The Master’s Programme in Electronics and Nanotechnology offers the opportunity for students to go into the details of future-shaping and globally significant technologies. We are surrounded by wireless technologies everywhere through the rise of mobile devices, space technology is skyrocketing in the form of small satellites, and nanotechnology is enabling major breakthroughs in fields like solar energy harvesting. This programme focuses strongly on researching and building hardware for these technologies, paving the way for a fluent shift towards a career in the industry or an academic postgraduate path.
Student Pranava Pakala: The world is your oyster at Aalto!
When Pranava Pakala told her family that she wanted to study in Finland, they were a bit skeptical. Now, she is very happy with her choice. She especially enjoys Aalto University's wide course selection and vibrant student culture.
Why did you choose the Master’s Programme in Electronics and Nanotechnology?
I completed my bachelor’s studies in electronics and communications engineering and I was interested in energy devices, solar cells in particular. I was considering ways to transition to studying materials for energy applications. Nanotechnology seemed to be the perfect way to blend my previous background in electronics with something I was super interested in: new and novel materials.
What really drew me to this programme and Aalto University was the sheer flexibility it offered in terms of course selections. It would have been otherwise unimaginable for me to take courses in bio-based materials, design, etc. with my background but not at Aalto!
The most beautiful part was how well these seemingly unrelated fields seamlessly integrated into my study plan. Aside from my major studies, the extra and co-curricular opportunities at Aalto are truly endless. In the last year, I got a chance to participate in live projects through VTT and Aaltoes where I explored themes concerning entrepreneurship and business development. I believe these are particularly relevant to my field as it is niche and the semiconductor industry in Finland is mostly a result of university spin-offs.
What do you think about student life at Aalto?
Aalto University Student Union, AYY, rightfully advertises itself as the provider of the 'best student life in the world'. I have had some of the most unique experiences at Aalto and in Finland.
First, I appreciate how new students are quickly integrated into the activities here via their respective guilds through their tutors. There is something always happening on campus: be it cookouts, sauna evenings, etc. My favorite part, though (also something unique to the Nordics) are the sit-sits. They are an interesting insight into how people here like to party and have fun. Doesn’t hurt that it is also a great excuse to dress up!
Whatever may be your interest, you will always find a club for that here! I particularly enjoy the events hosted by the Aalto Sustainability Club and Women of Aalto. Having grown up in a big and bustling city and as someone who was never 'outdoorsy', Finland taught me to slow down, breathe and be grateful for even the small things. I learned to appreciate nature and the outdoors, and I did things that I thought I’d never do like jumping into the cold sea when it was -15°C!
What has been the best part of your studies so far?
One thing that truly stands out to me is how classroom teaching and coursework are linked to current research here. I can’t speak for other fields but as far as what I do is concerned, the opportunity to actively participate in topical research firsthand and access to state-of-the-art facilities including cleanrooms are priceless. My studies, the opportunities I received, and the incredible people I met here helped me find my place in this field for which I will be eternally grateful!
What has been the most interesting course?
Without a doubt, it has to be ELEC-E9210 - Organic Electronics: Materials and Devices. The content itself was super interesting as it was related to my summer job where I made organic transistors and I got a chance to understand the theoretical concepts behind this.
Special mention to the instructor and also my mentor, Assistant Professor Caterina Soldano. She truly cares for the progress of her students and the amount of time she spends giving constructive and valuable feedback is commendable. The course is meticulously created and incredibly engaging with practical significance shown for the topics explained at almost every juncture. The best has to be the assignments that pushed me to apply the concepts I had learned to the big picture! I hope more people get to experience this course!
Another course that made a difference to me was CHEM-E5115 Microfabrication. While it was super intensive and sometimes a bit hard to follow, I must admit it gave me a firm footing to dive deeper into the field I wish to pursue.
What does the future of the field look like?
Nanotechnology is absolutely incredible! It truly is the solution to most of the problems the world faces today in terms of energy and healthcare, for example. My interest is in wanting to be a part of the research towards next generation photovoltaics. Conventional solar cells, as we all know, are made of silicon. While they are great and efficient, they also have problems, mostly concerning recycling and material sustainability.
I wish to create thin, flexible and biodegradable organic solar cells. These solar cells could be integrated into buildings, walls, facades and windows to create self-sustaining buildings. Once commercialised at a larger scale, these can be the drivers towards achieving complete decarbonisation.
What would you say to international students who are considering applying to this programme and Aalto?
I’d say you’ve made a great choice! My family and my friends were a bit skeptical when I told them about my decision to pursue master’s studies in Finland, as it's probably not the most conventional choice. But, I held on to the belief that I knew what I was doing and I don’t regret it one bit. I could not have dreamt this up!
In terms of opportunities, there is nothing like Aalto. My programme made me fall in love with nanotech. As I already said, it helped me find my place and my purpose within this area and gave me the confidence to want to pursue it. The programme is definitely rigorous and will keep you on your toes (as it should).
The first months were hard but I am so thankful for those experiences as they strengthened me and laid a solid foundation for my further studies.
To prospective students: the world is truly your oyster at Aalto!
Finland and the Nordics, to my 21-year-old self were these faraway places where life purportedly was perfect and I must say, living here is the closest one can get to ideality.