Professor's portrait: Mia Folke
Mia Folke, Professor, School of Innovation, Design and Engineering, Division of Intelligent Future Technologies.
Please tell us briefly about your academic career – what decisions have brought you to where you are today?
When I applied to university, I chose the laboratory assistant programme, currently called biomedical scientist, because it looked so empty to only apply for one education on the form. (In those days you studied healthcare at a special university college). I was late with my application and in a hurry to go somewhere so I had to decide quickly and didn’t give it much thought. It was not until I got accepted to the program and had accepted I realized that it had a specialisation in physiology that seemed really interesting. I knew that I wanted to learn more about physiological measurements.
I had worked at a some different labs, but it was impossible to get a permanent position and there were no job opportunities at all in Västerås. So, I decided to study for a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Electronics, specialising in Medical Engineering at MDH. During my degree project I was asked if I wanted to become a PhD student. At the time, MDH did not conduct any research in that area. Actually, MDH didn't even formally have the right to admit own PhD students then. There were only a few PhD students there who were enrolled at other university colleges/universities at other schools but I was asked to wait with my application to be registered directly at MDH. It felt quite uncertain and besides, I was hesitant to focus into a such a specific area. The turning point for me to accept was when Ylva Bäcklund, who was going to be hired as a Professor of the subject, said that she intended to become a farrier when she got tired of being a Professor.
Since then, I have conducted research in various projects and with different cooperative partners and at the same time I have also been director of studies for a while, I’ve developed and hold courses in medical engineering for healthcare professionals. Also I have been involved in running the Collaboration Arena for Health and Welfare Technology and am actively promoting innovation in health and welfare technology through my participation in the Innovation Network for Welfare and Health in Västmanland. I got the idea for parts of my current research when I reduced my work hours at MDH a few years ago and worked part-time as a personal trainer at a gym.
In what area do you conduct research?
My research is about developing new methods and systems to be able to perform physiological measurements. Right now, it is about being able to detect and remedy increased risk of falls at an early stage and to explore technical support to improve blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes with the help of specific physical activity. This allows me to combine my main interests, physiological measurements and quality in training.
How would you describe your research environment at MDU?
I belong to the Embedded Systems research specialisation at IDT. This is the largest research environment at MDU, and the leading academic research specialisation in Sweden related to embedded systems. The research is organised into 16 cooperative groups that focus on the following six research domains: Software Engineering, Real-Time Systems, Robotics and Avionics, Sensor Systems and Health, Dependable Systems and Verification and Validation. Around 24 Professors, 12 Visiting/adjunct Professors, 11 Associate Professors, over 60 additional Senior Researchers and over 100 doctoral students in computer science and electronics work in our research environment.
My research belongs to the Sensor systems for health research domain and I am part of the Medical engineering research team. As a result of external funding through most notably KKS (The Knowledge Foundation) which finances the research profiles Embedded Sensor Systems for Health (ESS-H) and ESS-H+, the Medical Engineering research team has grown significantly since its inception in the late 1900s. Today, the team conducts system-oriented interdisciplinary research which combines measuring and sensor technology, signal processing, an intelligent base for decisions as well as dependable and secure data communication. The focus is to develop state-of-the-art solutions in these domains, to solve actual complex research challenges in cooperation with end users and industry to be able to create systems to promote health.
To broaden my research area, I am also part of the PriLiv (Long-term independent life) research team at HVV.
What is the driving force in your research?
Curiosity, creativity and making a difference.
Which research domains are particularly important for you?
To develop new physiological measurement methods, i.e. a requirement specification for what needs to be measured and figure out a way to be able to measure it. It’s the same with testing in elite sports: as an elite athlete, you want to know which aspects you are good at and which you are less good at to improve your results when you compete. I have also worked with testing on different professions and athletes before I came to MDH to start my second education. It's no surprise really that I prefer to work with the development of tests to detect fall risks at an early stage. To not fall and injure yourself is a bit like performing optimally in sports. All the components must be good; for example, balance, strength and ability to regain balance. So building up tests for fall risk is like establish a knowledge baseof the requirements for a new sport and developing a range of tests, i.e. several tests that correspond to the requirements of that sport.
How do you feel about becoming a Professor given that MDU has recently become an official University?
Oh. I haven't really thought about that. University college or University. Professor or who I was when I finished upper secondary school with pretty low grades, completely convinced that I would never study at a university. I don't think it matters really. What drives me is curiosity, not a career. However, naturally it's exciting to be a University so it will be easier to hire more staff and we can achieve more. Then you can be curious about new things if more people are helped to find the answers.. I also hope that through interdisciplinary projects we will have the opportunity to create more benefits with system solutions which can identify a persons' early deterioration to reduce the number of sick and injured people.
What's the best part about conducting research at MDU?
Collaboration! I love to learn from others and develop together, so collaboration with the public sector, private sector and colleagues in different disciplines is what is so great about MDU.