University of Tartu acknowledges deeds that change the world

On the eve of the anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, Rector of the University of Tartu Toomas Asser announced the deeds deserving the university’s 2021 contribution to society award, research award and language award, and the recipients of the teaching staff of the year award. 

Academic Secretary of the University of Tartu Tõnis Karki said that the contribution to society award, the research award and the language award, which were given out for the first time, are important parts of the university’s new system of giving recognition. “The University of Tartu as Estonia’s national university recognises people for activities that have made a significant contribution to the development of research, society and the Estonian language. The award-winning deeds affect each and every one of us, they reach beyond Estonia and are not limited to academic circles only,” Karki explained. 

The University of Tartu contribution to society award is granted for introducing the nationwide wastewater monitoring method. The method has been used since autumn 2020 for detecting the spread of the coronavirus. In the future, wastewater monitoring can be applied for various goals, for example for the detection of illegal drugs and drug residues. The award recipient is Professor Tanel Tenson and his research team including Associate Professor Veljo Kisand, Research Fellow Helen Tammert, Research Fellow Peeter Laas and Specialist Kristel Panksep. 

Professor Tanel Tenson (keskel) ning tema juhitav töörühm. Foto Andres Tennus

Professor Tanel Tenson (in the middle) and his research team. Photo Andres Tennus 

The University of Tartu research award is granted for developing tumour-penetrating peptides for drug delivery. This will allow to use smaller drug doses in cancer treatment in the future, significantly reducing the side effects of drugs. The recipient of the award is Professor Tambet Teesalu. 

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Professor Tambet Teesalu. Photo Andres Tennus   

The University of Tartu language award is granted for research and development combining language and technology in the field of machine translation and neural speech synthesis. The decisive factor in choosing the language deed was that digitisation enables to ensure the development and preservation of the Estonian language. The award recipient is Professor Mark Fišel and his research team, including Head of Applied Natural Language Processing Liisa Rätsep, Junior Research Fellow Andre Tättar, Scientific Programmer Taido Purason, Scientific Programmer Maali Tars, Programmer Agnes Luhtaru, Junior Research Fellow Hele-Andra Kuulmets, Scientific Programmer Annika Laumets-Tättar and Scientific Programmer Rasmus Lellep. 

Professor Mark Fišel. Foto Andres Tennus

Professor Mark Fišel. Photo Henry Narits

The recipients of the University of Tartu best teaching staff awards 2021 are Teacher of Norwegian Language Antonina Kostina in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Professor of Communication Studies Triin Vihalemm in the Faculty of Social Sciences, Professor in Dermatology and Venereology Külli Kingo in the Faculty of Medicine, and Lecturer of Botany Ene Kook in the Faculty of Science and Technology. More information on this year’s best teaching staff is available on the website of the University of Tartu.

õppejõud kollaz

The recipients of the University of Tartu best teaching staff awards 2021 Antonina Kostina, Triin Vihalemm, Külli Kingo and Ene Kook. Photos Andres Tennus and private collection   

In the category of contribution to society, also researchers who helped to resolve the Covid-19 crisis received credit. Over two years, University of Tartu researchers have initiated more than 50 research studies, the results of which have been used by the government of Estonia for research and evidence-based crisis management. Researchers of medicine and science, as well as social sciences and humanities have made their contribution. 

In the research category, the articles by Associate Professor Carlos Pérez Carmona on the research of wildlife behaviour using big data, the monograph by Professor Tõnu-Andrus Tannberg “Military history of Estonia. Selected chapters from the War of Independence to the present day”, and the conversion of Auve Tech OÜ’s autonomous vehicle to zero-emission hydrogen technology using polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells received a special mention. 

In the language category, recognition was given to the participation of the university's staff in the activities of the Estonian Language Houses set up by the Integration Foundation, the more than 20 years’ work of the pharmaceutical terminology expert committee working under the Estonian Medicines Agency, and the teaching staff of the Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health for translating the textbook "Family Medicine" and adapting it to Estonian conditions. 

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