Overview by the Head of the Department

Year 2015 brought both joy and a fair amount of uncertainty to the Department of Physics and its personnel.

I wish to start by thanking professor Heimo Saarikko who retired on 28 February, 2015. His long service to the Department of Physics has been invaluable. Heimo’s responsibilities in the education of physics teachers were taken by Ismo Koponen who succeeded Heimo as a professor.

During 2015 we recruited three outstanding young scientists to the University’s tenure track system: Emilia Kilpua (space physics), Mikko Sipilä (experimental aerosol physics) and Mikko Voutilainen (experimental particle physics), they all started in their new positions on November 1, 2015. The number of tenure-track positions at the Department is now five, following our strategy to renew the senior staff through this procedure, even during economically demanding times.

We also invited three top-tier foreign scientists Martin Heimann, Paolo Laj and Olaf Krüger to fixed-term and/or part-time professor positions. Finally at the end of the year we finalized the process to invite professor Ilpo Vattulainen and his research group in biological physics as a part of the University’s profiling action on Helsinki Life Science Center. Ilpo and the first part of his team moved to Kumpula on January 1, 2016.

The competence and achievements of our staff were recognized on many different forums. Timo Vesala started as Academy Professor at the beginning of the year and three young scientists: Tomas Kohout, Mari Pihlatie and Johanna Salminen, started as Academy Research Fellows on September 1, 2015.

To mention only the most notable prizes and awards during the year, Markku Kulmala was nominated a Distinguished Visiting Fellow of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Science. Markku also received the Fedor P. Litke Gold Medal of the Russian Geographical Society. Katri Huitu was elected to the Finnish Academy of Sciences and Letters and Hanna Vehkamäki received the University’s Maikki Friberg Equality Prize. Three of our staff members were recognized of their outstanding contributions in teaching: Antti Lauri was nominated to the University’s Teacher’s Academy, Kimmo Tuominen received the Magister Bonus prize of the University’s Student Union, and our own Physics Students’ society Resonanssi recognized Inkeri Kontro as the Teaching Developer of the Year.

 

The scientific outcome of the Department was again excellent. Our staff produced 45% of the peer-reviewed articles of the Faculty of Science and 9% of the University.

The scientific highlights are described in the sections of each individual Division. Here I only wish to mention the 20’th anniversary of the SMEAR II station in Hyytiälä in August 2015. The station is a globally unique multidisciplinary observatory for measurements of ecosystem–atmosphere relations. We have great expectations to be able to introduce similar facilities globally to monitor the most important elements of the global change.

Also in education the year was very good. The number of PhD Degrees remained high (37) and for the first time since long we graduated more Masters (64) than our annual target (60) set by the Faculty. The teaching staff of the 1st and 2nd year courses tell that the drop-out rates are decreasing. How much this depends on the improvements of our teaching and how much on the new university entrance regulations remains to be seen.

Outreach is an important part of our activities and the visibility of our staff members in various media was good. The activities of the Department are organized through the F2k Outreach Centre that operates under the umbrella of the national LUMA centre. Among our prime targets are physics teachers but we have also enhanced the contacts with our own alumni.

The full-time equivalent work effort of the Department’s personnel was 306 person years. About one third of the work is performed by doctoral students, which explains the high number of new PhDs.

 

Hannu Koskinen

Head of the Department