Anni-Rosa Apilainen, laboratory technology, Tampere University of Applied Sciences
What do you study and where? How did you end up studying this field?
I am in my third year of laboratory technology studies at Tampere University of Applied Sciences. I hope to go on to do a master’s degree in Chemical Engineering. After upper secondary school I ended up working in retail for four years. I took a break from my studies to travel, but four years of working at a checkout desk in a shop gave me the motivation to apply to Tampere University of Applied Sciences. I got into the laboratory engineering training programme, which was my first choice, based on my exam results. I've always been interested in science and chemistry in particular. Based on the description, laboratory technology seemed very interesting, and the training focused not only on theory but also on practical training. We could carry out lab work already during our first year of studies and we were able to apply what we had learned during an internship after the second year of study.
What is it about your studies that excites you?
A practical approach and emphasis on sustainability and eco-friendliness are the most exciting aspect of my studies In addition, versatile and changing laboratory courses are always inspiring as the analysis techniques we have learned through theory can be tested in practice. This covers everything from design and method development to implementation, including the use of devices and reporting the results. In my opinion, one of the most interesting courses (during the 3rd year) was the Contaminated Soils course, taught in English, where we studied soil, groundwater and surface water treatment techniques, with the focus on natural and environmentally friendly methods. During the course, we also heard presentations by top professionals in the field where they introduced new, ground-breaking purification technologies and practical applications.
If the sky was the limit, where would you like to work in the future?
In the future, I would like to work in a forensic crime laboratory or, for example, in a research group. The career opportunities in laboratory technology are highly diverse and varied, and with the help of some optional studies, you can aim for a wide variety of tasks, from an employee in the Defence Forces’ testing laboratory to a foreman at a paper mill or a professional in the laboratory’s sales and marketing.
Which global or everyday challenge would you like to solve with the help of chemistry/your work?
With my knowledge of chemistry and the industry, I would like to solve problems relating to packaging materials, among other things. I would like to develop packaging materials that are more rapidly degradable and/or more recyclable, so that problems related to plastic, which is a burden on the world and our seas, can be solved in the future. My other dream is to be involved in solving the energy shortage that is already looming as fossil fuels are running out. Among other things, I am particularly interested in the development of biofuels and the reuse of waste energy in the manufacturing industry.
What do you think is an interesting innovation in the field of chemistry?
I was really interested in the method for using mineral waste as a raw material for geopolymers (Keko geopolymers Oy, University of Oulu), which was one of this year's finalists for the Chemical Industry Innovation Prize. One of the main advantages of the method is that mineral wool waste, which was previously disposed of in landfills, is now 100% recyclable. This type of innovation is exactly what I, too, would like to be involved in. The chemical industry is the industry of the future, where we can make the world a better and more sustainable place for ourselves and for later generations.