Career stories

Mari Kallioinen, LUT University

Professor and Head of the Department of Separation Technology

"Be yourself, that's enough and no one else can be just that".

Mari Kallioinen

What have you studied and how did you choose this option?

I studied chemical engineering. I am an "old" scout and spent a lot of my free time in the forest from a young age. I wanted to preserve all the good and beautiful things that the forest and our environment have to offer us, and I was looking for an education that would enable me to learn how to solve the environmentally harmful problems that were so much in the news even back then. I had a great chemistry teacher, Terttu Kangas-Kalinen, at Vääksy High School, who got me excited about chemistry and the possibilities it offered, and I thought that as a chemical engineering graduate I could be a solution provider and thus work towards a better future and protect the environment.

How did you become a professor/division head in the department of separation technology?

I have already had a long academic career and my dream for a long time was to become a professor and lead my own research group to tackle interesting phenomena and develop new solutions. I have worked in many different positions at the university and have had the opportunity to do both research and teaching. I feel that a professorship is a natural career progression and a dream job for me, given that I want my work to develop solutions for a better future. I applied for the position of Head of Department in Separation Science because I also want to be involved in developing the organisation and in the way work is done in an academic environment and actively contribute to its development.

What is the best thing about your job?

I immensely enjoy the moments when I understand something new through research or discussion with others. As a teacher, I rejoice when a young student emerges as a professional during the final project, sharing their work, findings and insights with an appropriately proud twinkle in their eye. As head of department, I get a kick out of moments when I see people working together in good spirit towards a larger common goal. The best moments are also when a funding application goes through and we get to start working on something interesting, or when our science is accepted for publication in a journal.

What have been the highlights and most important lessons of your career?

As I am very interested in how membrane fouling occurs, one of the most memorable is the study in which we investigated the fouling mechanism in the case of a feed stream containing phenolic compounds. It has also been a great moment to receive academic funding. But perhaps the moments that mean the most to me are those when, together with others, we have achieved something significant for us. Science is a team sport and the best insights are the result of good discussions and collaboration. It's worth networking and finding partners with whom it's not only productive, but also fun. The best things are done in groups, where people come from different backgrounds and work towards the same goal.

What are your expectations for the future?

There are a lot of interesting things happening in my field of research in the development of biorefinery processes at the moment and I expect to see many processes that I have been involved in during the research phase become reality in the future. This is extremely interesting and exciting! I also look forward to new research and product development challenges. I also enjoy my work as an academic manager and I am sure that I will continue to be interested in different management roles in the future.

For whom is this a suitable career option?

A suitably tenacious and curious person with an intrinsic motivation to explore and promote issues related to research and with good interpersonal skills that support the development of a good and active network of collaborators. This is also suitable for those who want to make a difference in society, as science provides an excellent platform for social development to make a difference.

What greetings would you like to send to a young person considering a career?

Follow what you are motivated and enthusiastic about and choose boldly. You can change direction if you start to feel that your first choice is not the best one for you, but you have to dare to start somewhere. Be yourself, that's enough and no one else can be just that.

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