Tartu University News

University of Tartu has announced admission decisions

1 day 19 hours ago

On Monday the University of Tartu sent admission decisions to 2,850 people who had applied for Estonian-taught programmes of the first level of higher education. Now they have to confirm acceptance of the student place within two days, i.e. no later than Wednesday, 17 July. Student places that remain vacant will be filled on a rolling basis until 19 August and those who get the admission decision will also need to confirm it within two days.

Before this week 1,384 people had already secured a student place at the University of Tartu for meeting the threshold score. Among others who could be sure of getting a place at the university were the 634 applicants who met certain special admission requirements: for example, had passed the academic aptitude test in spring with a score of 65 points or higher, or achieved an excellent result in a national or international Olympiad. This year admission decisions were also sent to 642 persons who graduated from the upper secondary school with a medal.

Vice Rector for Academic Affairs Aune Valk congratulates all new students and thanks them for choosing the University of Tartu. “Relying on the opinions of former students I dare say you will not regret this choice,” said Valk. “You have taken a step that will affect you for the rest of your lives; even after graduation the university and the city of Tartu will always be with you.”

The vice rector for academic affairs pointed out that the new students would start their studies in a special year. “It is the year of the 100th anniversary of the Estonian-language university and this is why we hold the opening ceremony of the academic year at Kassitoome valley,” Valk said about the opening event.

Head of Student Admissions Tuuli Kaldma asks applicants not to forget to confirm their student places. “If a person who has received the admission decision does not confirm acceptance of the student place by the prescribed date, we will offer the place to the next applicant in the ranking list,” she explained.

Admission decisions for master’s and doctoral studies have been made on a rolling basis. Currently 1,102 persons have received the decision and 813 of them have confirmed.

At the beginning of September those who have confirmed their place will be matriculated as students at the University of Tartu and they are welcome to attend the opening ceremony of the academic year at Kassitoome on 2 September.

The first level of higher education includes bachelor’s studies, professional higher education studies, and integrated bachelor’s and master’s studies. The second level of higher education is master’s studies and the third level is doctoral studies.

Further information: Tuuli Kaldma, UT Head of Student Admissions, 737 6391, tuuli.kaldma [ät] ut.ee

Category: AdmissionPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Insititute of Social Studies is hosting ECREA summer school

1 week 1 day ago

More than 40 PhD students gathered in Tartu for ECREA (European Communication Researchers and Education Association) summer school from 9th till 16th July. The aim of the summer school is to give young researchers an opportunity to debate contemporary issues in media, communication and cultural studies.

Summer school consists of different workshops, lectures and roundtables, which help PhD students to develop their research and methods. It is also a great place to broaden their professional network. One of the organizers of the event, professor of media studies Andra Siibak says: “ECREA summers school has been the main breeding environment for European media and communication researchers for almost three decades. I am very happy that this Year University of Tartu has the opportunity to host these young researchers who will be shaping the future of media and communication research in a few years.”

Participants of the summer school have a wonderful opportunity to meet some of the best researchers in the field. For example, Jessica Piotrowski from University of Amsterdam will be here to consult them on the topic of media effects on children; board member of ECREA, Irena Reifova from Charles University will talk about her research on TV shows etc. Great brainpower also comes from all of the PhD students themselves.

Read more about ECREA here.

More information: Karoli Noor, communication specialist, Institute of Social Studies, University of Tartu  5905 7425, karoli.noor [ät] ut.ee

Sandra Sommer Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee


Category: Research
Karoli Noor (karoli96)

University of Tartu joined Bio-based Industries Consortium

1 week 3 days ago

On 19 June, the European Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) approved the University of Tartu as its associate member.

The BIC consists of large enterprises and clusters in the European bioeconomy sector and partner institutions, including universities, small businesses and regions. The main task of the consortium is to implement the research and development priorities of the European Union (EU) bioeconomy strategy as well as facilitate the sector’s competitiveness and cooperation between stakeholders.

From 2014–2020, the consortium is the European Commission’s partner in implementing the Bio-Based Industries (BBI) research and innovation programme: an industrial partnership between the public and private sectors. The programme’s budget is 3.7 billion euros, 800 million of which is the European Commission’s own contribution via the application rounds of the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.

The bioeconomy partnership will continue in the 2021–2027 period with the Horizon Europe framework programme. This will focus on the creation of technologies and value chains that support the circular and climate-neutral economic model, incl. the development of production solutions based on local biomass and waste. Special emphasis is put on the synthesis of biofuels and new materials from local raw materials, which mostly means wood refining in the Estonian context.

The objectives of the University of Tartu’s membership in the consortium are to:

  • promote the entrepreneurial cooperation of the University of Tartu’s research groups and find new partners;
  • participate in the activities of BBI working groups, events and application rounds; and
  • increase investments in sustainable bioeconomy in Estonia.

Where research topics are concerned, the BBI objectives are the most compatible with the competencies of the University of Tartu Centre for Synthetic Biology. For instance, one of the objectives was the marketing of new mechanical pulp refining technologies in order to produce products, materials and chemicals with increased added value. The BBI research and innovation programme also includes prospects for projects related to green chemistry and gas fermentation production development. In April, the University of Tartu organised a seminar to introduce bioeconomy technologies in Brussels.

The BBI programme also supports the establishment of integrated biorefineries. For instance, last year, the EU’s biggest producer of wood pellets, Estonia-based Graanul Invest, received a grant of approximately 21 million euros for the establishment of a demo plant for the fractionation of the wood of deciduous trees.

The 2019 application round of the BBI programme is open until 5 September and its topics can be found on the BBI website and the Horizon 2020 participant portal. Additionally, the European Commission recently published the 2020 work programme, incl. the Horizon 2020 application rounds in the field of food and bioeconomy.

More information about opportunities for participating in the BIC: Vallo Mulk, Senior Specialist of International R&D Cooperation at the UT Grant Office, 737 6189, 5695 0955, vallo.mulk [ät] ut.ee



Sandra Sommer Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee


Category: Research
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Estonian technology to be part of the European Space Agency's mission for the first time

3 weeks 1 day ago

Researchers from the University of Tartu are participating in an international space mission with the European Space Agency to intercept a comet. The mission was picked from more than 20 mission proposals.

The objective of the mission, named Comet Interceptor, is to study a comet from the Öpik–Oort cloud which surrounds the sun. It will be the first to visit a truly pristine comet or other interstellar object that is only just starting its journey into the inner Solar System. Interstellar objects such as this can offer completely new information about the origin of life in our solar system as well as potential future threats.

To carry out such an ambitious mission, Estonian researchers alongside partners from Aalto University in Finland and the Finnish VTT Technical Research Center, will develop an Optical Imager for Comets (OPIC), based on new generation technology. In the future, it could be helpful in noticing dangerous objects approaching the Earth as well as used in the control systems of autonomous robot vehicles. The UT Tartu Observatory has already looked into the possibilities of co-operating with TalTech and Estonian enterprises Milrem, Hedgehog and Crystalspace.

Estonia is represented in the consortium of Comet Interceptor by Mihkel Pajusalu, researcher at Tartu Observatory's faculty of science and technology, and Andris Slavinskis, senior research fellow at the same faculty. Pajusalu and Slavinskis started their careers in the ESTCube student satellite team and have completed their respective postdoctoral research at MIT and NASA Ames Research Center.

The name of the telescope – OPIC – is not coincidental. It is a reference to the founder of the Estonian astonomy school, Ernst Öpik, who is also one of the two researchers behind the name of the Öpik–Oort cloud. Öpik started the co-operation between Tartu and Harvard universities in the field of observing meteors in the years 1930–1934, founded the meteor research work group at Harvard, and created the theory of meteors burning in space and meteorites colliding with planets.

OPIC can be developed thanks to the cameras that have already been to space: on the first Estonian satellite ESTCube-1 and on the European Student Earth Orbiter. Experiences gained from the development process of the Earth Observation Imager are useful as well.

"This is indeed a breakthrough in our space technology -- it is the first time we are able to participate in a major mission with our technology since the Soviet space program closed for Estonian researchers and engineers," director of Tartu Observatory Anu Reinart said. Previously, Estonian researchers' have participated in the research groups of several missions (GAIA, Planck, ARIEL, ATHENA) which have been supported by research funding from the state.

"The consistent commitment and resources required for developing technology, however, exceed the capabilities of a single research team. Whether or not we will be able to make use of this opportunity that has opened up for Estonia, bring back young talent and face major challenges, now depends on Estonia's financing of research and innovation," Reinart said.

The Comet Interceptor is an F-class, meaning fast mission and should be ready for launch in 2028. The mission team is international with lead partners from the United Kingdom.

OPIC's assumed field of view can be seen in the illustrative animation. More information about the Comet Interceptor mission can be fount on the European Space Agency website.

More information: Anu Reinart, Director of the UT Tartu Observatory, 5193 8989, anu.reinart [ät] ut.ee

Sandra Sommer Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee


Category: ResearchPress release
Kairi Janson (kairijan)

Smart glasses developers from University of Tartu won second place in pitching competition in USA

3 weeks 6 days ago

The University of Tartu team io_developers won the second place and a $2000 prize in the pitching competition of the international business development programme NGAL® (Network Globally, Act Locally).

Io_developers are developing application-controlled optical eyeglasses that enable focus adjustment. The team also won the business idea competition Kaleidoskoop in spring 2019. Team members Elchin Aghazada and Murad Mammadov praise the NGAL programme for the chance to experience the challenges of entrepreneurship and studying abroad, as well as for the international contacts. According to Elchin, the programme contributed to both his professional and personal development. Elchin studies innovation and technology management at the School of Economics and Business Administration and Murad is a student of software engineering at the Institute of Computer Science.

The NGAL programme had eight teams from five universities participating in it. The programme started in Tartu, where the teams attended various workshops, established new contacts, and received guidance and support from mentors of the UT Idea Lab network and NGAL alumni. One of the highlights was the company visit to Nevercode and the founder’s story by Triin Kask. In Tallinn, the participants attended a reception at the US Embassy in Estonia and visited the Mektory Innovation and Business Centre at Tallinn University of Technology.

After a week in Estonia, the participants flew to Charleston, USA, where they prepared for the final competition. They visited the Boeing enterprise and had interesting meetings with the local business community. At the final event of the programme, the teams presented their ideas to an international jury, who awarded prizes to the best ones.

Four teams from two Estonian universities participated in the programme. In addition to io_developers, the University of Tartu was represented by team Timewire, developers of software that helps users track time spent on computer activities. Team leaders Rimante Valancauskaite and Karl Martin Teras are students at the Institute of Computer Science.

Also the US students were pleased to visit Tartu and very happy to see the local startup community and hear experience stories. Listen to their impressions on the YouTube video.

One of jury members and mentor of the NGAL programme Yrjö Ojasaar has been involved in the programme for three years. “NGAL serves as a great launch pad for young entrepreneurs. For example, last year’s winner went on to win the Ajujaht competition. Besides getting relevant practical entrepreneurial skills and advice from experienced startup CEOs, the students get to establish an international network of partners, clients and potential investors,” Ojasaar said.

The NGAL® programme was established in collaboration with five universities and took place for the fifth time. The collaboration partners include the University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology and three US universities: College of Charleston, The Citadel – The Military College of South Carolina, and the Nebraska Wesleyan University. At the University of Tartu, the coordinator of the programme is UT Idea Lab.

The project is supported by Harry and Reba Huge Foundation.

Further information: Andres Vaher, UT Idea Lab Marketing and Communications Specialist, +372 5558 7359, andres.vaher [ät] ut.ee

Category: Entrepreneurship
Kaja Karo (kajakk)

University of Tartu just short of top 300 in latest worldwide rankings

4 weeks ago

The University of Tartu (TÜ) has almost broken into the top 300 places in the latest Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings, its highest ranking to date.

The university has climbed 160 places in the rankings since 2014, BNS reports, and rose another 20 since last year, to 301st, university spokespeople say.

QS uses six indicators when ranking universities. The first two cover the academic and employer reputation of the institution, weighted 40 percent and 10 percent respectively.

The remainder examine the faculty-student ratio (20 percent weighting), citations per faculty, also (20 percent) and measures intended to capture the institute's internationalism, the proportion of those attending or working who are from other countries, weighted at 10 percent and split 50:50 between staff and students.

In the fresh rankings, TÜ has improved its ranking in four of the six indicators. The university's reputation among academic staff has improved particularly significantly, with a rise of 47 places on this indicator alone. Tartu university's reputation among employers has moved up 13 places. As for the ratio of international staff and students, the university rose 34 places by international students and 25 places by staff.

Erik Puura, TÜ vice-rector for development, said the university does not set chasing rankings as a key part of its development plan and activities, adding it was nevertheless very pleasing to hear of the new ranking.

"We are increasingly known and recognized internationally," Puura said. "The University of Tartu is a trademark for the whole of Estonia which has spread worldwide, introducing Estonia and demonstrating it as a citadel of learning and knowledge. We are actively participating in the The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities and, since last year, in the even more meaningful U4 Network along with Ghent University, Belgium, the University of Göttingen, Germany, the University of Groningen, Holland, and Uppsala University, Sweden," he continued, noting that getting close to the top 100 would be possible with the strong work of researchers and teaching staff, but would also require the state's consistent contribution to research and higher education."

QS observed 1,620 universities worldwide, ranking 1,001 of these. The top three is again dominated by U.S. universities: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University and Harvard University, with the University of Oxford, in England, in fourth place.

Additional information: Erik Puura, Vice-Rector for Development, +372 506 9882, erik.puura [ät] ut.ee

Category: UniversityPress release
Kaja Karo (kajakk)

University of Tartu recognised as entrepreneurial university by international accreditation committee

4 weeks ago

Today, 20 June, the Accreditation Council for Entrepreneurial and Engaged Universities (ACEEU) awarded the University of Tartu international entrepreneurial university accreditation.

In recent years the University of Tartu (UT) has made a conscious effort to advance entrepreneurship studies and establish partnerships with companies and other organisations in order to promote a knowledge-based and innovative society.

Erik Puura, UT Vice-Rector for Development, said that ACEEU accreditation serves as a guarantee for every classical university such as the University of Tartu, confirming that the objectives established and activities launched in order to support entrepreneurship correspond to global best practice. "The recommendations of the ACEEU experts will certainly help us devise new strategies and plans,” he said. “The whole accreditation process was a pleasant intellectual exercise which produced a trustworthy result, and the university is happy and honoured to be among the recipients of the first ACEEU accreditations."

The University of Tartu initiated the accreditation process in 2017. "We began by sending the committee a self-analysis report, describing how the university promotes entrepreneurship,” explained Kristel Reim, Head of UT Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “The experts on the committee then visited us in June 2018 and met with almost 50 members of the university."

Puura added that attestation was not an end in itself. "The University of Tartu has set itself a clear target to increase coherence with society and works to ensure that our researchers' inventions and discoveries actually contribute to economic development and improve people's lives,” he said. “That principle was highlighted at the strategy conference on 17 May, and it serves to underpin the university's new development plan, discussions on which will conclude this autumn. We’ve also made great progress in terms of integrating entrepreneurship studies in our curricula."

The University of Tartu Delta Centre, which is to open its doors to researchers, students and companies interested in research cooperation early next year, will provide further impetus for entrepreneurship cooperation.

The accreditation certificate was awarded to the University of Tartu today, 20 June, during a ceremony at the University-Industry Interaction Conference in Helsinki in front of more than 500 participants. It was accepted by Aivar Pere, Entrepreneurship Adviser at the UT Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

The Accreditation Council for Entrepreneurial and Engaged Universities (ACEEU) (www.aceeu.org) was established in 2016 by the University Industry Innovation Network (UIIN) and is comprised of international engagement and entrepreneurship experts. Only four other universities were awarded the accreditation prior to the University of Tartu: the University of Adelaide in Australia in 2017; the Universidad Ean in Colombia in 2018; and the Management and Science University in Malaysia and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden in 2019. Aside from the University of Tartu, 13 other universities applied for accreditation, including the University of Turku and the University of Warsaw in our region, which are considered among the world's best universities.

On the photo: Aivar Pere, Entrepreneurship Adviser at the UT Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Professor Kliewe, the Founder and Chair of the Accreditation Council for Entrepreneurial and Engaged Universities.

For further information please contact: Erik Puura, UT Vice-Rector | Telephone: +372 737 4802 | Mobile: +372 50 69 882 | E-mail: erik.puura [ät] ut.ee

Category: EntrepreneurshipUniversityPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

University of Tartu students participate in an international cluster building competition

4 weeks 1 day ago

On June 17–19, the University of Tartu student team, Tartu Team is participating in ISC 2019, one of the biggest student cluster competitions in the world, competing with 14 other teams to design and build a cluster to solve computing problems. This is the third time the University of Tartu has taken part in the event.

During the competition the team needs to configure their cluster with a 3000 W power limit to solve various high-performance computing tasks, including deep learning for climate analytics task, quantum chemistry simulations, cosmological simulations and high-performance computing benchmarks. Moreover, they need to tune the code compatible with their cluster and optimise its performance. Another challenging task is controlling the energy efficiency and power consumption of their cluster.

Team captain Phuong Nguyen said that thanks to their sponsors they have built an amazing cluster for the competition with six nodes, 10 CPUs with a total of 320 cores, eight Tesla V100 graphics processing units and up to 3 TB SSD storage. “We worked together for eight months for preparation. Along with experiences gained from the Asian Student Supercomputer Challenge, I’m quite confident that my team will have a good performance,” Nguyen said.

“Such competitions give valuable experience for the contestants,” says Andre Tättar, a PhD student at the University of Tartu Institute of Computer Science and one of the two coaches for the Tartu Team. The team will have to give their very best to win because the top student teams from around the world are competing at the event. “Although challenging, this type of competitions can really make the university years enjoyable and memorable,” Tättar added.

The participating teams come from the universities of Singapore, Switzerland, the UK, Poland, USA, Spain, Taiwan, Germany, China and South Africa. The Tartu Team is the only one from the Baltic countries.

The students’ participation in the contest is supported by StudyITin.ee, AMD, Gigabyte, Nvidia, Mellanox Technologies, Toshiba and Network Tomorrow.

Previously, the team has competed in the ASC Asian Supercomputer Challenge 2019, where 300 teams enrolled but only the 20 best ones, including the Tartu Team, qualified for the finals. In November, the team will participate in the SC19 Student Cluster Competition in the USA.

More information: Phuong Nguyen, University of Tartu bachelor’s student of Physics, Chemistry and Materials Science, +372 5676 6058, phuong.nguyen [ät] ut.ee

Category: Studies
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Estonian research ethics regulations are revised in a new research project

4 weeks 1 day ago

The Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS) and Centre for Ethics at the University of Tartu have started a joint project to develop recommendations to create a national system for monitoring and supporting ethics in scientific research. The results of this study will provide background knowledge and suggestions for initiating policy changes in the system of Estonian research ethics, to increase transparency, independence, and connections to European ethics organisations. The study is commissioned by the Estonian Research Council.

Liina Eek, RITA Programme Manager, said that currently, Estonia does not have a national independent organisation for research ethics that would coordinate and develop that field. However, several organisations conduct research in research ethics, provide support and feedback to researchers on ethics of research projects, and organise national and international meetings on ethics in science. “Estonian Research Council initiated this project because Estonia is one of the few countries in Europe that does not have an independent organisation for research ethics,” Eek pointed out. She added that the questions about sustainability and funding recently raised by ethic committees also gave reason to start with this project.

The project manager and head of the CASS Siim Espenberg suggested that such research would provide background knowledge and suggestions for initiating policy changes in the system of Estonian research ethics. “As the officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs pointed out, conducting research and research ethics need a wholesome approach. Our study has started at a right time,” Espenberg added. He explained that the work of current (ethics related) organisations will be analysed, needs of various stakeholders are going to be mapped and suitable role models in research ethics will be selected for Estonia during the study.

As a first big step, the head of the Centre for Ethics and junior research fellows in ethics visited the World Conference on Research Integrity in Hong Kong. The conference with its 700 participants gave a good overview of good research integrity practices in Asia, Australia, Europe, Canada and the USA, said Prof. Margit Sutrop, the head of the Centre for Ethics. “Estonia could learn the most from the experience of Austria, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland and the USA,” confirmed Prof. Margit Sutrop with the inspiration gained from the conference.

The results of the study could influence the funding of Estonian research, the logistics of centres of research ethics, implementation processes of research integrity, its comprehensibility and transparency. The results could also help to address other ethical and legal questions (e.g. corruption) that have risen with conducting ethical research. Recommendations about organizing the system of ethics committees will be provided after the study.

The study is commissioned by Estonian Research Council. The study is funded by European Regional Development Fund from RITA programme and project “Developing Estonian National System for Monitoring and Supporting Ethics in Scientific Research”.

Additional information:
Siim Espenberg, project manager, the head of CASS, siim.espenberg [ät] ut.ee
Margit Sutrop, head of the Centre for Ethics, margit.sutrop [ät] ut.ee
Liina Eek, RITA programme manager, liina.eek [ät] etag.ee

Category: Research
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Science|Business: In Pursuit of Precision and Privacy

4 weeks 1 day ago

Two Estonian companies are blazing a trail in harvesting the sensitive location data being captured by mobile phone networks.

Until very recently, Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism had little idea how many visitors the country’s 17,000 islands receive from neighbouring countries, such as Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. Now it does, thanks to a novel high-tech solution developed by two Estonian companies with expertise in cellphone data analytics and cyber-security.

Working together, Positium and Cybernetica have figured out a way to use the detailed location data captured by Indonesia’s mobile phone networks to track the number of visitors to the country, while protecting individuals’ privacy and the telcos’ commercial interests. This new approach potentially paves the way for governments worldwide to use the precise location data being captured by mobile phone networks to help with everything from improving transport and tourist infrastructure to locating medical clinics and planning vaccination programmes.

“Phone network data about human mobility is sensitive data: it has many privacy concerns, as well as mobile operator business secrets in it, which is why it's not so widely used,” explains Erki Saluveer, CEO of Positium, a strategic partner with the Mobility Lab of the University of Tartu and a specialist in calculating statistics from mobile positioning data. “In every country we start with, the first issue you have to overcome is this data sensitivity and data privacy.”

How did two small companies from Estonia win the confidence of the government of Indonesia, one of the world’s most populous countries?  One of the key challenges in harnessing the location data being captured by cellphone networks for official statistics was to avoid double-counting visitors from other countries. As a tourist’s mobile phone can roam across different operator’s networks, Positium needed a way to track individual handsets without compromising the owner’s privacy and operator’s commercially sensitive data.

Read the full article in Science|Business.

Category: Entrepreneurship
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

People who inject drugs helped investigate factors influencing susceptibility to HIV infection

4 weeks 1 day ago

In recent years, the HIV infection rate in Estonia has continued to be around 200 new cases each year, which is still one of the highest incidence rates per 100,000 inhabitants in Europe. As parenteral transmission of HIV is the most effective, people who inject drugs (PWID) are considered to be one of the most vulnerable groups to HIV infection. Doctoral student, Ene-Ly Jõgeda, from the University of Tartu, included 345 PWID in her doctoral thesis to study the factors influencing the acquisition of HIV infection. Understanding these will potentially contribute to the development of prophylactic drugs or vaccines, which would help reduce the transmission and further spread of the virus.

According to the junior research fellow of biomedicine and translational medicine at the University of Tartu, Ene-Ly Jõgeda, the epidemic that broke out in Estonia in 2000 started among PWID. Even though, in recent years, most of the newly diagnosed patients have contracted the infection through sexual contact, the majority of people living with HIV are PWID. “Studies conducted among PWID have revealed a number of individuals who, despite being highly exposed, remain seronegative. Unfortunately, the exact mechanisms which make them less susceptible to HIV, are not known,” said Jõgeda.

Identifying the factors or characteristics that decrease the risk of infection, will help us understand why some people do not contract HIV. So far, studies have discovered several changes in the human genome (genetic polymorphisms) and immunological markers which are associated with a lower risk of infection.

The transmission of HIV is also influenced by coinfections, such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses, herpesviruses and malaria. Coinfections increase the overall burden on the host’s immune system and thus may alter their susceptibility to HIV infection.

Jõgeda described that some viruses, like the human T-lymphotropic virus and the human pegivirus, have beneficial effects on HIV-infected individuals. “Most studies in this field have focused on studying the influence of coinfections on the progression of HIV infection. So far, the human pegivirus and the human T-lymphotropic virus have been associated with lower levels of immune activation, a smaller amount of HIV particles in blood and delayed progression to AIDS.”

In her doctoral thesis, Jõgeda studied the prevalence of HIV coinfections and host genetics, and assessed their influence on the acquisition of HIV infection. For this, she conducted the first human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) study in Estonia.

“The results showed a very low prevalence of HTLV among a high risk population such as PWID. This suggests that, in the near future, the routine screening of blood donors for this virus would not be cost-effective,” said Jõgeda. Her research confirmed that human pegivirus is most often found in PWID, which indicates a possible association of the human pegivirus with the use of injectable drugs and an HIV infection.

As a third central result, Jõgeda brought out that the studied genetic polymorphism influences HIV infection, but continued risk behaviour reduces the scale of this influence: “This shows that risk behaviour is an important factor that has a great effect on HIV infection.”

Determining the studied polymorphism, which is located in an interferon gene (IFNL4), has previously been applied in clinical practice. This polymorphism is strongly associated with the interferon-based hepatitis C treatment, but the efficiency of new direct-acting antiviral medications used in the treatment of hepatitis C virus does not depend on this polymorphism.

“Current information that this mutation also plays a role in HIV transmission is important for further studies. It helps to determine the mechanisms influencing the acquisition of HIV infection and thus potentially contribute to the development of prophylactic medications,” Jõgeda pointed out.

Ene-Ly Jõgeda defended her doctoral thesis, “The influence of coinfections and host genetic factor on the susceptibility to HIV infection among people who inject drugs” on 11 June 2019.

Thesis supervisors are Irja Lutsar, a professor of medical microbiology at University of Tartu Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine, and Kristi Huik, a research fellow of medical virology and microbiology.

The translation of the original article was funded by the European Regional Development Fund through Estonian Research Council.

More information:
Ene-Ly Jõgeda
Junior Research Fellow of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine at the University of Tartu, Doctoral Student
ene-ly.jogeda [ät] ut.ee Category: Research
Virge Ratasepp (a73579)

Cornerstone ceremony to be held for Narva college of Estonian Academy of Security Sciences today

1 month ago

Estonian Academy of Security Sciences rector Marek Link, University of Tartu rector Toomas Asser and Chairman of the Management Board of Nordecon AS Gerd Müller will be laying the cornerstone of the new building of the academy’s Narva college at 12:00 today, 18 June 2019. As part of the ceremony, a time capsule will be embedded in the structure of the building.

Estonian Academy of Security Sciences rector Marek Link said that the construction of the new college supports developments in the study of domestic security in Narva. “By creating a base in the region we’re supporting our students in gaining practice and experience that will help them do their work much more effectively in the future,” he remarked. “One of the aims of establishing the college, and indeed of what we do generally, is to boost the sense of security in Narva and Ida-Viru County generally.”

Through its regional colleges the University of Tartu has supported uniform development throughout Estonia, offering learning opportunities to those who are unwilling or unable to study in Tartu itself. The university’s Narva College has chalked up more than 1600 graduates in the 20 years it has been operating in the city. “The new dorm that’s being built will enable us to take a much more active approach to inviting students to come and study here from other parts of Estonia, and from outside of the country as well,” said University of Tartu rector Toomas Asser. “It’ll give a real boost to the educational scene in Narva and contribute to development in Ida-Viru County as a whole.”

Chairman of the Management Board of Nordecon AS Gerd Müller says that undertaking construction in Narva is something special for both the builders themselves and the local residents. “With the Public Service Academy college, Narva will be gaining a new, very contemporary building with a wide range of uses,” he explained. “Integrating all those uses into one and making it all work is the biggest challenge a builder can face.”

The building will be administered by the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences in cooperation with the University of Tartu. The 9707 m2 college and dormitory, which is being constructed at Kerese 14, is due for completion in September 2020 at a total cost of 15.4 million euros (excl. VAT). Financing is being provided from the state budget, with the University of Tartu investing 3.7 million euros of its own funds (excl. VAT) in the dormitory.

The complex will feature the aforementioned dormitory, shared recreational spaces for the college’s cadets and service personnel from the Police and Border Guard Board, classrooms and a shooting range. A quarter of the building (2360 m2) will be used by the college to accommodate its students. Also due for construction alongside the building is a sports complex with its own pool, which will be open to the public.

The entire complex was designed by architects from Kolm Pluss Üks. Their idea was to place all of its public and semi-public spaces on the 1st floor, with the dormitory rooms on the upper floors. An atrium will run through the building which will be utilised as a functional and recreational space on the lower level. The exterior of the structure is marked out by a variety of open and closed gradations. What makes the building stand out in construction terms is that all three floors of the dormitory will be built from wood.

Images: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/n92expxveb1x6nx/AACvBzjzeERHpJngWXRlp2Wfa?dl=0

Background information
Estonian Academy of Security Sciences: www.sisekaitse.ee | Narva College of the University of Tartu: www.narva.ut.ee | Nordecon group parent company Nordecon AS: www.nordecon.com

Further information and contact details for journalists on site today:
Jaanus Villiko | Administration Manager, Narva College of the University of Tartu | +372 51 40 473 | jaanus.villiko [ät] ut.ee
Peeter Tambu | Adviser, Estonian Academy of Security Sciences | +372 51 10 795 | peeter.tambu [ät] sisekaitse.ee

Category: Press release
Kaja Karo (kajakk)

Science|Business: The New Algae Alchemists

1 month ago

How an Estonian start-up is using microscopic algae to turn CO2 into valuable products.

It almost sounds too good to be true. A means to soak up a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and use it to help the world’s growing population feed itself. That is the promise of a process that could harness the carbon dioxide generated by heavy industry to cultivate microalgae that can then be used to produce feedstock for animals and even food for humans.

A spin off from the University of Tartu, Power Algae is one of several companies trying to mix microalgae alchemy into industrial processes. But the technology developed by Power Algae, branded ALGACAP, differs from its peers in that it is designed to cultivate microalgae right through the harsh winters of Northern Europe, when daylight is in short supply and temperatures are generally below freezing.

These “suboptimal climatic conditions” had threatened to undermine Europe’s competitive position in the fast growing microalgae market, according to a 2014 report by the Joint Research Centre on this sector. Noting Europe’s “outstanding tradition in high-quality agriculture production”, the JRC report recommended public support for research into the use of microalgae as a diversification strategy for food and feed inputs, as the continent tries to mitigate climate change.

“Sequestrating CO2 from flue gas is done in a couple of places using different technologies, but there is no conclusive, dominant design – an optimal solution has not been found,” says Liina Joller-Vahter, CEO of Power Algae and a lecturer at the University of Tartu. “The main challenge is to make it commercially viable.”

Read the full article in Science|Business.

Category: Research
Kaja Karo (kajakk)

Gravity conference delves into the geometric foundations of the universe

1 month ago
This node is in trash17.06.2019

On 17–21 June 2019 the University of Tartu Institute of Physics will host the 2nd international conference "Geometric Foundations of Gravity", attended by over 60 theoretical physicists and mathematicians from 20 countries.

Einstein's general relativity, which mathematically describes the force of gravity by spacetime curvature, explains many astronomical phenomena, and has recently received remarkable confirmation by the observations of gravitational waves as well as the black hole image. Yet the unresolved problems of dark matter and dark energy raise the possibility that general relativity is just a limiting case of a broader theory, engendering significant effects on the behaviour of the universe only on very large scales.
"Fitting together the standard models of particle physics, cosmology and gravity for a comprehensive description of the universe does not give a fully consistent picture. This motivates researchers to revisit the geometric foundations and systematically consider all possible alternatives in the formulation of the theory," explains UT Senior Research Fellow in Theoretical Physics Manuel Hohmann, one of the organisers of the conference.

The conference is run by the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics of the UT Institute of Physics, and it is a part of the activities of the Center of Excellence "The Dark Side of the Universe", supported by the European Regional Development Fund. The invited speakers of the conference include Professors Fawad Hassan (Stockholm), Lavinia Heisenberg (ETH Zürich), Jutta Kunz (Oldenburg) and Derek Wise (Concordia, St. Paul).
"Tartu has become an internationally recognised hub of gravity theory and it is a pleasure to see that after two years many seasoned experts as well as young researchers in the field have found a possibility to delve with us into the puzzles of universe," says the Assistant Director of the UT Institute of Physics Laur Järv, another organiser of the conference.

On the popular level the gravity-related topics are explained at a public lecture on Tuesday, 18 June at 18 in Tartu Old Observatory (on Toomemägi). Professor Lavinia Heisenberg will deliver the lecture "Our Dark Universe" in English.

More details are available on the conference webpage.

Additional information: Laur Järv, UT Senior Research Fellow, Assistant Director at UT Institute of Physics, +372 5341 6324, laur.jarv [ät] ut.ee

Sandra Sommer Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee


Category: InternationalResearchPress release
Laur Järv (laurjarv)

Doctoral thesis: Overweight men are lowering birth rates

1 month ago

About 15% of couples in fertile age have experienced fertility problems. Men contribute to 50% of the cases when a couple cannot achieve the desired pregnancy. The proportion of overweight men has tripled in parallel with the increase in fertility problems worldwide. The doctoral thesis conducted at the University of Tartu Institute of Clinical Medicine confirmed that central obesity affects fertility parameters negatively. To alleviate their fertility problems, men should pay attention to their lifestyle.

According to Kristel Ehala-Aleksejev, a doctoral student at the UT Institute of Clinical Medicine and a physician at Tartu University Hospital Men’s Clinic, men's semen quality has dropped dramatically over the last century. “Possible reasons for the decline of fertility parameters can be the rapidly changed lifestyle, altered physical activity and eating habits along with other factors. A western lifestyle is conducive to weight gain, which is also a problem among Estonian men.”

She noted that there are studies associating obesity with reduced fertility, but there are other studies denying this. Conflicting results also characterise the relationship between central obesity-related metabolic syndrome and sperm quality. There is, however, an almost unanimous agreement that increased weight has a negative correlation with testosterone levels.

“At an andrology appointment, we often see links between weight and fertility. An important factor with men is the accumulation of fat in the waist region. However, central obesity is a great health risk. In addition, obesity as a change in the hormonal balance promotes the development of erection problems, which in turn reduces fertility,” said Ehala-Aleksejev.

Male fertility is mainly assessed based on semen analysis, but one of the easiest methods for determining fertility potential is the measurement of testicular volume.

In her doctoral thesis “The Associations Between Body Composition, Obesity and Obesity-Related Health and Lifestyle Conditions with Male Reproductive Function,” Aleksejev looked at provenly fertile men and the male partners of infertile couples. Comparing the groups showed that a significantly higher prevalence of adiposity and metabolic syndrome was found among the male partners of infertile couples. Central obesity was associated with a decline in fertility parameters in both groups. According to the doctoral student, the analysis importantly revealed that men with smaller testicles were more affected by an increase in body weight and central obesity.

Kristel Ehala-Aleksejev, who is also a nutritional therapist, confirmed that men could do a lot for their health. “They should try to keep physically active, move, and if possible, do sports. They should include more fruit and vegetables and whole-grain products in their diet. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are notable risk factors of infertility. However, mental health or ability to alleviate stress and finding time for themselves and their loved ones is no less important.”

Kristel Ehala-Aleksejev defended her doctoral thesis “The Associations Between Body Composition, Obesity and Obesity-Related Health and Lifestyle Conditions with Male Reproductive Function” on 12 June 2019.

Thesis supervisor is Margus Punab, associate professor of andrology at University of Tartu Institute of Clinical Medicine and head of Tartu University Hospital Men’s Clinic.

The translation of this article was funded by the European Regional Development Fund through Estonian Research Council.

More information:
Kristel Ehala-Aleksejev
Doctoral Student at UT Institute of Clinical Medicine, Doctor and Nutritional Therapist at Tartu University Hospital’s Men’s Clinic
kristel.ehala-aleksejev [ät] ut.ee Category: Research
Virge Tamme (a73579)

Arenberg-Coimbra prize for Eramus students awarded to UT alumna Janeli Harjus

1 month 1 week ago

At the annual meeting of the Coimbra Group in Kraków, the Duke of Arenberg presented the Arenberg – Coimbra Group Prize for Erasmus students to alumna of the University of Tartu, Janeli Harjus. The selection committee unanimously nominated Harjus for the 2019 prize.

Janeli Harjus spent her five-month Erasmus exchange in Denmark at Aarhus University, which is a member of the Coimbra Group like the University of Tartu and 38 more universities. After her graduation in June 2018 from the University of Tartu, her thesis was awarded the best master’s thesis in her programme.

UT Head of International Protocol Sirje Üprus says it is a great recognition: “The prize will undoubtedly increase the visibility of the University of Tartu among the distinguished research universities of the Coimbra Group.”

According to the selection committee, Harjus has shown that the value of the Erasmus experience was essential for her future career. The committee finds that opportunities created by the European Higher Education Area allow students to develop their research interests and contribute to the dissemination of a culture of diversity, discussion and creativity.

The Arenberg – Coimbra Group Prize for Erasmus students is awarded annually to a master’s student of a Coimbra Group university, who, having previously undertaken an Erasmus exchange with another Coimbra Group university, has in the opinion of the selection committee best demonstrated the added value of that exchange to their master’s thesis. The prize is of the value of €5,000.

Further information: 
Janeli Harjus, UT alumna of Baltic Sea Region Studies and laureate of the Arenberg–Coimbra Group Prize for Erasmus students, 5373 9963, janeli.harjus [ät] gmail.com
Sirje Üprus, UT Head of International Protocol and the Coimbra Group representative at the UT, 737 5615, 509 7117, sirje.uprus [ät] ut.ee S

Sandra Sommer Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee


Category: ResearchPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

New Professor of Liberal Arts is jewellery designer and graphic artist, Doctor of Arts Kärt Summatavet

1 month 1 week ago

On Wednesday, 5 June Ilmar Raag handed over his job as the current Professor of Liberal Arts of the University of Tartu to artist Kärt Summatavet, whose creative work is inspired by the mythological world view of Estonians and other Finno-Ugric peoples.

Dean of the UT Faculty of Arts and Humanities Margit Sutrop says that Kärt Summatavet is an excellent example of how research and creative work can be combined. “Research on the cultural heritage of Estonia has added depth and expressiveness to her jewellery creations,” said Sutrop.

The position of the professor of liberal arts in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities has been created for the many-sided development of the intellectuality and creativity of members of the University of Tartu.

Further information: Maarja Nõmmik, Academic Affairs Specialist of UT Viljandi Culture Academy’s Centre for Arts, Chief Organiser of the Event, 737 5669, maarja.nommik [ät] ut.ee

Category: StudiesPress release
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Chief Digital Officer to start work in the University of Tartu

1 month 1 week ago

On 1 July, Erkki Leego will take office as the new head of Information Technology Office, as well as the Chief Digital Officer at the university. His tasks will include ensuring high-quality IT support service and cyber security at the university, designing the university’s digital strategy and coordinating the digitalisation process.

UT Director of Administration Kstina Vallimäe said she had offered the position with the firm vision that Erkki Leego could lead the whole digitalisation process at the university. Leego will be the head of the Information Technology Office but the scope of his duties will be much broader.

“What we expect from Erkki is skilful and effective IT management, raising the digitalisation level of the university, as well as leading the university’s digital cooperation with the university’s partners and networks in Estonia and making it more effective,” Kstina Vallimäe added.

Erkki Leego said he had decided to accept the position of the university’s head of digital development because the smart use of digital solutions is, in his view, the key to ensuring efficiency in a modern organisation. “Information technology has an important role in shaping a learning, working and creative environment that values talent. Digital solutions must ensure that administrative procedures and records management are not exhausting tasks and that there is enough time for big ideas,” said Leego. “The University of Tartu as Estonia’s oldest and biggest academic organisation has an opportunity and the responsibility to be a trailblazer in the field of digitalisation.”

According to Leego, his first major task is to ensure that the university’s numerous digital solutions operated smoothly, providing excellent user experience. “The next exciting tasks in my job as the Chief Digital Officer will be the implementation of optimal, paper-free workflows, ethical use of data, personalisation, and event-driven services,” said Leego.

He says that the more widespread is the use of IT solutions, the more users depend on their quality and functioning. Therefore, business continuity planning and management must play an essential part in the adoption of digital solutions.

“The university is a large and nuanced institution, and digitalisation will not be an easy task. I accepted this challenge, being convinced in the university leaders’ strong desire to be pioneers in the area of digitalisation. This high-flying goal of the University of Tartu is illustrated by fact that the university has taken responsibility for leading the Digital Campus action in the U4 Network of top universities,” Leego said.

Erkki Leego is a top IT manager and specialist with more than 20 years of experience. He has previously worked as the Head of IT Office in the Chancellery of the Riigikogu, Director of Information Services at Tartu University Hospital, and as a consultant he has advised more than 150 enterprises on the effective implementation of information technology.

He is a founder and partner of the Leego Hansson IT management and consultation company. Erkki Leego has an MSc in Computer Science and he delivered lecture courses on strategic IT management at the University of Tartu. He is a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). Read more about Erkki Leego on Leego Hansson website.

Further information:
Kstina Vallimäe, UT Director of Administration, +372 737 5118, +372 507 4189, kstina.vallimae [ät] ut.ee
Erkki Leego, +372 5332 9211, Erkki.Leego [ät] LeegoHansson.com

Category: University
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)

Linguists created a digital game which helps people learn the complexities of the Estonian language

1 month 2 weeks ago

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 In cooperation with the Institute of the Estonian Language and company Interactive Fate, linguists of the University of Tartu have developed a language game and a dictionary of Estonian as a second language for grammar learning. The language game “Käänuk” consists of 40 humorous comics with sentences, blank spaces, multiple choice answers and visual and sound effects.

Helle Metslang, a professor of today’s Estonian language at the University of Tartu, explained that this learning kit is meant for learners of the Estonian language from levels B1 and B2. “The material focuses particularly on the choice of case for objects in sentences, which is one of the most difficult grammar topics,” said professor Metslang.

The game is accompanied by explanations to facilitate language learning for both learner and teacher. At the start of the new academic year in August 2019, teachers will receive training on the use of the learning kit.

“Käänuk” was created in cooperation with Tallinn Läänemere Secondary School and Annelinna Gymnasium as well as other schools in Tallinn and Narva. The game has been tested by both school students and university students, Estonian language teachers, linguists and other language specialists.

The learning kit working group includes from the University of Tartu: Helena Metslang, Helle Metslang, Raili Pool, David Ogren; from the Institute of the Estonian Language: Natalia Vaiss; from company Interactive Fate: Edvin Aedma, Levar Lõhmus, Toomas Laasik.

The creation of the game has been supported by Foundation Innove European Social Fund.

The game “Käänuk” along with an object dictionary is available on the website.

More information: Helle Metslang, professor of today’s Estonian language at the University of Tartu, 522 5074, helle.metslang [ät] ut.ee

Category: Research
Kaja Karo (kajakk)

University of Tartu is organising proposal writing workshop

1 month 2 weeks ago

On 14 June, the proposal writing workshop “SpaceTEM – Space will fund you” will take place in Tartu, aiming to develop project proposal writing skills, find partners for future projects and strengthen networks in the space industry of Estonia and Latvia.

The focus of the event is on writing proposals in the space sector (IT, physics, chemistry, astronomy, materials, etc.). However, the workshop will also be useful for the general audience interested in Horizon2020, Interreg and national funding schemes.

Experienced proposal writers will share their knowledge and tips, and give feedback to participants.

The event also focuses on cooperation between Estonian and Latvian space-related industries. The conference will provide an opportunity to enforce local and transborder cooperation and support development of space industry in the region.

Cooperation opportunities are introduced by successful Estonian and Latvian companies of the sector, researchers and STEM graduates or students of the leading universities in the region.

Key speakers are Sven Lilla (ESA BIC Estonia), Tõnis Eerme (Invent Baltics Ltd), Hector C. Pagan and Siim Läänelaid (University of Tartu project managing specialists).

Workshop agenda
10:00 Morning coffee and registration
10:15 Welcoming remarks and introduction to SpaceTEM (Nikita Lumijõe, UT)
10:30 Applying for ESA BIC Estonia (Sven Lilla, ESA BIC)
11:15 Applying for Horizon2020 and Interreg funding (Hector C. Pagan and Siim Läänelaid, UT)
12:15 INNOSPACE project – support to Estonian entities in ESA procurement system (Tõnis Eerme, Invent Baltics Ltd)
13:00 Networking lunch and one-on-one sessions with project writing experts
14:30 Closing of the conference

SpaceTEM in an EU Interreg Estonia-Latvia cooperation programme, which aims to train the next generation of space and high technology entrepreneurs in Estonia and Latvia.

The workshop takes place on 14 June 10:00–14:30 at Hotel London, Tartu. Entrance is free and everyone is welcome to join. To participate, complete this form by 7 June. Find the event on Facebook.

Further information: Nikita Lumijõe, UT Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies, Project Manager, +372 56 156 330, nikita.lumijoe [ät] ut.ee

Sandra Sommer Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5681
Mob: +(372) 5307 7820 sandra.sommer [ät] ut.ee


Category: Entrepreneurship
Sandra Sommer (sandraso)
19.07.2019 - 07:08
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