Research to change the world
“Being on the tenure track has allowed me the freedom to develop my research and pursue a long-term agenda. I’m able to explore new perspectives on climate research whilst aligning my research profile with TUT’s portfolio,” Miikka Dal Maso says.
Miikka Dal Maso describes himself as a scientist who wants his work to make a positive contribution to society. After studying atmospheric aerosols in the crisp air of northern forests, Dal Maso is now tracking them in smog-plagued Beijing.
Atmospheric aerosols may be one millionth of a millimetre in diameter and invisible to the naked eye, but they have steered Associate Professor Miikka Dal Maso’s career choices and led to exhilarating moments of discovery. For his dissertation, Dal Maso developed a new method for analysing the formation of atmospheric particles in coniferous forests in the northern hemisphere. The paper in which the method is presented continues to receive citations from all over the world.
The results left a mark on the scientific world. That means a lot to me as a researcher.
“The results left a mark on the scientific world. That means a lot to me as a researcher.”
“The feeling of accomplishment that comes from identifying and understanding a new atmospheric mechanism makes all the hard work worthwhile. It’s rewarding to formulate and confirm a hypothesis that no one else has put into words,” Dal Maso says.
New angle on research
In November 2012, Miikka Dal Maso was hired on TUT’s tenure track that offers researchers a clear career path towards a full professorship.
Dal Maso’s area of expertise, the impact of aerosols on our atmosphere, complements TUT’s long-standing strengths in the characterization of airborne particles generated by traffic, machinery and technology and the environmental impact of fuel emissions.
“We already know that nanoscale particles have a major impact on our environment and health. However, we need a better understanding of the life-cycle of the particles, how they spread through the air and how they change, for example, as a result of exposure to sunlight,” he says.
Associate Professor Miikka Dal Maso
Graduated with a doctoral degree from the Department of Physics at the University of Helsinki in 2006.
Post doc researcher at Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany, in 2007–2008.
Appointment to a tenure track position at the rank of Associate Professor in 2012. The next step on the tenure track is promotion to Full Professor.
Dal Maso was part of an international team of researchers who explored the process whereby aromatic hydrocarbons emitted by coniferous trees contribute to the formation of fine aerosol particles above boreal forests.
Research that builds on the strengths of Dal Maso and other researchers at TUT is currently carried out in China, where major investment plans have been launched to improve air quality. In spring 2014, sensor systems developed by TUT and Tampere-based Pegasor Ltd were installed in Beijing to monitor fine particle concentrations. The sensors will remain in place for six months, gathering data that will be analysed in collaboration with the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences (CRAES).
“There’s an urgent need for more data analysis expertise in China, and we’re under pressure to produce quick results that will lay the foundation for further measures. It’s an enormous challenge, but we’re confident that solutions will be found.”
“It’s imperative to reduce fine particle emissions in China. It will improve not only local air quality but also have ripple effects across the globe. For example, air pollution over Asia makes Pacific storms more intense and may affect rainfall patterns all the way in Africa,” Miikka Dal Maso explains.
Natural continuation of youthful career aspirations
Dal Maso wants his work to make a difference.
“Climate change was beginning to make headlines at the time, and I left high school with a clear sense of the direction my career should take. Of course I was also fired by youthful idealism,” he laughs.
The desire to change the world continues to be a driving force behind Dal Maso’s research.
“The potential to improve the quality of people’s lives is a constant source of motivation. In addition, my position at TUT allows me to contribute to the growth of Finnish cleantech industry and hopefully help companies tap into emerging markets, for example, in China,” he says.
Read an article that appeared in TUT’s science magazine Interface