Academy of Finland award for Social Impact for atmospheric particle researcher Mikko Sipilä.

Mikko Sipilä’s research focuses on the formation of atmospheric particles. Studying the first steps of atmospheric particle formation is challenging in terms of measurement technology, and the development of measurement techniques is a cross-cutting feature of Sipilä’s work. Sipilä is a leading developer of measurement equipment in his field.

“Let research run its full course to make the most of it”

Mikko Sipilä and his research team were the first to report a direct experimental observation of the particle formation mechanism outside the laboratory, and he is one of the world’s leading atmospheric scientists. Sipilä is highly experienced and skilled in field observations and has also led many measurement campaigns. In recent years, measurements have been carried out at the particularly challenging research stations in the Antarctic and Arctic regions.

“I want my work to help humankind solve its major problems, such as climate change and species extinction. I hope that my work on atmospheric research, mainly on particulates and various vapours in the atmosphere, will at least partly produce significant knowledge to help understand the causes and consequences of global change and contribute to solving the problems,” Sipilä says.

Sipilä’s research has considerable social impact. The results of his research have been put to use in a wide variety of ways, and he has participated, among other things, in establishing three spin-off companies producing services and measurement equipment. Sipilä says that he actively strives to generate impact. As such, the results of his research may be difficult to apply, but when they are adopted in global climate models, for example, they have social impact.

According to Sipilä, research can sometimes lead to surprising opportunities. “In my case, they have been measurement techniques and technical solutions that have had new application areas. For example, when we discovered that the methods we had developed for detecting rare atmospheric compounds revealed explosives with unprecedented accuracy, I decided to find out whether our methods would be suitable to prevent the misuse of explosives. This work led to the establishment of a company focusing on improving civil aviation safety,” Sipilä explains.

“Developing your research at university to the point where it can be turned into a business is a long road. In my own career, I’ve been supported by the freedom of research and the long-term funding of the Academy of Finland, which makes it possible to launch new projects. It’s a good idea to let research run its full course to make the most of its opportunities. It can bring us a better environment, increased security or new jobs.”

In research, Sipilä appreciates the freedom to become interested in new things and make discoveries. “Success is possible when you realise that there are no ready answers and no ready practices or models when you’re working on something completely new.”

Mikko Sipilä obtained a PhD in physics at the University of Helsinki in 2010. He received Academy Research Fellow funding in 2016. He currently works as Associate Professor at the University of Helsinki. Sipilä leads a research team and, since 2020, heads the University of Helsinki’s Värriö Sub-Arctic Research Station in Salla. Sipilä was awarded an ERC Starting Grant in 2017.

See Academy of Finland news here.