Excursion to Kennedy Space Center

Hello! My name is Timo and I’m working on my thesis in the research group. Last September I was enrolled to a two-semester collaborative course called Epic Challenge Joensuu, a course that was offered by UEF, Karelia University of Applied Sciences and the science high school Norssi. The course was about finding solutions for the problems of colonizing Mars and learning to use good problem solving methods and tools. Originally, we had no idea that a trip to visit NASA would be a possibility, so we were quite surprised when the teachers announced that a trip might be the finale of the course! The US trip was confirmed in the spring and we could finally give in to the excitement and start planning and negotiating. Karelia and UEF were kind to offer a scholarship for the trip, without it I probably couldn’t have afforded the expenses.

Our field trip began in the middle of May when we flew to Florida, where we spent the week. Our target was the famous Kennedy Space Center in Orlando where the Apollo lunar missions were launched from, among many other space missions. Kennedy Space Center has a Visitor Complex, which boasts numerous attractions, such as different kinds of simulators and old space rockets. My personal favorite in the Visitor Complex was definitely the space shuttle Atlantis. A bus tour to the launching pads and the VAB (vehicle assembly building) was also very nice and informative. We also got to meet astronaut Jack Lousma and to present him the concepts we came up with during the course.

Our visit to the Space Center coincided with NASA’s robotic mining competition, where 46 teams from US colleges competed with the robots they built. Some of the criteria for getting points where the ease of controlling, the amount of material mined and the extent of automation in the robots. High extent of automation was appreciated highly, since a constant control by a human could be difficult if a robot is working hundreds of millions of kilometers away. The competition was very interesting to see

One of the robots in the mining competition. Photo by Timo Ilo
One of the robots in the mining competition. Photo by Timo Ilo

The Visitor Complex is open for everyone but we also got ourselves a little private tour, held by NASA’s top biologist Dr. Ray Wheeler. He kindly showed us around the Space Life Sciences Lab, where he and many other scientists are working on creating a bioregenerative life support system for space use. This kind of system would be crucial for sustained human life in space or on others planets, such as Mars. We got to see what kind of experiments they are doing and we asked a lot of questions, Dr. Wheeler really made us feel welcome! Among others, we saw experiments related to plant growth under different wavelengths of light and the effects of microgravity to animal development.

Overall, the trip was a great experience! At the end of the week we had some spare time, so we went kayaking to a beautiful wetland. I didn’t manage to see any alligators but I heard one of our team members saw a huge one. I was happy to see turtles and cranes!

Krista, Timo and Jesse of the BioMars team of Epic Challenge. Photo by Timo Ilo.
Krista, Timo and Jesse of the BioMars team of Epic Challenge. Photo by Timo Ilo.

 

Photos by Timo Ilo and Krista Holappa

JUFO = Journal, an unidentified flying object

Julkaisufoorumin etusivulla lukee näin: ”Julkaisufoorumi on suomalaisen tiedeyhteisön toteuttama, tutkimuksen laadunarviointia tukeva julkaisukanavien tasoluokitus”. Harvoin on tiedeyhteisön toteuttama asia onnistunut aiheuttamaan omassa tiedeyhteisössäni ja muissa kollegoissani yhtä paljon nurinaa, hammastenkiristelyä, vitsailua sekä naureskelua kuin tässä tapauksessa. Luettuani viimeisimmän Acatiimi-lehden huomasin, että hämmästely ei ole rajoittunut pelkästään meidän tieteenalallemme. Sinänsä ymmärrän kyllä tarkoitusperät, koska JUFO-luokitus toimii ohjaavana tekijänä, kun yliopistot ja niiden yksiköt saavat rahoitusta tieteellisistä julkaisuista. Enää rahoitus ei siis riipu pelkästään julkaisujen määrästä vaan myös laadusta.

Julkaisufoorumin on siis luokitellut suuren määrän tieteellisiä julkaisusarjoja. Luokassa 3 ovat jokaisen tieteenalan huippusarjat, luokassa 2 on johtavat, luokassa 1 perustasoiset (tähän kuuluu kansallisiakin sarjoja) ja sitten on vielä ym. sarjat. Ilmeisen monessa tapauksessa on kuitenkin menty pieleen, sen verran luokitus on keskustelua aiheuttanut. Olin myös luullut, että järjestelmä vähentäisi tieteenalojen välisiä eroja julkaisujen tasoa arvioitaessa….no, eihän sitä voi käyttää tieteenalojen väliseen vertailuun. Ymmärrän sen, kun tieteenalan sisälläkään julkaisusarjoja saada sellaiseen järjestykseen, että se vaikuttaisi kansainvälisen tiedeyhteisön mielestä järkevältä.

Esimerkkinä voin kertoa erään tapauksen omasta tutkimusryhmästä. Olimme tarjonneet erästä tutkimusryhmämme kansainvälisenä yhteistyönä kirjoitettua artikkelia oman alamme johtavaan lehteen (JUFO-2). Ei kelvannut sinne, joten mietimme seuraavaa siirtoa. Ehdotimme kansainvälisille yhteiskumppaneille erästä toista julkaisusarjaa. Se ei kuitenkaan aiheuttanut suuria intohimoja, totesivat vain, että ihan hyvä, mutta entäpä tämä ja tämä. No, minä sitten selitin, että sarjat tämä ja tämä ovat JUFO-1 luokassa ja se meidän ehdottamani on JUFO-3. vastauksena viesti, jossa kirjoitettiin ”ha ha ha, onko UEF:n rehtori kyseisen sarjan editori?”. Kerroin luokituksen olevan valtakunnallisen ja toki luokituksen taustat sekä myös miten se liittyy meidän saamaan rahoitukseen. Tällöin tyytyivät valintaamme. Teimme itse asiassa jo kerran samoin viime vuonna. Yritimme JUFO-2 sarjaan, ei kelvannut sinne, mutta lopputulemana julkaisu JUFO-3 sarjassa. Tätä kirjoittaessa ei ole vielä tiedossa, kelpaako tämän kertainen käsikirjoitus siihen JUFO-3 luokituksen saaneeseen sarjaan. Toisena esimerkkinä voi toimia tällä hetkellä ulkomailla työskentelevä suomalainen kollega, joka totesi yhteisjulkaisuumme sopivaa sarja mietittäessä, että hänen on mietittävä ihan jotain muuta kuin JUFO-luokituta. Ymmärrän hyvin, koska meidän JUFO-luokituksemme ei liene kansainvälisesti kovin tunnettu.

Julkaisufoorumillehan voi esittää tason muutoksia, jos siltä tuntuu. Ei välttämättä tunnu, jos kerran sinne JUFO-3 lehteen jutut menevät helpommin läpi. Sitä paitsi eiköhän tämäkin korjaannu ja kaikki meidän tieteenalan lehdet valu sinne 1-luokkaan kun tasoja tarkistetaan tulevaisuudessa. Saavatpahan kansainväliset yhteistyökumppanit lisää naureskeltavaa, kun seuraavan kerran taas valitaan sarjoja, joissa yhteistyönä tehtyjä käsikirjoituksia yritetään saada julkaistuksi. No, voi olla turhaa nurinaa ja kateellisten panettelua. Pitää kai vain nostaa oman tutkimuksen tasoa luokituksen muuttuessa, mutta kuten tiedämme, (J)UFOt osaavat olla arvaamattomia. Eivätkä kaikki ole edes sitä mieltä, että niitä on olemassa.

A time with microplastic, Daphnia and winter in Finland

My name is Meaw. I come from Thailand, the small tropical country in Asia. I got scholarship from Erasmus Mundus action 2 (SWAP and Transfer project) to do the research about microplastic in freshwater ecosystem for 6 months. I’m interested in microplastic because it’s a pollutant with emerging concern and there are many gaps in research about microplastic. I have done many surveys on microplastic in Thai coastal area, but in here I focus on microplastic testing with aquatic animal in laboratory.

Microplastic and Daphnia

I lived in Finland from Dec 2015-May 2016. During that time, I tried to feed daphnia with fiber microplastic and observe the uptake and depuration behavior of daphnia. In our lab, it is very easy to do the test with daphnia, because the facility is well preparation. So that it is very convenient to do the thing as I plan, even if I did not have an experience with daphnia before.

I also have an opportunity to work together with Spectromics research group in UEF, because we try to develop the technique for observation microplastic inside daphnia. I am very happy to have chance to discuss and share the ideas with the other researchers in our lab group and Spectromics research group. That’s very challenging for me.

Daphnia magna and microplastics
Daphnia magna and microplastics

Winter in Finland

By the way, because I arrived Finland in winter, I had been asked a lot that “why I come to Finland in winter time?” Actually I did not think about it before I came. Anyway, after one week past I just realized that why everyone asked me. Snow and ice is such normal things in Finland winter and rarely sunshine at that time. It’s very exciting experience for people from tropical country like me. The winter in Finland is longer and colder than in my imagination. That’s why I always ask everyone in the lab “Is it normal weather in Finland?” and now I know that’s normal, after I passed through nearly 4 months of Finnish winter. Even whether in winter make some difficulty of life, but I think that’s worth to get experience like that. I think if I did not stay in Finland at the winter time, I may not see and understand the real Finland. So if someone ask me what the best period to visit Finland, I will recommend winter. Do you agree with me?

kuva_meaw2kuva_meaw3

13 June 2016, Meaw

SETAC Europe annual meeting in Nantes, France

It’s again the time of the year, when at least part of our group goes to the SETAC (Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry) Europe meeting. This time it was two of us (me and Inna), who decided to go. I love these conferences – they are a combination of travelling, meeting new people, getting brilliant (and not-so-brilliant) research ideas and learning new things. The days in the meetings are long and sometimes a bit overwhelming, you get a great chance to be part of a large research community.

Inna, presenting her poster in the meeting
Inna, presenting her poster in the meeting

In my opinion, SETAC provides a great opportunity for its student members to become a part of this community. In the meetings, there are several ways to smoothen your way into science community: travel grants, student mentor lunches, lunch seminars, student parties, student advisory council assemblies etc. If you are a Master or PhD student, make sure that you are a member of a professional society, it will make your academic part of life so much easier and more interesting!

As always, there are several interesting things happening simultaneously – it’s so difficult to choose from them. This year, I changed my tactics. Instead of just concentrating on metals, I was running around like crazy to learn more about environmental assessment of cosmetics and personal care products, life cycle assessment (LCA) and emerging contaminants (micro plastics!). If I would have to choose my favorites this year, they would be (1) Graham Merrington from WCA Environment, UK talking about what has happened in risk assessment within past ten years, (2) John Murphy from Queen Mary University of London, UK with an highly intriguing topic of new approaches in ecological effects of metal-contaminated sediments and  (3) Nicolas Pucheux from INERIS, France who’s presentation about implementation of TRIAD approach in ERA of an old lead mine was so interesting that I spent the whole time writing as fast as I could. They were all really inspiring and I feel I got a lot of new ideas and perspectives to think about.

Another nice thing in participating international conferences is travelling, and Nantes was great for that. You can’t go to Nantes without riding the Grand Elephant (picture below). Food was great, people were nice, buildings were pretty and the prices affordable. What’s there not to like!  Next year, SETAC Europe Annual Meeting is held in Brussels (https://www.setac.org/events/event_list.asp). And the SETAC World Congress will be at the end of this year in Orlando, Florida (https://orlando.setac.org/). Not a bad place to go in November!

The great elephant in Nantes (http://www.lesmachines-nantes.fr/)
The great elephant in Nantes (http://www.lesmachines-nantes.fr/)

Kristiina

Introduction of our research group leader

 

Akkain_vol2

Name: Jarkko Akkanen

Education: MSc in Biology, PhD in Ecotoxicology

How did you end up studying biology?

I actually started studying chemistry, but took biology as minor. Then I found environmental chemistry and aquatic toxicology from the Department of Biology and realized that this is it. Eventually I graduated from the Department of Biology.

When and why did you decide to become a researcher?

I didn’t. As a teenager I decided not to go to university, well few years later I found myself in the university. Then I decided that I will leave as soon as I get my Master’s, but during my Master thesis work I noticed that this is not too bad actually. I’m still on that path not knowing what I will become when I grow up.

Who is the person that has influenced your career the most?

Well, initially that must be Professor Jussi Kukkonen who (probably in a moment of weakness) thought that I would be suitable for PhD-studies and decided take me to one of his projects.

Why University of Eastern Finland?

Our research area in Aquatic Research in Changing World provides excellent possibilities for cooperation on the research focus that we have right now.

Why ecotoxicology?

Hard to say, that was something that was totally unknown to me before entering the university, but as said already right away I thought that this is interesting and after that I targeted all studies to ecotoxicology.

What are your working with at the moment?

Well, administration…, facility rearrangements, teaching, and a little bit of research

What do you think is the best part of your work?

If I mention only one thing, it is when you can teach something that is based on our own research. Then you can really deliver something, which goes beyond the written knowledge, to the students and really help them to learn how to solve problems.

What part of your work could you live without?

…quite common answer among scientist: administration….

What do you think is the most important thing you have learned in your work?

How very little I know and understand…

What kind of personalities you need to become a successful researcher?

A real ambition for research.

Can you give us an example of your work day:

07:00 – 09:00 First check e-mails (not enough energy to answer any). After a furious battle I manage to wake up our youngest one, dress and feed him and eventually get him to school.

09:00 – 10:00 At the office, a cup of tea. Evaluation of student papers. A couple of calls about facility rearrangements and department matters in between.

10:00 – 12:30 Meeting of the teaching development group.

12:30 – 13:00 Call back to those that tried to reach you during the meeting and lunch at the same time

13:00 – 14:00 Trying to figure out some questions connected to a research project

14:00 – 15:00 A meeting with a pedagogics study group over coffee

15:00 – 15:45 A call on departmental matters

15:45 – 17:00 Writing a travel grant to participate a scientific meeting

17:00 – 18:30 Have to go home to feed the kids

18:30 – 20:00 Some emails and still trying to write the travel grant (with several interruptions)

P.S. I really managed to submit the travel grant application.

Tervetuloa! Welcome!

Tervetuloa uuteen Itä-Suomen yliopiston akvaattisen ekotoksikologian tutkimusryhmän blogiin. Käsittelemme blogissa tutkimuksen ja tutkijan elämän ajankohtaisia asioita sekä tutkimusryhmämme kuulumisia. Julkaisemme mielellään tekstejä myös meiltä muihin tehtäviin siirtyneiltä ihmisiltä!

Welcome to read the new blog from the Aquatic Ecotoxicology research group at UEF. In here, we shall share the latest news and activities related to our work. We also warmly welcome posts from  people that have previously worked in our group, to see what kind of jobs you can do as an ecotoxicologist.

Tutkimusryhmämme

Kristiina