Riina Ahtiainen fulfilled her dream of a dissertation at a young age
Why did you want to study chemical engineering?
I've always liked to develop something new; I like problem solving and research. I graduated with a Master's degree in Engineering from Lappeenranta University of Technology in 2009 and a Master of Mechanical Engineering in 2014. Hydrometallurgy is a young field of science and it offers a lot of challenges. That's why I chose it as the subject of my doctoral thesis, and of course I am also working with the same topics.
Why did you want to continue your studies after your master's degree?
I've always been wanting to do a doctoral thesis. When I finished my studies in chemical engineering, I didn't feel ready for doctoral studies. After graduating with Master of Mechanical Engineering, my colleague Mari Lundström suggested that I should take a doctoral thesis.
What was interesting about doctoral studies?
Challenges and my attire to find something new. Finding new information inspires and motivates me. I am perseverant by nature, so to excel and challenge myself has to do with this. I wanted to see if I could do it.
How are doctoral studies different from a master's degree?
When you're doing doctoral studies, you realize how little you know. However, doctoral studies have brought me confidence in my own competence, for example through writing and studying all the articles. I have now developed especially on the academic side, i.e. learned to write and process the results. I've evolved as a scientist. There is just something in research and finding out new things.
What made you apply to Aalto University?
I knew I was going to do a doctoral thesis some time, maybe closer to my retirement days. I started working at Outotec in 2011, i.e. at the same time as I was doing my M.Sc. degree in Mechanical Engineering. Assistant Professor Mari Lundström was a colleague of mine at Outotec and the schedule of the dissertation was brought to an early end. I guess one can say that Mari brought me to Aalto University.
What does education mean to you?
Challenges and opportunities. The fact that I've studied for a second Master’s degree reflects perseverance. Studying has been a good opportunity to develop myself and challenge myself, to test one's own will and character.
What does a typical workday look like to you?
I am working on topics related to the treatment of the hydrometallurgy of gold and valuable metals at Metso Outotec. The topic of the dissertation is closely related to my work and I have received a lot of support from my employer for the doctoral thesis.
I work mainly on a computer, not in a lab. In practice, my work includes, for example, writing laboratory instructions, processing and reporting results, modelling, customer meetings and internal meetings. My work is very varied, broad-ranging and covers different areas of research.
What do you want to achieve in your career?
The aim is to ensure that I would be such an expert in my own area of specialty that I would be the one whose opinion is being asked and that I also could answer various questions. I want to be a solid expert in my own field.
What would be your advice to those interested in doctoral studies at Aalto University?
Doctoral studies are worth to be undertaken, it is an amazing journey. At the same time, you learn a lot and at best you can make good friends and colleagues. Of course, in addition to the day job, writing a doctoral thesis requires determination.
Riina Ahtiainen defended her doctoral thesis on 9 October 2020 and the topic of the dissertation was ”Development of chloride-based processing of free-milling and refractory gold ores and concentrates”.