“The new university community in Tampere should educate the most ethical technical students in Finland,” says Maria Kultanen, fifth year student in bioengineering at the Tampere University of Technology and Chair of the Student Affairs Committee of TEK, the trade union for Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland.
“Lappeenranta University of Technology has remarkable clean technology know-how, whereas Aalto University is strong in small entrepreneurship and design. The new university in Tampere could be a pioneer in how technology influences the entire society,” Kultanen says.
As for how to achieve this, Kultanen suggests multidisciplinary minor and major subjects as well as redividing the campuses, among other things.
“Working under the same organisation is not enough - students and researchers must be made to work together from the beginning,” Kultanen says.
According to a new study, especially young Masters of Science in Technology do not regard ethical issues in their work important. In Kultanen’s opinion, this is confusing as engineers are largely responsible for the ethical questions in areas such as robotisation.
“We are taught to be strong companions of the machine. Many only develop the system without thinking about what types of matters the work is advancing or is not.”
Kultanen hopes that the collaboration between universities will change this.
“I hope that we could see better that technical fields must serve a variety of different people.”
Kultanen, too, ended up in the technical field by accident. She considered environmental studies and journalism but chose bioengineering in the end.
“My parents recommended studies of Master of Science in Technology because it provides diverse opportunities for work.”
Roughly half of the students in bioengineering are women. It is quite different compared to other fields: for example in mechanical engineering, there may be only two women in a hundred students beginning their studies. Overall, roughly 20 per cent of the students at TUT are women.
According to Kultanen, it is first and foremost a loss for companies.
“In Finnish technology companies, the background of employees is very homogenous. I believe that companies could serve their customers much better if they had more diverse work communities.”
Kultanen believes that women could be introduced to technical fields by informing them more clearly on what types of jobs the education qualifies students for. She hopes that Tampere3 will further open up the diversity of technical fields in the future.
“It would increase the attractiveness of the field in the eyes of girls dreaming of medical school, for example,” Kultanen says.
“According to a report published in June, the dream professions of girls and boys in secondary school and upper secondary school in Finland differ greatly. Boys in secondary school are interested in technology industries, national defence, banking and finance. As for girls, their favourite fields include health service, tourism, catering business and social services.
Kultanen finds it confusing that the differences in favourite professions continue to be large.
“This is where the relevance of families and early childhood education is emphasised. How to teach children to cope with failures? Are children being encouraged to think in a solution-oriented way?”
Future students should also be informed of how different fields overlap and interlace. People working in technical fields need knowledge of communication and marketing whereas technical experts are needed in the field of healthcare.
In addition to her studies, Kultanen has a side job in a startup company called Nightingale Health that has developed a new blood analysis platform. The company analyses blood samples for research institutions and universities as well as for operators in healthcare in the near future.
“I do not know whether I am working in health services or technology industries according to the list of dream jobs,” Kultanen says.
Text: Mari Valkonen
Photos: Jonne Renvall