Meet the InnoLabbers: Johanna Kalliokoski


Image: ”Here is a collage that presents my journey with InnoLab and also gives some hints of my interests. Great moments with wonderful people!”

This series introduces the members of University of Vaasa’s InnoLab research platform. Today we’re meeting Johanna Kalliokoski.

What are you?

I am a project researcher working with multiple different projects, a doctoral student in regional studies, and a project coordinator. In addition, a team player both at work and in leisure time, and someone who loves good music and books.

So you wear many hats, but what exactly do you do at InnoLab?

Depends which project we are talking about, but usually I support InnoLab’s research activities by reading scientific articles and making notes, benchmarking, collecting data, writing project plans and funding applications, arranging workshops, events and meetings, and overall providing a helping hand where needed. On top of that, I also advance my doctoral studies, apply for funding for my own research, and co-author research articles. Consuming large amounts coffee and tea is also part of my daily practices!

Sounds like a lot of work. Why bother?

I have always been a curious person: I wonder how things are and why they are that way. I also want to do work that is meaningful for both the wider society and myself. I have found that, for me being a researcher meets these criteria. Even though there is a lot going on, the nature of my work is independent, and there is always new things to learn and discover.

You’re in the right place, then – but how did you end up there?

It all started with me still being a master’s student here at the University if Vaasa. I was about to start writing my master’s thesis, but I was struggling with where to start: there were so many interesting topics to choose from, but I wanted my work to bring practical value to someone. That is when I learned about the new research platforms the university had founded, including the InnoLab. I knew InnoLab worked with themes I was interested in, and I had followed InnoLab’s director, Mari K. Niemi, on television. I contacted her and asked to be recruited – and I was. I started as a research assistant while still working on my master’s thesis. My thesis has since been used, for example as a reference in some of our project applications, so my wish for practical value came true! Since then things have moved forward quite fast, and now I have just started my doctoral studies. Happy to be here!

Imagine your phone rings. It’s the call you’ve been hoping for – what is it about?

My friend has made me pizza and now they are calling me to make sure they can deliver it – yay!

Jokes aside, I have been applying for funding for my doctoral research. So it would be someone calling me personally to tell that they are funding my awesome research idea about inclusive innovation policy in cities.

Just kidding, it’s actually a journalist. They’re finally doing a story on that one topic you’ve always wanted to give an interview on! What do you say?

If this happened a couple of years in the future, I would love to tell the results of my doctoral research. But for that you still have to be patient and wait for some time! Meanwhile I could discuss the innovation ecosystem here in Vaasa, because that was the topic of my master’s thesis.

We’ll look forward to it! Meanwhile, what would you like to learn more about?

Research-wise, I would of course like to learn more about the topic of my doctoral research, and how to be a better researcher in general – that is why I am undertaking the studies. Other than that I would also like to know more about security policy in cities, as urbanization is accelerating at a fast pace and technology is evolving. These developments create both opportunities and threats. Threats can also emerge from the cities’ external environment. Climate change is one such a threat. This, in turn, is also linked to global politics, about which I would like to learn more. Going even further than that, I am very eager to learn more about space – in addition to working in the KvarkenSpaceEco-project, I am enrolled on a course about the history of human understanding of the universe provided by the University of Hong Kong. So yeah, it is too bad I cannot be an expert on every topic I find fascinating!

Sounds interesting. Is that something I, too, should learn more about?

If we talk about the urbanization part, well then yes. As the United Nations has projected, 68 % of the world population will live in cities or urban areas by 2050. Therefore, how life is shaped in the cities of the future is of great importance to a large number of people. I guess I can’t force anyone to be interested in space if that is not their thing (but I will try though if you give me a chance!).

Okay. Now recommend me something – anything!

Treasure every happy moment and spend some time outdoors, if possible!

Any last advice for being both an effective researcher and a happy office worker?

I would advise finding a balance between work and creative things, be it art, books, movies, music, dancing, or anything similar. To be effective researchers we need to be productive, but also creative and open minded to solve many kinds of problems and challenges. I believe that this balance helps us to be both good researchers and happy in life.

From the perspective of Johanna’s colleagues: What are Johanna’s best qualities as a coworker?

“Johanna’s best qualities are that she is kind, always ready to help and not afraid of challenges!”

“Her smile brightens every room she enters! Johanna is friendly and helpful, but also bright in her thinking and very determined. She is curious and does not hesitate to aim high – all fine values for an academic and a colleague”

“Johanna’s best qualities as a colleague are that she is always friendly and helpful, she is one of our rising young talents with new, fresh points of view!”

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