Doctor of Physics Viivi Villa-Nuottajärvi’s open mind and continuous self-development have led her to an interesting career path in both the academic world and industry. She is currently leading the Beyond Circularity program at Valmet. Valmet has been chosen as one of the “Veturi” corporations by Business Finland. These are firms that are working in global networks and have the will and expertise to drive innovation activities in their respective fields. Valmet’s Veturi program, Beyond Circularity, seeks to develop technologies through which it is possible to solve client industries’ challenges in green transition.
Viivi Villa-Nuottajärvi comes originally from Myllykoski. She had really good physics teachers at lower and upper secondary school, and they inspired her to delve deeper into the subject. She studied her physics textbooks from cover to cover in advance. “Because I had already done everything,” says Viivi, describing her physics classes at school in Myllykoski, “I spent most of my time in class just twiddling my thumbs.”
The principal of her upper secondary school had a physics background, and he brought Viivi university course books to read and encouraged her to apply to study physics at university. The University of Jyväskylä was strongly recommended, so Viivi decided to apply for a study place in Jyväskylä.
“I dreamt about becoming a nuclear physicist.”
During her studies, however, nuclear physics failed to meet Viivi’s expectations, and she soon changed over to industrial physics instead. She entered a master’s degree programme focusing on paper making physics, while also studying chemistry, mathematics, and information technology.
“I was among the last to graduate before the industrial physics degree programme was discontinued in 2004.”
In her years at university, Viivi was actively involved in competitive sports as well, which took up most of her free time. “I made good friends, with whom I am still in contact. There were also plenty of parties.” Jyväskylä has also become a second hometown to Viivi.
After graduating, she stayed at the university working on research project funded by Metso Paper. “After a couple of years, there was already so much research material that the idea to try for a doctoral dissertation started to emerge.
“I applied for the Graduate School of Material Physics in 2007 and got my doctoral degree in 2010. My doctoral dissertation dealt with fluid dynamics.”
After completing her dissertation, Villa-Nuottajärvi moved to Stockholm as a visiting researcher and later went on maternity leave. At the same time, her employment relationship at JYU ended. Tampere University of Technology had an interesting open vacancy for a postdoctoral researcher, for which Viivi successfully applied. “My husband took a job alternation leave that enabled us to move to Tampere in our family situation of those days,” Viivi explains.
After working for a few years at university, Viivi decided to leave her university career and found employment in industry, starting her work on product development.
“I got frustrated with continually having to apply for funding and write applications. I wanted to get involved in practical work.”
At present, Viivi is working at Valmet as the Director of the Beyond Circularity project. Beyond Circularity is Valmet’s largest individual project series. It involves research and development projects from all five of Valmet’s business lines. Beyond Circularity is a significant project pertaining to the green transition, in which Valmet will invest 40 million and Business Finland 20 million euros during the years 2022 to 2025. As part of the program, Valmet has already launched dozens of internal R&D projects. The Beyond Circularity ecosystem has gathered nearly a hundred corporations, research institutes, universities, and other cooperation partners.
Physics studies have brought clear benefits to Viivi’s work. She understands the problems research and development engineers have and is also able to foresee upcoming challenges. “I can fairly easily grasp scientific-technical issues; this is important because, in research and development, you tend to continuously come across all sorts of new things to be solved.
“I also soon realised what competences I lacked, namely, business expertise. It’s important to know what we are talking about when relevant figures are set forth for consideration.”
To improve her business knowledge, Viivi has been studying for a master’s degree in business administration alongside with her work. “I recently turned in my master’s thesis,” Viivi says, admitting that studying alongside with work and family life has been hard at times: “I have not had enough time for my family and friends as I perhaps should have had, but everybody has understood and given me space to work for my dreams. To be frank, there have also been occasions along this journey where I have been, to put it nicely, rather annoyed. While other family members were having fun at Midsummer, I was cramming for an exam on the subject I disliked the most, accounting,” Viivi laughs.
Currently, family lives in two locations, spending the week in Tampere and weekends and holidays in Jyväskylä.
“The daily chores and hurry of Tampere are left behind when we set out to drive to Jyväskylä. In Jyväskylä, we recharge our batteries and enjoy life.”
Viivi advises graduating students to hold a humble attitude to any work: “If you manage to get a foothold in a workplace, it is then much easier to go further and get more demanding jobs within the company. Interpersonal relations are always an advantage, of course, and naturally some luck is needed as well.
“Don’t get stuck with a specific job profile. Be ready to develop yourself and get familiar with different work cultures, and you can have an exciting career path.”
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