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Geoinformatics and space technology expert Jarkko Koskinen, Alumnus of the Year 2021

"Spatial data is in the middle of some massive developments and geoinformatics experts are more sought-after than ever. Some of the largest companies in the world, such as Google, Microsoft, Apple and Huawei currently count spatial data among their fields of business. With the advances in robotisation and digitalisation, accurate and high-quality real-time spatial and position data are needed everywhere", says Koskinen.
Jarkko Koskinen, Vuoden alumni 2021
Alumnus of the Year 2021, Professor Jarkko Koskinen, deputy director-general of the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute. Photo: Ilona Savola

Professor Jarkko Koskinen, deputy director-general of the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute FGI (part of the National Land Survey of Finland) has been named Alumnus of the Year 2021 by the Aalto University School of Engineering. He is the sixth Alumnus of the Year chosen by the school.

'Jarkko Koskinen is an internationally recognised geoinformatics expert who has made the field better known in Finland and worked actively to advance co-operation between stakeholders and Aalto University,' said School of Engineering Dean Gary Marquis.

'Koskinen has promoted remote sensing and spatial data methods in both science and the society in general. He has visited schools to encourage students to study the basics of the field: natural sciences, mathematics and information technology. As a visiting speaker at master's student orientation of the School of Engineering, he has also helped students access summer internships in the field and become research assistants further down the line.'

Jarkko Koskinen has had a perfect view of the rapid growth of his field.

'Spatial data is in the middle of some massive developments and geoinformatics experts are more sought-after than ever. Some of the largest companies in the world, such as Google, Microsoft, Apple and Huawei currently count spatial data among their fields of business. With the advances in robotisation and digitalisation, accurate and high-quality real-time spatial and position data are needed everywhere. There is a ton of work to be done in this field,' he says.

From snow to a distinguished career

Jarkko Koskinen graduated as a Master of Science in Technology from the Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying at Helsinki University of Technology in 1994. His master's thesis dealt with the remote sensing of snow through synthetic-aperture radar imaging. He completed his Doctor of Science in Technology degree in 2001 at HUT's Department of Electrical and Communication Engineering. In his doctoral research, Koskinen monitored the melting of snow with microwave radar and developed a method that formed part of the foundation for the operative monitoring of melting snow at the Finnish Environment Institute.

Koskinen has a wealth of international working experience, which he began to accrue while finishing his doctorate, with postings at the ESA Centre for Earth Observation (ESRIN) in Italy and NASA in California. In 2000, he returned to the Finnish Environment Institute, from which he moved on to coordinate Finland's national remote sensing programme and international cooperation at Tekes. Koskinen then served as a research professor at the Finnish Meteorological Institute for eight years (2003–2011), working in remote sensing, weather satellites and weather radar. In 2011, he was appointed deputy director-general at the Finnish Geodetic Institute, which became part of the National Land Survey of Finland in 2015 as the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI). Koskinen thus became a deputy director-general in the National Land Survey of Finland, serving as the head of FGI.

He has also held numerous positions of trust in Finland and abroad. Currently, he is a delegate of the European Space Agency and member of the Scientific Advisory Board for Defence and the Finnish Academy for Sciences and Letters.

Aalto University's School of Engineering appoints the Alumnus of the Year to support the school's work with stakeholders and thus promotes discussion between the school and alumni with societal influence. This year was the sixth time the School of Engineering chose the Alumnus of the Year.

geoinformatics

Get to know Jarkko Koskinen, School of Engineering Alumnus of the Year 2021

Could you tell us about yourself and your career path? How did you become an expert in spatial data?

It's all a great coincidence. When I was living in Loimaa, my father encouraged me to pursue a summer job as a land surveyor, as he was one himself. While working for the Loimaa survey department, I saw how enjoyable the work was, and the surveyor's profession is especially appreciated in rural areas. As I was good at mathematics and natural sciences in school, I decided to apply for surveying studies at Helsinki University of Technology. After the second year of studies, I became interested in photogrammetry and remote sensing and therefore applied for a summer job in the photogrammetry laboratory. Professor Haggren had already filled all vacancies, but he recommended me to apply for the newly opened Laboratory of Space Technology, headed up by Professor Hallikainen. Part of the credit for me getting interested in research and the rapid development of my career surely belongs to these professors, whose contacts helped me participate in interesting projects and international visits.

What is most interesting about the field right now?

Spatial data is in the middle of some massive developments and geoinformatics experts are more sought-after than ever. Some of the largest companies in the world, such as Google, Microsoft, Apple and Huawei currently count spatial data among their fields of business. With the advances in robotisation and digitalisation, accurate and high-quality real-time spatial and position data are needed everywhere. There is a ton of work to be done in this field.

What kinds of career paths can young people expect in the field of geoinformatics?

Geoinformatics is a popular field and experts are a hot commodity in China and the United States. There are plenty of job opportunities. Smart transport, digital twins, robotisation – all these require geoinformatics expertise. Studying geoinformatics now is a great way to become an expert of the future.

Do you have any advice for students considering studies in technology? What should they learn and what skills should they develop for the future?

Technology is a fun field to study and Aalto is an excellent place to do it. Knowing the basics pays and mathematics and physics should be emphasised. Besides those, your own interests, internships and jobs will most likely guide your choice in specialisation.

What did you learn during your studies that was most useful to your career?

The value of friendships and networking. Aalto provides an excellent networking platform for the experts and decisionmakers of the future – it's also worth it to enjoy the student experience while you study.

What do you consider the best climate action?

In climate matters, I am happy to follow the opinions of my previous supervisor, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. I think he has very pragmatic views on what must and should be done.  I believe every one of us can do our part in mitigating climate change and adapting to it.

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