Working on world-class research often comes with trade-offs, but to Dr. Chamseddine Guizani, a role as Senior Scientist in Lignin and Side Stream Valorisation at VTT has offered a way to combine trailblazing research, a happy family life, and the benefits of living in an equal, fair, and inclusive society. “As researchers, we all want to get that dream job, and to have a role in making breakthroughs and solving global problems. But it’s also important to talk about the rest of the picture,” Dr. Chamseddine Guizani, explains.
Academic ambition and curiosity about the Nordics led to a new life in Finland
Dr. Guizani, a Senior Scientist in VTT’s Lignin and Side Stream Valorisation team, knows that for many, a successful research career often comes at a cost. With a strong academic record and degrees from prestigious universities in France, Dr. Guizani worked different postdoctoral positions in academia specializing in biomass refining and development of biobased carbon materials.
“When I made the decision to move to Finland in 2017 to start a postdoctoral role at Aalto University, it wasn’t a difficult choice. Professionally, I was eager to get the international experience and knew that I would get to work with prominent experts in my field. But equally important to me was Finland’s reputation as a fair, high-trust society with a great education system.”
I have a high level of freedom in my role, but I also have a balanced life.
A match that seemed too good to be true
Through his academic roles, Dr. Guizani had the chance to gain experience in teaching, deepen his expertise, and try his hand at working in close cooperation with industry. But an academic career also meant always preparing for the next thing. Especially combining the prospects of two ambitious researchers was often difficult, explains Dr. Guizani, whose wife now pursues her career in oncology also in the Helsinki area.
When Dr. Guizani saw an opening at VTT’s Lignin and Side Stream Valorisation team, it seemed like a good match.
“When I applied for this role, I introduced my research project, hoping that it would be relevant to the team at VTT. Turned out, it was exactly what they had been looking for! Now I do exciting research in the area I’ve always been passionate about and get to bring the results to industry. I have a high level of freedom in my role, but I also have a balanced life.”
Complementary expertise in a diverse team
At VTT, junior and senior researchers from master’s students to experienced professors and industry experts work closely together to tackle a wide range of global challenges. The team that Dr. Guizani joined at VTT focuses on the valorisation of lignin and other industrial biobased side streams into a variety of added value bioproducts, such as carbon materials for electrochemical energy storage, dispersants in paints and coatings, and UV absorbers is sunscreens. The team’s work promotes a truly circular economy and the transition to a more sustainable future. While teams are highly specialised, there is a lot of cooperation also across the different teams at VTT.
We have different perspectives, and together we can go furthest.
“VTT is a big organisation, and there are experts in almost all imaginable fields. We often have several minds thinking about an issue, which makes new ideas and solutions emerge. We have different perspectives, and together we can go furthest,” Dr. Guizani explains.
Dr. Guizani says that daily work runs smoothly both in the labs and outside, because the atmosphere in the team is good, there is a strong culture of trust – and complementary expertises.
Cold, dark winters and a difficult language? No problem!
While foreign talent may sometimes hear warnings about the challenges of learning Finnish, Dr. Guizani never saw the language as an issue:
“At VTT, we work in English, so professionally, it is not a problem. I already speak three languages, and now study Finnish to get closer to the culture and to keep up with my daughter, who learns more every day. Luckily VTT also provides resources for language study.”
Having grown up on the shores of the Mediterranean, was Dr. Guizani prepared for the Northern climate? “November can be tough, I’ll admit it. But summer is great, and the landscape is more beautiful than I could have even imagined – it definitely makes up for the cold.”
Dr. Guizani’s three things to love about working at VTT:
“VTT is an organization with experts in almost all imaginable technology areas and with different backgrounds. When you team up with someone who is not like you – it’s perfect.”
“I think it’s in part cultural, but the atmosphere in the team is very good, there is a high-level of trust among colleagues, and communication is honest and collaborative.”
“I can prosper as a researcher while also enjoying my family.”