From the executive director

Minna Lukkarinen – paediatrician-scientist who cares for patients and their families

TYKS Foundation appointed a new executive director on 1 September 2021. The work of Professor Olli Ruuskanen, who has led the Foundation from the beginning, will be continued by Medical Specialist Minna Lukkarinen.

“First and foremost, I am a paediatrician who treats patients. In my opinion, I also care for families, because children and families always go together. This is also the base of the rest of my career; a study on the FinnBrain’s birth cohort and my duties as the executive director of the TYKS Foundation.”

Minna Lukkarinen

After doing my dissertation on children’s asthma in 2017, I started my postdoctoral research project in the large-scale FinnBrain birth cohort project in Turku, which monitors around 4,000 children and their parents from the early stages of pregnancy onward. The subject of the study is the development of children’s brain, nervous system and health. The FinnBrain follow-up study is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, which enables posing a wide range of interesting research questions. In my postdoctoral project, we built FinnBrain’s new paediatric research package, FinnBrain Pediatrics. In its FinnBrain Atopy line of research, we examine, among other things, my original research question on how pregnancy affects the development of atopic diseases in children.

Minna Lukkarinen

FinnBrain Atopy aims to find early risk factors. For example, we want to find out whether the mother-to-be’s stress during pregnancy or even the parents’ own childhood stress is linked to the asthma and allergy risk of their offspring. The far-reaching goal of our research is to help families feel better. Research findings can play a very important role if we can influence children’s health before or during pregnancy. However, creating new tools for preventing atopic diseases is still a long way off.

As a researcher, I have applied for many scholarships from foundations over the years. From the applicant’s perspective, I am well familiar with the operations of foundations and understand how vital scholarships are for researchers. The majority of researchers fund their research and life with personal work scholarships awarded by foundations.

When I was granted the honour of becoming executive director of the TYKS Foundation, I was also able to familiarise myself with a foundation’s operations from the point of view of the scholarship provider. It includes, for example, versatile evaluation of applications. This way I can also keep up with the quality and abundance of research carried out under the Turku University Hospital. In the distribution of TYKS Foundation scholarships, the focus will be on supporting young researchers starting their doctoral dissertation, as it may be difficult for early-stage researchers to receive scholarships before publishing anything. In addition to scholarships, the foundation supports researchers in the form of Tutkari. This means providing research facilities and equipment to those who do not have their own workspaces.

The foundation does more than just awarding scholarships. Its work also includes the responsible management of the foundation’s assets so that scholarships can be distributed to begin with. The foundation’s committed and active board, secretary and communications officer are important partners of the executive director.