1999 - John Pichtel

John Pichtel

Tampere University of Technology
Fall 1999

During summer and fall 1999 I engaged in Fulbright-sponsored teaching and research at Tampere University of Technology (TTKK), Tampere, Finland. My field of specialization was Environmental Science/Bioremediation. The purpose of the project was to study the removal of contaminants from the environment using various natural processes. For example, the use of green plants for the removal of contaminants from soil, i.e., ‘phytoremediation’, was examined. Responsibilities included both research and teaching in this area; specifically: (a) greenhouse investigations; (b) laboratory research; and (c) teaching a short course in phytoremediation, team-teaching a general microbiology course, and team-teaching a course at Tampere Polytechnic University.

Research was highly productive -- two jointly produced manuscripts were submitted for publication (and accepted); three joint grant proposals were prepared, one of which was funded by Fortun Corp. to support my return to TTKK. The university also awarded me a Docency in Remediation in the Institute of Water and Environmental Engineering.

My experience of the Finns was that of an industrious, responsible and mature folk. I was particularly impressed with the low use of illegal drugs and the low incidence of violent crime (I felt extremely safe in Finnish cities). My son and daughter attended English language schools in Tampere. The Finnish primary and secondary school systems, like the Finnish universities, appear to provide outstanding quality instruction. Management of the country’s infrastructure, economy, health care system and educational system was conscientious and inspiring; my country could learn much from the Finnish example.

The Finns are, like most Europeans I have encountered, delightfully liberal-minded. It was refreshing to experience the more open-minded attitudes so characteristic of Europeans. I had the privilege to get to know some Finnish families rather well. I always felt welcome and comfortable in their presence. The Finns are a pleasure to work and recreate with.

A brief visit to Lapland (where I learned downhill skiing) was one of the high points of travel outside Tampere.

The Finns clearly have technology under control: the magnetic bus pass, paying bills electronically, and the ever-present mobile telephone were common examples. Computer chips aside, the Finnish sauna was a wonderful cultural experience!

Overall, the Fulbright program has been an outstanding professional and personal experience – there is little I would change if I were to repeat this. From the research perspective, the Fulbright experience was a highly productive period in terms of both hands-on research and proposal preparation. From the teaching side, it has been a satisfying experience to teach such mature and intelligent students.

Many sincere thanks to the Finnish Fulbright program for their support of my program!