Ulla Heinonen, who graduated with a degree in plant production sciences, works as a researcher at the Jokioinen office of Natural Resource Institute Finland.
1. What did you study and what do you do for a living?
I studied plant production sciences, particularly plant pathology. I work as a researcher in the plant protection team of Natural Resource Institute Finland. I cooperate with other researchers to test and inspect the biological efficacy of pesticides entering the market. As a plant pathologist I work with fungicides, i.e., biocidal chemicals for battling plant diseases.
2. What makes your work interesting?
I like the diversity and practical nature of my duties. My work is strongly connected to agriculture and food production. As a researcher I spend time on the computer, in a laboratory and in the field alike. Our research results benefit both the commissioner of the study and Finnish farmers who have access to well-researched pesticides. In addition, my own expertise increases constantly, which is also encouraged by my employer. Cooperation with other parties in the field is an interesting added bonus and a learning opportunity.
In addition to testing pesticides, I participate in various research projects, which enables me to update and develop my knowledge and skills regarding the biology of different diseases. At the Institute, I can take my daily coffee break with the top experts in the field of plant protection, so I am in no danger of narrowing my expertise.
3. How does your future look?
The future is full of challenges that agricultural research is striving to meet. The pest population in Finland has been different from more southern countries, but global warming will bring – and has already brought – new species to our country. Maintaining the competitiveness of our domestic plant production with better and more targeted plant protection methods is an important goal which we are attempting to reach through research.
There is plenty of work in the field, so that does not worry me. I am constantly developing my experience and expertise, and I believe that I can find uses for it in the future as well.
4. What are your best memories of your studies?
During my studies I was an active member of both our subject-specific student organisation, Sampsa, and our parent organisation, the League of Agricultural and Forestry Students' Associations (MMYL), and my best memories involve these activities. First of all, subject organisations are a great way of getting to know your fellow students and to have a good time. Secondly, organisational activities familiarise you with, for example, organising various events, meeting procedures and cooperation skills. I feel that student organisations have taught me many career skills I could not have learned through lectures. In addition, student organisation activities created a network of people with whom I am still in contact. Contacting people about work-related matters is now easy when I already know their names and faces.