Interviewing supervisor

As I already wrote to me working environment is incredibly important. And the most important thing to me – is trust and respect of the supervisor.

So today I want to tell you about the leader of our research group prof. Matti Haukka. Actually in our group nobody uses “professor” talking to Matti. Only for official cases. But the atmosphere within group is so that we don’t use official titles. But let me tell you more about my supervisor.

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First of all, he doesn’t like when somebody says he’s a group leader. However, he is one of the best supervisors I ever had. Secondly, Matti is wise, honest, and always open to discussion. He is very creative and he generates new ideas for research very fast. But the best quality of my supervisor is the ability to inspire. He knows the key to every group member and knows right words to ignite back extinct sparkle of inspiration.

So I decided to stop by and ask Matti several non-scientific questions, so you would get a hint what kind of person my supervisor is.


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Where are you from and when did you become a professor?

I am from Imatra and I live in Jyväskylä around 6 years already. I became a professor in 2008 in the University of Joensuu, which now is the University of Eastern Finland.

– What was the weirdest food you have tried?

– A thousand-year egg in Taiwan. It’s berried in the ground for some time. It looks like black and transparent. It tasted exactly as an egg though.

– What are 5 important things in life?

– That’s a difficult one! Family, of course, is first. Next… Well. It’s difficult! Maybe work goes after that. I like to work. But is there anything else? I don’t have hobbies, I don’t like travelling and anything like that.  I have to, because of work though.

– How would you describe science in 3 words?

– Way to see the world.

– What’s your motto?

– Nothing is THAT important.

– What do you think is your biggest achievement?

– Family. (He was very fast answering this question)

– What advice would you give to a person who is just deciding to become a scientist?

– Be honest to what you are really interested in.

– Why did you become chemist?

– Accidentally. It just happened. It was never my goal. But I never had a certain one… It’s not unusual I think. From the daycare time kids have been asked who do they want to become. But usually they answer just something to  make adults happy. I didn’t have any strong feeling about chemistry or science in general. I liked history, biology and just some practical things. I think it’s possible to learn to like things. And if you are curious then you look deep and deeper. If you look deep enough you can find all kind of interesting stuff.  For me it just happened to be chemistry. It was just easy. I couldn’t get to study history or biology, but chemistry was easy.

– What are the best and the worst things in research?

– Well, the best is when research is rewarding. But what could be the worst thing? If you don’t learn anything. Errors are fine by me, you still can learn with that. But learning nothing – it’s boring! It’s useless.


Matti is a simple man – he doesn’t care about expensive toys, and I really like his office, because it feels very cosy and welcome in there, even though it’s an office.

I don’t know what is it: samples and books on the shells,

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or his kids photos (even the group picture is there with the sign whoosh),

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or toys around the place.

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It’s just a spirit of research you will feel the minute you step in his office.

And what is your supervisor like?

 

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My chemistry family

If you want research to go well you must have a good working atmosphere. The best situation is your research group being your second family.

I joined Extended Molecular Systems (EMS) research group in 2014 and I’m happy to be a part of it. We all study different things, but weak interactions – is the thing that connects our research. And, of course, our group leader. So let me tell you about EMS research group.

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Group leader. When I first met Matti Haukka I was charmed of his manner of speaking. He spoke clearly, picking right words to explain difficult things easily. And I saw a sparkle in his eyes when he was talking about science. He did not only new things he was talking about, he was very enthusiastic about them. What more than inspiration and experience would you need from your research group?

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Group members. We are a small, but proud group. We are so proud we’ve got our own instagram to show the world how cool we are. XD Our group now consists of 1 professor, 1 university teacher, and 7 PhD students;6 male and 3 female researchers; 5 Finns, 1 Indian, 3 Russians. What a diversity! What I personally like about our group is the support and kind advice we get from each other. We are all more experience in certain areas, but we like to share that experience. We teach each other new techniques, we share latest scientific news and we drink coffee together.

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Group meetings. Every two weeks our group has a group meeting, where half of the group presents current results or an interesting paper. And we have tea with candies and cookies, what a paradise! That’s very helpful, because sugar helps brain to proceed better. =) At the presentations we are helping each other by commenting what might have been improved or modified. We’re saying something supportive, if experiment doesn’t work. And then we eat more candies and cookies, because they help to become happier too!

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Group events. 3 years already our group plans a trip to Saint Petersburg. It never will happen I guess, because everyone has such a different schedule. But we do have bbq parties every year, and birthday cakes for every group member.

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The best situation is when for a scientist research group is a second family. So I am lucky to say it is so for me.

Beauty demands sacrifices

In Russia there is an interesting idiom: beauty demands sacrifices. I know myself it is damn true. For example, I have to use a lot of makeup to feel myself beautiful. It takes a lot of time to apply it, than to keep it fine, than to wash it off my face. Make up gives me self-confidence, however it is super annoying to do it as a routine.

Other thing that I have to sacrifice to look beautiful is my meals. I have to always plan what I will eat and be very strict to myself to avoid gluttony and therefore overweighting. And if I break these restrictions I will definitely REALLY break them eating a lot of forbidden things. Of course after that I will feel myself miserable and guilty.

All that stress that I’ve got because of my own standards is a painful price to beauty. And I’m not the only person who is ready to sacrifice  on the  altar of beauty. Such a silly decision made by millions and millions of people every single day all around the world. But it makes us feel good…

So let me quickly show you couple of pictures I’ve taken at -20 C outside with my friend Natasha. She really wanted to have lovely winterish photos, but the temperature outside the day we decided to shoot was FREEEEEEEEEEEZING. However, afterwards we decided that this sacrifice was a good one.

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And what are you sacrificing for beauty?