Professor Leinonen will replace vice-chancellor Andrew Taggart in April.
She joins Murdoch from the University of Wollongong, where she has been deputy vice-chancellor (academic) since 2012.
She has also worked in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Dubai and boasts an academic background in linguistics and psychology.
“After 40 years of investment, Murdoch University is now well-placed to capitalise on the Australian Government’s renewed focus on innovation and applied research, particularly in the research areas of health, sustainability and food production,” she said.
Along with a strong track record in research leadership, Professor Leinonen is also passionate about preparing students for the workforce and helped guide the University of Wollongong’s award-winning student employability strategy.
“Student employability is very close to my heart and something I view as absolutely critical,” she said.
“I believe in building transferable skills into courses in addition to just content knowledge and taking steps to ensure that learning that takes place outside of the classroom, like volunteering or club participation, is also recognised.
“And then, of course, opportunities for students to find placements in the workplace where they can gain real-world experience are also very important.”
Announcing the appointment, Murdoch University chancellor David Flanagan said he was proud to have attracted an applicant of Professor Leinonen’s calibre.
“Professor Leinonen is a distinguished researcher with international collaborations and outputs focusing on pragmatic language disorders in children,” he said.
“She understands the importance of maintaining Murdoch’s research-led strategy.
“She also strongly believes in externally focused research as a jointly funded enterprise between universities and industry, commerce and public bodies, and has experience in brokering such partnerships, including in the health and pharmaceutical sectors.”