Saija Luukkanen, University of Oulu

PhD Professor, Head of Oulu Mining School - Mineral processing

"What attracted me to chemistry was its multidimensionality, wide career opportunities and practicality."

saija luukkanen

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

I studied chemistry and my PhD (Physical Chemistry, 2000) was on the subject of preparation and testing of hydrogen creation catalysts. During high school I was still interested in several different fields, but eventually chemistry won out. What attracted me to chemistry was its multidimensionality, wide career opportunities and practicality.

How did you end up in your current position?

As a young PhD student, I got involved in mining research and worked in the Mineral Engineering Laboratory of the then VTT's Mineral Engineering Laboratory in Outokumpu. There, I learned from experienced professionals in the field of mineral processing technology and drifted almost unnoticed deeper into the subject; my studies in chemistry and physics provided a good basis for this. From Outokumpu, my career took me to international assignments, first in cement industry research in France and later as a mining consultant for Pöyry in Peru. On several occasions during my career I had identified the need for a trained workforce in the mining sector and thought that if I could ever make a difference, I would try to do so. The opportunity came in 2015, when I was contacted and invited to apply to the University of Oulu, Department of Mining and Metallurgy, to become a professor of Mining Engineering. 

What is the best thing about your job?

Versatility: combining teaching and research and being international. No two working days are ever the same!

What have been the highlights and key lessons of your career?

I'm happy to see that the most important highlights are still to come, but so far the most rewarding experiences have been all my experiences abroad. One of the most important lessons has been that what you are trained to do does not determine your career. If you have the interest and the will, you can do anything. I have often found that the biggest obstacle to achieving one's goals is often between one's own ears. 

What are your plans and goals in the future?

International and varied jobs where I can play my part in contributing to a sustainable future. The development of green technologies is increasingly dependent on raw materials from the mining industry, but at the same time the mining industry must be able to operate in a sustainable way and reduce its emissions. The challenges are many, but so are the opportunities.

What kind of person is suitable for your profession?

A person with an interest in science and technology, who wants to look at things from a broad perspective and who wants to contribute to global challenges. 

our greetings for young women in high school deliberating their future career?

Trust yourself and your instinct. If your future career is not yet clear, explore the possibilities with an open mind. What you train for will not ultimately determine the course of your life as it may have done in previous decades. The main thing is that, in one way or another, you study and develop yourself in subjects that interest you. The right direction will be found for everyone!

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