“I derive satisfaction from being able to articulate different types of studies into a coherent whole."
A developer of new materials
Who are you?
I’m Academy Professor Maarit Karppinen from the School of Chemical Technology. I am the head of the Department of Chemistry and leader of the Research Group of Inorganic Chemistry.
Why did you choose the field of chemistry?
I was keen on mathematical subjects at school. There was no doubt that I’d go to the Helsinki University of Technology, but I chose chemistry specifically because of our inspiring teacher at upper secondary school.
I wound up specialising in inorganic chemistry at university because the laboratory was, at the time, focusing on high-standard academic research, which was of great interest to me.
In addition to my own motivation, chance has played a big part in my career. I wanted to gain overseas experience during my post-graduate studies, and an opportunity to go on a researcher exchange to Japan presented itself. The fact that I happened to go to Japan in particular has steered my career because I returned with fresh knowledge of many of the topics I now research. In all, I’ve spent about 10 years in different research positions in Japan.
What drives you forward?
Scientific research motivates me. I’ve always been the scientific type, someone who needs to understand things. I’m interested in developing new materials. I want to know how a new material functions chemically. For example, I’m fascinated with
finding out what uses we could identify for the structurally most complex transition metal oxides.
What aspect of your work do you most enjoy?
To an outsider, it can appear that all of the studies and applications our research group focuses on are completely unalike from one another. I derive satisfaction from being able to articulate different types of studies into a coherent whole, providing them with a shared motif. Learning something new about a specific group of materials enables us to apply this knowledge to other types of materials as well. Their chemistry will be, in the final analysis, quite similar.
What makes your research group special?
Other teams around the world are also researching the same subjects as us, but very few are studying all of them together. The specific combination of the different topics is what makes us unique. More and more promising applications are constantly being discovered for the chemistry of our specialist field. Many happen to relate to energy, which is, of course, quite motivating.
Text: Riikka Hopiavaara
Photo: Aino Huovio
The original article has been published in the Aalto University Magazine issue 08 (issuu.com)
Maarit Karppinen's article "Electric power from waste heat" (issuu.com).