Researchers in Tampere receive funding from the ERC

The ERC Starting Grants were awarded to Eeva Luhtakallio (left), Billy Brumley and Humeyra Caglayan.

The ERC Starting Grants were awarded to Eeva Luhtakallio (left), Billy Brumley and Humeyra Caglayan.

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded new grants to researchers from the University of Tampere and Tampere University of Technology. The ERC Starting Grants were awarded to Eeva Luhtakallio (UTA), Billy Brumley (TUT) and Humeyra Caglayan (TUT). The ERC Starting Grant is awarded to researchers who show promise and who have two to seven years of experience since completion of their PhD. The grant is €1,5 million.

The role of visual communication in politics

Eeva Luhtakallio’s work is titled Imagi(ni)ng Democracy: European youth becoming citizens by visual participation. In her research, she examines the role of visual communication in politics and political participation.

“The project focuses on how argumentation through images and illustrated participation on YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr, for example, change the way in which young people participate in politics and how they grow into political citizenship,” Luhtakallio explains.

The research combines artificial intelligence based computational methods to identify similarities in large sets of online image data with ethnographic fieldwork on young people’s practices of visual participation.

Luhtakallio works as an associate professor in the New Social Research programme.

Researcher of Side-Channel Analysis

In his SCARE project, Assistant Professor (tenure track) Billy Brumley will employ Side-Channel Analysis (SCA) to identify new leakage sources, turn them into vulnerabilities and exploit these vulnerabilities in real-world devices, systems, and protocols. This will produce new subfields of SCA and build a foundation for continued research.

"In our SCARE project, we will apply our attacks in the context of real-world, deployed systems to ensure that our research results have impact," says Brumley.

With more than a decade of experience in SCA, Brumley's research has helped improve the security of software that we all use every day.

"As a society, we are becoming more and more security conscious. It's great that research in this area is seen as a worthy investment."

Paving the way for quantum technologies

Assistant Professor (tenure track) Humeyra Caglayan's aQUARiUM project explores quantum nanophotonics and epsilon near-zero (ENZ) metamaterials. The goal is to achieve a breakthrough in quantum nanophotonics and radically transform quantum technologies.

"As we are entering the quantum era, this research topic is highly relevant. Researchers around the world are racing to develop quantum computers, quantum links and quantum internet, and the European Commission has recently launched its Quantum Flagship initiative," Humeyra Caglayan says.

Despite advances made in quantum computing, the hurdles remain high. At the quantum level, light-matter interactions are typically very weak and difficult to control. This is because of the size mismatch between the optical wavelength and the quantum emitters, which has a significant impact on creating a bridge between quantum physics and practical technology. All current solutions are focused on enhancing this interaction. Different subwavelength cavities have been used to confine light into small areas. However, this requires very accurate positioning in the nm range.

"I'm proposing that we go to the other extreme and extend the optical modes to relax these constraints on the applications. The aQUARiUM project will provide the key building blocks for these quantum technologies."

Highly competitive funding

The European Research Council (ERC) is a funding organisation managed by the European Union. It promotes multidisciplinary top research through long-term research funding. In addition to promising researchers, the ERC awards funding to researchers who have 7–12 years of experience, as well as advanced researchers at the top of their field. Competition for ERC funding is fierce, and this year the success rate for ERC Starting Grants was 13 per cent.

Press release and funding decisions by the European Research Council

Photos: Mika Kanerva and Jonne Renvall