Topi Salmi Prize 2022

The Finnish Veterinary Association’s 2022 researcher prize has been awarded to Docent, Professor, DVM Sinikka Pelkonen, from Kuopio, in recognition of her extensive international career in animal disease bacteriology research. The prize was presented at the Finnish Veterinary Congress opening ceremony on 2 November 2022.

In her research, Sinikka Pelkonen has studied veterinary microbiology, infectious diseases, their diagnostics and monitoring. She has led several research projects, and is the author of some 80 scientific publications.

According to the Topi Salmi Prize jury, Sinikka Pelkonen meets all award criteria outstandingly. She is scientifically highly qualified and has published a significant number of peer-reviewed articles. Her research in animal diseases and zoonoses is wide-ranging and her work relating to One Health is exceptionally impactful in society. According to the jury, it is also commendable that Sinikka Pelkonen has guided and mentored many young – and even older – researchers in their research careers.

Sinikka Pelkonen’s spark for veterinary medicine was lit at an early age. Her father was the municipal veterinarian of the Finnish town of Orimattila, and Sinikka accompanied him on patient visits. She graduated as a Licentiate of Veterinary Medicine in 1981, and soon moved on to work at the then State Veterinary Institute (VELL). That was the beginning of her career in government’s research institutes, spanning more than 40 years.

At the beginning of her research career in the 1980s, Sinikka Pelkonen spent some years as a doctoral researcher in Basel, Switzerland, working on infection research. In 1988, she moved to Kuopio, where she initially worked as the director of the regional laboratory and from the year 2000 on, as the head of the research unit. In the first half of the 1990s, her work as a postdoctoral researcher took her to Freiburg, Germany, where she familiarised herself with molecular immunology. She returned to Kuopio in 1994.

As to the most important research results in her career, Sinikka Pelkonen highlights not one, but many significant research topics. One of them is the epidemiology of salmonella and the related projects. Other zoonotic pathogens, including E.coli bacteria, which she already discussed in her doctoral dissertation, have also been important areas of research.

During her career, Sinikka Pelkonen has built an extensive international network. The driving force on her research career has been the desire to work with topics that have an impact on society. The information produced through research serves One Health, food safety and animal welfare alike.

Sinikka Pelkonen has also contributed to the development of education in veterinary medicine. When the Specialist's Degree in Veterinary Medicine for infectious animal diseases was established in the early 2000s, she was involved in planning and establishing the degree program and worked in the specialisation working group until 2022. As a supervisor of doctoral dissertations and other theses, Pelkonen has been able to share her enthusiasm for research work and support young people to advance in the field.

After retiring, Sinikka Pelkonen has given up her work role, but continues for example as a visiting researcher in salmonella research. She is still full of enthusiasm and willing to assist other researchers and engage in writing tasks.