Sunday, March 16, 2008
In memory of my professor Kimmo Raatikainen
When searching for a photo of my professor on Google (due to the closure of his official homepage), I came across an article on HIIT's blog page.
The article is written by a senior friend of Kimmo, as a memorial of our professor.
Please read it first.
Professor Kimmo Raatikainen finally succumbed this morning to a long-time illness. He was 53.
Kimmo was the director of HIIT's Future Internet programme and thus an important person for us. More, he was a good colleague and an interesting man. Therefore I decided to write a few words about him.
I first learnt to know Kimmo around 1995, when the joint TKK-UH doctoral programme HeCSE was launched and I became its director. Kimmo started his mobile computing group at University of Helsinki at the same time. Through the doctoral programme, I got acquainted with his students too. Through them, I learned a thing and another of the professor.
Our link became closer in early 2001 when HIIT had been founded and was building up its operation. I remember clearly how Kimmo came to my office and told me that he had decided to join the institute by moving a research group to the premises in Ruoholahti, where we moved in September. At the start of 2002 Kimmo's Fuego Core project was started in HIIT; ultimately, it would continue until the end of 2007.
As the name suggests, Fuego Core was the core activity of the Future Internet programme throughout. During the years, other activities spun out of it, initially small, later larger. Such was the work on HIP that was first commenced as part of FC in 2003, and became an independent project from 2004. The work HIIT now is doing on Internet architecture grew from that seed.
Kimmo's role in building HIIT's international relations was decisive as well. He had an extensive network around the globe, especially to UC Berkeley. This helped us a lot to build a bridge there during HIIT's early years.
Kimmo led an intensive life during those years. He shared his time between HIIT, University of Helsinki and Nokia Research Center. The count of days on travel was high. I wondered how he found time to guide his postgrad students at all, given his all other activities. Deemed on the results, he nevertheless managed pretty well: dissertation followed another in a steady stream. Now I would hit one of his doctors every time I threw a stone towards NRC. Several of them work at TKK, too.
Kimmo was no natural presenter: words tended to stumble upon each other in his speech. Nevertheless a certain intensity and will of expressing came through, and forced the audience to listen to what the man had to say. I think that Kimmo's Nokia career was initiated with a single presentation that I heard, where he told about the accomplishments of his group at UH. The way he did it stole the show from the TKK professors also presenting in the same event.
Kimmo worked on hard technology, but he was deeply interested on the softer aspects of information technology as well, the impact of IT on people and society. He enjoyed being in HIIT because it offered him opportunities to participate in discussion on these themes, even if his contribution was not always very visible from the outside.
The same interest was also displayed in the freshman course "Introduction to computer science" that he gave in Fall 2006, for which he also prepared an entirely new set of lecture notes. It was a major effort from a man who was already ill. Still, he wanted to give expression to what he thought was really worthwhile and interesting in computer science. That writing was, in a manner of speaking, his swan song.
I must tell still another thing about Kimmo. Apart from my father, deceased a long time ago, Kimmo was the only person I have ever met who used the Finnish language expression selma, instead of the usual selvä, to mean (roughly) "all clear", or "clear enuf". It was very endearing. I am very sorry I never happened to ask where he picked the expression up.
From those sincere expressions, I can tell the typical endearing "Finnish Style" friendship between Kimmo and the author. The article is not long, but, when I reach the final line, I couldn't help stopping my tears rushing out, once again ...
Now, I suddenly remember, the last time, when Kimmo passed by my office, I didn't even catch the chance to ask him: "Hei Sir, do you like the Olympic Mascots I drop into your mailbox for Christmas?"
I thought, naively, there would be infinite chances later, to chat with him on that funny topic. But unfortunately, it turned out to be our final, "finite" moment to meet each other. And that trivial question, I can only keep within, and
The feeling is not comfortable I must confess, especially for a person I hold so much admiration and thankfulness.
As his student, it's very hard for me to write a memorial like his friend Martti Mäntylä. Cos I do not know where can I start.
However, if you have ever been to Kimmo's office, I am sure you'll never forget how special that room is: there are all kinds of Moomins on his book shelf surrounded by his numerous publications, books and awards ( there is even one from Chinese Government). The first time I entered his office, all of my focus was immediately taken away by those cute symbols. I'm kind of sorry that I nearly forget what's my purpose to visit him.
I've also heard lots of his PhD graduates saying how much they are impressed by Kimmo's love and enthusiasm to life. Yes, I do feel it as well. Even on the bus after a wholeday's tough work, Kimmo's still enjoying playing with the Finnish word guessing puzzle game on the newspaper (sorry I do not know the exact name). And I even caught his lovely smile, one time, when we were sitting side by side.
As a supervisor, Kimmo can be described as kind, and strict. I once asked him about the due time issue for a project. His response is simple and mighty:
Deadline, is deadline!
At same time, he puts full trust on his students.
There is one picture vivid as taken just like yesterday: last spring, Kimmo leads us to NRC for a project meeting. At the end of the discussion, he suddenly tear down an architecture paper draft, which is drawn by him, and walked slowly towards me. He put the paper in front of me, and said, very briefly, "next time, you will do the presentation!"
I guess, without his pure trust and supports, I would never dare to take out my first step towards a research career. Even when I face the difficulties on entrance to UK, it is him pushing me up, and helping me accomplish that academic trip.
From Kimmo, I understand the meaning of dedication to one's career. In the course given by him last winter, the "Performance Issues in Mobile Computing and Communication", he insists on giving the lecture by himself while he is under therapy. I do not know how much it'll take him to speak out a sentence, but I do feel the strength of a man fighting against his sickness and fighting for his teaching career. ( yes, just as mentioned by Martti, Kimmo is not a naturally born speaker, but most of time, he is using his own way to communicate with his audience. )
I left a comment on the HIIT Blog. There is one important sentence written in Chinese only. And that is the highest praise in China for a teacher and his teaching career.
I think at this moment, only with my mother tongue that I could express the respect and gratitude from the bottom of my heart, for our Professor Kimmo Raatikainen.
In memory of Kimmo Raatikainen.