Johanna Leppävirta finalised her doctoral thesis on a sailing boat
Master of Education Johanna Leppävirta will defend her doctoral thesis at Aalto University on Friday 5 August. In the thesis, which she finalised while sailing across the Pacific, Leppävirta examines the development of mathematics skills of engineering students in the field of electromagnetics.
During the past three years, Leppävirta and her family of five have sailed from San Francisco to New Zealand and she has been doing research at Stanford University (in the United States) and the University of Auckland (in New Zealand) as part of an exchange programme.
Johanna Leppävirta had already been working on her thesis for one and a half years when she and her husband hit on the idea of spending their sabbatical year at sea. As Johanna wanted to combine work and leisure time, the family started its journey with a three-month stay in San Francisco. While Johanna was doing research at Stanford University as part of an exchange programme, her husband Jussi was preparing the boat for a trans-Pacific crossing.
As the family started its journey across the Pacific, Johanna was working on corrections to the articles of her thesis. The solar panels on the boat generated enough electricity to keep the computer running in the open sea. As even small islands boasted smooth Wi-Fi connections, Johanna was able to return the articles during the journey. After the family had arrived in New Zealand, Johanna continued to work on her thesis at the University of Auckland as part of a researcher exchange programme.
In Johanna’s view, her thesis became better and got more in-depth content during the journey and the feedback she received for the articles was also a positive factor.
− “Visits to other universities helped me to broaden my horizons and to understand how little one actually knows and how much there is still to learn. From the point of view of developing my own work identity, the best thing in all this has been that I have become bolder and more capable of working independently, while at the same time I have learned to approach my work with more humility,” Leppävirta says, looking back at the journey.
Combining work and leisure time helped to put the work on the thesis into perspective
“You should not spend ages finalising your doctoral thesis. It's not the most serious thing in the world. When I noticed this it gave me a certain sense of realism and made me think in a more efficient manner, allowing me to complete the project,” Johanna explains.
“Even though I must say I’m a bit nervous about the Friday’s event, I’m confident that I’ll manage it. After all, I’ve been through worse storms,” Johanna says with laughter.
“The best thing about the journey was that our family was able to spend time together. Things were not always easy but as a whole, our journey was a tremendous experience.”
Even though the writing of the thesis was also accompanied by bureaucratic problems, Johanna is of the view that the positive and encouraging attitude of Professor Ari Sihvola (her tutor), her department and Aalto University have been crucial to the success of the project.
Johanna and her family originally planned to spend only one year travelling the globe but they are now returning to Finland after an absence of three years. Johanna will continue at the Aalto University Department of Radio Science and Engineering on a teaching development project.
The public examination of Johanna Leppävirta’s doctoral thesis “Engineering students’ proficiency in electromagnetics. Role of procedural and conceptual knowledge, and mathematics anxiety in learning of electromagnetics” will take place at the Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering (lecture hall S4) at Otakaari 5, Espoo on Friday 5 August at 12 noon.
Professor David Hammer from Tufts University in the United States will act as the opponent and Professor Ari Sihvola from the Aalto University Department of Radio Science and Engineering as the supervisor.
For more information
tel. 046 5259 196
johanna.leppavirta [at] aalto [dot] fi
Family´s travel blog S/Y Nanea (naneawordpress.com)