Is it possible for a degree programme to break away from its familiar learning environments and simultaneously get acquainted with field sampling in international research groups?
In September, the Degree Programme in Laboratory Sciences took an entirely new approach to their course in Environmental Analysis.
Part of it was carried out as an international field course in Environmental Analysis, and it implemented together with students of Avans University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.
The topic of the field week was the Baltic Sea. Each research group consisted of both Finnish and international students. The latter came from a study programme called Environmental Science for Sustainable Energy and Technology (ESSET), and many of them were visiting Finland for the first time.
As a result of the same cooperation, Finnish students had in turn been conducting inland dune research at corresponding field trip to the Netherlands.
Versatile programme gets encouraging feedback
After the initial launch of the field week, the group went outdoors and set out to take samples order to assay, for example, sediment bacteria, microplastics in water and PCBs occurring in fish.
The sampling and preliminary laboratory analyses took place on the idyllic Harakka Island, and the final analyses were carried out in the Degree Programme’s own laboratories on campus.
In addition, the week’s programme consisted of excursions to the sea research vessel Aranda and the Viikinmäki wastewater treatment plant. At the end of the week, the groups gathered their results into poster presentations.
Student feedback on the course was encouraging.
"The week was a nice change to the usual school routine and I enjoyed the Harakka Island’s great sunny weather. The international atmosphere was also refreshing," says second-year student Saila Orasmaa.
The teachers were also satisfied with the course of the week.
"It was great to see how the students were able to work in an international group and how skillfully they used English," says Head of Degree Programme Jarmo Palm.
"It was also important that we got out of the lab. We have for many years just been within four walls, so it was great to get to out and be in field with our students."
Wide and diverse range of student expertise
A multidisciplinary approach was also clearly reflected and it brought new perspectives to the work.
Two different viewpoints - laboratory sciences and environmental engineering - challenged established conceptions among both students and teachers. The Dutch students could question an analysis or approach in a completely different way than Helsinki Metropolia's own students.
The week culminated with Friday’s poster exhibition where each research team presented their objectives, methodology and results for other course participants.
"The level of expertise that the students developed during one week took me by surprise. It was unbelievable how well students were able to summarize one week of research into a single poster presentation", lecturer Tiina Soininen says.
One of the course teachers was Laura Hoikkala, a microbial ecologist studying at the University of Helsinki to be a teacher. When doing her teacher training in the course, she got to know the degree programme for the first time.
"I got a very active image of the programme. Both teachers and students were motivated and enthusiastic. The course was versatile, and in addition to studying methodology and analyses, students still had time to teach themselves how to make posters and present their research results. The lab facilities were well-equipped and students were really proficient in the laboratory, " she says.
The international field week shall be incorporated as a permanent part into the curriculum of Laboratory Sciences, as the new study module in environmental analysis shall in future be implemented in English. An international section is therefore to become a permanent part of the degree programme, along with its multidisciplinary, cooperation with other fields of study.
Jarmo Palm, Head of Degree Programme, tel. +358 40 336 1381, firstname.surname metropolia fi
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