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Youth Technology Competition Winner gets summer job at Aalto University

Suvi Laitinen wants to learn new things, especially in medicine, and with technology at the forefront
suvi laitinen
‘I am enthusiastic and happy at work and I've already learned a lot of new things,’ said Laitinen

16-year-old high school student Suvi Laitinen and her friend Lena Maula won the Millennium Youth Prize competition in last autumn. Their entry was a proposed new treatment for Alzheimer's disease and it won them the main prize. For five weeks this summer, Suvi Laitinen is working in a different laboratory at the Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering at Aalto University.

Laitinen is shaddowing the work of a researcher or a research group, observing what each group is studying, and she also participates in the work where she can.

‘I made an English language brochure for Petri Ala-Laurila’s research group which they can use during school visits. I also observed research carried out with a microscope, read research articles and watch videos about research,’ Laitinen said.

During Midsummer week, Laitinen is at the MEDUSA laboratory where ultrasound research is led by Heikki Nieminen. Every day, Laitinen follows the laboratory work of a different researcher.

‘This week, I will model a small sampling stand for 3D printing. On one of the days there will be research on acoustic levitation,’ said Laitinen.

Laitinen already knows a little about the tasks of the upcoming weeks, although the majority of them are only revealed to her at the laboratories.

‘I will be writing a story about empathy for the group conducting a film research that they can use in a future study,’ Suvi Laitinen said.

Laitinen is very pleased with her summer job.

‘I am enthusiastic and happy at work and I've already learned a lot of new things,’ said Laitinen.

From a challenge on Alzheimer's disease to technology and medicine

During the summer of 2018, Suvi Laitinen spent two weeks nursing her great grandmother who has Alzheimer's disease. Participating in the competition and choosing the challenge of medicine diffusion was a natural choice for Laitinen who is studying natural sciences and mathematics at high school.

The competition challenge was to transfer the drug molecule into the target cell as effectively as possible.

‘We gathered as much information about Alzheimer's disease as possible. Our sources were mainly the Current Care Guidelines and publications of various universities. Our most important source was a study carried out by the University of Eastern Finland on specialised stem cells, which found that when a person has Alzheimer’s, astrocytes, or supporting cells, do not produce enough lactate. Our solution was based on increasing the amount of lactate in the brain, giving the neurons more nourishment and slowing the progression of the disease.’

After the competition, Laitinen wanted a summer job in science.

‘I sent an open application because Aalto University has just the combination of technology and medicine that interests me,’ Suvi Laitinen said.

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