October 7, 2019

Professor Mikael Fogelholm, a notable figure in the field of nutrition research, has been chosen Scientific Conference Power Player of the year. Fogelholm, who is professor of nutrition science at the University of Helsinki, was rewarded for his work in promoting the organisation of international scientific congresses in Finland. The prize-winner was chosen by the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies. The prize of EUR 5,000 is donated by the Finnish Fair Foundation.

Professor Mikael Fogelholm, 60, has been professor of nutrition science at the Department of Food and Nutrition in the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry of the University of Helsinki. He also leads the department’s undergraduate programme on human nutrition and food behaviour. Alongside his research career, Fogelholm has been active in the academic world in the areas of administration and science policy, for example, as director of research and development at the Palmenia Centre for Research and Continuing Education of the University of Helsinki (1991–2001; now the Centre for Continuing Education HY+), director of the UKK Institute, which promotes public health (2001–2007), and director of the Health Research Unit at the Academy of Finland (2007–2011). He has also held various international positions in the field of nutrition. Fogelholm received his PhD in Food Science (Nutrition) from the University of Helsinki in 1992.

The largest congresses that Fogelholm has been responsible for organising are a Nordic obesity research conference at the UKK Institute in Tampere and the 2003 European Conference on Obesity (ECO), held in Helsinki. He is currently involved in organising a Nordic nutrition congress to be held in summer 2020.

“Organising a great congress is always a goal-oriented and large undertaking, which is in itself fascinating and gives direction to your work and thinking. One’s own contact network expands, and it’s inspiring to be able to plan a programme creatively with colleagues. Sometimes I have even been involved in implementing the programme. The pinnacle of my career as an amateur pianist was my performance before an audience of more than 1,000 conference participants at the opening ceremony of the ECO congress at the Messukeskus convention centre in Helsinki in 2003”, Fogelholm recalls.

“In addition to projects that have already been completed, I have tried to attract other major nutrition congresses to Finland as well. Some of the applications were near-misses, others were clearly losses. In addition to the role of colleagues and the congress venue, an important factor is having a good congress office”, Fogelholm says.

“As well as being a multi-faceted researcher, Mikael Fogelholm is a long-time congress organiser. He has enthusiastically drawn congresses to Finland and has also been involved in programme planning and other work behind the scenes. He has been an active, prominent and constructive influencer in a research field that is constantly the focus of intense interest both within the scientific community and among the public”, says Lea Ryynänen-Karjalainen of the Finnish Fair Foundation in explaining the foundation’s decision.

In choosing the Scientific Conference Power Player of the year, the foundation recognises someone who has contributed positively to Finland’s role in international scientific activities and has sought and brought international organisations’ annual congresses to Finland. Such people make a positive contribution to the image of their field. This is the seventh time that the Scientific Power Player prize has been awarded. The prize has previously been awarded to Jari Nurmi, Professor of Electronics and Communications Engineering at Tampere University of Technology (2013), Tuomas Martikainen, a researcher in comparative religion and immigration from Åbo Akademi University (2014), Samuli Siltanen, Professor of Industrial Mathematics at the University of Helsinki (2015), Marjaana Niemi, Professor of International History at the University of Tampere (2016), Pia Siljander, University Lecturer in the Biochemistry at the University of Helsinki, and Outi Fingerroos, professor of ethnology at the University of Jyväskylä (2018). The search for Scientific Conference Power Player of the year for 2020 starts in January.

The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies consists of four Finnish scientific academies and 279 scientific societies. The foundation is responsible for allocating state aid for scientific congresses (approximately EUR 800,000 per year).