Student summer projects provide insights into bioproduct chemistry research
Yasmini Portes Abraham Silva
During summer 2022, MSc student Silva worked in the field of lignin valorization, in the IMPRESS project, which stands for Integration of efficient downstream processes for sugars and sugar alcohols.
"I did the characterization of technical lignins from acid hydrolysis, optimized the ultrasound-assisted fractionation to maximize the yield of soluble lignin, and used this solubilized lignin to produce nanoparticles and apply them as surfactants in Pickering emulsions."
Silva was supervised by Prof. Monika Österberg and Dr. Paula Nousiainen. "It was great to have the chance of learning a little bit about the many challenges and potential applications of lignin, especially working in such a great research group, with very nice and helpful colleagues!"
Interested in Silva's MSc thesis? You can read "Biorefinery lignin: Structural characterization, modification and production of nanoparticles for applications" on Aalto doc repository.
This summer, Bachelor of Science Education (University of Helsinki) has been working on the XBRAIN project.
"I discovered the magical world of XPS and its importance when it comes to materials identification."
Kauremaa's role was to treat the old archives, fit XPS spectra and digitalize them for an XPS library. He was supervised by Dr. Charlotte Zborowski, who taught him everything about XPS and who answered "even the dumbest questions".
"I learned to fit XPS spectra and the importance of doing it correctly. Even though the work itself was sometimes one-sided, the work environment, and especially the people, have made it fun throughout the whole summer."
Bachelor of Science student Aura Relander worked as a research assistant for Dr. Muhammad Farooq this summer, trying to figure out how to create hybrid lignin nanoparticles with a polymer called polycaprolactone with some fairly good success.
"I did a lot of lab work but also tried to learn about the topic through literature. I gained a lot of knowledge about lignin nanoparticles and got a lot of experience in the lab, which will be very useful in my studies."
Relander didn't know what to expect from this summer work, but it was an eye-opening experience. "I now feel like I have an understanding of how researchers work, and it was such an honor to get to follow their work up close!"
She also wrote her Bachelor's thesis about the research topic. Relander says, "It was a perfect setting for combining summer work and the thesis project."