Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela (b. 1952)
Finnish engineer and expert in advanced control strategies and fault monitoring
Affiliation: Aalto University
“If you are interested in and love your work, you will be successful.”
Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela is a Finnish engineer and a specialist in process automation. She has done comprehensive work in developing new and efficient process control and management theories, increasing the sustainability of production processes. Being a prominent figure in the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC), she has encouraged many young women engineers to proceed within the field of engineering. She has also contributed extensively to the Scandinavian engineering education and control communities.
A researcher with a love for application
Having not limited herself to one topic, Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela has researched everything from modeling and simulation to advanced control strategies and fault monitoring. One of her most outstanding achievements is verifying that processes run uninterrupted, resulting in more efficient and sustainable production processes. She has, among other things, worked on flotation plants, where minerals are separated and concentrated. By developing methods to monitor the process, more minerals can now be extracted than what has previously been possible.
Most, if not all, of Sirkka-Liisa Jamsä-Jounela’s research has been applied to actual industrial processes, and she is thus one of the researchers that have been most successful at bridging the gap between industry and academia. Her research group holds several innovation disclosures and patents.
A role model for many control engineers
In 1994, Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela set up a process control study program at Aalto University. She also started a master’s program in international process systems engineering. Since then, she has educated around 250-300 master’s students in control theory and supervised 15 PhD students, significantly contributing to developing the effectiveness of the Finnish process industry.
During the 1990s and 2000s, Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela was a prominent figure in IFAC, being present on several technical committees and organizing many workshops and events. As such, she has posed as a role model for many women in the field of process control. In 2008, she received the IFAC Distinguished Service Award for IFAC officials who have served and contributed substantially to IFAC.
Background and life
A childhood surrounded by industrial processes
Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela was born in 1952. She grew up on her family’s farm in a small village in the middle of Finland. Apart from the farm, the family owned a sawmill, and Sirkka-Liisa Jamsä-Jounela’s father often brought her to the mill. The visits to the sawmill and the presence of mines, pulp mills, and paper industries in the surroundings sparked an early interest in industrial processes. Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela has said, “I was always surrounded by industrial processes”.
Both parents were keen that Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela and her sisters got educated. Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela chose to study mathematics, a subject that her father had taught her and that she had always enjoyed. At Oulu University, where she studied, she also took courses in technical physics, process engineering, and control.
Hard work and close cooperation with the industry
When Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela graduated from university, Finland was in an economic recession, and unemployment was high. As a result, Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela had to go to Helsinki, where she got a job as a software engineer. In parallel, she started her PhD in process control, doing her research and taking classes during weekends. Only at the end of her PhD, she got funding to work full-time in the lab.
Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela always kept close to the industry. In the early stages of her career, she worked actively in it. Besides the minerals processing industry, she worked in several other sectors, including pulp and paper, oil refining, chemicals, and energy. Later on, in the 1990s, she got a position at the Helsinki University of Technology. In 2002, she became a professor of process control at Aalto University. However, even as a researcher, she maintained close cooperation with the industry.
Being active in IFAC facilitated the career
Coming from the industry, learning how to become an academic educator took time and effort. However, Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela has said she found much support in her colleagues in IFAC, particularly Professor Tom McAvoy.
Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela first got involved in IFAC through the Technical Committee on Automation in Mining, Mineral and Metal Processing. With some encouragement from some senior members, she eventually became the committee chair. She has described IFAC as a catalysator for her career since it opened many doors and provided her with great opportunities. Apart from chairing the Technical Committee on Automation in Mining, Mineral and Metal Processing, she has also been vice chair, and later on chair, of IFAC’s Technical Board, something that she has described as a challenge but also as an excellent opportunity to learn about all the different areas of control. In addition, she was vice president of IFAC between 2005 and 2008.
Honors and awards
Besides the IFAC Distinguished Service Award, Sirkka-Liisa Jämsä-Jounela has been awarded the Order of the White Rose of Finland. It is conferred upon citizens who have distinguished themselves in the service of Finland.