Studies can also be combined with parental leave

The bachelor's studies of Hanna Seppäläinen, a student of chemical engineering, included challenging courses, research assistant work, events and can-can dance. She begins her master’s studies as a new mother.
Hanna Seppäläinen and her daughter in front of chemical engineering building. Image: Hanna Seppäläinen
Image: Oona Mollberg

What do you study?

After three years of studying, I just graduated from the Bachelor's Programme in Chemical Engineering, where I majored in Chemical and Process Engineering. I will soon begin my studies in the Master's Programme in Chemical, Biochemical and Materials Engineering, Biomass Refining.

I chose the major because I am interested in the Finnish forest industry as a workplace. The design of more environmentally friendly products and the efficient utilisation of biomass seem to be significant development goals. My choice of major subject was also influenced by the fact that I have worked as a research assistant in the Wood Material Science and Technology research group at the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems since the beginning of my studies.

How did you end up studying chemical engineering?

I went to university when I was 30. My previous profession as a laboratory assistant was very pleasant, but I had the idea of studying in a university in the back of my mind. I had worked for several years at Stora Enso, where corrugated cardboard was produced. I found my work interesting and important, especially because of a more ecological future and good product demand.

In addition to work, I completed some upper secondary school courses, especially in chemistry and mathematics, so that I received good grades for my matriculation examination certificate. At the same time, I prepared for the upcoming entrance exams.

Of course, I was worried about the leap into the unknown because I was used to a salary, but the dream won. I felt like I had a new chance to make the most out of student life, and that's what I did! And, incidentally, I already met my spouse in the first year of studies.

What has been the best part of your studies?

Many things, but the first thing that comes to mind is the challenge. I like the overall level of difficulty in the courses, which actually makes you work hard but which is not impossible. One of the best things is my friends at the university. Studying together helps you cope, and even difficult tasks can be solved with friends.

In general, studying at Aalto University gives a pleasant rhythm for life and creates an inspiring perspective on future job opportunities. The studies enable access to the heart of research and development in your field. In addition to other staff, the professors have been an excellent support and contact network.

Aalto University is a very vibrant place to study - although the coronavirus has caused exceptions in many things. Aalto supports studying in many ways: I have reserved rooms for self-study and group work with friends through the Aalto Space application, installed a workstation environment on my computer, which gives me access to many of the programs I need, and printed learning materials for free.

What is student life like at Aalto University?

Student life at Aalto University is immersive. It is enjoyable to buy a large cup of coffee and to run with a stream of students to a lecture that is about to begin. Internationality in Aalto University is spectacular for students and staff alike. There are probably not many universities in Finland that are equally international.

I have been actively involved in student events. For example, I have worked as an assistant IE (host/hostess) in the organisation of events and as a photographer for the Association of Process Engineering Students, I have been part of a can-can dance group and have volunteered twice at the Aalto Afterparty event organised by the Aava Community Section. I also participated in the activities of BEST Helsinki, a committee working under Aalto University Student Union, a couple of times. I gave international student guests a sauna tour around Otaniemi.

What kind of working life tools did your studies give you?

During the studies, my cooperation skills have developed through group work. Finding solutions together and asking for advice in a difficult situation have been necessary both in studies and in working life. During my studies, it has been necessary to learn to prioritise tasks and to schedule my work. These skills also help in working life.

During my studies, I have heard interesting career stories that have helped me plan my own choices in working life in advance. I have also participated in a number of excursions where I have been able to familiarise myself with different factories and identify potential future jobs.

What plans do you have for the future?

I spent my third bachelor’s year on maternity and parental leave, so I will try to plan my master's studies and possible part-time work on the terms of my little girl. I will try to complete my Master of Science in Technology studies on time, that is two years. I would also like to work part-time alongside my studies, once again in the research group, if there is a suitable opportunity to do so.

After graduation, it would be great to enter working life immediately. At the moment, I live in Kouvola with my family, and there are some excellent jobs here as well. There is always a chance for me to continue my studies after completing my master's degree.

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Students studying in groups in the laboratory

Kemian tekniikka, tekniikan kandidaatti ja diplomi-insinööri

Kemiaa on kaikkialla. Sen keskeisiä elementtejä ovat aineiden rakenne, koostumus, ominaisuudet ja reaktiot. Kemian tekniikassa näitä sovelletaan aina nanometreistä laboratoriomittakaavaan ja tehtaan kokoluokasta kansantalouden tasolle.

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