Department of Mathematics and Systems Analysis


Defence of dissertation in the field of mathematics, Alex Karrila, M.Sc.(Tech.), 26 July 2019

24. June 2019

Alex Karrila, M.Sc. (Tech.), will defend the dissertation “Conformally invariant scaling limits of random curves and correlations” on Friday 26 July 2019 at 12 noon at the Aalto University School of Science, lecture hall M1, Otakaari 1, Espoo. The dissertation studies mathematically the highly symmetric emergent structures in continuum limits of critical statistical-physics models. The results are formulated in terms of random curves and correlations.

Dr. Vincent Beffara, Université Grenoble Alpes, will act as the opponent. Custos is Professor Kalle Kytölä, Department of Mathematics and Systems Analysis.
Dissertation press release (in Finnish) is available at:

Snowflakes hold the secret to how tooth enamel is formed

4. June 2019

Physicists and mathematicians have long used the so-called Stefan problem to explain how crystals such as snowflakes take their shape. Now, researchers from Aalto University and the University of Helsinki have adapted the same principle to explain how enamel is distributed over teeth. The newly published work helps to explain why even closely-related species – such as humans and orangutans – have very different looking teeth.

Tooth enamel matrix is soft at first, but quickly hardens into the most mineralized and toughest part of the mammalian body. As enamel cannot be repaired or remodelled, its growth is a critical step in tooth formation. It's the durability of enamel that makes teeth capable of lasting for such a long time and why they are so plentiful in the fossil record.

The researchers propose that differences in enamel thickness are regulated by the nutrient diffusion rate, i.e. the rate that individual regions on a crown receive the required nutrients and substances needed to make the enamel.

Starting with a model that is used to simulate snowflake formation – the Stefan problem – the researchers built a new model that mimics the formation of the enamel matrix.

"Whereas enamel is not obviously as intriguingly shaped as snowflakes, it is interesting that the same physical principles can account for the increase in complexity in both systems," says Teemu Häkkinen from Aalto University.

Enamel has a long history in paleontological and medical research, and the new model can be used to investigate both evolutionary differences between species, and medical defects in enamel formation.

Starting with CT-images of real teeth from which enamel was digitally removed, the enamel matrix was applied to underlying dentin surfaces using a computer simulation. Only when simulating the matrix secretion as a diffusion-limited process were the researchers able to make the subtle enamel features found on a human molar.

In contrast to humans, orangutan molar teeth have complex ridges and grooves that could be simulated by lowering the diffusion rate of enamel-forming nutrients even further. Thus, orangutans, which eat hard foods such as unripe fruits and bark, may have evolved their wrinkly enamel with a relatively simple developmental change.

In addition to human and orangutan teeth, the researchers investigated enamel matrix growth in images of pig molars at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF). Synchrotron images reveal growth lines that provide a record of enamel matrix growth, much like tree rings show the growth of the tree. In addition to the final enamel surface, the diffusion-limited simulations reproduced these enamel growth lines.

"There are huge amounts of different data available on enamel, and now we have the tools of physicists to make testable predictions," says Academy Professor Jukka Jernvall from the Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki.

The research was a collaboration between Aalto University and the University of Helsinki.

Bibliographical information:

Häkkinen TJ, Sova SS, Corfe IJ, Tjäderhane L, Hannukainen A, Jernvall J (2019) Modeling enamel matrix secretion in mammalian teeth. PLoS Comput Biol 15(5): e1007058. https://

Contact information:

Teemu Häkkinen
Doctoral student
Aalto University

Jukka Jernvall
Tel. +358 40 740 3478

Helsinki EVO-DEVO group

A fairy dance takes over Kuunsilta: student art exhibition opened at the Espoo Cultural Centre

27. May 2019 of Aalto University students have produced an art exhibition for the Espoo Cultural Centre, Kuunsilta (Moon bridge). The multidisciplinary teams present their interpretations of the phenomena of low-dimensional geometry and topology.

The älvdans on the moon bridge was designed by interior architecture student Yi-Chiao Tien, bioinformation technology student Jannica Savander, arts and business student Alisa Kurganova and design student Tomi Hyyppä. They were familiar with the cultural centre’s architecture and wanted to construct their work in the empty space of the staircase.

‘The work was inspired by misty fields at dawn. In Swedish, this natural phenomenon is called älvdans, fairy dance. Fairy dance is a natural, visual work of art in an empty space through which air flows from one floor to another’, says Jannica Savander.

Mathematics is present in the fairy piece through minimal surface geometry. Stretched along its sides, fabric settles in a rest mode in which its surface is evenly curved.

‘There are mathematical formulas and origamis everywhere, and each of them can be analysed and explained. Mathematical lessons such as this course are very inspiring’, says Yi-Chiao Tien.

The garden city of Tapiola and the high-ceilinged location on the top floor of the Cultural Centre that resembles a lighthouse laid the foundation for Crystal garden. It was designed and implemented by design student Iiro Törmä, mathematician Saara Vestola and graphic artist Punit Hiremath.

‘We paid attention to natural light, which varies greatly throughout the day’, says Iiro Törmä.

The flower petals of Crystal garden repeat the same polygon folded into different shapes.

‘The course approaches the phenomena of modern mathematics using visual tools, and you can manage with any level of prior mathematical knowledge.  The course participants' relationship with mathematics varied greatly, and we discussed the dialogue between mathematics and creativity a great deal’, says Törmä.

‘Mathematics is everywhere, and a fearless attitude to it is at the centre of all learning. The visual methods of art provide an excellent point of contact with the essential elements of mathematical research’, states Kirsi Peltonen, teacher in charge of the course.

The works were produced as part of the course “Crystal flowers in halls of mirrors: Mathematics meets art and architecture.”

The exhibition has been implemented in cooperation with EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art.  Admission to the exhibition is free, and it is open during the Cultural Centre’s opening hours from 22 May to 31 August (Kulttuuriaukio 2, 02100 Espoo).

Further information:

Kirsi Peltonen
Senior University Lecturer
Aalto University
tel. +358 50 574 7006

IN TRANSITION - Mathematics and Art student exhibition at the Espoo Cultural Centre

13. May 2019

The exhibition opening of IN TRANSITION Mathematics and Art will take place at Espoo Cultural Centre on 21. May, 17.00. The exhibition showcases student work from the Crystal Flowers in Halls of Mirrors course. The exhibition will be opened by Aalto University Provost Kristiina Mäkelä.

The exhibition will be open for visitors until the end of August 2019.

The final exhibition of the cross-disciplinary Crystal Flowers in Halls of Mirrors course is a concrete starting point for the promotion of interaction between art and science. It places deep phenomena on the level of human interaction. Open-minded and ground-breaking collaboration opens up opportunities for the pursuance of shared objectives. Authentic and real interaction challenges conventional beliefs and creates an exciting example of new possibilities.

Ranging from first-year undergraduates to postgraduate students, the course participants represent different schools of Aalto University. The diverse groups have designed and implemented their own interpretations in the fields of low-dimension geometry and topology under the guidance of a multidisciplinary team of teachers.

Together with EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, the work has been curated into a coherent art exhibition taking place at the Espoo Cultural Centre for the duration of summer 2019.

Defence in the field of Art Education: MA Taneli Luotoniemi: 3.5.2019

25. April 2019

MA Taneli Luotoniemi will defend the dissertation Hyperspatial Interlace. Grasping Four-dimensional Geometry Through Crafted Models on Friday 3 May 2019.

Opponents: KuT, dos. Jyrki Siukonen, University of the Arts Helsinki and PhD, Prof. Thomas Banchoff, Brown University, USA 

Custos: Prof. Helena Sederholm

More information:

Mathematics and Arts Colloquium: Salvador Dali and the Fourth Dimension - public talk by Thomas Banchoff; 2.5.2019

25. April 2019

Helena Sederholm opens the event Meeting Salvador Dali in the Fourth Dimension.

How did Salvador Dali choose an unfolded four-dimensional cross as the central figure in one of his most famous religious paintings?  This talk will describe a ten-year series of meetings with the artist starting in 1975 and a survey of forty years of developments in computer graphics approaches to phenomena in four and higher dimensions.

Thomas F. Banchoff is a geometer, and an emeritus professor at since July 1, 2014 after 47 years teaching at Brown University. Further information.

Mathematics and Arts Colloquium

Niilo Helander Foundation sponsors the event.

Defence of dissertation in the field of mathematics, Matias Heikkilä, M.Sc., 29 April 2019

16. April 2019

Matias Heikkilä, M.Sc., will defend the dissertation “On Multivariate Extremes” on Monday 29 April 2019 at 1 pm (13 o'clock) at the Aalto University School of Science, lecture hall M1, Otakaari 1, Espoo. Predicting rare events was studied in the dissertation.

Assist. Prof. Anna Kiriliouk, University of Namur, will act as the opponent. Custos is Professor Pauliina Ilmonen, Department of Mathematics and Systems Analysis.
Dissertation press release (in Finnish) is available at:

Aalto nabs 3 ERC Advanced Grants

29. March 2019

Aalto university has been awarded €6.3 million from the European Research Council to support pioneering work across a range of high-impact fields. The three projects are:

    •  Designing algorithms to reduce filter bubbles in social media lead by Professor Aristides Gionis from the Department of Computer Science
    • Developing new mathematical methods for currently unsolvable problems led by Professor Kari Astala from the Department of Mathematics
  • ATOP:
    • Creating novel photonic devices by stacking together atomically-thin materials led by Professor Zhipei Sun from the Department of Electronics and Nanoengineering

ERC Advanced Grants are designed to support researchers exploring high-risk and groundbreaking areas of research. Aalto University strives to identify and solve grand societal challenges, a goal that the three projects receiving ERC support aim to achieve.

‘I am very pleased and honoured to be awarded the prestigious ERC Advanced Grant. The expected outcomes will result in significant advances in fundamental physics and breakthrough technologies to enable highly-integrated, wideband and high-efficient photonic systems. I am really looking forward to starting this ambitious project,’ says Professor Sun, about his project on atomically thin photonics devices.

‘By engaging with a range of stakeholders we hope to be able to improve deliberation online,’ says Professor Gionis about his research into polarisation in online media communities. ‘We aim to develop methods that can be applied to any topic, even topics coming from different domains, e.g., politics, current events, or social debates.’

Professor Astala describes his work as 'developing mathematics and tools for analysing different mathematical models, particularly those arising in statistical physics and materials sciences. Diverse phenomena in properties of materials, fluid mechanics, medical scanning and even invisibility cloaking will be susceptible to the methods of analysis developed in this project.'

Defence of dissertation in the field of mathematics, Razane Tajeddine, M.Sc., 7 March 2019

7. February 2019

Razane Tajeddine, M.Sc., will defend the dissertation "Private Information Retrieval from Coded Storage" on Thursday 7 March 2019 at 2 pm (at 14) at the Aalto University School of Science, lecture hall M1, Otakaari 1, Espoo. The dissertation is about coding theoretic constructions for private information retrieval from distributed storage systems.

Professor Simon Blackburn, Royal Holloway, University of London, will act as the opponent. Custos is Professor Camilla Hollanti, Department of Mathematics and Systems Analysis.  
Dissertation press release (in English) is available at:

Defence of dissertation in the field of systems and operations research, Sampsa Ruutu, M.Sc.(Tech.)

22. January 2019

Sampsa Ruutu, M.Sc.(Tech.), will defend the dissertation "Dynamic modelling for the analysis and support of systemic innovations and competition strategies" on Friday 25 January 2019 at 12 noon at the Aalto University School of Science, lecture hall M1, Otakaari 1, Espoo. In the dissertation, tools were developed for understanding and developing systemic innovations and competition strategies.

Opponent: Assistant Professor Bob Walrave, Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands

Custos: Professor Kai Virtanen, Aalto University School of Science, Department of Mathematics and Systems Analysis

Electronic dissertation:

The Art and Science of Folding - Paul Jackson 25.2.2019

16. January 2019

Aalto Mathematics and Arts Colloquium - Public talk
Paul Jackson
Monday 25th February 15:00 - 16:00
Aalto yliopisto, Otakaari 1, Aalto-sali, Espoo

The phenomenon of 'The Fold' is very common throughout manufacturing and the natural world, but only recently have designers, engineers, scientists and others begun to study it as a stand-alone subject. The lecture will offer an overview of this fascinating multi-disciplinary subject, showing how folding is used in space exploration, nanotechnology, fashion design, math education ...and much more!

Paul Jackson has been a professional paper folder and origami artist since 1983. He divides his time between teaching 'Folding' to students from many design specialisms, writing books (his 2011 book 'Folding Techniques for Designers' is a best seller), creating folded artworks and being a consultant for a great diversity of projects. He has an MA in Fine Art from University College London.

Sustainable ideas and inspiring people presented with Aalto SCI Alumna of the Year and SCI Awards 2018

20. December 2018

Annu Nieminen graduated from the Information networks programme in 2009. She is a SCI graduate with a bold entrepreneurial attitude making an impact both nationally and globally. Recently she was also awarded as one of the MIT Technology Review “Innovators Under 35”.

“During the studies, I learned how to combine technology with mathematical and logical thinking in order to solve big and complex challenges. The concrete tools include for instance data structures, algorithms and power structures. I aim to use everything I have learned to create better tools to reallocate earth’s and society’s resources”, says Annu Nieminen.

SCI Awards 2018 for the great ideas and achievements

SCI Awards celebrate the great work and achievements of the faculty, staff and students annually. The 2018 SCI Awards are given in six categories based on the proposals of the staff and students.

Innovation of the Year award is given to Jussi Gillberg and Professors Pekka Marttinen, Hiroshi Mamitsuka and Samuel Kaski for using machine learning to tackle the impending food crisis. Their winning project uses machine learning in arable farming, greenhouse cultivation and plant breeding. The innovation’s main impacts are societal and global: it will help to avoid a long-term humanitarian crisis and improve the efficiency of food production, which is paramount in climate change mitigation.

Professor Jari Saramäki received the Scientific Communication Award for his excellent and popular blog posts and book, on scientific writing. He is able to reach the whole scientific community.

Coordinator Esa Heikkinen was awarded the Service Person of the Year. Esa is always helpful, knows how to solve problems, positive, kind and on good mood – and even considered as the most patient man in the world.

Students Akseli Paukkeri and Kristian Arjas are the two Teaching Assistants of the Year. Akseli is inspirational and masters the subject. In addition, he is very open to questions and the needs of the students. Kristian gives brilliant views on the course subject.

Teaching Award also goes to two persons, Senior University Lecturer Björn Ivarsson and Professor Jaakko Lehtinen. Björn receives excellent feedback for the Swedish and English service teaching math courses that he lectures. In addition to being super enthusiastic and knowledgeable in his field, Jaakko captivates his audience in his lectures. His ability to teach and explain, and spark intelligent discussions is remarkable.

SCI guilds Athene, Fyysikkokilta, Prodeko and Tietokilta receive the Team-building and Co-operation award for orientation week activities and taking care of new students throughout their first year. In addition to the activities during orientation week, the volunteers take care of the new students already weeks before the beginning of the semester. This is a recognition of the continuous work done by the guilds.

Other nominees were Heikki Koponen, Juha Äkräs and Kaj Hagros for the Alumnus of the Year, Nonappa, Robin Ras and Heikki Nieminen along with their groups for the Innovation of the Year, David Radnell for the Scientific Communication Award, Ivan Degtyarenko, Richard Darst, Minna Günes, Paula Hämäläinen, Quang Tran, Kenrick Bingham, Eeva Lampinen, Noora Suominen de Rios and TuAS-janitors for the Service Person of the Year, Marko Havu, Vesa Vahermaa, Tuomo Tanila, Katri Niemi, Assistants of Machine Learning: Basic Principles and Tolou Shadbahr for the Teaching Assistant of the Year, Eerikki Mäki, Jukka Suomela, Esa Saarinen, Andrew Paverd, Alex Jung, Tuomas Aura, N. Asokan, Eija Kujanpää - Erasmus Mundus application "grant writers", Pekka Alestalo and Lauri Nummenmaa for the Teaching Award, and Hirskyj-Douglas Ilyena, Ellie Dillon, Risto Rajala, Richard Darst, Enrico Glerean, Hanna Renvall & Annika Hulten and Prodeko & DIEM for the Team-building and Co-operation Award.

Doctoral Candidate in Applied Algebraic Geometry

16. November 2018

The Algebra and Discrete Mathematics Research Group in the Department of Mathematics and Systems Analysis is looking for a doctoral candidate in the area of applied algebraic geometry and algebraic statistics to work under the supervision of Prof. Kaie Kubjas.

Preference will be given to candidates with strong knowledge in algebra. Programming skills and experience in statistics, optimization and discrete mathematics will be greatly valued, but are not mandatory. An excellent command of English is required.

Review of applications will begin on January 1, 2019 and continue until the position is filled. See the whole announcement and apply here.

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