Academy Professor Maarit Karppinen encourages young researches to embark on an international career
Academy Professor Maarit Karppinen has advanced quickly in her career to the top of international materials research. The latest highlight of her career is admission to the Finnish Academy of Sciences which was granted on April 12. Prof. Karppinen, who is the head of the Chemistry department at Aalto University School of Science and Technology, urges young scientists to boldly venture abroad. She views the future of Aalto University with optimism.
Professor Maarit Karppinen found the direction for her own career in Japan where she spent the first year after receiving her licentiate in a top-level research facility.
– From a career perspective, going to Japan was crucial - even though I didn't think so when applied for the post. I was more interested in the exotic nature of the country and new experiences. Nevertheless, that year turned out to be a very good experience, bringing about many contacts and giving a direction to my career.
Prof. Karppinen went to Japan for a second time in 1995 after receiving an invitation to be a visiting assistant professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology, where her former supervisor had moved to. Prof. Karppinen's longest period in Japan began in 2001 and lasted 5 years after receiving an assistant professorship at the same institution.
Japan is the world leader in materials research and the contacts Prof. Karppinen made there have been vitally important in her career. Tokyo Institute of Technology and other Japanese universities remain important working partners for Prof. Karppinen.
Whilst in Japan she maintained strong ties to her alma mater by inviting students from Otaniemi to participate in diploma projects and other research projects in Japan. She offered this unique international work experience to around 15 students and young scientists.
Now it is Prof. Karppinen's turn to play host to her Japanese colleagues. At the moment, there is a FidiPro professor from Tokyo Institute of Technology working in the Chemistry department.
Prof. Karppinen believes that one of the major challenges for Aalto University is to make the working environment more international.
– I understand the visiting professor's situation well, as I have experienced it myself. In Tokyo, I got used to the fact that all public events were conducted in Japanese. I would like Aalto University to have an international atmosphere, without completely forgetting Finnish either.
Career keywords: motivation, healthy competition and role models
Prof. Karppinen believes that, amongst other things, one's own motivation, an appropriate competitive spirit, role models and international experience are important factors in a young scientist's progress.
– A good scientist has a dose of competitiveness. They know their next objective and are prepared to struggle in order to achieve it. Young scientists also need role models, and for this reason it is important that Aalto University actively recruits top scientists from around the world. Role models give young scientists the courage to be the first in the world to attempt something.
Prof. Karppinen is confidently awaiting the introduction of Aalto University's planned Tenure Track career system.
– The planned career path is multi-phased, which guarantees that it is not too straightforward. Not everyone will make it to the top, but moving from one phase to another researchers will constantly be required to try their best. It is important that we get top researchers from abroad for the career system - the application process should be open and international.
According to Prof. Karppinen, the most challenging bottleneck in a young scientist's career is the period after their doctoral thesis.
– That's when they're on their own for the first time and really have to be able to display their skills. This is the time when a young scientist has to be prepared to go abroad for a year or two. We have to support and slightly urge our young scientists to go. From a career perspective, international post-doctoral experience is of the utmost importance.
Academy Professor, head of Chemistry department
050 3841726, maarit.karppinen [at] tkk [dot] fi