Career stories

Minna Huotilainen, University of Helsinki

Professor, Department of Education

“You’re a great person! Come and join us to make the world a better place because we really need you.”

Minna Huotilainen

What have you studied and what influenced this choice back in the day?

I studied electrical engineering, specifically acoustics, signal processing, and medical engineering. I did my PhD in brain research. I wanted to become an engineer because as a high school student I liked to read Äpy and Julkku and the humour of a student of technology seemed to suit me. At school, I liked physics and math the most, and I did some coding on my Commodore 64 computer.

How did you become a professor?

I went to work on my thesis at the Helsinki University of Technology's Low Temperature Laboratory, where I was able to work as a laboratory engineer and research assistant while doing my thesis. After graduation, I continued in the same position in a research group led by Professor Risto Näätänen at the University of Helsinki. It was nice to see the research work up close, but I never thought I would do a PhD myself. However, as time went on, I was leaning more and more towards a career as a researcher, and soon realized that I was close to a PhD. After my PhD, I spent a year as a postdoctoral researcher at the INSERM research center in Lyon, France, and since then I’ve worked as a researcher in many places.

What is the best thing about your job?

I think science and art are the best ways for humanity to find answers and solve problems. I am happy that I get to work in this position. It's exciting not only to get new research results, but also to develop new methods and ways of doing research. I also really like science communication - it's great to be able to tell everyone what the research is and what we have found out. I also like teaching, and I teach in an international master’s programme, where I meet students from all over the world, and supervise PhD students. It's all very inspiring work.

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

One highlight is, of course, your own dissertation, but also the dissertations of the ones you supervise are important. I have moved from one discipline to another and acted as a bridge between disciplines, and I think it is important to realize that a first degree does not determine what you will do in life. I am currently working at the Department of Education at the University of Helsinki. My studies in engineering and science give me a good basis for working on any problem.

What do you expect from the future?

My children are already adults, so I can invest in the things important to me, and work is one of my favorite things. I hope that through my work I can contribute to a better world in many ways: a better working life, but also better learning in schools.

For whom is this a suitable career option?

I think that studying engineering and science is a good option for anyone who is interested in the field. The work of a scientist is sometimes fumbling in the dark, a journey through trial and error, and sometimes a detective story. Research work can be customized, so it is suitable for introverts and extroverts alike.

What message would you like to send to a young person pondering their career?

You're a great person! Come and help us make the world a better place because we really need you. Don't get too caught up in choosing what to study, as any field of engineering and science offers a wide range of career opportunities for you.

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