She is exploiting new natural resources

Kirsi Mikkonen, coordinator (Research project SNS-119: Valorization of wood biorefinery products into novel functional hydrocolloids, WOOD-PRO)


SNS Nordic Forest ResearchEducation/job: University lecturer at the University of Helsinki. MSc and PhD in Food Technology. Docent in Food Materials Science.
Age: Soon turning 40.
Location: Apartment near Viikki Campus, University of Helsinki, Finland. Close to work!
Hobby: Go to the gym, attend group lessons such as spinning or zumba, play tennis, jog, cycle and try new types of sports every now and then.
Last read book: Augusten Burroughs autobiography “Dry”. The last fiction was the “Memory of Water” by Emmi Itäranta.
Unexpected talent: Kirsi is great at recognizing herbs and spices by smelling them. This has been tested by an analysis at sensory laboratory!


Research for a better future

The humanity uses a lot of the treasures nature provides. But some resources are still unexploited, for example hemicelluloses, the focus for Kirsi Mikkonen in her research, and yet another possibility for sustainable use of plants.


Kirsi is in her research examining an unexploited natural resource: the hemicelluloses. Hemicelluloses are abundant biopolymers that occur in all plants. She takes a closer look at the material properties of hemicelluloses to, for example, characterize the capacity of them to stabilize emulsions. It would benefit both the environment and the economy if hemicelluloses could be used for something valuable. A dream is to see the outcome of the efforts used in an actual product on the market.

– I would love to see wood hemicelluloses as ingredients in a product that is sold in a supermarket.

Evidence based decisions
The reason for Kirsi to do research, is that she thinks it leads the way to a better future: thanks to research, decision making can be based on scientifically proven facts instead of assumptions. She also likes the actual work in the lab, to make hypotheses and to test them.

– Research is team work at its best, and the greatest joy in research is to share ideas and findings with colleagues.

Multidisciplinary cooperation
Kirsi can see a need for more multidisciplinary research in bioeconomy. Her opinion is that current societal, economical and environmental challenges can only be solved by combined expertise of these areas. She also has a message for the politicians: investments in research and education is never a cost as such, it will pay back in the future.

Being a researcher herself, she knows what is important for doing a successful job. This is her advice for future researchers:

– Being open to new ideas, sharing knowledge and collaboration lead to success.

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Katarina Ekegren
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