A different kind of learning
Even though the application procedures and other practical arrangements were easy to handle, George did not get his visa in time and unfortunately missed the first month of his studies.
‒Because I started last year, which was before the pandemic and the current system of online teaching, I couldn’t attend my first lectures. Luckily, I managed to catch up fairly quickly. The positive thing about online teaching is that you can join classes no matter where you are.
The teaching and study content were exactly what he was looking for.
‒The courses covered everything I was expecting. Although it’s been a whole new experience, to say the least. It's a different kind of learning experience: everything is digital and there’s even an app that has all our course schedules, so it’s easy to keep track of your study plan. Everything is laid out for you.
George chose his track from the four alternatives ‒ air pollutants, radiation, water or environmental informatics ‒ very easily.
‒I chose air pollutants, which is what I focus on in my thesis. At the start of the studies we make personal study plans where we pick courses that are in line with our chosen specialisation area. You can also take something extra, as long as you ensure that you pass all the compulsory courses.
The chemicals topics have been especially interesting.
‒To me, the most intriguing course has been Chemicals, Environment and Health, where we learned about different types of chemicals, microplastics, medicinal product residues and other compounds that can be found everywhere and that can cause health problems, especially if ingested or inhaled. It was also my first time writing a learning diary instead of taking an exam. The writing process developed our skills in writing, of course, but also in critical thinking, as first we attended the lectures and then searched for other materials and presented our ideas in written format. It was a really enjoyable form of study.
George values that all courses feature some kind of practical aspect, even if they are not taught in the lab.
‒Different kinds of seminars and essays definitely help you keep focused. And then, when you make use of the top-class equipment in the lab, you can fully make sense of what you learned in class. For example, we use advanced machines for analysing water samples and UV light equipment for treating and purifying water samples. Actually another favourite course of mine was Water Chemistry, because of the excellent teacher, Eila Torvinen. She’s very thorough and I admire her style of teaching.
Clever carbon capture technology
Now George is doing experiments and preparing for the writing process of his Master’s thesis.
‒My topic really combines everything I have learned so far. I focus on metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) that are promising materials for catalytic capture and conversion of CO2 to useful industrial products or chemicals. MOFs basically comprise metal ions and organic components which link the metals together to form 3D structures. Their use for this purpose is an emerging technology that has been the focus of scientific research due to their high porosity, large surface area, and ability to selectively capture CO2 from a mixture of gases.
This could provide a solution to global warming and climate change.
‒We could remove CO2 from the exhaust of power plants, for instance. However, high cost of raw materials, long reaction time, and lack of thermal stability have hindered the production of MOFs on a large scale. But once the method is made commercially available at lower cost, it can really have a massive impact on reducing CO2 emissions around the world.
George is so settled into the Finnish lifestyle that he doesn’t hesitate at all to say that his aim is to continue towards a PhD at UEF.
‒I’ve discovered that Finland is a very safe place. I’ve walked alone from the city center to my apartment at night and haven’t encountered any robbers or thieves or anything like that. Kuopio is a safe city ‒ a bit quieter than my hometown though, George smiles.
According to George, the food in Finland is good (after a bit of initial familiarisation), the student housing is affordable, the students are a very nice and international group and the partial tuition waiver was really helpful. George is also having fun studying Finnish and he feels this is progressing well despite the language’s notorious reputation as being difficult to learn. The climate is the only thing that gives him the chills ‒ literally.
‒As I come from a warm country, I’m still trying to adapt to the cold. Now I have proper clothing to keep myself warm. I love the summer, the spring and the autumn here, so I cannot really complain. I wanted to try somewhere new.
And hopefully George can continue to enjoy new experiences in Finland.
‒I’ve learned a lot here. I’d like to continue towards a PhD in the same area of research, after which I want to work as a researcher at a university or some kind of environmental agency, helping to create long-lasting solutions to today’s problems.