teaching and research area of the Department when the pentennial chair of Space Physics was set up in the summer of 1997. The relationship of the Department with the Helsinki Institute of Physics was strengthened in 1997. The co-operative work has been well arranged, and I feel that both parties have gained considerably. The high numbers of publications in esteemed international journals, conference contributions, collaborating laboratories and industrial partners demonstrate the high standard of our research and its meaning for society. The highlights in research illustrate some of the Department's notable achievements. In materials science they describe an improvement of full-colour thin film electroluminescent devices and explain the occurrence of persistent large-droplet fogs or smogs such as previously existed in London. A significant impact on understanding solar plasma entry into the magnetosphere can be expected on the basis of results obtained in space physics. Studies in cosmology help us to understand the origin of matter and properties of plasma at extremely high temperatures.
There has been progress in the organisation and forms of teaching in the Department. The plan outlined earlier of dividing the academic year into four teaching periods has been realized. The teaching modules of the first year of study were renewed, as was the co-ordination of studies in physics with theoretical physics. Formulating lecture modules for courses on the World Wide Web was started. The first course in a Web University in co-operation with the Helsinki Institute of Physics and CERN was given.
The first students have graduated from the research education program which was established in 1995. The organisation and activity of this line will be further developed using the experience gained so far. In association with this, decisions about a separate entrance examination for physics teacher education are being made.
The personnel structure is greatly influenced by the research staff supported by outside funds, which concerns about 45% of us. On the other hand, because of the cuts in departmental funding, about 13% of the posts have had to be kept unfilled.
Emeritus professor K.V. Laurikainen, who belonged to the staff of the Department from 1960 until his retirement in 1979, died in July 1997. He remained active up to his death and influenced and promoted discussion in society on philosophical issues relating to physics.
In spite of the severe effects of the budget cuts and threats of other changes to the working of our Department, in the past year there were also many developments which strengthened our belief in the future. The most concrete of these was the Kumpula III (the new building for physics, theoretical physics, geophysics, meteorology, geography, geology, and Helsinki Institute of Physics on the Kumpula campus) architectural competition in the summer of 1997 and the official commencement of planning consequent upon the initiative of the Ministry of Education in the late autumn of 1997. It is intended that construction work would start at the beginning of 1999, with completion of the building by early 2001.
The national effort to promote better knowledge of mathematics and physics with the related augmentation in the education of physics teachers and physics as a supplementary subject in the university, as well as the strengthening nationally of education in information technology underline the growing importance of physics in our society.
The long tradition of research and its strengthening by recent developments, combined with laudable improvements in teaching efficiency, have resulted in a greatly increased number of degrees in recent years, indicating the well-being and strongly augmenting activity of the Department of Physics.
Head of the Department