Kemian tekniikan korkeakoulu

Student Veera Petäjäniemi: 'Through research, I can make an actual impact on the world.'

Creating new chemical processes from scratch with a degree that combines chemistry, mathematics and physics. Veera Petäjäniemi is studying the Master's Programme in Chemical, Biochemical and Materials Engineering - Chemical and Process Engineering.
Veera standing in nature

Why did you want to study a degree in Master of Science in Chemical Engineering?

Chemical and process engineering was something that I became instantly fascinated in during my bachelor’s studies. Being able to design new chemical processes was something that sparked an interest in me, and I wanted to learn more about it. Also, design work has been something that has interested me for a long time, and by choosing to study a Master’s degree in chemical engineering I am able incorporate design in my job.

Chemical engineering is actually a combination of chemistry, physics and mathematics, which is also one of the reasons why I chose this major. It is really cool to be able to apply knowledge from several fields of science in my studies.

However, the most important reason, why I chose this major, is the possibility to make a positive impact on the environment through my work. For example, industrial emissions and industrial waste can be reduced by designing greener chemical processes.

What is the best thing about your studies?

The best thing about my studies has been the many interesting courses that I have attended. Beside the major compulsory courses, I have been able to pick courses and concentrate on topics that interest me. So, I have chosen to incorporate more courses on process safety, laboratory work, and plant design in my degree, whereas I also chose not to take extra courses on process automation. So, it has been great that I have been able to customize the major to my liking. 

Besides major courses, I can also include minor and elective studies in my degree. The courses can be chosen from other Aalto schools or completed internationally. I am planning to do my elective studies in Belgium, where I am doing an exchange in spring 2021. In Belgium, I am planning to study more about process safety and environmental process design. 

What course did you find most interesting and what was it about?

One of the most interesting courses has been the laboratory project in chemical engineering. At the beginning of the course, we were assigned a chemical for which we needed to design a chemical process. My group designed a process for butyl acetate. The design of the process included a market study, process comparison and finally the design and operation of the laboratory scale chemical process.

The course really taught a lot about how chemical processes are designed and how processes can be operated in laboratory settings. Also, group work and project work was something that I learned a lot during the course. The laboratory course was also a course where I learned through mistakes. At the end of the course I could name several things that I wish we would have done differently. But at the end of the day learning happens through mistakes and all in all the course taught me a lot of engineering skills that are surely valuable in future work life.

I just started my second year of studies, and I plan to graduate at the end of 2021.

Have you been working during your studies in the field that you are studying? (for e.g. summer job) 

I have worked two summers at company called Fermion. Fermion manufactures active pharmaceutical ingredients, or shortly APIs, that are used in the manufacturing of finished pharmaceutical products. Fermion is actually a part of the Finnish pharmaceutical company Orion. During my summer jobs there I have worked at the research and development department, where pharmaceutical processes are developed.

During my first summer job, I worked with process simulation. I modelled reactions and mixing in chemical reactors with various simulation programs. The simulations were used to model industrial and pilot scale pharmaceutical processes.

During my second summer I worked with very different topics; I worked with pharmaceutical process waste and process side streams. My jobs consisted of the characterization and inventory of process side streams, as well as literary research on how the side streams can be reused more efficiently. The goal was to find ways to reduce the amount of industrial waste.

My summer jobs at Fermion have been really beneficial to my studies and vice versa. Working a summer job in your field is something that I can recommend to everybody.

What are your future career goals? 

It is my dream to work with research and development, because through research, I can make an actual impact on the world. I would like to work for example with designing more environmentally friendly processes. Also waste management and circular economy are topics that interest me, and I hope I can incorporate these themes in my job. All in all, my dream is to work for the greater good.

Read more about the programme

Students looking at equipment

Master's Programme in Chemical, Biochemical and Materials Engineering - Chemical and Process Engineering

From natural sciences to sustainable and profitable chemical process industries

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