Howy Jacobs is Professor of the Year

The award also recognizes the importance of the international dimension in the success of Finnish science, says Howy Jacobs. Photo: Erkki Karén

The award also recognizes the importance of the international dimension in the success of Finnish science, says Howy Jacobs. Photo: Erkki Karén

The Finnish Union of University Professors (FUUP) has chosen Academy Professor Howard T. Jacobs as Professor of the Year.  Professor Jacobs’ scientific achievements, his unflagging efforts towards the internationalization of the Finnish academic environment and as a harbinger and ambassador of Finnish research outside Finland warrant him a significant position in our scientific community.  The FUUP announced their choice on Thursday 3.12.2009 at their 40th anniversary seminar in Helsinki.

Professor Jacobs is 54 years old and was born in London.  He took his first degree in natural sciences at the University of Cambridge and a doctorate at the University of Glasgow in 1981.  He has also worked as a researcher at the California Institute of Technology.  Since 1996 Professor Jacobs has served as Professor of Molecular Biology at the Institute of Medical Technology (IMT), University of Tampere.

A respected international man of science, an exemplary teacher

Howy Jacobs is a highly respected international scientist.  His collaborative research project was awarded the prestigious Descartes Prize by the EU in 2004.  His national and international status is aptly reflected in his editorial positions in acclaimed genetics journals and numerous guest lectures and talks at both scientific and science policy gatherings.

In addition to his merits as a researcher Professor Jacobs is an exemplary teacher and supervisor.  He has created an educational atmosphere of high quality and enthusiasm within the Finnish research environment.  He is also concerned about developing the careers of junior researchers.

Research in mitochondrial research helping with diseases

Professor Jacobs’ field of research concerns mitochondria, the cell’s energy factories.  His research project aims to ascertain the molecular mechanisms whereby mitochondrial mutations result in human diseases such as diabetes, deafness and infertility.  Recently his research work has also been directed towards understanding the role of mitochondrial function and dysfunction in normal ageing.  Professor Jacobs and his group have published in the most prestigious academic journals (Nature, Nature Genetics, Cell).

The FinMIT research unit, on Mitochondrial Disease and Ageing, which is led by Professor Jacobs, has since 2002 been a Centre of Excellence of the Academy of Finland.  Professor Jacobs has been appointed as Academy Professor for the period 2006-2011.

The title of Professor of the Year granted by the board of the Finnish Union of University Professors is intended for professors of exceptional artistic or scientific distinction.  The choice signifies an attempt to emphasize the importance of research and teaching in higher education to society as a whole.  Such awards have been granted since 1984 and Professor Jacobs is the 26th Professor of the Year.

“A distinction for the entire research group”

“I’m very honoured by this award, but of course it isn’t only to me personally.  It is also for my research group, who have kept us at the forefront of mitochondrial disease research worldwide, and also for IMT, which provides the environment in which top-quality biomedical science can flourish in Tampere. Our group is only one of many that is supported by the IMT environment, and this award should encourage the University not only to strengthen IMT itself, but also to use it as a model for how  internationally competitive research can be promoted in other fields.

The award also recognizes the importance of the international dimension in the success of Finnish science.  This requires not only recruiting and nurturing foreign scientists, but also measuring the quality and impact of all of the research done here, using international evaluation and peer-review as the yardstick which determines where funding will be targeted.

Finland needs more top-level basic science to generate the knowledge and skills-base upon which the applications and inventions of the future can be built.  National policy should focus on this as the number 1 priority”.