Interview with assistant professor Tuuli Jylhä

Nieuws - 01 juli 2021

DEWIS is interviewing female academics at TU Delft to talk about women in academia, the impact of COVID-19 and equity. In this interview, we talk with Tuuli Jylhä, an assistant professor at Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment at TU Delft. She started her tenure track in 2016.

Tuuli studies workflows in the built environment; related to circularity.
 “In the built environment we consume many resources. Natural resources, like materials and water, or intangible resources, like human resources. According to World Economic Forum, almost 40% of the human resources are wasted or ignored. I focus on the reduction of these resources. How can we consume less and narrow the loops to enhance of circularity. To answer this question I study the workflows: how do we do things? If we change the way we do things, we can sustain the transition to circularity.

During my PhD, at Aalto University in Finland, I discovered I wanted to be a scientist: I love doing research. I decided to continue my academic career and this is how I ended up in Delft. I felt very welcome when I came to TU Delft, but it required fast learning. I had to learn many practical things such as riding a bike the local way, eating lighter lunch and get used to the air quality, and learn fast at the office to meet new colleagues and to understand the different research approach: the design thinking is very strong at TU Delft. I also had to adjust my teaching, because the design-oriented students at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment are ‘wired’ differently than the engineering-minded students at Aalto University, who I taught. 

As a woman, I am inspired by Minna Canth (1844 –1897), a Finnish writer and social activist. Minna was a very brave woman; she wrote about the role of women in society, which was exceptional in her time. She claimed that women have also the right to express themselves and are equal for freedom. She was very insistent with the topic. I have also great respect for Tarja Halonen, Finland’s first female president in 2000-2012 who has done great work regarding human rights and gender equality.

Finnish language has only one word for her and him (hän). Equality is important and I am proud that Finland was the first country to give voting rights to women. People value differences and all citizens have the same opportunities. For me, men and women are equal: I don’t approach a woman differently because she is a woman or a man differently because he is a man. Everybody is unique and deserves the same respect, no matter what gender, color or culture.

Life is intensive with my two small children and doing my tenure track in a foreign country. What I have experienced, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is that we talk a lot about work and life balance, but that it requires effort to maintain the balance. We all need ‘me time’. It doesn’t have to be too special: it can be a short walk or bicycle ride. My positive COVID-19 related take away is: take good care of myself. Like in the airplane: put your own mask on first!

It is also important to reach out to people, who support and/or inspire you. The tenure track system provides a mentor for you, but go ahead and contact someone if you feel a need to discuss or reflect. It doesn’t matter what positions people have: peer support actually has a huge impact. It might be another researcher, another tenure tracker or another mother. Be active and also look outside the official structures: it is good for your networking and it is rewarding!

My passion is doing research, so I would like to continue working in academia. In teaching, I can empower students to do research. This gives me great satisfaction!