This spring the University of Helsinki Lahti Fund awarded scholarships for studies and research that support the development of the Lahti region and Päijät-Häme for the fourth time. A total of three scholarships of 4000 euros and four scholarships of 2000 euros were awarded to students and researchers at the University of Helsinki.

Marju Prass and John Allen, doctoral students working on the Niemi campus, were both awarded the larger scholarship.

Lupine is an invasive species full of questions

photo: Marju Prass

Marju Prass is researching garden lupine, an invasive plant species from North America that is ever-increasing its abundance in Finland. She describes her work as an adventure in a mysterious world, where every turn leads to something new and interesting.

– In North America, the garden lupine only occurs in small patches. Similarly, our daisies are conquering North America. Why is this happening? The answer lies in complex interactions, Prass says.

To understand the phenomenon, a researcher of invasive species must look at the subject from numerous perspectives:

– Are the local species adapted to the new species? Could it perhaps have previously unknown biochemical compounds so that native species are not able to compete with or attack the new species? How does the invasive species affect the microbiota of the environment and the spread of pathogens? There are several mechanisms underlying the spread of invasive species. Each species has its own world with its interactions that change over time. These interactions are very interesting, Prass concludes.

We do not have to wait long for the results on lupine, as the research project is near completion:

– I have collected all the necessary data and largely analyzed it. Now I am writing my dissertation. The scholarship will help me in this final effort so I can graduate in the spring of 2021.


Dogs changing the urban environment

John Allen’s research subject is even more familiar than lupine: dogs, but the perspective is new. In his dissertation, Allen examines the impact of dogs on the city’s parks and other green spaces.

– I have been interested in the impacts that dogs have in urban areas for many years. It’s very satisfying for me to now be studying this issue and to see that the reality of the situation matches many of my thoughts on the subject, Allen says.

Allen has been a familiar sight in the green areas of downtown Lahti and many passersby have become interested and started chatting:

– So far during my project I have particularly enjoyed the conversations I have had with members of the public while conducting my fieldwork in the Lahti parks. People have been friendly and curious about my work, and interested in hearing about the results. As a young researcher, that makes me feel very good!

The process has gone well so far, although it has not always been easy:

– My research is progressing, though sometimes it feels like it is going slowly. Many of the methods I am using are new to our lab, so we have and continue to have some challenges there. But things are more or less on track, and I am working on my first manuscript now. This scholarship will help me to cover the cost of soil gas sampling that I will be conducting next month, and will also let me continue to eat!


University of Helsinki Lahti Fund Scholarships 2020:

4000 euros: John Allen, Anni-Maria Lassila, Marju Prass
2000 euros: Karoliina Bergström, Sofia Kaipainen, Kiia Lehtinen, Lotta Yli-Kuivila


The University of Helsinki Funds

The University of Helsinki Funds includes over 300 funds founded by our alumni, friends and other supporters. All the disciplines have their own funds used to finance research projects, researchers and students of their own discipline. In addition to the discipline-specific funds, the university also has cause-specific and general funds. Funds have been donated to the University of Helsinki the past centuries. The assets of the University of Helsinki Lahti Fund have been formed from donations made to the University of Helsinki Lahti Research and Training Center’s 20th anniversary fund and from the implementation of the University of Helsinki’s Lahti activities through various funds.

Additional Information:
Professor Heikki Setälä, Chair of the Lahti Foundation Board of the University of Helsinki
tel. 0503160554,