Janne Lindqvist has started as the Head of the Department of Computer Science
Janne Lindqvist has begun his term as the Head of the Department of Computer Science at Aalto University at the beginning of August. He came to Aalto in 2020 after spending most of the last decade at Rutgers University in New Jersey studying human behavior with computer systems and usable security for mobile systems.
The past years at Aalto have been fruitful, as Lindqvist has directed the Helsinki-Aalto Institute for Cybersecurity (HAIC) and helped the Helsinki Institute of Information Technology (HIIT) as a Vice-Director, all the while conducting research on human-computer interaction and security engineering and recently taking charge of the new Engineering Psychology BSc major.
Where is computer science headed?
The discipline has become more humane over the past two decades whilst making both theoretical and practical leaps in science and engineering.
Today’s computer science graduates have so many career options, that it’s essential that we offer them a solid computational and engineering backbone as they enter working life and pursue their aspirations. We also want to prepare students with an understanding of innovative technologies like AI and quantum computing, but also holistic skills to understand the impact of digital technologies on humans and society.
The evolution of the field is reflected in our education, starting from our BSc majors. Our Computer Science and Data Science majors offer strong theoretical and applied science and engineering curriculas with many exciting multidisciplinary connections. The Information Networks major delves into the broader effects of digital technologies while Engineering Psychology combines psychology and computer science to ask, and perhaps answer, how technology could be more human-oriented.
All this, and beyond, is possible because we have outstanding support staff and have recruited world-class scholars to our department.
What expectations do you have for your new role?
We’re the largest and the most beautiful computer science department in Finland.
This also brings a special responsibility to consider what our social footprint really is. I think a key mission for all of us is to make computer science more inclusive and diverse, for it is only through representative role models that we can get more people to consider the field as attractive and accessible. I’ll be working closely with Talayeh Aledavood, who I chose for the new Vice Head of Diversity position at the department.
I’ve always valued intellectual curiosity and I think that different people from different backgrounds can bring fascinating intellectual problems and ways of thinking to the table. This benefits the whole field.
Do you have any highlights in mind for the semester?
I’m looking forward to meeting our folks in person. We have so many brilliant minds and interesting personalities that I believe the department can be a place where chance encounters inspire people. This is actually why we’re planning the new Great Talks event series where especially early-career professors can bring in thought-provoking speakers to talk about topics that unite us and spark discussion.
How do you balance work and other things in life?
I have two fun and smart kids who keep me busy. When we came to Finland, I wanted to make a clear distinction between work and my private life – I’d had enough of answering emails outside of well-defined boundaries and being the superhero professor who flies to the rescue with lasers coming out of my eyes. One of the major challenges in being an academic is that the work has no bounds unless you set them yourself.
I have finally been able to draw my own boundaries. It has shown me that having actual time off from work can feed into one’s creativity and intellectual curiosity. During the summer, I read several books about happiness, emotions, and our brains because the topics seemed interesting. Now I’m really excited about this stuff. I can’t remember the last time I read something out of sheer curiosity, that wasn’t directly related to work.
It’s something I hope all our support staff and academics, and students keep in mind – to also remember to stop and just enjoy life from time to time. Work, research and studies should be enjoyable and meaningful.
Doctor of Science (Tech), Helsinki University of Technology, 2009
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, 2009-2011
Assistant Research Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rutgers University, 2011-2013
Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rutgers University, 2013-2019
Associate Professor (with tenure) of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rutgers University, 2019 - 2020
Associate Professor (with tenure) of Computer Science, Aalto University, 2020 -
Director, Helsinki-Aalto Institute for Cybersecurity (HAIC), 2020 -
Vice-Director, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT), 2020 - 2022