Defence done and dusted

I defended my doctoral thesis “Machine learning in neonatal intensive care” successfully last Friday at Aalto University. Here are some photos from the defence and the party that followed.

The defence kicks off with the doctoral candidate giving his “Lectio praecursoria” i.e. short (15-20 min) lecture directed to the general public. Here I am explaining what the term “machine learning” is supposed to mean. By the way, not everybody agrees with Wikipedia on machine learning being a branch of artificial intelligence.
The doctoral candidate being grilled by the esteemed opponent, prof. Tapio Seppänen from the University of Oulu. The lecture hall looks almost empty because nobody dared to sit up front. The custos (representative of the university whose role is to open and close the proceedings as well as to make sure that the session is conducted in an appropriate manner), prof. Simo Särkkä, is sitting just out of the frame on the right.
Here we are already at the party (karonkka). Dinner has been enjoyed and it’s time for the traditional speeches. The doctoral candidate thanks in turn each of the most important people involved with the thesis project. Then those mentioned by name give a speech in return in the order that they were mentioned. According to academic tradition nobody else is supposed to give a speech, but in practice the floor is then open for anyone else who might want to say a few words. Also according to academic tradition, doctors sit on one side of the table.
From the left: dr. Markus Leskinen (neonatologist, researcher, University of Helsinki), prof. Sture Andersson (professor of neonatology, University of Helsinki), dr. Johanna Vendelin (my fiancée, biochemist at large), prof. Tapio Seppänen (opponent, professor of biomedical engineering, University of Oulu), yours truly (doctor in spe), prof. Simo Särkkä (custos, supervising professor, professor of sensor informatics and medical technology, Aalto University), dr. Krista Rantakari (docent of neonatology, University of Helsinki), dr. Jaakko Hollmén (thesis advisor, senior lecturer, Aalto University), dr. Vesa Vahtikari (expert on tragedy performances outside Athens in the late fifth and the fourth centuries BC), dr. Jukka Yrjölä (Johanna’s uncle, principal lecturer, Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences). Just out of the frame on the left: dr. Konsta Karsisto (judo master) and dr. Kimmo Valkealahti (owner of Cyberell Ltd).
Dr. Johanna Vendelin giving a speech in response to mine. Prof. Tapio Seppänen and I are listening intently. Coincidentally everybody in the picture defended their thesis on 9 November!
Dr. Markus Leskinen has just delivered a preterm infant (doll), a present from the neonatologists with whom I collaborated on this project. Words fail me at describing how moved I was by this thoughtful gift, which was something that I definitely did not already have.
The opponent, the doctoral candidate, and the custos.
Yours truly on stage. Since I had a captive audience (the only door is visible on the left) I took the opportunity to present some of my songs, also including one by my dear friend Juha Tretjakov (“Perjantai-ilta“). I think by the time I got to “Peniskateutta Etelä-Pohjanmaalla” (Penis Envy in Southern Ostrobothnia) everybody realised that the traditional academic part was over.
The main entertainment of the evening, Veijo Midi & Modulit, being enjoyed by dr. Kimmo Valkealahti and dr. Jaakko Hollmén (as well as the rest of us outside the frame).
The preterm infant doll in an uncharacteristic sitting position since I am still researching doll incubator options. To the right is a doll that used to belong to Johanna’s aunt Kaarina, who died at the age of 12 from kidney-related complications in the early 1950s. Not even Arvo Ylppö could save her back then.

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