The Ultimate Student Experience – Tartu Student Days!

For a while now, the team of Tartu Student Days has been organizing something amazing, something you have been waiting for many months now. A week-long (student) festival that fills our beloved Tartu with the most exciting events of the year.

The organizers of Tartu Student Days full of crazy ideas and bubbling energy. Photo credit: Hanna Rattasepp

But well.. what are those so-called “student days” anyway, huh? Student Days festival is aimed at the younger generation, to the ones who spend their days indoors studying or working. We, the volunteers (and also students!) want to make your time as a fellow student in Tartu as memorable as possible. The festival organizers spend their days generating new exciting and super cool events you might want to take part of to relax and have a break from the ordinary student life.

Since there are more than 150 different events during the festival, we have made you an example guide for an ultimate festival experience. Here are some of the most exciting events.

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Physicists Are Building an Artificial Nose from Graphene

Physicists at the University of Tartu are working on an artificial nose based on graphene. In just a couple of years, all of us might have sensors in our cellphones, helping us to evaluate air pollution levels and choose routes with clearer air.

Just imagine the following situation: you are drinking your first coffee of the morning, and your coffee cup informs you that it would be wiser to work at home today. Or, if your presence at your workplace is really needed, then commute using a much longer path. The path is simultaneously projected on your kitchen wall. The warning was issued because of a prediction about bad air outside in the next few hours, and the fact that during the last month you were exposed to an unusually large amount of polluted air. Such a personal air pollution dosage could be determined if our portable smart devices included sensors for polluting gases and small particles in the air.

The structure of graphene. Photo credit: AlexanderAlUS / Wikimedia Commons

Raivo Jaaniso, the leader of the sensor technologies work group at the Institute of Physics at the University of Tartu, says that as a part of the major European Union project Graphene Flagship, he and his colleagues have set an aim to develop a graphene-based sensor chip of that nature. Their first goal is building a “nose” that could observe the quality of air. According to Jaaniso, a senior researcher of material sciences and applied physics, the really thin layer of graphene is like white paper that the scientist can write on: “Graphene is a carbon-based material with basically the thickness of one atom. One could imagine graphene by visualising a honeycomb with carbon atoms at each corner of the hexagons. Everybody has probably made some graphene by drawing lines with a pencil – it is what stays on the paper from a graphite core”.

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People Feel Similar Affection For Mobile Phones as For Other People

In January, Merilin Piipuu defended her master’s thesis which demonstrated clearly that cell phones have become our inseparable companions, best friends and cure for loneliness. We can’t even leave our homes without taking our mobile phones with us.

Merilin’s aim was to study how people use and make sense of technology. “I was interested in how we relate to something or someone, but from the aspect of the person’s everyday experience rather than the experience of a user. Several philosophers and anthropologists like Martin Heidegger and Michael D. Jackson have argued that people relate to technology similarly as to another living creature – one day we are in control, another time we are controlled.”

None of the researched individuals was capable of leaving home without the mobile phone and when they did, they felt a “part of them” was missing. Photo credit: Garry Knight / Flickr Creative Commons

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The Daily Life of a Researcher

Have you ever wondered what researchers and scientists do on a day to day basis? We were wondering about that too and that’s why we asked them to show their everyday life to us! For almost a year now, University of Tartu researchers have posted fascinating photos about their fieldwork, lab experiments and discoveries to their Instagram account @tartuuniversity. Here is a snapshot of some of their photos which show how exciting a life of a researcher can be. Oh, what kind of interesting things do their eyes witness!

If you would like to see more, follow our scientists on Instagram!

44 small metallic pinktoe (Avicularia metallica) tarantula hatchlings can be found in the University of Tartu Natural History Museum. These are the first ever successfully bred metallic pinktoe tarantulas in Estonia, congrats to Andro Truuverk – the man behind this success! Posted by Kristiina Hommik.

Do scarse-heath butterflies (Coenonympha hero) prefer endophyte rich or endophyte free host plants? University of Turku master’s student Miika Laihonen is conducting experiments in UT lab of entomology with adults and larvae to answer this question. Future perspective holds that if you want to repel or attract herbivores to your field you can choose to use proper endophyte plants. Text and photo by H. Meister, posted by Sille Holm.

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A Pakistani in Narva: “I’m Grateful to Estonia”

Yar Muhammad came to Estonia because of his doctoral studies six years ago, but the reason why he rooted down is more remarkable. “I received a good education in Estonia and I want to give something back”, the Pakistani says. He’s currently working as an IT lecturer at the University of Tartu Narva College.

Yar Muhammad chose to work in the border town (Narva is located on the Estonian-Russian border) because there was no tradition of teaching IT in Narva before. “I used to teach in Tartu – a big, international city with lots of possibilities. Moving to Narva was a hard decision to make, but I feel excited to participate in the development of a new curriculum, creating something new and developing it further”.

Yar Muhammad taking a break between lectures. Photo credit: Matti Kämärä

A Mixture of Three Languages

IT has been taught for two years in Narva, and it is the most international programme there. Muhammad joined the staff last autumn.

“This IT programme is made up of courses that are taught in Russian, Estonian, and English, and of course this has its own difficulties. On the other hand, it’s beneficial because the graduates are going to work globally, not just in Narva or in Estonia. When one of the working teams is located in Estonia, another in Russia, and the third one is in the US, you must be able to communicate with everyone. The curriculum is more attractive this way and different from the competition. Students learn both technological and communicative skills; it increases their hireability”.

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Escaping Modernity at Winter School in Kääriku

Before the winter school “Biopower and Semiotics of the Body” in Kääriku, I had never really deeply considered such a theory, always having focused on the wider world of international relations and political science. Having just recently developed an interest in semiotics due to my friends in the programme here, I decided that I should at least try to understand the discipline more completely. As for biopower and biopolitics, I had nothing more than a cursory understanding from scanning articles on Wikipedia – nonetheless, I found the concepts completely fascinating and needed to know more. Setting out from Tartu’s bus station with a couple of close friends from here at the university, I had absolutely no expectations for the coming week because I had absolutely no idea what to expect in the first place.

Participants of the winter school “Biopower and Semiotics of the Body”, organised by the Johann Skytte Institute of Political Studies. Photo credit: Olena Solohub

Biopolitics primarily concerns the regulation of the human body, and in some cases, of the mind as well. Ironically, the experience at the winter school gave all the participants an opportunity to free ourselves from that very regulation of work and traditional academic environment in the cool embrace of Estonian foothills that surround Kääriku. Through the study of biopolitics in such an environment, we could discuss the regulation of humans while unregulating ourselves, connecting with other people from disparate cultures, continents, and backgrounds. Together, hailing from Estonia, Russia, the United States, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, and Taiwan and coming from disciplines ranging from political science and semiotics to law, economics, and medicine, we forged new understandings and connections all by coming together in the heart of the Estonian wilderness.

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Stefan Zaric: Introducing Estonian Art History in Serbia

Stefan Zaric, a young man from Serbia, spent a semester as an exchange student at the University of Tartu. Now he is conducting his master’s thesis about 20th century fashion design and its connections to fine arts and culture in general at the University of Belgrade.

Stefan Zaric. Photo from a personal archive.

First of all, tell us how you heard about Estonia and about the University of Tartu?

As the discipline of art history is not highly modernized in Serbia, my MA thesis mentor suggested I seek programmes that would enhance my research in art and fashion. We checked out several opportunities offered to Serbian students, which are very limited, as Serbia is not a member of the EU, and Estonia was one of them. Even though the programme in art history at the University of Tartu was in Estonian, I decided to come and take classes from the semiotics department, as that is very famous at my faculty, and those classes actually proved crucial to understanding theoretical aspects needed for my thesis.

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