Maria Lehtivaara

Applications Specialist

Master of Science (Biotech.)


"I've always enjoyed working here, and my colleagues are great. They don't get impatient if you ask for advice. It might be a cliché, but we really do have a great team spirit here. We want to look for the best solution. If the customer asks something, we find out why a solution hasn't been found yet – we improve the tools and documentation, or even use this as a foundation on which to build completely new tools.

I got a permanent position at CSC in 2015, as a bioinformatician working with Chipster software in particular. My tasks were software development and associated training, and answering questions about the biosciences. I have a master's degree in biotechnology from the Tampere University of Technology, and I've also been working in the field while studying: first as a summer trainee, then part-time while still studying, and now full time. For example, I've done NGS and microarray data analyses also in my previous work. And in my previous job at the University of Helsinki's Biomedicum Functional Genomics Unit, I was essentially doing the same kind of thing as I am now, so I had the courage to apply.

"Of course there's still a lot to learn, and continual learning is part and parcel of this job."

My first summer job in my own field was in Ilpo Vattulainen's research group in 2008. We did molecular dynamic simulations and made use of CSC's resources. That's when I heard about CSC for the first time, and I seem to recall taking some basic Unix/computing resources course. The work was really interesting, and it was amazing what you could do with those resources even as a student. We got support from here. Maybe this stuck in my mind, even though I do quite different work now. I continued in Ilpo's research group alongside my studies, and also wrote my bachelor's thesis on the topic.

I'm not sure I even realised that you could apply for summer jobs here. But now I can definitely recommend it, as you get to see so much of what goes on at CSC and what's being done in research groups and institutes in Finland. You get a good overview of the entire research field. Learn what kinds of tools there are and what kinds of projects are going on, such as the European bioinformatics project ELIXIR. And what kinds of research resources are generally on offer, what you can do with them, and what maintaining them actually involves in practice.

On the other hand, I was quite nervous when I joined CSC – would I be totally clueless and out of my depth? But I've been able to keep up quite well. Of course there's still a lot to learn, and continual learning is part and parcel of this job. My job description has always been moulded around the new skills I learn, so my role is in no way carved in stone. I get more responsibilities at the appropriate time – you don't get to stay in your comfort zone, where everything would be nice and easy, but you don't get bored either.

I've been working in a three-person room, close to the people I need help from or need to inform when something isn't working. I work from home one day per week. I get a lot done then, and my working hours are otherwise quite flexible. Flexitime is a luxury when you have a lot of hobbies that start at a particular time. For example, I can come in early if I need to leave early.

We have a great working atmosphere here, and I'm surrounded by fun and motivated people. It's in no way gloomy. If I tell a friend that I work at the IT Center for Science, they might imagine some terribly dreary place. But it's not like that at all."