From business student to research scientist: “I've learned about a new career path that I didn't know was possible”

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From a university student to a research scientist, Emma Mulhern’s experience at VTT has been a journey of applying her academic expertise in business to the evolving world of intelligent supply chains and logistics. She explains what makes the research culture at VTT encouraging and emphasizes the importance of continuous learning as part of impactful, applied research.

Emma Mulhern began her academic journey in the United States, where she completed a bachelor's degree in business. After moving to Finland, she did a master’s in economics and business administration. At VTT, she started as a Research Trainee in the summer of 2023, and now works as a Research Scientist in the Intelligent supply chains and logistics team, delving into more applied aspects of research.

–  In applied research, it's not so much about the theory itself, but more about its application in the real world. Our team focuses on questions like, ‘How will this new regulation influence supply chains?’ and ‘What effect will changes in the business environment have on low emission transportation methods?’, Mulhern explains.

–  At university, you have assignments, but at VTT, while we have deliverables, the approach to how we get things done is much more ambiguous. That's the whole point of doing the research, she continues.

I really like that our work at VTT has a purpose: we want to do research to make the world a better place. I am an altruistic person, so I want to do something good in the world.
Emma Mulhern, Research Scientist

Finding your own place in the research community

For Mulhern, VTT stood out not just as a research institute but as an organisation that resonated with her personal values.

–  I really like that our work at VTT has a purpose: we want to do research to make the world a better place. I am an altruistic person, so I want to do something good in the world, she says.

Emma Mulhern and her teammates in Slovenia, there are mountains in the background
Emma and her team members on a business trip in Slovenia

Even as a research trainee, Mulhern felt respected and included within her team.

–  There was always an interest in what I could bring to the table, and my ideas were met with enthusiasm and consideration, she recalls.

The transition from a trainee to a research scientist was a significant milestone for Mulhern, marked by increased independence and responsibility.

–  As a trainee you would usually get a specific project or a task to work on. As a research scientist, I'm more independent and more autonomous.

A day in the life at VTT

Mulhern’s typical day at VTT is a mix of research activities, project management and continuous learning. She is currently working in the EU project ADMIRAL that aims to create a marketplace for companies to compare subcontracting supply chain emissions and access services for improved port operations. Additionally, she takes part in one of VTT’s Finnish language courses.

–  The Finnish language course has been a delightful change of pace for me. Recently, we've been learning about Finnish expressions, which adds an element of fun to the learning process, but is still really helpful, she says.

Mulhern has also had the chance to expand her professional network and deepen her understanding of various research domains. Two weeks after joining VTT, she attended an international conference at Aalto University, which provided her with insights into the broader scope and impact of being a research scientist. She also fondly recalls events like the VTT young professionals' summer picnics that fostered camaraderie among VTTers from different research areas in a more relaxed setting.

Emma Mulhern and Laura Kojo sitting on green chairs at the office, smiling at the camera.
Emma and her teammate Laura Kojo at VTT's office in Espoo

Collaborative learning enables growth

One of the most enriching aspects of Mulhern’s experience at VTT has been the diverse team dynamics. According to her, the blend of seasoned experts and fresh minds creates a fertile ground for collaborative learning and growth.

–  I would say that learning from a diverse range of experiences and backgrounds is incredibly beneficial. This aligns with the overarching theme of continuous learning, which is advantageous not only for my professional growth but also for our team as a whole, she reflects.

Looking ahead, Mulhern is excited about the learning opportunities that VTT offers. She aims to delve into writing journal articles and conference papers, seeing these as avenues for further growth.

–  I've learned about a new career path that I didn't know was possible, and I just want to keep exploring it further and seeing where it goes, Mulhern sums up her experience.

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Emma Mulhern
Emma Mulhern
Research Scientist
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