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Moving to Finland to make solar panels from trees

Maryam Esmaeilzadeh tells us about her AScI Internship and how it’s led to a PhD place in Finland
Maryam Esmaeilzadeh stood infront of the CHEM department
Maryam Esmaeilzadeh infront of the School of Chemical Engineering

Maryam Esmaeilzadeh is about to start her PhD place at the University of Turku, having spent her summer at Aalto university on the Aalto Sciences Institute AScI internship program. “I was looking for PhD or research assistant positions when I finished my Master’s degree at La Sapienza in Rome,” Maryam said, “and then I saw this program and applied.”

Maryam, originally from Iran, is interested in studying biologically-sourced materials for solar panels. “We want to be able to make solar panels that are easy to recycle and reuse at the end of their life,” she explained. Her project, in Professor Jaana Vapaavuori’s research group in the School of Chemical Engineering, has been looking at making transparent cellulose to replace the plastic or glass in current solar panels. Cellulose is a plastic-like material made from wood, and many researchers are exploring ways to use it to replace non-biodegradable plastics in consumer goods.

Aalto Science Institute AScI internship programme
Maryam Esmaeilzadeh in the laboratory
Maryam in one of the laboratories at Aalo

As well as her current research project, Maryam’s time on the AScI internship helped her secure a PhD place, starting next month at the University of Turku. “I spoke with my supervisors about being keen to do a PhD, and they introduced me to Professor Kati Miettunen in Turku. Her new project will be studying biologically derived materials for electrodes in solar panels, a closely related area to her current research. “The materials used in solar panel electrodes now are rare and expensive, so it would be ideal if we could replace them with material from trees, as Finland has a lot of trees!” said Maryam.

The Aalto Science Institute internship programme offers undergraduate and masters students from all countries employment opportunities to participate first-hand in topical research, with potential placements available in all schools within Aalto university. The positions usually last for twelve weeks in the period June to August. This year, the pandemic made things more complicated, but 6 students were still able to come to Aalto to take part in the project, which includes events and activities to introduce the students to Finland. “I love walking and being outside, and I really enjoyed the trip to Nuuksio national park,” said Maryam, “I am looking forward to my first winter in Finland too, I want to give cross country skiing a go!”

Details of the AScI internships 2021 are available on our website. Please visit: Aalto Science Institute AScI internship programme | Aalto University to learn more. For general questions concerning the internships or application procedure, contact the AScI coordinator at [email protected].

The call for host professors is currently open, and closes on the 16 December. More information can be found at the link above.

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