Physics at LUT University: Where Matter Meets Academic Substance

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What’s the secret to being the happiest country in the world? Finland found out four years in a row, and one of its answers lies in education.

The country again led the World Happiness Report in 2021, based on data from the Gallup World Poll. Known for a socially progressive policy with the best public education system in the world, it was a matter of course for New York-born Abraham Kipnis to choose LUT University to deepen his knowledge of technical physics.

First-class education for a climate-conscious future

“I chose LUT in order to broaden my worldview and to receive a globally oriented education in physics and sustainability. Finland has one of the most advanced zero carbon targets in the European Union, ”says Kipnis, a sophomore of the university’s Masters in Technical Physics. “I wanted to see what I can learn and how I can contribute to Finnish society by living and studying at the LUT.”

Sustainability is not just a catchphrase at LUT; it’s a way of being. Driven by its “Science with a Purpose” strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030, the LUT locations in Lappeenranta and Lahti are already using their own research development on the Green Campus to be CO2-negative by 2024. A big goal, certainly, but definitely in sight for a university with a precise timetable, enriched by the expertise of various actors and researchers.

Kipnis is one of those at LUT who are applying theories of engineering physics for scientific breakthroughs in energy efficiency. One of the current research focuses of the LUT are superconductors, which are indispensable for the changes in energy conversion and information technology. In his dissertation on the response of superconductors to magnetism, Kipnis explains: “I’m trying to grow thin gold layers on a niobium crystal facet using a technique called molecular beam epitaxy (MBE). Then I do imaging and spectroscopy of the grown material with a scanning tunneling microscope (STM). ”He believes this research could offer new material platforms for faster, more energy efficient devices for long term sustainability.

It’s no wonder LUT does well in green rankings; The Times Higher Education has even listed it as one of the top 10 universities in the world for best climate practice. The LUT’s highly effective research in the field of semiconductors is carried out in close collaboration with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), home of the Large Hadron Collider. The pot for technical physics at LUT is further sweetened by internships in the first year at CERN, which is a surefire way to improve career prospects for aspiring researchers.

For the Russian doctoral student Ekaterina Soboleva, the future of semiconductors is already in her hands. LUT provided the perfect place to collaborate on their atomic force microscope research to study surface properties of promising materials such as porous semiconductors and Heusler alloys. Following LUT’s unwavering vision in developing sustainable technologies, Soboleva explores ways to improve existing applications in semiconductors so that companies can consider using new materials in future products. “I want to continue the research in science and support the transition to a sustainable world,” she hopes.

Wide networks for global solutions

While searching for study abroad opportunities in Sri Lanka, Veenavee Kothalawala came across LUT’s range of courses and was impressed with how the curriculum aligns with her research interests. She is now a PhD student, teaching assistant and junior researcher at the LUT’s School of Engineering Science until 2021, after completing her Masters in Computational Engineering and Technical Physics at the university.

“I believe LUT is the best complementary environment to learn, grow, and broaden the horizons of our subject,” she affirms. Kothalawala’s study focuses on the mechanism behind rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, which are ubiquitous in powering everything from laptops to electric cars. Their special study examines the properties of lithium nickel oxide (LiNiO2) as a possible cathode alternative to lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2) in Li-ion battery research due to its high discharge capacity, low cost and environmentally friendly properties.

The LUT’s strong faculty and extensive network connections with leading international scientific organizations such as CERN, Helsinki Institute of Physics (HIP), CSC – IT Center for Science and SPring-8 in Japan – one of the world’s largest synchrotron radiation facilities – offer limitless resources for its community to improve their research results.

“Even if the focus of my studies is on technical physics, this research is accompanied by several other areas, for example materials science and chemistry in various interdisciplinary approaches,” explains Kothalawala. Thanks to the influence of supervisors who have worked on projects around the world, she has already been admitted to several collaborative work.

From Newton’s Laws to Quantum Mechanics, the study of physics has undeniably influenced the world’s greatest inventions and scientific revolutions. LUT physicists lead the way in predicting future needs in the Fourth Industrial Revolution by combining curiosity and systematic application of knowledge.

If you want to master engineering physics for practical solutions, learn more about joining LUT here.

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