Meet the InnoLabbers: Rathan Kumar


Image: The picture was taken on one of the hiking trails near the lake Pilvilampi in Vaasa. I like hiking and mountaineering and it was one the highest peaks in the flat Ostrobothnia 😀 I was lost in thought and doing childish things when the picture was taken, and I didn’t know about it until my friend told me he had some funny pics of me from the hike. Photo by Jonas Madsen.

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

What are you?

I’m a dreamer. I have a dream… 🙂

Your title at InnoLab is project co-ordinator, but what exactly do you do?

As the title suggests quite aptly, I co-ordinate projects for the three research platforms at the University. I started working as a project researcher in projects and then started to write project applications to get funding, that has paved the way for my role today.

I look for different funding sources and identify specific calls that might be of interest to us and then talk to the concerned platform Director and Profs. with the expertise to lead the project. Once agreed, I help with the formation of the consortium and writing the project application.

In some cases, we are a supporting member of a project where we help the lead partner with what is required to submit a successful application.

Sounds like a lot of work. Why bother?

It is some work, but I like the tasks and challenges involved with the role. I like to do things diligently and not do them in a perfunctory manner.

To build the right consortium for a specific call and to get the things done is quite rewarding as you start from almost scratch, with nothing, and see the progress over time.

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

A call from Steffi Graf to go out and hit some balls… Tennis balls on the court, that is. Err, I had a huge crush on her growing up as a child.

About work, the call would be from the EU commission to inform me of the positive decision on our applications submitted.

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?

Oh, that would be something. Well, I would like to talk about the ways of working of the world and how blinded so many of us are, always looking for something more. I mean the materialistic and shallow ways that has been in design to measure success.

I would say to stop for a bit, take a moment and step back a little to get a really good perspective on things. This gives a little clarity to see ‘how’ things are wrong. And then with the use of common sense and a bit of critical thinking, we can help change one step at a time to make the society a better place for the future generations.

Good job. Too bad you can’t be the resident expert on every topic. What would you like to learn more about?

I have always been a curious person and have learnt things on my own most of the times, either by doing (farming, building, etc.) it or reading. Right now, technologies and data interest me, space-based data in particular.

Sounds very high-tech. What makes you so interested in that?

Most people don’t understand the power of space-based data even though it is freely available. You can use space-based data in several ways from helping fight climate change to fighting pandemics like the situation we are in at the moment.

Okay. Now recommend me something – anything!

Banana pancake! Most of us don’t like that brown banana on the counter and often worry what to do with it. I don’t like to waste any food and this is what I do with the banana.

Mash the banana with a fork after peeling of the skin, add an egg or two and some milk, a pinch of salt (no sugar as the banana is sweeter when the skin is brown) and whisk it before you throw it in a pan with some butter. After a couple of minutes, VOILÁ, there you have it, Banana Pancake.

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

To have open communication with your colleagues and team members. It helps in warding off any miscommunication that is the root of misunderstanding/problems.

From the perspective of Rathan’s colleagues: if Rathan was a book, what would he be?

“A dictionary: always there, reliable and helpful no matter the subject matter!”

“If he was a book he would be a newspaper with commercials in it – since he knows everything what is happening in the region. 🙂

“Rathan would be a classic youth adventure novel. They’re fun and endearing, and catching up with one will leave you feeling more hopeful about the world.”

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