1/2011

Anna brings a breath of fresh air
to biotechnology research

Anna Kaksonen

Dr Kaksonen joined CSIRO in 2009 after working
for ten years at Tampere University of
Technology, Finland.

"My motivation comes from the positive environmental effects of our research, as we're looking for ways to cut emissions and save energy. Funding and the development of new research strategies are the main challenges," says Dr Anna Kaksonen. 

Australia has dominated the headlines for much of this year, as bushfires and flooding have plagued the country. The south-west regions have mainly remained unaffected by the natural disasters, but Perth-based Dr Anna Kaksonen has followed the news closely. She works as a senior research scientist at the Australian Commonwealth and Scientific Research Organization CSIRO whose chief has kept her staff informed of the flood situation every week.

"I've been only indirectly affected by the flooding, as some of my friends and colleagues live in the afflicted areas," says Kaksonen. Professionally, she is driven by her passion for exploring how technology can help the environment. She works as the research team leader in the Environmental and Industrial Biotechnology Team of CSIRO Land and Water Division's Water Reuse and Environmental Process Engineering Program. At the moment, funding and finding new project ideas are her main concerns.

"I'm also working on next year's budget and staff allocations, and negotiating the renovation of our team's laboratory facilities."

Challenging start

The main research interests of Kaksonen's team lie in the bioleaching of metals from minerals, biotechnological treatment of industrial and residential wastewaters, drinking water microbiology, biofilm sensors and biocorrosion. The situation looks quite different than in 2009 when Kaksonen first joined the ranks of CSIRO. Her predecessor had left the organization six months earlier, and it was up to Kaksonen to inject fresh enthusiasm into CSIRO's dwindling environmental and biotechnology research. This she accomplished with flying colours.

"The team has doubled in size in less than two years and together we've succeeded in launching new research areas. It's great that the team members are motivated to work together and give positive feedback to each other."

A profound interest in the environment, humanities and natural sciences brought Anna Kaksonen first to the University of Helsinki to study environmental science policy and then to TUT to pursue a degree in environmental biotechnology. She was given the opportunity to get involved in international research projects while still a student at TUT, which served as an impetus to seek a career in research.

WHO: Anna Kaksonen, 36

  • Title: senior research scientist, research team leader
  • Grew up in: Tampere
  • Studies: graduated as a Master of Science in Agriculture and Forestry from the University of Helsinki in 1999, and as a Master of Science in Technology from TUT in 2001 and Doctor of Technology in 2004.
  • Career at TUT: research assistant 1999; researcher 1999 - 2004; senior researcher 2005 - 2009; adjunct professor of environmental biotechnology 2007-.
  • Career at CSIRO: visiting researcher in 2001 - 2002, senior research scientist and research team leader since 2009.
  • Most important cooperation partners: researchers from other universities in Perth (University of Western Australia, Murdoch University, Curtin University of Technology) and abroad (Finland, Turkey, China, USA and Japan), mining companies and water utilities.
  • Hobbies: I teach at a Sunday school for 3 to 5-year-olds and am actively involved in church activities. I exercise, read and spend time with my friends.
  • Interesting titbit: I'm better at cooking for microbes that for myself ;-)

Esteemed research career

Kaksonen graduated as a Master of Science in Technology in 2001. She completed her doctorate in 2004, receiving awards for the best doctoral dissertation in both technology and environmental sciences.

"I was glad that my dissertation was seen to benefit mining and metal industry."

While doing her doctorate at TUT, Anna jumped at the chance to work as a visiting scientist at CSIRO in 2001-2002.

"I spent about eighteen months at CSIRO developing a biological sulphate reduction process for treating mine wastewaters. After my research visit ended and I came back to Finland, I continued collaborating with CSIRO and developed sulphate-reducing fluidized bed reactors for the treatment of acidic metal- and sulphate-containing groundwater."

Anna was appointed as a senior researcher at TUT in 2005 and as a docent in environmental biotechnology in 2007. She has also worked as a part-time lecturer and thesis supervisor. She got an opportunity to rejoin CSIRO after one of the students, whose thesis writing process she supervised, was working at CSIRO as a visiting scientist.

"When I visited her at CSIRO, they asked me if I would be interested in applying for a position as a research team leader. My earlier experiences of CSIRO and Australia were overwhelmingly positive and I was eager to pursue international experiences and new challenges, so I applied and was hired."

Kaksonen will continue research into environmental and industrial biotechnology by exploring mining-related biotechnology, drinking water microbiology and the treatment of sewage and industrial wastewaters. She still maintains close ties with TUT. She has, among others, co-authored publications with researchers from the Department of Chemistry and Bioengineering.

 

CSIRO - Australian Commonwealth and Scientific Research Organisation

Commonwealth and Scientific Research Organisation - CSIRO is one of the world's largest and most diverse research organizations.

CSIRO's research is performed by 13 business units that focus on ten National Research Flagships relating to climate change, energy, agriculture, food production, manufacturing, light metals, minerals, health and well-being, water and oceans.

CSIRO conducts both publicly and privately funded research.

Similarly as the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, CSIRO is a matrix organization. The related bureaucracy may at first seem complex, but on the other hand the matrix structure enables collaboration with professionals from different fields.

Read more: www.csiro.au

 

Text: Marjut Kemiläinen
Photo: Anna Kaksonen`s archive

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