Assistant Professor Anna Mikola: Wastewater treatment is going through a transformation as the water treatment system is being overhauled to meet new requirements

Anna Mikola (b. 1973), D.Sc. (Tech.), has been appointed as assistant professor at the Aalto University Department of Built Environment for the period 1 June 2022–31 May 2026. The field of the professorship is water engineering in the circular economy.
Professori Anna Mikola

The position is part of the Water and Environmental Engineering research group at the Department of Built Environment, School of Engineering.

She has previously worked at Aalto University as Professor of Practice of Municipal Wastewater Treatment, starting in 2018.

Mikola's research interests include the separation of valuable nutrients from wastewater for use as fertiliser through the NPHarvest process. NPHarvest technology can be used to process different types of wastewaters, such as agricultural or municipal wastewater as well as landfill leachate.

Anna Mikola completed her Master of Science in Technology degree at Helsinki University of Technology in 1998 and her doctorate in wastewater treatment at Aalto University in 2003. She has since worked as a part-time post-doctoral researcher at Aalto University, focusing on the treatment of municipal wastewater. Mikola also has over 15 years of experience as a treatment process consultant from Kiuru&Rautiainen Oy and Ramboll.

Five questions

Why did you choose to study wastewater?

Wastewater treatment is going through a transformation as the water treatment system is being overhauled to meet new requirements. Previously, the focus has been mainly on removing pathogens from water to safeguard the health of people and on removing nutrients to protect natural bodies of water. Now we are also trying to capture the energy and nutrients in wastewater efficiently and safely in order to reuse them. This change will require a lot of research and development work, and it's very interesting.

How do you see the field developing in the near future?

New technologies are being introduced to achieve new goals, such as the capture of nutrients and the removal of pharmaceutical substances. At the same time, management of the treatment process is being augmented through further automation, artificial intelligence and new monitoring methods.

Which phenomena are affecting wastewater recycling the most at this moment?

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has made self-sufficiency the number one question with regard to energy and fertilisers. When it comes to ending our dependency on Russia, resources that can be collected from wastewater are part of the solution. Climate change has been a factor for a while longer in making the capture and recycling of wastewater nutrients a desirable goal.

What do you wish to achieve during the next five years?

I hope my research group can spin off a few start-ups that can implement the results of our research at a larger scale and 'make the world a better place'. I also want to educate future circular economy experts for tasks in water treatment in order to make change happen.

What is your favourite part of teaching?

Nothing beats seeing the spark of inspiration and realisation in students' eyes. I believe the work we do is very important, and it's exciting to be able to pass this on to my students.

Contact details:

Anna Mikola
Assistant Professor
Aalto University
[email protected]
tel. 040 717 6552

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