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A doctorate prepares you for a career in industry, too

For Antti Alahäivälä, doctoral studies were a day job that allowed him to focus on interesting research and self-development. His dissertation provided a strong foundation for his current work at Wärtsilä.
Aalto university school of electrical engineering alumnus antti alahäivälä
School of Electrical Engineering Antti Alahäivälä. Photo source: Antti Alahäivälä

You received a Doctor of Science (Technology) degree in 2017 from the Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering. What was the topic of your research?

I researched flexibility in demand for electricity – or more precisely, the use of electric heating in maintaining stability in the power system. I also took a broader look at topics such as electric cars, energy storage, and wind and solar power. I developed methods for steering demand for electricity to shift consumption to periods, when there is more solar and wind energy available.

My research was part of a larger project focused on the guidance of smart electrical grids. The project was part of a cross-disciplinary research programme at Aalto University, bringing together researchers from different fields to solve problems related to energy efficiency.

How did the doctoral studies differ from master's studies?

Doctoral studies comprise producing a thesis (research) as well as studies that support it. The courses are largely the same as with master's studies, and I selected courses that included theories and methods that I would need in my research. I was also able to include some courses abroad into my studies. 

As a workplace, a university is youthful, international, and flexible

Antti Alahäivälä

Writing my thesis was nevertheless completely different from the master's studies. Research was my daily work for me. I went to work at eight, left at four, and I was paid once a month. I chose this working method myself, as it offered me peace of mind: this way, I would probably get my thesis finished in time.

However, doctoral students’ total working hours system is very flexible, and one can largely decide on working hours and holidays independently. I utilised the flexibility offered by my work contract when traveling, for example.

What was it like to work in the research group?

Work in my research group was quite independent. I could select research methods and research problems that interested me. However, I got assistance and sparring help from my supervisor, workmates, other researchers in the project, and from networks that I build through my work. Freedom within the group is helpful in guiding one's own work. 

The best thing was the community, which comprised like-minded people. There was hardly anything that was superfluous, nor were there any signs of splintering of work activities. I was able to concentrate on developing myself and on my research, which was mostly extremely interesting. 

Did you get international experience in your doctoral studies?

I went to international conferences to present findings from my research. Our research project also organised seminars once or twice a year presenting findings, while working on ideas for the future. I completed part of my studies abroad in intensive courses lasting about a week. Courses in Italy or Portugal, for example, tended to be a more pleasant way of getting a few credits than taking a six-month course with lectures, exercises, practice work, and exams.

How did your doctoral studies help you in your career?

I work at Wärtsilä's Energy Business as the Business Development Manager. In practice I largely do analysis connected with power systems. I study the future development of a country's electricity production and how the technologies of our company might be suitable for such a future. The work is very international and has taken me around the world.

The topic of my doctoral research is closely connected with my present job, as increasing flexibility in the power system is a central part of the solutions offered by Wärtsilä - that is, the value brought by engine power plants and battery storage. In my research I coded many kinds of optimisation problems and this has also helped me embrace tools that utilise optimisation, which I now use in my work.

My work involves projects that are relatively long and full of problems that need solving, and the result is often not clear at the beginning of the project. I feel that my dissertation has taught me survival skills in the midst of long-term uncertainty.

While doing the research I also learned to read the literature in my field, and I became acquainted with the most important publications. This makes it easier to follow developments in the field and to maintain my own expertise.

What would you say to someone who is considering doctoral studies?

I can warmly recommend postgraduate studies. It is certainly a good idea to select an interesting and motivating topic, because a fair amount of time will be spent with it. It is also a good idea to take a moment for self-reflection, as doing research requires will power and self-discipline. As a workplace, a university is youthful, international, and flexible from a postgraduate student's point of view. I did not see the pay as problematic either, especially considering that it is possible also to apply for grants, and bonuses were paid for published articles.

Read more about doctoral studies

Do you want to become an expert in your field? Doctoral programme at the School of Electrical Engineering prepares you to work in demanding research and expert positions at universities and other research organisations, companies, in public administration or as an entrepreneur.

Students at Aalto University

Being a doctoral student at Aalto

All you need to know about your doctoral research journey at Aalto University

Study at Aalto
Unto Rautio

School of Electrical Engineering graduates in working life

School of Electrical Engineering Master's graduates are successful in finding jobs corresponding to their education. On this page you can find information on job titles, job sectors and career development of our graduates.

School of Electrical Engineering
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