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Salla Nicholls and Esko Evtyukov are thrilled to be the first engineering psychology students

The engineering psychology studies covers the application of psychology to a broad range of technological studies
Engineering psychology students Salla Nicholls and Esko Evtyukov, photo by Matti Ahlgren
Salla Nicholls and Esko Evtyukov

Esko Evtyukov and Salla Nicholls are the very first students in Aalto University's engineering psychology studies, which launched in autumn 2022.

‘Engineering psychology is a technical field that takes psychology into account,’ explains Nicholls.

Evtyukov adds that ‘it looks at the relationship between humans and technology and how they interact with each other.’

Esko Evtyukov is originally from Joensuu, but he attended Ressu upper secondary school in Helsinki. ‘At first, I thought you had to be a mega-genius to get into Aalto, but a friend of mine was accepted to study electrical engineering at Aalto. I feel like I'm almost as smart as he is, so I thought maybe I could get in, too,’ Evtyukov says, laughing.

Salla Nicholls, originally from Kuopio, spent a year studying automation and systems engineering at Aalto before switching to engineering psychology. ‘I was looking for something more people oriented,’ she says.

Evtyukov hopes to work in the games industry in the future and is currently working as a research assistant in Assistant Professor Robin Welsch's team, designing virtual reality experiments. Nicholls, by contrast, dreams of combining data science and human-computer interaction.

Open doors

Since engineering psychology is completely new at Aalto, the students have had the chance to get very close to teachers and to Associate Professor Janne Lindqvist, who is in charge of the programme and also advises the students about their studies.

‘Janne Lindqvist greets us when we meet him in the corridor. Robin Welsch's office has an open-door policy, and you can go to him anytime,’ says Evtyukov.

‘The professors are very dedicated and want to do a lot for our studies. For example, when we pointed out inconsistencies in the model study guide, Janne Lindqvist asked us for a suggestion and wanted to meet and discuss it,’ says Nicholls.

Lindqvist says it’s important to keep the conversation going. ‘I've tried to keep the threshold for contact low and to make time when needed and listen to students' feedback and ideas,’ he says.

Robin Welsch stresses that they have asked students for feedback along the way. ‘Sometimes the subjects are complex and challenging, especially if the teaching is in English. For example, in my first course I held a lecture about the ethics of psychological experiments, and that led to some interesting discussions,’ says Welsch.

The new students have also benefited from the fact that some students have transferred to engineering psychology from other parts of Aalto. ‘First-year students don't have older engineering psychology students to ask for advice or previous experience with courses,’ says Welsch. But students who have studied other subjects at Aalto can help with the courses and exercises.

‘It's both fun and exciting to be the first. There's also a sense of appreciation and pride,’ says Nicholls.

For Evtyukov, ‘it's cool to do something for the first time. Sure, there are challenges, and some things are still a work in progress. But engineering psychology students will have significant advantages in the job market because we’ll have a whole new toolbox of skills.’

Guest lecturers

The engineering psychology studies include mathematics, programming, physics and, of course, psychology. The first psychology course featured guest lecturers such as Assistant Professors Robin Welsch and Stéphane Deny and User Experience Specialist Jari Takatalo from Rovio.

‘“Introduction to Psychology” featured top lecturers who gave an overview of their area of expertise,’ says Evtyukov.

Nicholls, on the other hand, is interested in the recently started “Computational social science” course, which students usually take in their second or third year. ‘It looks at human behaviour in a social environment and models it with a computer. You have to understand both programming and mathematics. You often get knowledge in the course that you can then apply in subsequent courses, building up your skills.’

Involved in guild activities

Students studying information networks welcomed engineering psychology students to the Athene Guild last autumn. Esko Evtyukov and Salla Nicholls are very pleased, since they think the field of information networks is also very people oriented.

‘We have a similar worldview and common courses, and I've made friends there, too. For example, I did a project on industrial engineering and management with three information networks students,’ says Nicholls.

The students are also happy with Athene's guild room, which is centrally located in the computer science building, where most of their classes are held, and is very accessible.

‘Athene Guild has been an absolutely fantastic asset and a great help. They did a great job of involving engineering psychology students in their guild activities,’ says Lindqvist.

Photos: Matti Ahlgren and Kalle Kataila
Text: Tiina Aulanko-Jokirinne

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