Physicist Kimmo Tuominen, specialist on dark matter and the nature of mass, is a teacher premiered by the students.

– I have to admit it feels good. Some of them have noticed that I’ve invested a lot in research and teaching, says docent in theoretical physics and University Lecturer Kimmo Tuominen in response to the good news about his title as Docent of the Year.

The board of the Docent Association at the University of Helsinki decided on the appointment in its meeting in February.

Tuominen is the leader of a particle-physics research group studying dark matter, the Higgs boson, and origin of mass.

– In my research, I move in two very different scale levels; the level of minuscule elementary particles and the level of huge cosmic distances. What attracts me in this kind of basic research is that we’re not looking for ways to apply it or make it pay off. It is purely about curiosity. Finding out the inner workings of nature, says Tuominen.

All in all, what fascinates him in physics is the power of explanation. You can make detailed calculations about everything, and compare it with data found through empirical testing.

Tuominen became interested in Higgs and dark matter when working as a postdoctoral researcher in the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics NORDITA in Copenhagen.

– I didn’t have a supervisor or a specific research group, so I could work with researchers from very different fields. These topics emerged there. The international contacts made in Denmark have carried to this day, he says.

A story with a lesson

As a teacher, Tuominen has received acclaim. In 2017, he was elected into the Teachers’ Academy at the University of Helsinki. In 2015, the Student Union at the University of Helsinki awarded him with the Magister Bonus reward.

– A prize from the students feels especially good. It’s a sign that I’ve done something right, says Tuominen.

In his teaching philosophy, Tuominen specifies that it is only a small part of learning that happens during a lecture.

– I like classroom teaching, but there can easily be too much information in too short a time. You have to study outside the lectures, as well. Having headed a project for digitalising teaching, Tuominen thinks such as online teaching, electronic assignments, and videos are good methods.

The other pillar propping up the teaching of the docent of the year is story-telling. Facts that seem unconnected have to be brought together by explaining, building up a story. Story-telling is a natural way for humans to process information.

– Studying can be compared to sitting by a campfire, says Tuominen laughing.

As a teacher, Tuominen works with upper-secondary pupils, university students, and postdoctoral researchers.

The Docent of the Year was announced at the docent gala organised by the chancellor on 2 April, 2019.

More Information:

Chair Jukka Hoffrén, Docent Association at the University of Helsinki, +358 50 5005 220