Give for the future

PhDs have their feelers in the future

PhDs graduating from Aalto University are top experts who are in high demand among employers. Doctors of quantum technology are pioneers in a field that is growing rapidly. Experts on smart buildings are solving the challenges of the energy transition.
Doctor promovendi at the conferment

The doctoral programmes of Aalto University are educating future experts who have the ability and courage to tackle major challenges and problems. Cross-program thematic doctoral schools are an agile way to create in-depth excellence around a specific area of expertise in cooperation with our stakeholders.

‘Finland needs PhDs. In order to raise our national RDI investment to 4% by 2030, we need high-level expertise. Doctoral education is one answer to the critical shortage of experts in Finland,’ says Petri Suomala, Vice President of Education.

More than 200 PhDs graduate from Aalto every year. Around one third of them find employment in universities, the majority in companies and other organisations. ‘Finnish employers have gradually learned to recruit PhDs, but there is still much more capacity and demand for them,’ says Suomala.

Donated funds play an important role in establishing doctoral schools and supporting their work. ‘Donated funds have made it possible to accelerate the accumulation of centres of excellence in different fields at Aalto. It’s great that this allows us to educate more skilled PhDs in Finland,’ Suomala continues.

Doctoral education at Aalto relies on an internationally high-quality scientific community that brings together professors of art, design, technology and business with students and their advisors. This creates a unique foundation for research that breaks boundaries and is capable of renewing itself. Aalto also has a long tradition of effective collaboration with various organisations, companies and societal actors.

Doctoral education is constantly being developed. The Majakka doctoral school for water engineering at Aalto, which was established with donated funds, created a model where a group of doctoral students would progress closely together and whose supervision is essentially interlinked with peer support and teamwork.

Now other schools at Aalto are following the example set by the Majakka model. ‘We even offer training for the high-quality supervision of doctoral theses. And for doctoral students, we have added studies that will develop their employment skills and entrepreneurial competence to prepare them for life after postgraduate studies,’ says Suomala.

Top experts of quantum technology are in high demand

Quantum technology is a rapidly growing field, and Finland is among the world’s leaders in its research and development. Important application areas in this field include quantum computers and sensors. Aalto has a long tradition in cutting-edge quantum physics research, and many pioneering companies in the quantum technology sector have started out at Aalto.

Doctoral education at Aalto responds to a major shortage of experts in the field. ‘PhDs are heavyweight experts who bring the industry forward, and there is now very much demand for them in quantum technology companies,’ says Professor Jukka Pekola

doctoral hats
Photo: Heli Sorjonen

Aalto currently has some 80 doctoral students of quantum technology, or a field closely related to it, 50 of whom are doing their doctoral dissertations at the Quantum Technology Finland centre of excellence led by Pekola. ‘The basic research in quantum coherence and thermodynamics done at the centre lays the foundation for developing quantum components and technologies.’

The Finnish quantum institute led by Pekola, InstituteQ, brings together national quantum technology research, education, and business. InstituteQ is currently launching a doctoral school for quantum technology in Finland.

‘Finland has an excellent starting point and prerequisites for quantum research and doctoral education. The field will have a long-term role in different industries, and there will be a demand for skilled employees. The time to act is now,’ Pekola says. 

Smart buildings require new expertise

Buildings consume 40% of all the energy we use in Finland. A smart building promotes the smart use of energy, ensures good indoor conditions, and brings a wide range of smart services to people’s everyday lives to facilitate working and to make living more comfortable.

Digitalisation and automation offer increasingly diverse opportunities for controlling technology systems in buildings. Established with donated funds, the doctoral school for smart buildings at Aalto University educates experts who have an overall understanding of building services technology and IT systems as well as user needs.

‘Electricity is the future of energy usage. The ongoing energy transition will increase the use of renewable electricity and require smarter buildings that can participate in the demand response of the electricity grid. This requires that a building’s major electricity usage, such as heating, ventilation and lighting, can be controlled even by the second,’ says Jaakko Ketomäki, Professor of Practice. 

In addition to the smart elements required for demand response by buildings, research at the doctoral school focuses on the control of daylight-enhancing lighting, building automation data analysis and methods for assessing the smart elements of buildings.

The doctoral school engages in active corporate collaboration, the goal of which is close networking between students and companies. Collaboration also makes it possible to find research questions that will advance the field and which future experts will begin to solve. ‘We are very grateful for the donations we have received at the doctoral school to help us educate new experts in our field,’ Ketomäki says.

Sofia Guridi textile

Design makes textiles smart

In her doctoral dissertation, Master of Arts Sofia Guridi, doctoral student at the Aalto University Bioinnovation Center, is developing a computational fabric that has integrated sensors for monitoring human body functions.

‘The goal is to create a new kind of fabric from bio-based functional materials that collects and processes data and uses it to generate a desired interaction. This requires knowledge about textile structures, fibres and people as users and wearers of textiles.’

In addition to design and materials sciences, the research project features expertise in electronics and artificial intelligence. Guridi is especially inspired by the interdisciplinary nature of the doctoral school at the Bioinnovation Center. ‘Our group of six includes two designers. Combining science and design and working together is a great way to develop technology.’

Aalto-yliopisto: yrittäjyys ja start-upit

Entrepreneur-driven assistance to humanitarian crises

Anastasia Koptsyukh, a Ukrainian-born doctoral student of entrepreneurship at Aalto University, wants to have her doctoral dissertation contribute to helping people who have been driven from their homes by war.

‘I am researching societal business and entrepreneur-driven initiatives that support people in global crises when things need to happen quickly and efficiently. I am investigating the funding and development of centres helping refugees and other support projects and their impact on other organisations,’ says Koptsyukh. ‘A doctoral dissertation is a rewarding but also a very challenging journey. I want to achieve great things.’

Koptsyukh is one of the 15 students of the entrepreneurship doctoral programme whose interdisciplinary research promotes sustainable entrepreneurship, bottom-up societal innovation and entrepreneurship for the underprivileged, among other things.

‘Donations have a significant impact on developing our programme and on being able to attract talented students from Finland and the world,’ says head of the doctoral programme for entrepreneurship, Associate Professor Ewald Kibler.

Text: Marjukka Puolakka

Warm thanks to the supporters of the doctoral schools:

  • Bioinnovation Center: Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation
  • Quantum technology: Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, Nokia
  • Entrepreneurship: Yrjö Uitto Foundation
  • Smart buildings technology: Caverion, Finnish Association of Civil Engineers RIL, Finnish Electrotechnical Trade Association STK, Granlund, Helvar, K.V. Lindholm Foundation, Ramboll Finland, The Centre for Electrical Engineering and Energy Efficiency STEK, The Electrical Contractors’ Association STUL

For more information on donating to the founding of a thematic doctoral school, please contact:

 Sinikka Heikkala

Sinikka Heikkala

Head of Donor Engagement
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