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Unexpectedly doctoralized: “All the stars pointed at it, so I seized the opportunity”

It’s not about what other people tell you or how they define you. Being able to interpret your own abilities and reading the signs coming from the outside world helps a lot in finding your own way. Our fresh Doctor of Science from DSII is a very good example of a person who – against early discouragement attempts – became brilliant in his own field of work.

Turo Välikangas
Turo Välikangas at Koja testing lab. Photo: Nea Alanen

Doctor of Science, Turo Välikangas, 33, was told already at elementary school, that he should not consider further training in high school due to bad grades. Since then, Välikangas decided otherwise and fully invested in learning math and physics.

“Already accomplishing the Master of Science in Technology was a huge thing for me, so I probably would not have done my dissertation if all the signs wouldn’t have clearly directed me to it. All the stars pointed at studying in DSII, so I seized the opportunity”, Välikangas reveals.

Välikangas did his dissertation in collaboration with Koja, which produces intelligent and energy-efficient HVAC technology, air handling solutions and fans for industrial processes.

Numerical Studies on Fin-and-Tube Heat Exchangers

In his dissertation, Välikangas investigated how open-source software could be used to simulate the effect of different properties of a fin-and-tube heat exchanger on the thermohydraulic efficiency of heat exchangers without ever having to fabricate any physical prototypes.

Välikangas published four articles during his DSII studies.

“Three out of four articles of my dissertation were about the changes and effects on airflow with different heat exchanger design parameters. One out of four was about how the fouling propensity of an enhanced fin shape can be quantified and the risk of fouling can be estimated.”

What does all this mean?

See these heat exchangers:

heat exchangers
Photo: Koja

Välikangas investigated how to digitally visualize in which ways the heat transfer characteristics change inside the fin-and-tube heat exchanger without actually having to build and produce one in real life. This makes calculating the need for HVAC systems for different locations and situations much cheaper and easier to produce.

What happens, when you narrow down the gap between the fins? Do the fins clog? How does all the dirt and dust affect the heat transfer process? How does the air flow inside the heat exchanger?

Many difficult questions, that can be answered with the simulations made by Välikangas.

That's what his dissertation is all about.

It all began at Koja

At first, Välikangas started at Koja as a summer worker while still studying. Then he worked there part-time for two years and made his diploma thesis at Gothenburg, Sweden.

“When I returned to Finland, I worked here as a product development engineer. Then I started my doctoral studies and that’s what I did for four years and now for two years I’ve been a senior research scientist – a title I picked up myself, Välikangas laughs.

Studies at DSII

Välikangas started his doctoral studies when the concept of DSII was still at the very beginning. He was the first one to do his dissertation for Koja.

One challenge, very familiar to all the DSII students, was that the research must be open and academic, and one should find the right research questions for one’s research area. To fit this into the development agenda in the company might just be the hardest part.

“A really important thing, that I’ve noticed, is the importance of communicating about your work. Like popularization of science, but a bit more specifically.”

According to Välikangas, everything that you have done and learned during your research work helps you to make others understand your work too, and why you’re doing it in the first place.

“Sometimes you have to explain your work several times from different perspectives to make other people get what you’re actually doing. And that is actually really important.”

Välikangas has seen it with his colleagues: “There might be an absolutely brilliant guy who’s doing absolutely brilliant research work, but if he hasn’t been able to bring other people to understand what he´s doing the possibilities of follow-ups can be quite limited”.

A road ready-shaped and easy to follow

Now that Välikangas is a Doctor of Science. He says he's happy that he took the chance. Välikangas thinks that the regular roundup sessions, organized by DSII and Tamlink (coordinator of DSII) bring a great deal of continuity and structurality to the research work of DSII students.

“If your own company supervisor isn’t so active roundups are great for bringing solidity to your work.”

Välikangas tells that he got the most out of it when he did presentations to audiences who have technical knowledge but were not really familiar with his research subject.

“I warmly recommend DSII to those who prefer more concrete and practical concept for becoming a doctor and making one’s dissertation.”

Välikangas says that DSII has many upsides. Many things are already organized for you and the dissertation topics are much more concrete than usually the most academic ones.

“It’s a kind of a fast lane for promoting the Finnish industry.”

Read the dissertation of Turo Välikangas here.

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