Ilmastonmuutoksen, pandemioiden ja ylikulutuksen aiheuttamat paikalliset ja maailmanlaajuiset haasteet muuttuvat yhä monitahoisemmiksi. Niiden ratkaisemiseksi vaaditaan ripeitä poikkitieteellisiä toimia. Monitieteinen Chemical Engineering -pääaine yhdistelee ainutlaatuisella tavalla mm. matematiikkaa, laskentatyökaluja, kemiaa, biokemiaa, biotieteitä ja kemian tekniikkaa.
Student Linh Tong: 'Discovering new things about chemistry makes me feel like a detective'
Why did you want to study Chemical Engineering? What is the best thing about your studies?
I have always been interested in developing novel technologies to solve environmental issues and head towards a greener planet in the future. During high school I majored in chemistry, so I decided to continue my studies by continuing with a degree in chemical engineering. Now I have studied at Aalto University for one and a half years, and I am more certain of my decision than ever before. Aalto is the best place to deepen my knowledge in the field, create meaningful relationships and grow more as a person.
What course did you find most interesting and what was it about?
There are many courses that I love, so it is really difficult to choose a single course to highlight. I love every course that involves laboratory work. The most recent course that crossed my mind is ‘Plant Biomass’ by Professor Tapani Vuorinen. It is a major course for my Bachelor's studies. In this course, a group of two students had to identify the species of a given unknown wood sample by using microscopy and chemical analysis. After several laboratory days, we spent hours calculating and analyzing the data, collecting information from literature, and writing the final report. Although we were confident about our guess, our results from the chemical analysis were slightly lower than the average values from the literature. We kept questioning and tried connecting the dots to a big picture. I felt like a detective! I learned more about critical thinking, data analysis, laboratory works, and especially teamwork during this course. I truly enjoyed the process, as a mind should never be dormant.
What’s it like studying in English at Aalto University?
Overall, courses in English are organized really well. The teachers are supportive and actively listen to our feedback. I remembered there was a course in my first year in which the teachers asked us to list topics we were interested in and then tailored the course materials based on our needs. Moreover, the student-teacher ratio is amazing for some major courses. Since there are fewer students in the English Bachelor than in the Finnish-speaking one, we have more opportunities to interact and get help from the teachers. In some courses, although the official teaching language is Finnish, we can still have a possibility to complete the course in English. This flexibility enables me to explore more about other topics I love and fulfills my wish of attending university – to learn as much as I can.
Besides studies, the Association of Process Engineering Students (Prosessiteekkarit ry) organizes many events and activities in English to help international students like me integrate into student life at Aalto and explore the Teekkari culture in Otaniemi. I have met amazing people and created wonderful memories! The association is an essential part of my studies at Aalto.
Have you been working during your studies?
Last summer 2020, after completing my first year, I decided to participate in CHEMARTS Summer School for my minor studies. I got intrigued by chitin from birch polypore and wanted to explore more about this material. I worked with Sonja Dallyn, a design student from Aalto, to create a bandage from the material from both a designer’s and a (novice) scientist’s perspectives. Three months is a short amount of time, and of course, there are lots of rooms for improvement in our final product. But most importantly, working with a designer, I was always amazed by how innovative and intuitive Sonja was and realized an important role of a designer which is to fill the gap between a scientist and a consumer. This was a unique experience for me to work in a multidisciplinary team that Aalto provides.
During this fall, I had an opportunity to work as a teaching assistant for two fundamental chemistry courses by lecturer Ville Miikulainen. He inspires me and students by his enthusiasm to make the students truly learn and understand the fundamentals rather than just memorize information. He is an engaged teacher and empathic listener, supportive, adaptive, and flexible with changes. There is no hierarchy in working and studying in Finland. To me, he is a friend, a colleague, and a teacher, and I learned a lot from him.
What do you want to do after you have graduated? Do you have a dream job?
Gary Snyder once said: “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” This quote resonates with me a lot since I am always inspired by nature. I wish that in the future I will work in the R&D sector fighting climate change and working towards sustainability. Coming to Finland, I make sure to keep an open mind to different opportunities. I am interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in the field after graduation, but I guess it is still quite soon to say.
Tips for future students?
If you are unsure about what you want to do, take advantage of academic advising at Aalto. My advisor and I meet at least twice a year to discuss my current and future studies, and he always gives me useful advice and guidance to help my studies and advance my career.
Time management is everything, so set your priorities! Mine are my studies, my family and friends, and my health (both physically and mentally). Study well, eat well, exercise regularly, and sleep well. Call your loved ones more often and allow yourself to rest when you feel overwhelmed. It will help you so much in the long run.