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A statistician who researches business analytics and common diseases

In his work, Pekka Malo develops methods that can be applied in many areas.
Professor Pekka Malo Photo Anni Hanén
'There is a huge amount of research to be done in health care development. ' Photo: Anni Hanén

Professor Pekka Malo, what do you research and why?

I am a professor of statistics, but my research is very multidisciplinary. It involves both theoretical research as well as more empirical projects. However, almost all my projects are connected to business analytics. In the B2B-AI project, for example, we’re using methods based on machine learning to solve challenges related to marketing between companies. The business-to-business field is a challenging one, because the processes are complex, last long and involve many variables. For example, we are trying to help businesses (e.g., sellers of complicated industrial products) to predict buyer companies’ purchase interests by using large data sets of observed browsing behaviour.

At the same time, I’m also involved in a research project on sleep apnoea. The project is just getting started in collaboration with medical researchers from Turku University Hospital and Auria Clinical Informatics. Sleep apnoea has been labelled as Finland’s new national disease. It is connected to many other conditions, such as diabetes, and the costs of treating it have risen massively. We make use of extensive data sets to develop more cost-effective treatment strategies. In this project, it is important that we work together with the top doctors in the field to ensure the credibility as well as functionality from practitioners’ point of view.

How did you become a researcher?

A certain Professor persuaded me to develop my master’s thesis into a doctoral dissertation. What fascinates me about statistics is that it is exact and strongly theoretical and yet at the same time also has many practical applications. Pure mathematics was fun as well, but a bit too abstract to be my specialization.

What have been the highlights of your career?

I am always very satisfied when I see that the models we have developed have spread and been utilised by others as well – it feels great. It is also very pleasing to get feedback from companies.

What is required from a researcher?

A researcher must have good discipline and focus, because the work is very independent – no one comes to tell you what must be done and when. And, of course, you must really enjoy what you do.

What do you expect from the future?

New problems to solve. There is a huge amount of research to be done in health care development. There are already massive amounts of data but putting it to use is often challenging. What particularly interests me at present is research that has a real social impact. 

Pekka Malo and Aalto’s other new tenured professors will speak about their research at the Installation Talks event to be held on 24 April. We hope to see you there!

See the program here!

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