Ülo Niinemets receives the national research award

Text excerpts from Research in Estonia

Last week, the Government of the Republic announced this year’s laureates of the national research awards. ERR Novaator has compiled an overview of what these scientists do.

Award in the field of geology and biology

Academic Ülo Niinemets (born 1970) is a professor with the Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the Estonian University of Life Sciences and has been given the award for his cycle of research works, “Integration and adaptation mechanisms of plant photosynthesis: from foliage gradients to global patterns.

All organisms on Earth are dependant on plant photosynthesis – it is the foundation of life. Ülo Niinemets asks: Which structural and physiological properties of plants determine the speed of photosynthesis? By posing this question he is actually asking how global climate change affects the capability of Earth’s vegetation to provide us with clean air and sufficient food. Additionally, he offers insights for developing a new generation of climate models that can predict the production of vegetation and the processes of the biosphere, while also hinting at ways to increase the yield of plants.

Ülo Niinemets has previously been presented with the following awards:

  • 2000 national research award of the Republic of Estonia (together with Olevi Kull) in the field of geology and biology for the work, “Adaptation of photosynthesis in foliage”
  • 2006 national research award of the Republic of Estonia in the field of chemistry and molecular biology for the work, “Physiology of volatile organic compound emissions”
  • 2012 Order of the White Star of the Republic of Estonia, Fourth Class

Ülo Niinemets (pic from Scanpix)

Ülo was not the only plant physiologist to receive national research award this year. Award for outstanding lifetime achievements in research and development was given to Agu Laisk (born 1938) is a senior research fellow in plant physiology and professor emeritus at the University of Tartu (UT).

Academic Agu Laisk is an outstanding researcher of carbon binding (photosynthesis) in plants, whose research through the years has dealt with the question: What determines the speed of photosynthesis? To answer this, Laisk has led the construction of the world’s fastest photosynthesis measurement system, the preparation of the most complex photosynthesis model and the collection of research results that shed new light upon the photosynthesis process – all of which could be referred to as “first in the world”. Through his work, Laisk has reached one of the highest points atop the world’s scientific pyramid, a height that will remain unreachable to his contemporaries for many years to come.


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