Master's Programme in Chemical, Biochemical and Materials Engineering - Biomass Refining
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In the coming decades, the development of sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels and high pollutant materials is more crucial than ever. Biomass refining is a rapidly expanding field, using the newest technologies to convert biomass into clean energy and a variety of marketable bioproducts. Students choosing Biomass Refining as their major gain a deep understanding of biomass and its components on microscopic and molecular levels. The diverse and multidisciplinary study environment together with top-notch research centers and dedicated faculty prepares students with the skills and knowledge needed for a successful career on the front lines of renewable energy and biomaterials development.
Upon graduating from the Master’s Programme in Chemical, Biochemical and Materials Engineering – Biomass Refining, graduates will have:
A thorough understanding of the technologies and processes involved in creating products and harnessing energy from biomass. Graduates have a comprehensive foundation in how wood, crops, plants and organic waste can be converted and used to create marketable bioproducts and renewable energy.
Gained insight from industry leaders regarding the growing role of biomass in the low-carbon economy. Graduates understand the realities and opportunities of the biomass industry, including its environmental impacts and challenges faced.
The ability to take part in scientific discussions about biomass and formulate scientifically justified arguments. Graduates are able to describe the global availability and importance of biomass feedstocks and the sustainable use of biomass.
Technical and analytical skills to perform biomass fractionation experiments in the laboratory. Graduates know how to use the most relevant analytical methods and equipment for monitoring the processes and the products.
An in-built sustainable approach to their profession. Graduates see planetary health, society and people as the starting point for successful engineering solutions.
Language of instruction
In all majors in the Master’s Programme in Chemical, Biochemical and Materials Engineering the language of instruction is English. It is also possible to complete some courses in Finnish or Swedish.
The core of the Biomass Refining major is in the deep understanding of biomass and its components on microscopic and molecular levels. The core compulsory courses in the first year lay a strong scientific foundation upon which the students will further develop their knowledge of common biomass conversion processes.
The Biomass Refining major applies knowledge of the fields of chemistry, chemical and process engineering, and biotechnology. Students can choose between two specialisation pathways, one in pulp and fibres and another in fuels and chemicals.
Many of the courses are organised in co-operation with industry, and thus the topics usually deal with present-day phenomena and current challenges. For example, the new wood-based textile fiber technology is a growing field of research. Rated as one of the most carbon-polluting industries in the world, the textile market urgently needs alternative production methods. The Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems is currently piloting a production facility for cellulose-based textile fibre. In addition to textiles, the wood material science and technology offers many fascinating opportunities for students interested in research and development of new sustainable and diverse wood products.
In the major, students have the opportunity to delve deeper in their areas of interests that are listed, but not limited to course examples, below:
- Sustainability in Bioproduct Industry (5 ECTS)
- Biomass Pretreatment and Fractionation (5 ECTS)
- Bioproduct Mill Recovery Processes (5 ECTS)
- Thermochemical Energy Conversion (5 ECTS)
- Planning and Execution of a Biorefinery Investment Project (5 ECTS)
- Plant Biomass (5 ECTS)
Students benefit from a highly innovative and interactive learning environment at the intersection of research and industry co-operation. A key focus area is to provide industry-ready students with advanced career management skills. For example, in different project courses students will acquire experience in an engineer’s work at a consultancy company, as well as work with real-life tools for project planning. In addition, different group work assignments develop students’ interpersonal skills and prepare them to work in multidisciplinary teams in their future careers.
Personal Study Plan (PSP)
The Personal Study Plan (PSP) is a practical tool to define a student’s own study path, compiling an optimal selection of courses that are aligned with the student's interests and programme requirements. PSP is also a useful tool for students to keep track of their studies. At best, it shows where students are with their studies and sets concrete milestones for them to follow.
Structure of studies
Overall, the Master’s Programme in Chemical, Biochemical and Materials Engineering – Biomass Refining comprises a total of 120 ECTS credits. The two-year programme consists of:
- Major dependent studies (63-65 ECTS)
- Elective studies (25-27 ECTS)
- Master’s thesis (30 ECTS)
It is envisaged that in the coming years biomass conversion and biorefinery will be one of the main methods of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and replacing fossil carbon sources. As many businesses and sectors have or are looking to shift to renewable energy, there are plenty of opportunities for biomass engineering experts.
Possible career paths may include:
- Working in advisory, research, planning, or management positions in the forest or chemical industries or in equipment manufacturing companies chemical industry
- Working as a consultant in engineering consultancy companies (e.g. Sweco, AFRY)
- Working as a renewable energy expert in big energy companies (e.g. St1, Neste, Fortum)
- Embarking on an entrepreneurial path and starting one’s own company
- Following an academic path and becoming a researcher in the field
Aalto University has well-established career services to support students’ employment in Finland and abroad. Many of the Biomass Refining major students carry out their M.Sc. thesis work as industry-funded project, often guaranteeing themselves with an entry position even before graduation. There is also a very active entrepreneurship community at Aalto, working as a springboard for founding a company.
The study environment in the programme is strongly international and studies are conducted in multicultural groups. The international atmosphere can be seen in everyday life at the School of Chemical Engineering, where approximately 35 percent of academic personnel and 20 percent of master’s students are from abroad. Our teaching methods support networking with people from diverse backgrounds.
Aalto University offers many possibilities for students to develop their global competencies. Students can, for example:
- complete part of the degree, e.g. a minor, abroad in one of the international partner universities as an exchange student
- choose courses with intercultural approach, learn foreign languages and/or become a student tutor for international students
- conduct practical training or Master’s thesis outside Finland
- take summer courses abroad
- benefit from several funding options available for internationalisation
Aalto University is international by nature, welcoming thousands of degree and exchange students from abroad every year. These students join the diverse Aalto community not only through their studies, but also through multiple free time events, celebrations and extracurricular activities around the campus. Active tutoring programs and support services work hard to help international students integrate to the Nordic culture and feel at home in Finland.
Co-operation with other parties
Merging science, technology, arts and business is one of the defining strengths of Aalto University and the Master’s Programme in Chemical, Biochemical and Materials Engineering is no exception. Students may choose their minors or elective study modules from other Aalto Schools so that their degree is a combination of technology, business, and art. They also have the opportunity to take courses from other Finnish universities via The Flexible Study Right Agreement (JOO).
One fascinating example of the interdisciplinary collaboration taking place at Aalto University is the CHEMARTS initiative, where The School of Chemical Engineering (CHEM) and The School of Arts, Design and Architecture (ARTS) merge. CHEMARTS aims to inspire students and researchers to create new concepts for bioeconomy by combining design, business thinking and natural materials science. The initiative organises various activities and learning opportunities, such as externally funded research projects, study courses and an interdisciplinary summer school. This spontaneous and vivid multidisciplinary environment sparks new ideas, gathers enthusiasts around them and gives birth to friendships, networks, and every so often, startups.
Postgraduate study opportunities
The Master’s programme in Master’s Programme in Chemical, Biochemical and Materials Engineering – Biomass Refining at Aalto is considered a great foundation for doctoral studies.
School of Chemical Engineering
Major Biomass Refining is a part of the Master's Programme in Chemical, Biochemical and Materials Engineering at the School of Chemical Engineering. The School of Chemical Engineering combines natural sciences and engineering in a unique way. This allows the results of our research to be refined a long way and put into practice as ready products and processes. Each innovation secures both our renewable and non-renewable natural resources for the future.
The School provides education for a wide range of responsible future professionals. M.Sc. and Ph.D. graduates in technology work in diverse positions in Finland's largest industrial sectors, in the metal and electronics industry, wood processing industries as well as chemical, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and food industries. The research and teaching are supported by an extensive international academic and industrial cooperation network.
The focus areas of the education are the sustainable use and processing of natural resources and new materials, including their technical applications. In the studies towards the major, students acquire advanced knowledge in a specific area of biotechnology, chemical technology or material science and technology. The education leading to a master’s degree is based on the professional practices of fields requiring expertise in science and technology and on scientific research generating new knowledge. Students may choose their minors or elective study modules so that their degree is a combination of technology, business, and art, typical of Aalto University.
Students will adopt a responsible, goal-oriented and systematic way of working, and develop skills to work as experts in their area of specialisation both independently and in cooperation with experts of different fields, also in an international working environment. They will be able to express themselves clearly and unambiguously both orally and in writing and to tailor their communication to the target audience.
The School of Chemical Engineering trains Masters of Science (Technology) who have the skills and knowledge to work as pacesetters of the fields of biotechnology, chemical technology and material science and technology in various managerial, planning and research duties serving industry or related stakeholders, the scientific community or public sector. The studies of the programme provide students with the knowledge and skills needed for applying scientific knowledge and scientific methods independently and for continuing to doctoral education.
Graduates of the programme will have achieved the key scientific and professional working methods of their area of specialisation and will be able to continuously deepen their knowledge by acquiring, evaluating and processing scientific, technical and professional information. They will gain the knowledge and skills to understand the challenges of the field from the point of view of users and technical and social systems, as well as from that of the environment and be able to use this knowledge in developing new solutions, also as members of multidisciplinary teams.
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Programme-specific admission requirements
Applicants are first evaluated based on Aalto’s general eligibility requirements (found on https://www.aalto.fi/en/study-at-aalto/applying-to-masters-programmes). Applicants meeting the general eligibility criteria for master's studies are then evaluated according to the evaluation criteria below.
Applications are first evaluated based on the following (critical) criteria.
- Academic performance
- Relevance of previous studies
Only the applications who fulfill the requirements for these criteria will be evaluated against the full set of evaluation criteria. After the evaluation of the remaining criteria below, the best applicants will be selected based on the joint evaluation of all criteria.
- Recognition and quality of institution
- Other areas of competence
The programme does not have a minimum quota to be filled, and not all eligible applicants will necessarily be admitted.
Evaluation criteria for Biomass Refining
|What is evaluated?||GPA of the bachelor’s degree|
|What we look for in an applicant?||The applicant's success in his/her previous studies (those that give basis for applying to the programme) will be evaluated based on the grade point average (GPA). Applicants are required to have a GPA equivalent to a minimum of 3.0 (on a scale 1.0 - 5.0, 1.0 being the minimum passing grade).|
|Method of demonstrating competence||Transcript of records, degree certificate|
|What is evaluated?||Content and quantity of previous studies in relation to the applied study option-specific requirements|
|What we look for in an applicant?||
BSc or equivalent degree in a relevant field in the natural sciences or engineering.
Relevant degrees (fields): Chemistry, biotechnology or chemical engineering or its subfields, such as process systems engineering, polymer engineering, or pulp and paper engineering.
Examples of key subjects: Mathematics, general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, chemical process engineering.
Knowledge and skills: The major applies chemistry, chemical engineering, and biotechnology in processing of biomass and, therefore, adequate knowledge and skills in mathematics and general and organic chemistry are a mandatory prerequisite for the studies. Basics knowledge and skills in biochemistry and chemical process engineering are highly appreciated.
In addition to the studies giving basis to apply to the programme, other possible studies are also evaluated. However, the study option should provide genuinely new knowledge and enhance the career prospects of the applicant. Thus, applicants who already have a master’s degree in a closely related field will only be admitted with well-justified reasons which should be explained in the motivation letter.
|Method of demonstrating competence||Transcript(s) of records, degree certificate(s)|
|What is evaluated?||Recognition and quality of the applicant's previous institution|
|What we look for in an applicant?||The applicant's previous institution (where the degree giving basis to apply was completed) will be evaluated based on the recognition and quality of the institution.|
|Method of demonstrating competence||International and national rankings of higher education institutions|
|What is evaluated?||Applicant’s further applicability to the study option, motivation and commitment for the studies|
|What we look for in an applicant?||
The applicant must clearly demonstrate genuine motivation to study the chosen field. The applicant must also explain how his/her previous studies support studying in the chosen study option and why he/she would be a good candidate for the study option. Please see further instructions for the motivation letter below.
The studies should provide genuinely new knowledge. If the applicant already has a master's degree, he/she should clearly indicate why he/she is applying to complete another master's degree.
|Method of demonstrating competence||Motivation letter|
|What is evaluated?||Work experience and other acquired knowledge/achievements e.g. publications|
|What we look for in an applicant?||
The applicant's other relevant achievements or experiences are evaluated if documented in the application:
|Method of demonstrating competence||Curriculum vitae, recommendation letters, proof of employment, publications|
Study option-specific documents
The documents required from all applicants are listed on https://www.aalto.fi/en/study-at-aalto/applying-to-masters-programmes. In addition, applicants to this programme are requested to provide the following study option-specific documents (if applicable):
- The lack of this application document will adversely affect the evaluation of the application. In particular, we pay attention to your ability of critical reflection.
- Max. 1 page, should be written in English.
- Examples of questions to consider when writing the motivation letter:
- Why are you applying to this master’s programme and major?
- What do you expect to gain from your studies in the master’s programme?
- Why do you think you are a good candidate for this master’s programme? How will your previous education, work experience, knowledge and skills support your studies?
- What are the areas in terms of knowledge and competences you need to develop
most to successfully complete the selected studies?
- What are your professional goals? In which sector would you like to work in the future? How do you think this master’s programme would support the development of your professional profile?
- Why do you want to study at Aalto University and in Finland?
- In case the applicant already has completed another master’s degree in a closely related field or if he/she has a study right to another master’s or doctoral programme, he/she is asked to explain why he/she is applying to complete another master's degree.
- Max. 3 pages, should be in English.
- Any experiences/achievements cannot be evaluated solely based on the curriculum vitae. Applicants always need to submit supporting documents (e.g. proof of employment).
- Max. 2 recommendation letters.
- The letters should be in English and written by a senior member of academic staff.
- Work experience in a field related to the study option.
- Scientific publications in a field related to the study option.
- Please, provide DOI or other clear reference of your publication
Students admitted to the Master's Programme in Chemical, Biochemical and Materials Engineering may be required to take complementary studies, max 20 credits. Complementary studies may not be included in the degree of Master of Science (Tech).
The content and number of the complementary courses depend on your previous studies. The complementary studies will be set latest in September.
For enquiries regarding the application process, application documents and language tests, please contact [email protected]
For enquiries regarding the content of programme and studies at the School of Chemical Engineering, please contact Learning Services of Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering, [email protected]