Get to know us: Emeritus Professor Olof Forsén

In this interview we got to know more about Olof Forsén. His academic career has lasted over 40 years and he is an emeritus professor. He has seen how the academic surroundings have become more international during the years. What's his tips for everyone? Let's hear more!
Olof smiling
Photo: Anni Hanén

What does it mean to be an emeritus professor? 

It’s an honorary title; a person with outstanding merit and full professorship may be bestowed the title emeritus professor upon their retirement. I get to retain my office space and some other privileges while coaching diploma and doctorate thesis students. Moreover, I help our research group with my connections to the industry and both domestic and international research groups. Even though it’s not a paid position, I enjoy talking and being social so this sort of work after my retirement is quite nice.

How has research work changed during your time? 

It has become more international. We collaborate with researchers from for example Germany if we do not have some equipment. This way not every laboratory needs to buy all of the new technology in the ever-evolving field of science. However, the collaboration means the other group gets recognition in the publication, so it ends up being win-win for both parties. Looking for these win-win scenarios is important to satisfy our needs and to keep others happy as well.

What have been the advantages of being a multilingual researcher? 

As said, the researching world has become much more international. However, it has always been useful to know other languages apart from English. Many great memories, projects, and master’s thesis positions have been made in a bar after the official conferences and meetings held in English. People are just much more likely to gather around people talking in their native language. As an engineer, you’re always selling your skills, your company’s products, and research projects to others. There is a saying that you can buy anything in English but to sell effectively, you need to know the buyer’s language. In conclusion, I wholeheartedly suggest you pick up some language skills along your studies. 

Do you still take part in the teekkari culture? 

I used to be the Oltermanni of our guild, Mining and metallurgy (Vuorimieskilta), which is a position for a professor to help and guide the younger guildmembers and leaders. Kind of coincides with my current work tasks! Nowadays, I like to take part in the Wappu (Mayday) lunch. I get to meet so many old friends, as we are usually over 200 people, and drink and eat together. Also, I’ve got great memories of the beer rally, which is also a Wappu event arranged by our guild!

What do you hope to see in the future? 

We need to move from linear economy to circular economy by carefully planning out the lifecycles of products. We must make the product from efficient primary or secondary sources, make it longlasting and be repairable, and finally, it needs to be easy to effectively recycle. Our society doesn’t consume inorganic materials like plastic or metals in the same manner we consume food or electricity; most products made of inorganic material aren’t degraded beyond recyclability. They can and must be reabsorbed into the production process after the products they made up cease to function. Only this way can we answer the growing demand for technology everywhere. Nowadays, technology uses a lot of different metals, so when we recycle a new car with built-in computers, touchscreens and what not, the process is much harder. Maybe we shouldn’t strive to make every product digitally capable, but make them simple and smart, serving their primary purpose without extra flare. However, we need to also improve our primary sources for raw materials by using less energy, less polluting reagents, and try to achieve higher yields. 

This interview is conducted by Aleksanteri Kupi who has been working during the summer at the School of Chemical Engineering. 

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