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Group photo.

In the photo: Petri Stenberg, Hasan Riaz and Kirsi Ikonen.

Students of photonics get to solve real-life research problems already during their studies

Laboratory work in photonics is now being developed in collaboration with photonics industry companies.

  • Text Marianne Mustonen
  • Photo Varpu Heiskanen

 “Last year, some of our traditional laboratory exercises were replaced by collaboration with companies operating in this field,” says Project Coordinator Kirsi Ikonen of the Department of Physics and Mathematics at the University of Eastern Finland.

Already during their studies, Master’s level students of photonics get to solve real-life research problems faced by companies, while also gaining important working life skills.

“Entering the world of work after graduation can be tough. We also want to examine the role of this kind of collaboration between higher education and companies: will it help in the retention of international talent in Joensuu and in Finland?”

According to Ikonen, collaboration with companies has been smooth. For a few students, it has also led in internships, real jobs and thesis topics, creating real networks between companies and students.

Students get to solve small-scale research problems that companies have been struggling with for a long time. The project involves several companies in the field of photonics and optics.

“As an assignment from Nanocomp Ltd., students have compared the properties of polymer films used in the manufacture of light guides. For the optical shooting system company Eco-Aims Ltd., students have examined the laser diodes used by the company, and for Oplatek Ltd., they have focused on phenomena related to the quality assurance system of optical fibre,” Ikonen explains.

Dispelix Ltd., wanted to teach students especially process analysis methods that are driven by data.

“University education provides a very good level of competence in photonics. In companies that manufacture consumer products or components, the focus is often on the quality of the process, since the goal is to provide the customer with the best or at least with a good enough product for their intended use. Words such as ‘yield’, ‘process error’ and ‘quality’ keep coming up. By combining research training with data-driven process and quality analysis, we can create a comprehensive skill set that also caters to the needs of the manufacturing industry,” says VP of Manufacturing & Site Manager Petri Stenberg.

“Students have been very enthusiastic about the topic. Many have given feedback saying that after the assignment, they see their own work in the laboratory in a whole new light. It’s been great to see how well the world of business and academic education go together.”

The academic and the business side of things definitely complement one another.

Petri Stenberg

VP of Manufacturing & Site Manager, Dispelix Oy