'Dreams don't come true' is what Dutch singer Marco Borsato sang in his song 'Dromen zijn bedrog'. But at the University of Twente, the dreams of Hanna Reijneveld, third-year Chemical Science & Engineering student, are definitely coming true. It was her dream to become a chemist. Soon her first scientific article will be published, while she is still a Bachelor's student.
How nice is it to publish your first article as a Bachelor's student?
It is not often that Bachelor students write and publish a scientific article in a scientific journal. Hanna, however, succeeded - together with some politechnika lodzka scientists from Poland - at the end of her minor (a package of elective courses within your study programme that allows you to specialize or broaden your knowledge in another field).
"For my minor, I chose a project within nanotechnology. This way I could already orientate myself towards the master's programme I would like to do", explains Hanna. "I did my minor assignment at the Technical University in Łódź, Poland. I studied catalysts there that could increase the energy level of biodiesel. We examined the effects of precious metals and chlorine on catalysts. And soon our article will be published.
And then you study Chemical Science & Engineering at the University of Twente.
At high school Hanna already found Chemistry the most fascinating subject there was. Hanna: "I find it very interesting to see how things are different on an extremely small scale. And I also thought it would be fun to learn about large-scale chemical processes. You learn all this during the Bachelor's programme in Chemical Science & Engineering in Twente, which is what I chose to study. Once I had started this programme, I noticed that my interests shifted from process technology to materials science. That happens sometimes," laughs Hanna.
What does the academic life of a Chemical Science & Engineering student look like?
Hanna: "Within the Twente Educational Model, you follow a number of subjects that help you in carrying out your module project. In the first year, you will be particularly busy with the basic subjects and practicals. During the second module, we learned about process technology and calculated the capacity of a chemical plant. Of course, we paid attention to the various (chemical) products and the reactions that these products caused when they were combined, such as released energy or toxic substances. We figured out how to deal with this data and how to eliminate the released gases in order to prevent possible explosions. A very realistic project to work on as a first-year student.
Hanna continues: "At the end of the second year, you choose between process technology and materials science. My choice was the latter. It is incredibly interesting how you can change the properties of materials on a very small scale by adding heat or cold or how you can change the mould of a product or material. Think of gold, for example, which normally has a golden colour, but if you have very small particles, at a nanometre scale (a nanometre is one million times smaller than a millimetre), the colour is purple. It gets completely different properties and can be used for completely different applications.
In the second year, I had to work on a nanotechnology project: Quantum dots. These are very small particles that differ in colour as they change in size. You use this in the medical world and for applications in televisions, of course at the nano-level. It is cool to experiment with this yourself and see what actually happens when you also put UV light on it. The aim of this project was to see how these quantum dots can be made soluble in water, for medical imaging among other things. This way you are working on a multidisciplinary assignment, where you still have your own area of expertise: the chemist will work on solving the product and the Biomedical Technology or Technical Medicine students will tackle the medical applicability.
This project has awakened my interest in nanotechnology. I think that is why, after obtaining my Bachelor's degree, I will do the Master's programme in Nanotechnology, or perhaps a double degree with the Master's programme in Molecular and Material Engineering. The third year, which I am currently working on, consists of a six month Minor-programme and a Bachelor's assignment, which also takes six months.
What makes Chemical Science & Engineering so special in Twente?
"In Twente, teachers are very involved and you can drop by to discuss something if you are stuck during a project. There is a great deal of willingness to help you, and I greatly appreciate that. We work in small groups, so you are not merely a number but a part of the process... Not to mention the enthusiasm with which the subjects are taught, the help you receive and the interest in you as a person. It's really great," explains Hanna.
Even though chemistry seems to be a male-dominated world, women also fit in perfectly! "I never had the feeling that I entered a male bastion at Chemical Science & Engineering. We started out with 20% girls, but it's really about time that more tough girls enroll in such a cool study programme as mine," smiles Hanna. Nowadays, the Chemical Science & Engineering programme is taught in English.
A life next to your studies!
"Of course, you're not just busy with your studies. During my Bachelor's programme, I took up various activities or I've been a member of several student associations'", Hanna says. "I am a member of the study association of Chemical Science & Engineering Alembic. Not only do they organize fun activities, but they also establish contacts with companies where you can sometimes go on an excursion. Sometimes they also come to us to give a lecture. It is not only fun at Alembic. They also make sure that you learn more about what it is like to work as a chemist in industry.
I am also a member of the Femmeus women's sororities. And I play hockey; my team consists of very nice, sociable and of course super sporty girls. So you really have plenty of female contacts, in case you have any doubts about that.
Hanna also works for Pre-U, an organisation within the UT that offers an extensive educational programme for primary and secondary school students. Hanna: "I will be the new project leader for the Nature & Technology division and I will be responsible for deploying the right number of students to supervise the projects within this division. I wish that, when I was still in high school, I could have attended activities like this. Pre-U organizes such fun, interesting and educational projects and they also give students good tools to make the right choice when it comes to choosing your profile or even a study programme. A nice new challenge to sink my teeth into this coming year."