Conferment ceremony welcomed new doctors to the academic community

President Ilkka Niemelä hopes the new doctoral graduates maintain a connection with their alma mater in the future.

The Aalto University schools of technology held their fifth joint Ceremonial Conferment of Doctoral Degrees in the renovated Dipoli on Friday 15 June.

The ceremonial conferment is the most prestigious of the university's academic celebrations, as it serves to introduce fresh doctoral graduates as full members of the scientific community. Seven honorary doctorates, 421 doctorates and 21 jubilee doctorates were conferred in the 2018 ceremony.

President Ilkka Niemelä, Dean Gary Marquis and conferrer Kirsi Virrantaus arrive at the conferment ceremony.

The 2018 conferment was organised by the School of Engineering. In his address, Dean Gary Marquis remarked that the training of researchers and future professors is not the sole purpose of doctoral education. 

'As the complexity of challenges to society and industry has grown, the demand for highly skilled problem-solvers has increased beyond universities as well. Our target is to educate leaders with integrity and responsibility who can tackle global challenges through scientific methods, creativity and passion', Marquis said.

More women complete doctoral degrees in technology

Professor Kirsi Virrantaus of the Department of Built Environment served as conferrer – the first woman to do so in Otaniemi conferment history.

'Those who today receive the title of jubilee doctor received their doctorates in 1967 or 1968. Back then, their class of thirty-one graduates included one woman. In the era of Aalto University, a quarter of doctorates in technology have been conferred to women. For women, family and studies are no longer mutually exclusive, as it is possible to combine family life with a researcher’s career', Virrantaus said in the conferrer's address.

In addition to the new graduates and jubilee doctors, the event celebrated seven individuals who received honorary doctorates in recognition of their efforts toward advancing science, technology and society.

Conferrer Kirsi Virrantaus presents Lea Kauppi with the insignia of the doctoral degree, a doctoral hat of technology. Kauppi was one of the seven recipients of honorary doctorates in the ceremony.

The recipients of honorary doctorates in the 2018 conferment: Professor Jon Crowcroft (on stage when the photo was taken), Director General Lea Kauppi (left), Architect Kaarina Löfström, Professor Hüseyin Şehitoğlu, Professor John Shawe-Taylor, Chairman of the Board Risto Siilasmaa and Professor Ichiro Terasaki.

Evening party

The evening event featured the young doctor's address, given by Jairan Nafar Dastgerdi, who completed her doctorate in solid mechanics in the autumn of 2016. She credited completing her doctorate with bolstering her confidence and increasing her ability to communicate about her field of study.

'Aalto University has provided me with an ideal multicultural scientific society. It has been easy for me to work without experiencing prejudice or discrimination. It has been important for me that I have been evaluated only on my performance and abilities', Nafar Dastgerdi said.

In his speech, President Ilkka Niemelä spoke of a passion for learning, one of Aalto University's values that have led to success in the university's focus areas of research. 

'This shows clearly in the increasing high quality of Aalto researchers’ publications and in exciting breakthroughs and innovations. Consequently, we see growing international recognition of our work demonstrated for example by the remarkable rise in the international university rankings relevant for Aalto. Especially the doctoral students have played an important role in this', Niemelä said.

'Grand challenges such as global warming, need for sustainable materials and sources of energy, healthcare needs of the aging population, problems of urbanisation, are all becoming more and more severe. These challenges require systemic comprehensive solutions based on the latest research based results and insights.'

'I feel strongly that we must all join forces to tackle problems. Dear newly conferred doctors, your capabilities and competencies are greatly needed', Niemelä remarked.

Jubilee doctor and emeritus professor Martti Mikkola reminisced about the development of engineers' calculation tools from the 1960s to today. Mikkola's dissertation in the field of structural engineering focused on structural analysis, which required solving nonlinear systems of equations. To solve them numerically through iterative methods would have been almost impossible without the aid of computers.

'In spite of these powerful tools, I believe that the most important factor in successful research is the human mind, the ardent desire to search for new knowledge, to recognize and to attack new problems and the capability to invent new solutions', Mikkola said.

The title of jubilee doctor (doctor jubilaris) may be conferred upon a person who completed their doctorate 50 years prior.

The jubilee doctors honoured in the 2018 conferment were Yehia Said Mahmoud Hossny El-Mahgary (1968), Olli-Pekka Hartikainen (1967), Ashwinkumar Chandrakant Jani (1968), Eero Tapio Kajosaari (1968), Kalevi Juhani Kalliomäki (1968 ), Pauli Juhani Karttunen (1968), Matti Ketola (1968), Veikko Kalervo Lindroos (1968), Veli Sulevi Johannes Lyly (1968), Martti Juhani Mikkola (1967), Aito Ilmo Ojala (1968), Anders Palmgren (1968), Hermann Nikolai Victor Parland (1968), Heikki Osmo Olavi Puolakka (1967), Matts Gustav Wilhelm Roos (1967), Sampo Edvard Ruuth (1967), Aulis Veli A Saarinen (1968), Folke Johan Evald Stenman (1967), Turkka Olavi Tuomi (1968), Nils Arthur Törnqvist (1968) and Otto Gösta Wahlgren (1967).

The evening included ballroom dancing led by the masters of ceremonies, assistant professors Jarkko Niiranen and Heidi Salonen. The dance floor got to be quite crowded, as over 450 guests had signed up for the event.

For more information about the honorary doctorates in the 2018 conferment, please visit

Photography: Heli Sorjonen / Aalto University

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