Major guide

This guide has been made based on the comments from students. Take into account, that the majors might have slightly changed after these comments have been made. The majors from the Master’s Programme in Chemical, Biochemical and Materials Engineering are presented below.

If you have any questions related to this guide you can email the head of studies at opintovastaava(at) If you want to add your own contribution to this guide, you can answer the questions here.

Programmes and majors at CHEM

Master’s Programme in Chemical, Biochemical and Materials Engineering (CHEM)

  • Biomass Refining
  • Biotechnology
  • Chemical and Process Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Fibre and Polymer Engineering
  • Functional Materials
  • Sustainable Metals Processing

Joint Programmes/Majors

Master’s Programme in Advanced Energy Solution (CHEM, ENG, ELEC)

  • Industrial Energy Processes and Sustainability

Master’s Programme in Life Science Technologies (CHEM, SCI, ELEC)

  • Biosystems and Biomaterials Engineering

Master’s Programme in International Design Business Management (all Aalto Schools)

Master’s Programme in Creative Sustainability (CHEM, ARTS, BIZ)


  • Nordic Master’s Programme in Polymer Technology (CHEM)
  • European Mining, Minerals and Environmental Programme – EMMEP (CHEM, ENG)
  • Master’s Programme in Environmental Pathways for Sustainable Energy Systems – SELECT (CHEM, ENG)
  • Master’s Programme in Energy Storage (EIT InnoEnergy)
Biomass Refining
Introduction to major:
“In biomass refining major courses, the teaching methods are somewhat varying. Some courses are the traditional lectures+exam type, some have lectures and laboratory exercises, while some are purely laboratory work and its planning. Some courses don’t have the traditional exams, but instead the theory part of the grade is given based on small quizzes done during the course or based on the lecture participation and notes.”

“Based on only a few courses, this major includes quite a lot of group work, courses about wood structure, pulp making etc. and some courses of chemical engineering.”

Why did you choose this major:

“I chose this major, because lignocellulosic fibres and the chemical of refining of wood were my main interests, and unlike fibre and polymer engineering, biomass refining does not have the (based on what I’ve heard, difficult) polymer courses.”

“I am interested in pulp making, bio oils and being environmentally friendly.”

What are your thoughts on this major now:

“In my opinion, biomass refining is quite a balanced major, and I have not had to regret choosing it (at least not often). Having two Aspen-courses (the engineering thermodynamics ..) is maybe one too many, but all in all I have been happy with the major. The major could have more discussion about the biomass refining on the concrete level for example by having more real-life examples and for example a study visit to a pulp mill etc.”

“I like this very much and I don’t feel like there is something missing. There is a wide selection of courses from which to choose.”

Advice for students who are considering this major:

“If pulp and other bioproducts are your thing, then this major is for you. To complement this major, you can study some interesting courses from the fibre and polymer engineering major, which enables you to widen your knowledge towards for example paper technology, but the basis for all chemical wood refining is taught in-depth in this major.”

“This major contains a lot of lab works and group works so be prepared to do them.”

Introduction to major:

“Bacteria, genes, proteins, bioreactors… Lots of lab work and group work, which is good because that’s what is done in work places in the field of biotech, too.”

Why did you choose this major:

“It was the most interesting in my opinion. It combined chemistry and biology nicely.”

What are your thoughts on this major now:

“Cell and tissue engineering was the best course ever.”

Advice for students who are considering this major:

“It’s a lot of lab work and a lot of biology. The work opportunities may be a bit more limited compared to other majors, such as chemical engineering.”

Chemical and Process Engineering
Introduction to major:

“Learning of important skills and information for working life in field of chemical engineering. Evaluation includes all typical forms of evaluation from exams to group work.”

“The Chemical and Process Engineering major introduces you to the world of chemical processes and the underlying chemical and physical phenomena. You can specialize in chemical engineering (Aspen, math), reaction engineering (lab work, math, chemistry, physics), polymer engineering (lab work, math, materials), plant design (Excel, math, business), or process systems engineering (Matlab, programming, math).”

“Chemical and Process Engineering is essentially a discipline combining various areas of expertise (chemistry, physics, biology, economics and mathematics) into knowledge to efficiently produce, use, transport and transform energy and materials.

In this major, rather conventional evaluation methods are used. However, the courses consist of a few different teaching methods. These teaching methods include lectures and mainly computer class exercises – after all, pen & paper exercises are not very convenient for chemical engineers. In the computer class, various software, such as Excel, Aspen and Matlab are used. Personally, I think Excel and Aspen are definitely the most important ones, while Matlab is usually useful for those who already have experience with it. The evaluation methods used in this major typically include exams. The exams are designed so that it’s easy to pass them, but to get the highest grade, students really need to understand the subject.

Most of the courses include some kind of home assignments that also contribute to the final grade. These assignments typically require students to use their engineering knowledge and are not as straightforward, which I think is good. Sometimes the assignments are a bit tricky, but the course personnel are always more than happy to help. Lab works are not very common. However, there are some lab works, for example on the lab course (1 lab) and fluid flow (1 lab).

Probably the most interesting course (specifically one 10 cr course divided into two 5 cr parts) of the major is the Design Project in Chemical Engineering, where students work as a group with a real project. In this course, students get peers that help them with the project, but the students actually carry out the project themselves. Personally, I think this has been the most interesting course during the major.”

Why did you choose this major:

“Experiences from real life and work encouraged me to choose this major.”

“I chose the major because of three major reasons. The first was that I did not enjoy lab work, and this major has the least of it. The second was that I did not want to get tied on to anything really specific niche in the chemical industry. The third was that there was a lot of freedom when choosing the courses for the major, and it allowed me to concentrate on the subjects that I was most interested about.”

“Chemical Engineering is a discipline that can easily land a job almost anywhere. The contents are so global that students wishing to get international experience is easy and the job titles vary greatly. Furthermore, chemistry touches about 95% of manufactured goods globally (according to European Chemical Council CEFIC) and the number of students taking chemistry related subjects as their major is declining (according to a paper published by Science Mag). Thus, the job opportunities are really good in the future.

And in general, chemical engineering is not the easiest subject, so the challenge was appealing to me and I decided to take it up as my major.”

What are your thoughts on this major now:

“Especially interesting has been the process design courses, which simulate the work life pretty well.”

“All in all, I am content with my choice. I do not think that any other major from our school would’ve suited me better. Especially interesting was the Design Project course where we conduct a real project over a year for a company. The course was very challenging but extremely interesting and educational. I also enjoyed the courses relating to automation and information systems, which I think is something very special considering that we are the chemical school.

Something that is missing would be to have even more real projects with companies. Also, I think it would be beneficial to emphasize to take some programming courses to support the studies. Moreover, maybe even some business courses would benefit the student taking this major.”

“Chemical and Process Engineering in Aalto University is definitely very unique and from my personal point of view, one of the best in the world. Of course my experiences are limited to Finnish chemical engineers (LUT, Oulu, Åbo Akademi), Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and some exchange students from various countries. And well, I don’t think it’s a coincidence most of the engineers in Kilpilahti are from Aalto (or former TKK).

I study the Chemical Engineering and Plant Design courses. Personally, I’ve found Separation Processes courses as well as Process Safety & Sustainability and Design Project in Chemical Engineering the most interesting courses. From these courses, students receive a huge amount of knowledge and professional expertise.”

Advice for students who are considering this major:

“If you liked similar courses in bachelor (eg. Vire, yotp) you’ll like this major.”

“Go for this major if you want freedom to choose what courses you take. Other points to consider: this major would be good for you if you didn’t enjoy lab work and if you are interested in automation/IT/programming.”

“It is extremely beneficial for you and your studies if you have experience as an engineer from a chemical manufacturing facility. Personally, I would say I’ve been many steps ahead of most students especially in the plant design courses with my work experience from petrochemical industry. However, any work experience is important. Thus, my advice is to find work in your field of interest, and at the workplace, ask questions from the engineers and other workers (like why this is done as it is and so on).”

Introduction to major:

“Exams mostly, some additional exercises that affect grading, some group work, lab work mostly in one course.”

“Lab work and group work seem to be the main form of education.”

Why did you choose this major:

“I am interested in the research side of the industry.”

What are your thoughts on this major now:

“I have been enjoying the major courses. One can choose chemistry courses based on own interests well.”

“Too much random lab work without any meaning other than “let’s see this machine””

Advice for students who are considering this major:

“If you’re interested in analytical chemistry (/think those courses would benefit you), consider taking some courses from Helsinki University as well. Taking courses from there has been made quite easy with the “exchange program”.”

“It’s great if you wish to work as a researcher in organic, inorganic or physical chemistry. If you want analytical chemistry, change to HY.”

Fibre and Polymer Engineering
Introduction to major:

“It is about fibers and polymers. Evaluating is based on exams and labworks, some group works also.”

“Fibers & polymers, a lot of cellulose based fibers and some general polymer reactions. Some group works but mostly lab work in pairs.”

Why did you choose this major:

“Because I’m interested in polymers.”

“I’m interested in the field and this major contains industrial aspects and research aspects.”

What are your thoughts on this major now:

“I like the major and I would like to study more polymers and less fibers.”

“I have liked my major so far and I find nanocellulose stuff especially interesting. Would be nice to learn more about synthetic fibers.”

Advice for students who are considering this major:

“Do your lab reports right away when the lab is done. The workload may cause a snow ball effect.”

“Don’t take more courses first than what are in the example schedule.”

Functional Materials
Introduction to major:

“FunMat allows to specialize in anything from atom-level behaviour to macroscopic properties, or analysis methods, or design of sensors/microelectronics from a material selection perspective, there is a lot of freedom. This major is for you if you are interested in inorganic materials, polymers, or complex hybrid materials, and want to learn how to synthesize, calculate, and use different materials in practice. Evaluation is mostly home & class exercises, project work (group and individual), labs, and written exams.”

“A lot of group work, active participation in the lectures is required. Really versatile courses all the way from nanomaterials to characterization techniques.”

Why did you choose this major:

“I’m interested in properties of inorganic materials and how they derive from atomic scale up, especially magnetism. This major presented me with an opportunity to focus on this, freedom to select courses on these topics, and a pathway to doctoral studies. Also, I could avoid courses on organic chemistry.”

What are your thoughts on this major now:

“It was the right choice, gave me the opportunity to choose what to specialize in and what to leave out. Some of the compulsory courses could have been more interesting, but I hear those courses are being changed now anyways. The responsible teachers really listen to students and care about doing improvements!”

“I graduated as M.Sc in 2017. I think the major was very nice. For me, it can be sometimes difficult to work effectively in groups, so it was good that there were so many group projects. I also liked most of the teachers (probably some of them are different now that they were when I was studying).”

Advice for students who are considering this major:

“Keep up with the weekly exercises and attend classes, and all will go well! Go ask the teachers about the courses if you have questions, they really care about helping you find your own thing!”

“Very interesting major, and depending on the elective courses you choose, you can acquire knowledge on several different fields related to materials science.”

Sustainable Metals Processing
Introduction to major:

“Major of Sustainable Metals Processing includes a bunch of fundamental courses in the first autumn semester after which students can choose two specialisation “blocks” of studies for the spring semester. In total there are six blocks to choose from. Evaluation methods include exams, lab work, group work and more interestingly making a video on one of the fundamental courses. The majority of the latter specialisation courses include an extensive group work project.”

Why did you choose this major:

“I am interested in metals. In addition to this, the employment situation seems really good at the moment.”

What are your thoughts on this major now:

“I think I made the right choice. The major has been reasonably challenging but there hasn’t been anything overwhelming. Mostly I have enjoyed the close link between the major and then industries. There have been several visiting lecturers from the industries and also excursions as part of the courses. Also, I would recommend the EMREC exchange if you are interested in an exchange period that is closely linked to studies of Sustainable Metals Processing.”

Advice for students who are considering this major:

“Metals are part of our everyday life and will also be in the future. High recyclability of metallic products is a partial solution to the problem of diminishing natural resources. Both the metals research and the metal industries offer interesting challenges and jobs, also in the future.”