Päivi Laaksonen, Aalto University
"Prioritising time and mental input is sometimes challenging. Sometimes it is better to choose to focus on one thing rather than trying to do everything at the same time".
"In research, it is important to communicate the results and what you have done to the 'outside world', to visualise the research and present it in an interesting way, so social and graphic skills can be a big advantage".
Päivi studied chemical engineering, majoring in physical chemistry. "The field seemed suitably challenging and interesting. I have always liked theory and calculations, and in electrochemistry you could do these in addition to practical experiments", says Päivi, explaining her choice. After graduating as a master, Päivi immediately went on to study for a doctorate. "I continued as a supervisor and later as a special researcher at VTT, after which I came to my current job as an assistant professor of materials engineering at Aalto University".
Päivi's working days are varied. She is responsible for coordinating the work of researchers, writing publications and funding proposals, preparing teaching and revising assignments. The job also involves a lot of discussions and email communication - both within Aalto University and with external parties.
Päivi says that the best things about her current job are the interesting discussions with students, getting research results and completing publications and final papers. In addition to her own successes, she is also happy about the success of those she supervises. "My first PhD student graduated last spring!".
In the future, Päivi hopes to develop as a teacher. She also sees the importance of creating a clear research vision in order to maintain motivation in challenging work and pass it on to students. "Prioritising time and mental input is sometimes challenging. Sometimes it is better to choose to focus on one thing rather than trying to do everything at the same time", Päivi identifies areas for development.
For whom is this a suitable career option?
For Päivi, enthusiasm is one of the most important qualities for a career like hers, and an ability to concentrate well helps. Experimental work is a natural fit for people with a practical approach. Communication skills are also an advantage: "In research, it is important to communicate results and what you have done to the 'outside world', to visualise the research and present it in an interesting way, so social and graphic skills can be a big advantage". Päivi describes her academic job as quite flexible, which can be a good thing for someone with a family. On the other hand, no option is quite right for everyone. "Work can be hard for a perfectionist, because you can't do everything perfectly", Päivi says. However, she sees gender as neither a barrier nor an advantage in the Nordic research world.