Tõnu Esko and Heli Lukner receive the Young Scientist Award of the Cultural Foundation of the President of the Republic
On Monday, 6 February president Kersti Kaljulaid handed over the Young Scientist Award of the Cultural Foundation of the President of the Republic to Tõnu Esko, and the Special Young Scientist Award for the popularisation of scientific thinking to Heli Lukner.
Laureate of the Young Scientist Award Tõnu Esko is a senior research fellow and the acting director of the Estonian Genome Centre of the University of Tartu. After defending his doctoral thesis in 2012 at the University of Tartu, Tõnu Esko completed postdoctoral studies at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University in Boston, which is one of the best research centres for human genomics in the world. Largely thanks to Tõnu Esko, the UT Estonian Genome Centre has an excellent international cooperation network, including close cooperation with the Broad Institute.
Tõnu Esko has already deserved a place among the global top molecular biology and genetic scientists and was elected among the Thomas Reuters 2016 most influential scientists in the world. Among other things, Tõnu Esko has studied the genetic characteristics of Estonians, identified nations that are genetically the closest to Estonians and described genomes linked to human body length and mental abilities.
“For me personally it is very important that my work at the genome centre has been noticed at the national level. From time to time, people do get recognised for different work in the science community, but in that case it is mainly researchers who notice the activities of other researchers. To get an award from the president, the work you do has to have a wider resonance and therefore I find the award even more significant and influential,” said Tõnu Esko about the importance of the award he was granted.
This year, the Cultural Foundation of the President of the Republic also presented a Special Young Scientist Award for the popularisation of scientific ways of thinking, which went to Heli Lukner, a researcher of physical optics.
Heli Lukner is a senior research fellow and lecturer of physical optics at the Institute of Physics of the University of Tartu. After defending her doctoral thesis in physics at University of Tartu with summa cum laude in 2010, she passed postdoctoral studies at Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen, Germany. The research work of Heli Lukner belongs to the sphere of modern optics and involves wave optics, the distribution of light in optical fibres, non-linear optics and the shaping and measurement of ultrashort pulses in time and space.
Besides her everyday research work, Heli Lukner has been actively involved in the popularisation of science-oriented ways of thinking. She was one of the initiators of the Teadusbuss (the Research Bus) project and in 2005 and 2006, a presenter and project leader of the physics minutes of the morning programme of the Estonian Public Broadcasting. Since 2015 she has been the leader of the photonics club for enterprising students, and one of the panel of judges and a member of the science team of the Rakett 69 (Rocket 69) educational programme for the 6th season.
The awards are valued at 5000 euros. The Young Scientist Award is sponsored by Väino Kaldoja.
Senior Research Fellow of the Estonian Genome Centre of University of Tartu
tonu.esko [ät] ut.ee
Senior Research Fellow in Physical Optics
heli.lukner [ät] ut.ee