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Alumnus of the year Kari Knuutila: Aalto University looks far into the future

According to the Alumnus of the year of the School of Chemical Engineering, in industry one can see sustainable development become business.
Kristiina Kruus ja Kari Knuutila
The Dean of the School of Chemical Engineering Kristiina Kruus and the Alumnus of the Year Kari Knuutila.

Doctor of Science Kari Knuutila has been awarded the 2019 Alumnus of the Year by the School of Chemical Engineering. Knuutila now works as Chief Technology Officer at Outotec and has cooperated closely with Aalto University and the School of Chemical Engineering throughout his career. He has had a special impact on the strategically important research of metallurgy as well as the general development of the School.

Knuutila graduated with a Master of Science in 1982 and received his doctorate in 1989. When he looks back at his own studies, he recalls cooperation and working together.

“The traditional Vappu celebrations on the 30th of April are definitely something to remember. All in all, I appreciate and reminisce about everything that was done together inside this community.”

He thinks that multidisciplinary cooperation among schools, students, researchers and companies is crucial. Knuutila mentions that when he was studying, cooperation between different fields was not that common. People worked more in silos and stayed in their own fields.

“I was an exception among metallurgy students studying chemistry as a minor. Now, all these departments are working together here. I see that as a strength.”

According to Knuutila, such cross-field cooperation is essential to get young people interested and motivated to study mathematics, chemistry and physics already in school. That is the only way to get enough talented students into the field for the future.

In the broad field of Chemical Engineering, there are loads of career opportunities, and the overall situation in the labor market is good for graduates. Working in industry is a way to apply natural science and different phenomena in practice. According to Knuutila, industries also have a significant role in promoting sustainable development and circular economy.

“Industry is a platform in which one can make more sustainable solutions to break through and to see them become business”, Knuutila says.

At the moment, Knuutila sees special global significance in the research of new sustainable materials. When it comes to electric cars, for example, we must find new, more sustainable, and more common alternatives for scarce battery chemicals.

“This is exactly what people are doing at Aalto University. You are gazing long into the future, not only at the current needs of industries.”

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