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Jukka Seppälä appointed Aalto Distinguished Professor

Seppälä specialises in polymer engineering especially in biopolymers. They are needed as alternatives for conventional plastics, and they can be new functional materials both in engineering and in medical applications. Seppälä's enthusiasm for chemistry emerged already in a club he attended at school, and it has continued through a long, versatile, and successful career.
Jukka Seppälä

Jukka Seppälä, Professor of Polymer Technology at the School of Chemical Engineering at Aalto University, was appointed as Aalto Distinguished Professor at the opening ceremonies of the academic year on 6 September. The title can be bestowed on a professor whose scientific achievements are exceptionally significant.

Seppälä specialises in polymer science and engineering, especially in biopolymer research. Biopolymers are based on renewable raw materials, and they can also be biodegradable. They have important applications in replacing traditional plastics in everyday uses, but they can also serve as advanced functional materials or medical biomaterials.

Seppälä emphasises that knowledge of chemical engineering is essential in resolving the great challenges that confront society.

‘Above all, these include the transition from fossil-based to bio-based raw materials, the development of circular solutions, and the possibilities of green energy in the production of carbon-neutral materials. The latter is linked with the capture of carbon dioxide and with the production and use of hydrogen’, Seppälä says.

Great disruptions also affect the manufacture and use of polymer-based materials.

‘We urgently need new solutions! To achieve this, we need understanding of the whole value chain. This involves raw materials production, the manufacture and use of materials, and solutions for the final phases of the life cycles’, Seppälä emphasises.

The research group headed by Jukka Seppälä has extensive contacts with actors in the field and the corporate world. The research has resulted to many inventions and innovations for the chemical industry and the fields of medical biomaterials. For example, Seppälä was involved at an early stage in developing industrial scale polylactide technology. There biodegradable substitutes for conventional plastics were developed by using bio-based lactic acid. He has also developed medical polymers. These are, for example, bioactive composites that resorb in the body, and polymer materials that release active agents in a controlled manner.

Jukka Seppälä graduated as a Master of Science in Technology at the Helsinki University of Technology (HUT) in 1979.  After graduating he served the Neste Corporation for seven years in various research and development positions. After getting his doctorate he started as an assistant professor at HUT in 1986.

At the University, Seppälä has served as a Head of Unit, Head of Department, and as a Vice Dean. Seppälä has led a Centre of Excellence at the Academy of Finland, worked as head of the National Bioeconomy Infrastructure and as an Academy Professor of the Academy of Finland. His 420 peer-reviewed publications have been cited around 12,000 times and he is one of the inventors in more than 50 invention and patent families. Seppälä has supervised more than 200 master's theses and about 40 doctoral dissertations.

Seppälä's enthusiasm for chemistry emerged already during high school years, especially at Nitro, his school's exciting chemistry club.

‘The role of schools and university teachers is truly significant when inspiring children and young people to take up science and technology. We should pass on the understanding that chemistry knowledge is a key to improved well-being and disruptive sustainable solutions. I hope that we can get still a better understanding in our society for the importance of science, research, and innovations’, Seppälä says.

Provosti, rehtori ja Jukka Seppälä

The role of schools and university teachers is truly significant when inspiring children and young people to take up science and technology.

Jukka Seppälä
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Group led by Professor Jukka Seppälä

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