During recent years, we have been engaged in extensive investigations of the unified pH (pHabs) values of reversed-phase liquid chromatography (RPLC) mobile phases. The pHabs scale has the advantage over the conventional pH scale because pHabs values express acidity in terms of the thermodynamic activity of the solvated proton. Therefore, pHabs values are directly comparable between solvents/media of different compositions. At the same time, pHabs is convenient to use, as pHabs values of aqueous solutions are equal to the respective conventional pH values.

This comparability is especially useful in RPLC, as mobile phases are mixtures of water with organic solvents in different ratios. Thus, it can be said that pHabs is the best way of expressing pH if a rigorous comparison of pH between solutions in different solvents is needed.

As a result of our work, we have carefully measured the pHabs values of 78 mobile phases commonly used in RPLC, using around 300 individual ΔpHabs measurements between different mobile phases (see the “ladder” scheme below). This is, to the best of our knowledge, the most comprehensive collection of rigorous pHabs values of RPLC mobile phases and has now been published as A. Heering, M. Lahe, M. Vilbaste, J. Saame, J. P. Samin, I. Leito. Improved pH measurement of mobile phases in reversed-phase liquid chromatography. Analyst 2024.

The ΔpHabs values were measured by differential potentiometry, using potential differences in a symmetric cell with two glass electrode half-cells (see figure above) and almost ideal ionic liquid triethylamylammonium bis((trifluoromethyl)sulfonyl)imide [N2225][NTf2] salt bridge with multiple overlapping measurements. The system of altogether 300 ΔpH values, pictured in the “ladder” scheme below, was anchored to the pH value of standard pH 7.00 aqueous buffer solution.

In addition, a simpler measurement method that uses double junction reference or double junction combined electrodes was tested and was found suitable for routine laboratories. The results show that the design of the junction is an important factor in deciding if the electrode can be used for unified acidity measurements. This is the first successful use of double junction combined electrodes filled with ionic liquid for the measurement of pHabs values.

The article is featured in the themed collection Analyst HOT Articles 2024.

On February 8, 2024 the on-line course (MOOC) LC-MS Method Validation offered by the University of Tartu finished successfully.

Eventually, altogether 1014 people registered from 109 countries. Around half of them, 508 participants actually started the course (i.e. tried at least one graded test at least once) and out of them 311 successfully completed the course. The overall completion rate was 31%. The completion rate of participants who started the studies was 61%. The completion rates of active participants (i.e. who started the course) seems to have stabilized at around 60%, which can be considered good. In addition, the overall completion rate is starting to increase again. In any case, there is some food for thought for us on how we could improve the overall completion rate…

At the same time, those participants who actually took part in the course, were very active and asked lots of questions. The questions were often very much to the point and addressed things that are really important to analysts in their everyday work. The course has several forums (general and by topic) and during the course period the overall number of forum posts was above 400 (!) (overall number of posts, both from participants and from teachers) and the forums are still active and posts are still coming in.

This active participation made teaching of this MOOC a great experience also for us, the teachers. The discussion threads gave a lot of added value to the course and some of them triggered making important modifications to the course materials, even during the course. Importantly, thanks to active participants, several mistakes were found and corrected in the course materials. As a result, the overall quality of the course improved.

We want to thank all participants for helping to make this course a success!

We plan to repeat this course again in Autumn 2024.

The Institute of Chemistry received an award for its consistent and systematic efforts over the past three years to improve the quality of education.

One of the main goals was to develop students’ skills in specific subjects by changing teaching methods and involving students more actively in learning. For that, seminars were organized together with the teachers, which led to the realization that also the subjects of the lectures needed to be adjusted and coordinated with each other. Student feedback was used to improve courses, and the online learning platforms were updated. In parallel, the entire curriculum was revised.

Chemistry Master program director Edith Viirlaid and Vice-Rector Aune Valk

According to the Vice-Rector Aune Valk, the award recognized the Institute’s systematic and integrative approach to improving the quality of education. She emphasized the importance of consistent work for keeping the students engaged by active learning and motivating the students by making education more interactive and relevant to future careers. She also highlighted that there has already been a positive response from the students who appreciated the improvements.

In the University of Tartu, the award for improving the quality of education acknowledges a university institute, college, or department for their successful planning and implementation of activities that enhance the quality of learning. It is important that these initiatives include the collaboration between the faculty and students. Here is the original post in Estonian.

The 2024 edition of the web course (MOOC) Estimation of Measurement Uncertainty in Chemical Analysis will be running from March 19 to May 2, 2024. Registration is now open!

The full course material (as well as the registration link) is accessible from the web page. The course materials include videos, schemes, calculation files, and numerous self-tests (among them also full-fledged measurement uncertainty calculation exercises) and examples. Almost all areas of analytical chemistry are addressed, ranging from simple volumetric operations and titrations to sophisticated instrumental analysis, such as determining pesticide residues by LC-MS. Efforts are made in the course to address also such uncertainty sources encountered in chemical analysis that are difficult to quantify, e.g. uncertainty due to possible interference effects (incomplete selectivity), analyte losses, etc.

In order to pass the course, the registered participants have to take six graded tests and get a higher than 50% score in every graded test. These tests are available to registered participants via the Moodle e-learning platform.

Participants who successfully pass the course will get a certificate from the University of Tartu. A digital certificate of completion is free of charge. A certificate of completion on paper can be requested for a fee of 60 euros.

You are welcome to distribute this message to potentially interested people!

Thursday 01.02.2024 was the last working day of the Excellence in Analytical Chemistry (EACH) Winter School 2024. The three days of the of the Winter School saw lots of interactions between 1st and 2nd year students, between students and alumni, between students and representatives of various industries, lots of group discussions and an interlaboratory comparison between student teams carried out with ion-selective electrodes and supervised by EACH alumni.

(Photo on top left: EACH alumnus Majid Ali Saad Al-Waeel giving explanations to students; Photo on the right: a student team preparing for presentation on the interlaboratory comparison results)

A key activity at the Winter School was selecting students to study tracks. This is literally a life-determining event for the students. Thus, we are very happy that it was possible to select all students to the study track of their first choice (Photo on the left: first and second year students of the Uppsala study track with prof. Bergquist).

A much-anticipated event was a video session with EACH alumni about their life and career after graduating from EACH. Altogether ten (!) alumni participated, from all three study tracks, most of them via Zoom, one in person (photo below). They gave numerous useful pieces of advice to the current EACH students about how to make most of their EACH studies, about visa/residence permit/etc issues, as well as how to make oneself more competitive in the job market or for PhD studies. Lots of questions were asked by the current students and comprehensive answers were given by alumni, so that the session went significantly over time. However, it was the last session of the day, so no problem at all (Photo on the right: Students discussing with alumni).

Students were alos able to have a tour in Turku/Åbo, as well as the brand-new chemistry facility “Aurum” of the Åbo Akademi (Photo on bottom left: EACH students in the Åbo Akademi “Aurum” building). As you can judge from photos – all activities were carried out with great enthusiasm! The 2025 Winter school will take place in Estonia.

Recently, Bojidar Mandjoukov (EACH 2022 alumnus) published the results of his Master’s thesis. The open access publication “Planar, low-cost, flexible, and fully laminated graphene paper pseudo-reference and potassium-selective electrodescan be read here.

Graphical abstract for the publication

Read what Bojidar has to say about his research and writing:

When I got to Abo Academy, I knew only the basics of electrochemistry. I couldn’t imagine that I would be able to write a thesis that will turn into an article on electrochemistry. But thanks to the great teachers in Abo Academy and especially my supervisor, Tom Lindfors, it actually happened.

Bojidar working in the lab

I was offered to work on this project by the EACH coordinator for Finland – Johan Bobaka. Developing laminated graphene paper electrodes for potentiometry. I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant, but after a quick talk with Tom Lindfors, everything cleared. My first reaction was “This is so simple that it is brilliant! How come no one has ever done it before?!?” Later, when I started actual work, I understood that it is much more complex problem than it seems.

The work process was fun and exciting. It required combination of analytical chemistry knowledge, crafting skills, problem solving way of thinking, and as my colleagues were joking “You got the only analytical chemistry project that requires you to smash things with a hammer!” (It was needed for perforating the lamination sheets). What I really enjoyed was that my supervisor gave me a lot of creative freedom regarding the approach to the problem, so I wasn’t just a “manufacturing robot” but actually contributed to the Research and Development process.

For the writing of my thesis … It was way less exciting than the experiments, but those are the two sides of the same coin, so it had to be done. The frequent and extensive corrections and recommendations from my supervisor, as well as the all-nighter writing parties with my colleagues, made the process much easier. And once the thesis was done, Tom Lindfors took the initiative and transformed it into a great article, for which I am eternally grateful!

Overall, it was a great experience that helped me learn a lot about electrochemistry, Research and Development process and academic writing. And now, I am very happy to know that new EACH student (Faiza) is continuing the work on that project.

On Jan 30, 2024, the eighth Winter School of the Excellence in Analytical Chemistry (EACH) programme started in Åbo (Turku, Finland). Altogether 33 students from 15 countries (Mexico, Philippines, Thailand, Costa Rica, Brazil, Vietnam, Pakistan, Nigeria, Estonia, India, Ecuador, Azerbaijan, Nepal, Ukraine, Colombia) participate (Group photo above).

This year’s Winter school is strongly focused on career prospects of EACH graduates and chemical analysis in industry. There are several sessions with EACH alumni and several sessions with industry practitioners. But it involves also all other typical Winter school activities – sightseeing, teamwork, etc.

Traditionally an important activity in the Winter school is selecting first year students to study tracks. In order to give one more piece of information what the study tracks are about, there was a session of presentations on the first day by second-year students on their master thesis topics (on the left, Lyon students explaining the life and studies in Lyon). In the evening there were additional discussions between first- and second-year students and professors over the dinner.

And of course, the Winter School is the place where the 2nd year students meet again their coursemates who have chosen different study tracks (On the photo on the right: some 2nd year students from different study tracks).

At the beginning of this school year, two EACH students took part in the first edition of Mindful Mundus. It’s a project aimed at the students at Erasmus Mundus programs to give them mental health awareness, as well as interpersonal and intercultural competences. In this post, Merili and Phu share their experience with the project.

Merili: When I first heard about Mindful Mundus, I was very glad to see this opportunity to raise mental health awareness within the Erasmus Mundus community. I know from my own experience how tough it is to deal with mental health struggles while getting your higher education. As an Erasmus Mundus student, in addition to all the usual stressors, we’re far away from our families and our comfort zone, as well as living in a completely new country with its differences in culture and everyday life. I’m generally very passionate about mental health matters and I immensely enjoy discussing this topic. Although I wasn’t sure how much new information there would be for me, I excitedly signed up anyway, seeing this as an opportunity to make connections with other Erasmus Mundus students over mental health awareness.

To say the project took place at a very right time for me would be an understatement. Every week, we discussed a new topic, from managing stress and anxiety to building positive relationships, all very relevant to life in and outside of the life in our respective Erasmus Mundus programs. The workshops allowed us to connect with people from very different backgrounds who are also going through a similar experience. In the end, although we did get a lot of valuable knowledge, it was the feeling of “Hey, I’m really not the only one feeling those things!” that helped me the most and filled me with immense gratitude at the end of each session.

Obtaining a Master’s degree is tough in itself and moving between different places and cultures is a huge challenge. Put these two things together and it seems nearly impossible at times. Having a space to share your experience and be understood is more than essential. I’m very glad I joined the project and truly hope this will not be the only time it takes place.

Phu: Comprehending mental health has always been a fascinating topic that I try to fathom. Due to personal experiences as well as the stories from the people around me, I was motivated to dig deeper into what causes mental problems and how to cope with them. And thanks to the Mindful Mundus Programme, I was able to gain useful knowledge and tips, which I can now apply to not only understand myself but also to help my family and friends.

As an international student for almost three and a half years, I encountered several mental challenges like depression, anxiety and insecurity, which are quite ubiquitous among the students. As I was fresh to these mental problems, I was frustrated not knowing what to do; they hindered me from recognizing my potential and perceiving the positive aspects of my life. Then, one day, I decided to share it with my study advisor, which then became a twist-of-turn event as I gradually felt better by practicing self-love and new hobbies.

I realized how severely damaging mental problems can be to students like me. There have been a few peers of mine who unfortunately could not overcome these problems, which, in my humble opinion, is highly-concerned. This has motivated me to take initiatives in learning more about mental problems and mental health. That is why, when I first received the announcement email about the Mindful Mundus Programme, I did not hesitate to sign up for it.

The programme introduced us to several common mental health challenges that numerous Erasmus students have gone through, namely, from depression, anxiety to intercultural competence. Not only did I have the chance to listen to the interesting experience and useful information from the speakers, but I also made some new friends from every part of the world like China, the Netherlands, India, Turkey,… Especially, from the different backgrounds, I learned more about how different cultures perceive multifaceted problems like mental health. Additionally, I was impressed by the welcoming atmosphere that the organizers managed to create; the peers were not afraid to ask questions to the speakers. The whole discussion was, as a result, an active and healthy studying environment.

Now that the program has ended, I undeniably have learned tremendous new things. I hope that the program will continue to extend and expand such that generations of Erasmus students will be able to raise the awareness of mental health and spread their knowledge to the people around them.

We are delighted to announce that the prestigious ERC Consolidator Grant 2023 was awarded to a former member of our Analytical Chemistry group and frequent supervisor of EACH master students, Associate Professor Anneli Kruve at Stockholm University!

Anneli Kruve

The European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant is aimed to support early-career researchers to consolidate their own independent research team or program over the next five years. We are very proud that this year one of the awardees was Anneli Kruve, Associate Professor at Stockholm University and head of the Mass Spectrometry Laboratory. In her research, she combines analytical chemistry with modeling and machine learning. The goal of the ERC funding is to support the research of her group on developing broader and more accurate methods to characterize and measure toxic chemicals in environmental samples. 

Only a few percent of chemicals that cause the toxic activity of environmental samples are currently known. In this project, Anneli and her group will combine high-resolution mass spectrometry and machine learning to find novel toxic chemical structures, which enables focusing the toxicity research on chemicals that truly matter. Understanding the emission and transformation processes of toxic chemicals is a necessary step to decrease the chemical risks in the environment. 

More information about the research performed by Anneli’s group can be found on the Kruve lab webpage

In October, a Fox Party took place to welcome the fresh new EACH students. Read what the foxes Juan, Gloriana, and Rafaela wrote about the social event:

We were warmly welcomed not just to Estonia but to the vibrant city of Tartu and the EACH family. The efforts of former EACH students in ensuring our smooth integration were truly commendable, and they made sure that the experience was also done with an amazing sense of fun. 

Games, activities, conversations, and dancing were some of the first things we did. The environment was definitely comfortable for relaxing and getting to know our classmates better, while enjoying being a little silly with our lab coats and funny accessories. Our colleagues prepared several fun activities, such as dancing in the middle of Tartu, trying to build our battery with leaves from the forest and even trying various fruit jams!

The atmosphere provided was very comfortable, allowing us to make stronger connections with our classmates. In this friendly setting, we engaged in vibrant exchanges with the former EACH students, gaining valuable insights into their first-year experiences as well as the challenges and triumphs they faced during the second year of the master’s program. A highlight of the day was attempting to form the EACH letters with our bodies, and we’re proud to say we pulled it off quite decently, adding a touch of creativity to our bonding moments.

Finally, we enjoyed a delicious dinner with some typical Estonian snacks, candies, cakes, and beverages. The occasion was made even more special as it coincided with our classmate Gloriana’s birthday. In a heart-warming gesture, we sang “Happy Birthday” to her in all of our native languages simultaneously. 

After that, we experienced the sauna evening that Estonians really love, and then we understood why. Who would have thought that being in a room at >100°C would feel so nice? Also, running in the middle of the night and swimming in the (almost freezing) Emajõgi river was the highlight of the night.

In these unforgettable moments, our introduction to Estonia and the EACH family was nothing short of an amazing experience, and the beginning of a marvellous adventure.

Number of participants and countries updated on 22.11.2023!

On Tuesday, November 21, 2023 the web course LC-MS Method Validation was launched for the fifth time as a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). There are 973 1013 registered participants (the first time ever over 1000) from 107 109 countries, ranging from Chile to China and from Australia to Iceland. And the number is still growing. The image below shows the countries where the participants come from.

This is a practice-oriented on-line course on validation of analytical methods, specifically using LC-MS as technique. The course introduces the main concepts and mathematical apparatus of validation, covers the most important method performance parameters and ways of estimating them. The LC-MS validation course is delivered by a team of 7 teachers, each with their own specific area of competence. This way it is expected to offer the best possible knowledge in all the different subtopics of analytical method validation.

The full set of course materials is accessible from the web page https://sisu.ut.ee/lcms_method_validation/. The course materials include videos, schemes, calculation files and numerous self-tests (among them also full-fledged calculation exercises). In order to pass the course, the registered participants have to take all tests and get higher than 50% score from each of them. These tests are available to registered participants via the Moodle e-learning platform. Participants who successfully pass the course will get a certificate from the University of Tartu.

We are glad to announce that the admission for Excellence in Analytical Chemistry (EACH) Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees programme intake 2024 is open from Nov 5, 2023 to Jan 5, 2024!

This international two-year joint master’s degree programme educates specialists in analytical chemistry qualified to work in industry (food, pharmaceutical, materials, energy, etc.), chemical analysis laboratories (environment, food, health, etc.), and research (developing new analysis devices or new analysis methods) worldwide. EACH provides knowledge and practical skills in both fundamental and applied aspects of modern analytical chemistry. The programme is suitable, both, for students who have finished their bachelor’s studies and want to continue at master’s level, as well as for working analytical chemistry practitioners wishing to spend couple of years to bring their knowledge and skills to a new level.

EACH programme is delivered by University of Tartu (UT, coordinator), Estonia; Uppsala University (UU), Sweden; University Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (UCBL), France; and Åbo Akademi University (AAU), Finland. The language of instruction is English, but students will also learn to communicate in one of the languages of the countries involved.

The programme features generous scholarships as detailed in the Scholarships and tuition fees page.

All the necessary information about the application – the online application form, admission requirements, deadlines, list of necessary documents, instructions/explanations, as well as contact data for questions are available at the EACH Admission information page.

We wish you all the success in applying!

Group photo of EcoBalt 2023. Photo by Arno Mikkor

During 9-11.10.2023 the 23rd conference in the EcoBalt series – EcoBalt 2023 – took place in Tallinn, co-organised by the National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics and the University of Tartu. With around 200 participants from 21 countries it was a major Ecology/Chemistry/Materials science event in the region.

The second day of the conference was quite an event also for the EACH programme!

Firstly, the session “Data Quality in Environmental Analysis” was organised by the EACH programme and with the aim of attracting as many EACH students as possible. This session is part of the EACH mini-conference series “Data Quality in Analytical Chemistry”. The invited speakers of the session were two metrology in chemistry “gurus” Dr. Steve Ellison from LGC and Dr. Bertil Magnusson from Trollboken who also hosted the following discussion session.

Secondly, the day also served as an EACH gettogether event. Altogether 18 current students and 21 EACH alumni participated and as can be seen from the photos they had an interesting time and also quite some fun!

EACH students alumni (plus some other students) at Lennusadam. Photo by Helena Aavistu

A number of EACH graduates (and two current students!) made presentations at the conference about their research. And it is a pleasure to announce that the best poster presentation award went to EACH graduate Vladyslav Dovhalyuk!

Best poster award winner Vladyslav Dovhalyuk with his poster. Photo by Arno Mikkor

The eighth edition of the online course LC-MS Method Validation is open for registration (registration link is here)! The course will be offered as a Massive Open On-line Course (MOOC) during Nov 21, 2024 – Feb 02, 2024.

This is a practice-oriented on-line course on validation of analytical methods, specifically using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) as technique, mostly (but not limited to) using the electrospray (ESI) ion source. The scope of the course is sufficiently broad, so that it will be useful also to chromatography practitioners using other detector types. The course introduces the main concepts and mathematical apparatus of validation, covers the most important method performance parameters and ways of estimating them. More information about the course can be found in Course introduction page.

Participation in the course is free of charge. Receiving digital certificate (in the case of successful completion) is also free of charge. Printed certificate (to be sent by post) is available for a fee of 60 EUR. Registration is possible until the start of the course. The course materials are available from the above address all the time and can be used via web by anyone who wishes to improve the knowledge and skills in analytical method validation (especially when using LC-ESI-MS).

We are also glad to announce, that the course has been added into the BIPM (Bureau International des Poids et Mesures) e-learning platform. The BIPM is the most important international metrology organization established by the Metre Convention, through which Member States act together on matters related to measurement science and measurement standards. BIPM is also the home of the International System of Units (SI) and the international reference time scale (UTC). The Institute of Chemistry of University of Tartu is a designated institute by the BIPM since 2010.

Our EACH alumnus, Shidong Chen, successfully defended his PhD dissertation entitled “Unravelling prehistoric plant exploitation in eastern Baltic: organic residue analysis of plant-based materials by multi-method approach” on the 12th of September. We were honored to have Dr. Shinya Shoda from Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Japan as Shidong’s opponent.

From left to right: opponent Dr. Shinya Shoda, Dr. Shidong Chen, supervisors Dr. Ester Oras and Prof. Ivo Leito

Shidong’s PhD work is aimed at discovering plant exploitation in the ancient eastern Baltic area with a focus on two types of plant-derived materials: resinous materials and dietary plants. The main innovations are developing multi-methodological approaches and interpreting multi-proxy datasets with chemometric and statistical methods.

 For identifying the composition of resinous adhesives, ATR-FT-IR analysis was conducted in combination with a PCA-based DA classification model for further compositional and spatial/temporal classification. This method can help simplify IR spectra interpretation and reduce the need for GC-MS analysis.

For identifying dietary plants, a multi-method approach was applied by plant micro fossil analysis and EA-IRMS combined with ORA. EA-IRMS can provide preliminary origins of samples with plant and/or animal bases. Plant micro fossil analysis and ORA in complementary can identify the species of plant remains. Correspondence analysis further compares and indicates the agreement of the three methods and visualizes the correlations between the multi-proxy data.

Dr. Shidong Chen moments before the presentation

The plant exploitation in prehistoric easter Baltic shows different patterns with dedicated multi-method case studies on several Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age sites. In the Stone Age, plant exploitation was more technological (adhesives and resinous compounds) than dietary-related. The plant consumption for dietary purposes became more abundant in the Bronze Age. The major changes happened with the Iron Age displaying a more diverse plant-based diet with more inclusion of C3 cereals (e.g., wheat and barley), yet the spread and cultivation of C4 millet may not have emerged in this region.

Shidong is currently working at ARCHEMY lab as a lab technician at the University of Tartu. He will continue his journey discovering ancient food ways from pots and bones.

Congratulations, Shidong!

At the EcoBalt 2023 conference, there is right now the gettogether of EACH students and alumni, in the framework of the “Data Quality in Analytical Chemistry” mini-cinference series. Altogether around 40 current EACH students and alumni are participating!

As for their impressions, one picture says more than 100 words:

On August 18, 2023, five EACH students successfully defended their master’s theses at the Åbo Akademi University, Finland. Now, after graduating, they looked back at their time in the EACH program:

Enahoro Asein: The EACH program was a fantastic opportunity for bridging the gap between my chemical engineering background and analytical chemistry. The two years I spent in the program helped me develop skills that will allow me to create new devices and methods for analysing the world. I am grateful for the amazing staff and students I met along the way.

Divisha Saxena: In simple words, EACH has changed my life forever. It was not just a degree for me, it was the experience of a lifetime. It is the journey in which I found a happier and healthier version of myself, I met so many amazing people from all over the world, and I got an opportunity to study and research in top-notch academic facilities and under the guidance of experts in the field of analytical chemistry and electrochemistry. Thank you EACH for the best two years of my life!!

From left: Enahoro, Divisha, Hazzar, Ju-Yeon, and Rodney

Hazzar Reyes: It’s incredible that our EACH chapter is finally over! The last two years have been fantastic! I am grateful to be part of this program and to have met such great people. It was an unforgettable experience, thanks to Ivo, Johan, Anu, and all the rest of this group. I’ve changed so much thanks to you all, and have changed me forever (for the better, of course). We’ll strive for greater heights and will forever look back on this as our stepping stone to achieving our fruitful careers and, just as valuable, our happiness.

Juyeon Seo: Joining the EACH program was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I am extremely grateful to Ivo and Anu for their administration and support. The EACH program is well-organized and highly developed, providing not only a structured curriculum but also a network with senior students. Two years of study were full of challenges and adventures in two different countries. However, studying in the EACH program was truly a blessing for me. I had such meaningful learning experiences with classmates from all over the world. As a graduate of the EACH program, I highly recommend applying for the program and hope it stays amazing for years to come!

Fresh EACH graduates with their supervisors at Åbo Akademi

The titles for the theses of the five students were the following:

Enahoro Aigboje Asein: Flow-through cell for ion-selective electrodes

Divisha Saxena: Determination of ions in ash using ion-selective electrodes

Hazzar Mohammed Reyes: Graphene-cellulose nanocrystals composite as electrode material for electrochemical double-layer capacitors

Ju-Yeon Seo: Electrochemical determination of extractives in wood pulp

Rodney Salazar: Development of electronic nose using chemiresistive percolation network gas sensor based on conducting polymers

Congratulations to all of you!

On September 7, 2023, five EACH students successfully defended their master’s theses at the Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (UCBL), France.

The topics varied from monitoring manufacturing processes with Raman spectroscopy to quantification of fluorine in plastics. The titles for the theses of the five students were the following:

From left: Oliver, Victor, Le Minh, Dennisse, Gonzalo

Victor Augusto Xavier da Silveira – Development of online GC instrumentation for continuous liquid sample analysis

Gonzalo Antonio Araya Vargas – Development of a methodology for in-line and real-time monitoring CO2 and NH3 concentrations in strong ammonia waters using Raman spectroscopy

Dennisse Julieth Avella Estupiñan – Evaluation of Raman, mid-IR, and near-IR spectroscopies for in-line monitoring of an API synthesis step to replace HPLC

Oliver Bandong Salangad – Development of an ICP/MS/MS method for quantification of fluorine in plastics

Le Minh Dinh – Raman spectroscopy for online monitoring of silicone resins and vinyl silicone oils manufacturing process

Congratulations to the new EACH graduates!

Last week was the first study week for the new students of the EACH Erasmus Mundus Joint Programme (EACH).

This year, altogether 19 students started their studies. The students’ countries of origin are very diverse: Mexico, Philippines, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Brazil, India, Thailand, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Estonia. Last Monday (04.09.22), the introductory meeting took place in Chemicum at the University of Tartu, Estonia. During the meeting, an overview of the EACH program was given (see the slides), the autumn semester timetable was explained in detail, and a large number of questions were asked and answered.

We wish successful studies to all new students!

Francis in Chemicum

As the new academic year comes closer, incoming 2nd year students reminisced about their days in Chemicum where most of their classes in Tartu for their first year of studies were held:

Francis: A tapestry of recollections has been bound into the fabric of my life in Chemicum. Many treasured memories stand out as vivid strands of nostalgia, including but not limited to the lovely Christmas tree building, the insightful lectures, the anxious but fulfilling presentations and free times with colleagues.

The construction of Christmas trees was a collaborative design that was more than just decorating a tree. As I took a step back to survey our collective creation, which was adorned with ornaments made of dreams and memories, I experienced the sense of togetherness that the season can provide.

Master’s Seminars and presentations were eagerly anticipated occasions that brought us together outside classes and practical sessions. I can still clearly remember the excitement leading up to my first presentation in Room 1020. As we gathered in the auditorium, colleagues and I exchanged anxious glances, before the presentation I greeted in Famous Professor Ivo expression. As evidence of the strength of knowledge-sharing and collaborative learning, the audience’s encouragement, their attentive faces, questions, and the cheers at the conclusion are imprinted in my memory.

In addition, I spent some of my free time in the computerized Chemicum Library or discussing with my colleagues and friends in the cafeteria before some classes. I can see from these memories that Chemicum was more than just a physical building; it also served as an arena for connections, learning, and personal development.

Mauricio working in a lab of Chemicum

Mauricio: I found the time completely enriching academically and personally. The lectures, seminars and hands-on experience in the lab were insightful, practical and challenging. The halls’ lectures were clean and comfortable. All the people inside the building are really helpful and would give you all the guidance you might need. This is also true in other buildings of the university.

Angelo: Aside from the lecture halls and the teaching laboratories, the cafeteria in Chemicum was the place where we got to know each other better as we bonded over food. After classes and while waiting in between classes, my classmates and I would have lunch together in the cafeteria. Some of us brought home-cooked meals while some bought from the cafeteria. We got a taste of everything as we tried out each other’s meals. In the cafeteria, we shared not just food but also laughter, stories, and flavors of our personalities. Every time spent in the cafeteria was a chance for us to get to know how different we are from each other since we come from different cultures. Nevertheless, we complemented each other like ingredients of a good food.

Angelo (on the left) with other EACH and AMS students in front of Chemicum

During June 4-8, 2023, the 71st ASMS Conference on Mass Spectrometry and Allied Topics took place in Houston, Texas, USA. Among the attendees (around 6300) were also several former EACH students.

On Tuesday, one student from the 1st intake (intake 2015), Sandy Abujrais (now a Ph.D. student at Uppsala University, Sweden), presented her poster “The investigation of tryptophan metabolites and vitamin B in human and murine tissue via high-resolution mass spectrometry,” and one student from the 4th intake (intake 2019), Varun Sharma (currently Ph.D. student at Uppsala University, Sweden) presented his poster on “Mass spectrometry imaging of regioisomeric hormonal steroids.”

On Wednesday, Mark Dennis Retrato (from 4th intake, now a Ph.D. student at Uppsala University, Sweden) had several lively discussions at his poster on Simultaneous determination of fatty acids in commercial lipid samples by gas chromatography coupled with single quadrupole mass spectrometry (GC-SQMS).

On the last day, Thursday, Duong Bui from the 2nd intake (intake 2016, currently doing her Ph.D. at University of Alberta, Canada) presented her poster on “Quantitative Shotgun Glycomic using Concentration-Independent (COIN) Native Mass Spectrometry”.

During the same session also, Jeewan Babu Rijal from the 4th intake (currently a Ph.D. student at Laboratoire de Spectrometrie de Masse BioOrganique, Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien, France) presented his poster on “Assessment of an optimized DIA-PASEF method for the detection of low-abundant differential proteins in spike-in experiments.”

It was a great and proud experience to see our former students presenting their work on frontier analytical chemistry topics, contributing to high-level research, and having discussions with top specialists in their field.

In June, the first-year EACH and AMS students visited the Science Centre AHHAA in Tartu to cap off the academic year.

Everyone enjoyed each other’s company while having fun with the interactive exhibits of the Centre. They were also taken on a trip across outer space in the Centre’s Planetarium. Their day ended with sharing meals to celebrate the bonds they have formed and their friendships that will defy distance, as EACH students go to their second-year universities and as AMS students remain in Tartu for their theses next academic year.

From 9 – 22 July, International Summer School on Quality Assurance took place in Krtiny, Czechia. Before starting their second year in the EACH programme, our students Tetiana and Merili participated in the summer school and will look back on their experience in this blog post.

From left: Tetiana, Philip Taylor (organizer of the summer school), and Merili

Merili: The summer school was definitely very intense and challenging. We were put in completely new situations, trying to actually work as an ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratory and use our knowledge about the topics in real life. Working in a team with different backgrounds and different levels of a shared language was quite difficult at times, but ended up being the biggest and most valuable lesson I took with me. The summer school was also a great opportunity to connect with people from all over the world: we had all our meals together and spent many evenings learning about the different cultures and histories of our colleagues. During the weekend, we went on a 15 kilometer canoeing hike and to a trip to a cave nearby, which allowed us to see sights of Czechia that one usually may not think to see in the first place.

Tetiana: Summer school is a great opportunity to get acquainted with a Bible of the testing and calibration laboratories also known as an ISO/IEC 17025 standard.

The University of Tartu provides a solid ground in metrology in chemistry (in the course taught by Professor Ivo Leito), and summer school is a good addition to it. After a week of lectures from high-level specialists in this field, we established small analytical laboratories of 3-4 people and got our first order to validate the method! We had to communicate with the customer, plan validation ourselves, perform it, write a report, participate in the proficiency testing, analyse the test sample, provide a result with a conformity statement and present the work in front of the audience. We were limited in time and resources, all the team members had very different backgrounds. Thus, the situation we were in mimicked real life excellently! It was a great chance to be enrolled in the whole cycle of work in the testing laboratory, understand the most crucial things at every stage of work, check the quality of the performance of our laboratory, make mistakes and learn from them, and of course, participate in the auditing!

Furthermore, at school, we met fantastic people from all over the world, practiced canoeing (15 km! by the way) and improved our English skills! We had very nice evenings with karaoke and dancing; probably my biggest discovery this summer was a Belgijka, big thanks to our Polish team for introducing this dance!

So, my recommendation: do not hesitate and apply for the next summer school! You won’t regret this decision! 😉

Dennisse, 2021-2023 EACH student from Colombia, looks back on some of the cons of the EACH program:

EACH, as its name can clearly suggest, is an international program funded in terms of Excellence and high quality. Once immersed in it, you will always feel proud of it. Nevertheless, not everything can be rosy.

First of all, as with any other international program, it requires you to be strong enough to leave your comfort zone behind; that is why, more than once, you can find yourself asking: “Am I good enough?” (Kind of a spoiler I can tell you that the answer is “yes, you are” and during these years you will find people that will make of you even a better version).

Are you ready to open your mind? So you can engage yourself in new cultures and discover different points of view regarding life itself and all the sciences related to your career. For example, you will never think the same about education system possibilities, being able to compare the education from your country with the program in Estonia (that offers you all the tools you could need to learn), the experience in the country of the second year, and the opinion of your colleagues who decided for a different path.

Dennisse (on the left) with some of the other EACH 2021 intake students and Irja (in white lab coat) in Tartu

Furthermore, inevitably, your heart is at risk of being also exposed. You will meet new people whom, besides learning together, you can laugh until you almost cry, and whom to talk about your dreams and fears. Some can even become part of your best friends or a second family. And after all this process, you will discover that fragments of your soul are not just back in your country; they are now with people worldwide.

Belonging to the EACH program demands strength, self-discovery, and confidence in your roots that brought you to this moment and in the steps you will take that sure know that the path they are driving you is towards a better future.

At the end of June 2023, the students of the EACH 2020 intake could finally take part in the graduation celebrations in Tartu after earning their Master’s degree in 2022. Noemae, Yu-Yen, Naela, Angelo, and Bojidar reflected more on the graduation celebrations and EACH programme.

From left to right:
From left to right: Raegan, Viktoriia, Bojidar, Noemae, Naela, Paulo, Yu-Yen, Majid and Angelo.

Noemae: Returning to Tartu for the graduation ceremonies and reuniting with my fellow EACH alumni was an experience I will forever cherish. As I reflect on my first year in Tartu back in 2020, I can’t help but recall the countless hurdles we faced due to the COVID situation. Nevertheless, I triumphed over these challenges and embarked on an unforgettable EACH journey. Beyond academic advancement, the EACH program taught me invaluable lessons in resilience, adaptability, and tolerance by allowing us to fully integrate in a new environment and culture, fostering a holistic personal and professional development. I extend my gratitude to all the professors, scientists, and administrative support staff I had the pleasure of meeting and working with, for their guidance and generosity in sharing their expertise. I am genuinely thankful and proud to be a part of the EACH program.

Yu-Yen: My decision to participate in EACH and the choice of my career after EACH are definitely two of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. The professional abilities I gained are well-applied and respected in my career. Seeing most of us were able to make our way back to Tartu for our graduation ceremony (where the rest of the group had other business at the same time period) makes me realize that this relationship of this Covid batch babies is strong. I really enjoyed seeing everyone satisfied with their current life as we share the project we are working on as well as our future plans. To my fellow friends, I wish you all achieve the dream you set for your personal and professional life. 

Naela: Attending the graduation ceremony and meeting my dear EACH friends again after a long time was heartwarming. Now that we are pursuing different things and are living countries apart, it was amazing to see how we have grown without drifting apart. I am ever grateful to be a part of this programme.

Angelo: The transformative journey provided by the EACH program has brought us not only valuable knowledge but also introduced us to remarkable individuals, exposed us to diverse experiences, and nurtured personal growth and competence. I am profoundly grateful to the entire EACH program for shaping the trajectory of my life. Despite the brevity of our time together, it will forever hold a cherished place in my heart as one of the most remarkable periods of my life.

Bojidar: It was my first graduation ceremony since high school. It was great to reunite with some of my colleagues and celebrate our graduation and Jaanipäev (Midsummer) together!

Almost all of the EACH 2022 graduates have continued their studies by starting PhD in different universities: Noemae Lim – Vienna University of Technology, Austria; Naela Delmo – University of Turku, Finland; Viktoriia Turkina – University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Raegan Danielle Chambers – University of Tartu, Estonia; Angelo Robiños – Åbo Akademi University, Finland; John Paulo Samin – University of Tartu, Estonia; Bojidar Mandjukov – University of Tartu, Estonia; Majid Al-waeel – University of Turku, Finland. Yu-Yen is working at YAGEO, a passive component manufacturing company in Taiwan.

The graduates with Prof. Ivo Leito
From left: Stefan, Prof. Jonas Berquist, Maico, Hien, and Leonardo

On June 13, 2023, four EACH students successfully defended their master’s theses at Uppsala University (UU), Sweden.

The topics varied from method development for detecting vitamin D metabolites in fatty tissues to predicting toxicities based on tandem mass spectrometry data. The titles for the theses of the four students were the following:

Maico Yannic Lechner – Characterization of the target landscape of GSK3 inhibitors in pluripotent stem cells using multidimensional proteomics

Leonardo David Soto Jácome – Automated prediction of the endocrine disruptive potency of chemicals detected with LC/ESI/HRMS based on mass spectral networks

Hien Kim Thi Le – Development of a small molecule system-suitability-test mixture for mass spectrometry

Stefan Ruchti – A dive into murky waters: Determining vitamin D metabolites in different fish tissues and fish blood via liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry

Read what Hien says about her experience with the two-year EACH program: “Attending EACH program is a milestone in my learning career. I spent my first study year at the University of Tatu, where I obtained fundamental knowledge of various analysis techniques. The teaching was well established and included novel analytical approaches. My second study year was at Uppsala University, focusing on mass spectrometry and bioanalysis. The research topics at Uppsala University are highly advanced and cover the latest topics, such as Imaging Mass spectrometry, Proteomics, and Metabolomics.

In a nutshell, I want to share with everyone that EACH is an international high-standard education program in analytical chemistry. EACH program trains and connects future analytical chemists worldwide. I want to show my high appreciation to all the teachers at the University of Tartu and Uppsala University who shared their passion for analytical chemistry with me. I had such valuable experiences and obtained a lot of new knowledge during the program. I’ll be taking these things into the next chapter of my life.

Last Friday, June 9th, 2023, Andre Leesment successfully defended his PhD thesis titled Quantitative studies of Brønsted acidity in biphasic systems and gas-phase. The opponent was Prof. Kiyohiko Sugano from the Ritsumeikan University, Japan.

Dr. Andre Leesment (on the right) after his PhD defence with his supervisor Prof. Ivo Leito (on the left).

Experiments for measuring acidity of medicines, catalysts, and other chemicals are almost always performed under monophasic conditions. However, many of them are lipophilic compounds, and in biphasic systems they prefer the nonpolar organic phase, where their properties are much different from their properties in an aqueous phase. Yet the interactions with the organic phase are completely ignored in a typical acidity measurement. It’s like seeing only half of the picture. Why is such an incomplete approach being used for something this important?

Until recently, there was no theoretical basis or experimental method to conduct measurements of acidity under more relevant conditions. Andre’s PhD thesis focuses on providing the tools to measure acidity, and by extension, many other properties of molecules in biphasic systems in a more realistic and accurate way. Hopefully, these tools lead to a more effective drug development, catalyst research, etc.

Congratulations to you, Andre!  

As the school year is coming to an end for the current first-year EACH and AMS students, a new intake is preparing to travel from all over the world to Tartu to start their studies in a few months’ time. To make this journey easier for them, we, in the first year, arranged an online meeting between the two batches. It was a great opportunity to share our experiences and advice on matters such as the visa process, accommodation, and what to do with the free time. Additionally, it was wonderful to have this first contact between each other!

We wish the new batch smooth sailing with the big life change and hope you enjoy your time in Tartu!

On May 11, 2023, the on-line course (MOOC) Estimation of measurement uncertainty in chemical analysis offered by the University of Tartu finished successfully.

Eventually, altogether 993 people registered from 99 countries. From them, 523 participants actually started the course (i.e. tried at least one graded test at least once). The overall completion rate was 34%. The participation rate was this year 53%. So, it seems that we may be recovering from the COVID pandemic! The completion rate of the participants who started the studies was 64% with 333 successfully finished participants. This result is quite stable during the 10 runs and can be considered good for a MOOC, especially for one that has quite difficult calculation exercises, which need to be done correctly with a limited number of attempts for completing the course. All statistics during the 10 years can be found in the table below.

The participants were very active and asked lots of questions. The questions were often very much to the point and addressed things that are really important to analysts in their everyday work. The course has several forums (general and by topic) and during the course period the overall number of forum posts was over 450 (!) (overall number of posts, both from participants and from teachers) and the forums are still active and posts are still coming in.

We want to thank all participants for helping to make this course a success!

We plan to repeat this course again in Spring 2024.

After spending weekdays attending lectures and doing academic work, students get to spend their weekends exploring the beautiful nature and rich history of Estonia.

On March 18, 2023, a group of EACH and AMS students explored the cobbled streets of Tallinn’s Old Town. Angelo: “Walking along the streets definitely felt like being in an art gallery as the group gazed in awe at the town’s medieval architecture and modern street art. Later in the day, the group visited the historic Tallinn TV Tower which bore witness to the Estonian people’s bravery and conviction in restoring their independence as a proud nation.”

On Tuesday, March 21, 2023 the web course Estimation of Measurement Uncertainty in Chemical Analysis was launched for the tenth time as a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course)!

Currently, 914 participants from 98 countries are registered. In the map presented above, the yellow color marks the countries where participants come from. True, the map is coarse and some countries are small. Therefore, not all countries are visible. We are very happy that we have two participants also from Ukraine this year. Slava Ukraini!

The full course material is accessible from the web page https://sisu.ut.ee/measurement/uncertainty. The course materials include videos, schemes, calculation files, and numerous self-tests (among them also full-fledged measurement uncertainty calculation exercises). In order to pass the course, the registered participants have to pass six graded tests and get a higher than 50% score from each of them. These tests are available to registered participants via the Moodle e-learning platform.

This course is run under the umbrella of the Estonian Center of Analytical chemistry (https://www.akki.ee/) and forms a part of the measurements and chemical analysis related master programmes at UT: Applied Measurement Science (https://ams.ut.ee/) and Excellence in Analytical Chemistry (https://www.analyticalchemistry.eu/).

On March 10, 2023, Ivo Leito presented “Unified pH – what, why and how?” at the Chemistry and Chemical Technology 2023 Vilnius (Lithuania).

Acidity is one of the most critical characteristics of solutions. Its measurement is crucial to understanding and controlling essential processes in fundamental chemistry, industry and living organisms, such as catalysis, extraction, chromatography, processes in micelles/bilayers, etc.

Acidity refers to the activity of the solvated proton and is typically expressed as pH. However, the conventional pH scale is well established only in dilute aqueous solutions at medium pH values. It has severe limitations at extreme values, in other solvents or more complex media where most real-life chemistry occurs. Most importantly, comparing the conventional pH values between different media is impossible because every solvent has its pH scale.

Given the above, a decade ago, the concept of a “unified pH scale” was put forward, defining unified pH via the absolute chemical potential of the solvated proton. The merits of this approach are a strict thermodynamic foundation and direct comparability of values between any media.

In recent years, to a large part thanks to the European Union UnipHied (17FUN09) project, the measurement possibilities have been developed and the concept has now been published as an IUPAC technical report.

The first part of the presentation gave theoretical background and explained the need for unified pH. The second part described the experimental method, and the last part gave an overview of the work done and future perspectives.

This year’s recipients of the teaching staff awards in the University of Tartu have been announced. The UT Student Union chose the recipients based on proposals submitted by the students. We are glad to announce that the Faculty of Science and Technology award was given to prof. Ivo Leito!

According to his students, prof. Ivo Leito is an incredibly charismatic and lively lecturer who is a role model for all. In each lecture, he gives real-life examples of how analytical chemistry can be applied to study the environment around us. Using the flipped learning method, he constantly engages students in discussions and creates a safe environment for asking questions. It is worth noting that Professor Leito does not proceed with the lecture until he is convinced that every last person in the room has understood what he has just said. 

In addition to his dedication to educating students in the classroom, he is always available for every student outside of lecture hours. It is not an exaggeration to say that he is available 24/7, even when he is abroad. He takes a genuine interest in the progress and development of every student. Ivo Leito also holds regular meetings with all his students planning to graduate in the spring to see if their thesis is going well and to give advice on how to advance with the task.  

Here is more information about the award and the other recipients. 

Congratulations!

On February 10, 2023 the on-line course (MOOC) LC-MS Method Validation offered by the University of Tartu finished successfully.

Eventually, altogether 903 people registered from 104 countries. Less than half, 376 participants actually started the course (i.e. tried at least one graded test at least once) and out of them 218 successfully completed the course. The overall completion rate was 24%. The completion rate of participants who started the studies was 58%. The completion rates of active participants (i.e. who started the course) seems to have stabilized not too far from 60%, which can be considered good. However, the overall completion rate is still in decline (although there is no statistically significant difference between the 25% and 24% of the last two editions). In any case, there is some food for thought for us on how we could improve the overall completion rate…

At the same time, those participants who actually took part in the course, were very active and asked lots of questions. The questions were often very much to the point and addressed things that are really important to analysts in their everyday work. The course has several forums (general and by topic) and during the course period the overall number of forum posts was above 400 (!) (overall number of posts, both from participants and from teachers) and the forums are still active and posts are still coming in.

This active participation made teaching of this MOOC a great experience also for us, the teachers. The discussion threads gave a lot of added value to the course and some of them triggered making important modifications to the course materials, even during the course. Importantly, thanks to active participants, several mistakes were found and corrected in the course materials. As a result, the overall quality of the course improved.

We want to thank all participants for helping to make this course a success!

We plan to repeat this course again in Autumn 2023.

Thursday 02.02.2023 was the last day of the Excellence in Analytical Chemistry (EACH) Winter School 2023.

The past two days of the of the Winter School saw students building analytical instruments (pH meters and photometers) with Arduino kits (photo on the left), orienteering in the city for collecting water samples. The pH of the collected samples was measured using the pH meter prototypes built by the students themselves (photo on the right).

It was essentially a pH measurement intercomparison between student teams. Eventually the results of sample collection and measurement were presented by the teams (photo on the left).

During those independent work sessions also the professors had the chance to visit Lyon (photo on the right)!

The third day ended with a video session with EACH alumni about their life and career after graduating from EACH. Altogether more than ten (!) alumni participated, from all three study tracks, most of them via Zoom, one in person (photo below). They gave numerous useful pieces of advice to the current EACH students about how to make most of their EACH studies and how to make oneself more competitive in the job market or for PhD studies. Needless to say – lots of questions were asked by the current students.

We were able to experience the best of Lyon – the food, city and hospitality – which was augmented by participants’ enthusiasm! Many thanks to all participants!

The 2024 Winter school will take place in Finland.

On Jan 31, 2023, the eighth Winter School of the Excellence in Analytical Chemistry (EACH) programme started in Lyon (France). Altogether 30 students from 16 countries participate (Group photo above).

This year’s Winter school is strongly focused on building analytical instrument prototypes (pH meter, simple photometer) using the Arduino prototyping platform (photo on the right).

Traditionally an important activity in the Winter school is selecting first year students to study tracks. In order to give one more piece of information what the study tracks are about, there was a session of presentations on the first day by second year students on their master thesis topics (on the left, Åbo Akademi students explaining the life and studies in Turku/Åbo). In the evening there were additional discussions between first- and second-year students and professors over the dinner.

And of course, the Winter School is the place where the 2nd students meet again their course mates who have chosen different study tracks (on the right, 1st and 2nd year students from the Philippines).

Maico and his dance partner at the dance festival

The first year of the EACH program takes place in Estonia, the northest of the Baltic countries. During their studies, the EACH students also explore Estonian nature and culture. Maico Lechner (EACH intake 2021) tried out one of the most important traditions – Estonian Folk dance.

Maico: “Prior to arriving in Estonia, I was deeply moved by the country’s turbulent past and the resilience of its people to retain their language and culture, especially in their tradition of singing and dancing. This enabled them to partake in an unarmed resistance to the Soviet occupation, which was eventually brought to a close in 1991 with the singing revolution.

Consequently, I was determined to join either a choir or a folk dance group, and it was through a friend that I was able to find the dance group Metsik Mõtsik and receive approval from their dance teacher, Robin Gielen. From then on, we were devoted to training for four hours each week, as well as attending multiple weekends in Vara, a small village, to train our dance act. Our first performance was at the Tartu Christmas celebration, where we danced together in public for the first time. This was an incredible experience and we all had a lot of fun demonstrating what we had learned.

Our aim became to take part in the South-eastern Folk Dance Festival “Kagu-Eesti tantsupidu” in the city of Põlva, and our rehearsals were geared towards this. The festival theme was “heating the sauna”, and as such all the dances referenced Estonian sauna traditions. Over 1000 dancers participated, and we enjoyed 9 hours of training in the rain before performing in the sun on Sunday afternoon.

I am delighted that I chose to join this group, as it enabled me to connect with Estonians as well as many other international students. We had a wide range of activities apart from folk dancing and I am so appreciative to have met such wonderful people through this experience. I encourage any future students to explore this demanding yet rewarding sport, which has constantly presented me with unique challenges outside of the lab. If you take pleasure in dancing and music, Estonian folk is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture and community of Estonia.

Here are also some videos from the dance festival: Intro, Metsik Mõtsik Mul pole mõisa, Metsik Mõtsik Kumõska.

The dance group at the dance festival

Recently Nikola Radoman (2017 alumnus of the first EACH intake) defended his PhD. Read below what he has to say about the experience.

Nikola: „I have successfully defended my PhD thesis in Analytical Chemistry titled “Enrichment of biogenic and anthropogenic organic substances on sea spray aerosols”. It was a result of 5-year PhD project, which was done as a collaboration between the Contaminant Chemistry and Aerosol Science Units at the Department of Environmental Science (ACES) and the Analytical Chemistry Unit at the Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry (MMK) at Stockholm University.

EACH programme that I attended at University of Tartu and Uppsala University was first of all an amazing life experience and great chance to learn from leading reseachers in the field of analytical chemistry. It was important step forward in my scientific education by giving me much more options to continue with my PhD studies in Sweden.

Right now I’m starting with the new job position in the pharmaceutical industry and I will be working as a R&D scientist at Ardena Södertälje (Sweden) as part of Analytical Development team.“

Mark Dennis Retrato (on the left) and Svante Pääbo (in the middle)

Every year the Chemical Society in Uppsala recognizes the best degree projects in chemistry. This year, the Grand Award was rewarded to Siyuan Qui for his 2022 Master’s thesis. His supervisor Mark Dennis Retrato (an EACH 2020 alumnus), accepted the award at a memorable ceremony on the 13th of December.

The award was handed over by the 2022 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine, professor Svante Pääbo (an Uppsala University alumnus). This award has been announced for many years by the Society (that started in 1927) after nominations and votings, and the student is presented with a diploma and a prize sum. Both the supervisor(s) and the student are also invited to the dinner with the Nobel laureates at the Uppsala Castle the same day.

Mark Dennis Retrato (on the left) and Svante Pääbo (on the right)

The title of this year’s selected Master’s thesis was  “Determination of fatty acids in lipid samples by gas chromatography coupled with single quadrupole mass spectrometry”.

Mark Dennis: “I am grateful for my student Siyuan Qiu, big congratulations for working in this project together. You really deserve this prize and recognition! I wish to thank my own supervisors as well: Jonas, Anna, Kumari, and Aida. This is for all of us involved in the project.

I want to thank the Swedish Chemical Society and Uppsala University for the recognition. More importantly, I wish to thank the Nobel Prize Winner for Medicine in 2022, Svante Pääbo. You are indeed a great inspiration for me and more people.”

On Tuesday, November 22, 2022 the web course LC-MS Method Validation was launched for the fifth time as a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). There are 904 registered participants (the largest number ever in this course) from 104 countries, ranging from Sudan to Suriname and from Malaysia to Macedonia. Image below shows the countries where the participants come from.

This is a practice-oriented on-line course on validation of analytical methods, specifically using LC-MS as technique. The course introduces the main concepts and mathematical apparatus of validation, covers the most important method performance parameters and ways of estimating them. The LC-MS validation course is delivered by a team of 7 teachers, each with their own specific area of competence. This way it is expected to offer the best possible knowledge in all the different subtopics of analytical method validation.

The full set of course materials is accessible from the web page https://sisu.ut.ee/lcms_method_validation/. The course materials include videos, schemes, calculation files and numerous self-tests (among them also full-fledged calculation exercises). In order to pass the course, the registered participants have to take all tests and get higher than 50% score from each of them. These tests are available to registered participants via the Moodle e-learning platform. Participants who successfully pass the course will get a certificate from the University of Tartu.

We are glad to announce that the admission for Excellence in Analytical Chemistry (EACH) Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree programme intake 2023 is open!

EACH is an international two-year joint master degree programme that educates specialists in analytical chemistry well qualified to work in industry (food, pharmaceutical, materials, energy, etc.), chemical analysis laboratories (environment, food, health, etc.), and research (developing new analysis devices or new analysis methods) worldwide. EACH provides knowledge and practical skills in both fundamental and applied aspects of modern analytical chemistry. Practical internship placement in industry or laboratories is an important part of the training.

The programme is suitable both for students who have finished their bachelor’s studies and want to continue in master’s studies, as well as for working analytical chemistry practitioners wishing to spend couple of years to bring their knowledge and skills to a new level.

The programme features generous scholarships as detailed in the Scholarships and tuition fees page.

The programme is taught by four universities: University of Tartu (UT, coordinator), Estonia; Uppsala University (UU), Sweden; University Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (UCBL), France; and Åbo Akademi University (AAU), Finland. The language of instruction is English, but students will also learn to communicate in one of the languages of the countries involved.

The online application form, admission requirements, deadlines, list of necessary documents, instructions/explanations, as well as contact data for questions are available from the EACH Admission information page.

We wish you all the success in applying!

Cover Image of the upcoming issue of the journal of Analytical Chemistry

During our Winter School at Krusenberg Manor outside Uppsala held January 17-19 this year, visiting scholar prof. Magnus Palmblad did a workshop with the students related to cheminformatics, specifically on ontologies and semantic method annotations for published articles related to analytical chemistry. This is an emerging field, expected to be helpful for advanced literature search and data mining. The work done by students during the workshop was so serious that Prof. Palmblad saw the possibility of advancing it further and publishing. He offered this plan to students. Six of them accepted and worked together with prof. Palmblad (via online communication) in the following months, resulting in the largest set of manually curated, semantically annotated methods sections in any scientific journal – 100 papers in total. This work by the students was recently published in Analytical Chemistry, the most prestigious analytical chemistry journal! The corresponding resource and EACH100 dataset are available on GitHub. One of the figures of this work will be on the cover of the upcoming issue of Analytical Chemistry.

Prof. Palmblad says: “It was a pleasure to work with the students, who engaged in the tasks with exceptional enthusiasm and perseverance. I am particularly thankful for the students who continued to work on the annotations for months after the Winter School, jointly producing an impressive body of original work. This resource will be critical in evaluating natural language processing methods from artificial intelligence used in extracting important metadata information from analytical chemistry methods.

Prof. Jonas Bergquist, the main organiser of the Winter School, concludes: “It is always very stimulating to be able to interact with these brilliant students, and this year’s Winter School was a great success!

Students at the EACH Winter School in January 2022

A recent ranking of the world universities has been published by The Times Higher Education (THE). THE is a British journal known for the most reliable rankings of the world’s universities. For the first time, the University of Tartu has reached the top 250!

The 2023 list includes 1799 universities from 104 countries and regions. For the seventh year in a row, the winner in this ranking is the University of Oxford, followed by Harvard University, and the third place is shared by the University of Cambridge and Standford University.

The performance indicators that are taken into account when calculating the ranking were grouped into five areas: teaching (the learning environment, 30% of the overall score); research (volume, income, and reputation, 30%); citations (research influence, 30%); international outlook (staff, students, and research, 7.5%); and industry income (knowledge transfer, 2.5%). The biggest strength of the University of Tartu is its citations per paper – in this area the UT lands at position 115.

The UT has been represented in this worldwide ranking list since 2011. In recent years, the position has consistently improved. Toomas Asser, the Rector of the University of Tartu says that this high ranking affirms the very good level of our academic community and the relevance of the objectives. The Rector also added that the fact that the research and higher education of Estonian’s national university is on the same level as the world’s top universities is an important achievement for the whole Estonia.

More information can be found here

We are glad to announce that the seventh edition of the online course LC-MS Method Validation is open for registration (here)! The course will be offered as a Massive Open On-line Course (MOOC) during Nov 22, 2022 – Feb 03, 2023.

This is a practice-oriented on-line course on validation of analytical methods, specifically using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) as technique, mostly (but not limited to) using the electrospray (ESI) ion source. The course will also be of interest to chromatography practitioners using other detector types. The course introduces the main concepts and mathematical apparatus of validation, covers the most important method performance parameters and ways of estimating them. More information about the course can be found in Course introduction page.

Participation in the course is free of charge. Receiving digital certificate (in the case of successful completion) is also free of charge. Printed certificate (to be sent by post) is available for a fee of 60 EUR. Registration is possible until the start of the course. The course material is available from the above address all the time and can be used via web by anyone who wishes to improve the knowledge and skills in analytical method validation (especially when using LC-ESI-MS).

We are also glad to announce, that the course has been added into the BIPM (Bureau International des Poids et Mesures) e-learning platform. The BIPM is the most important international metrology organization established by the Metre Convention, through which Member States act together on matters related to measurement science and measurement standards. BIPM is also the home of the International System of Units (SI) and the international reference time scale (UTC). The Institute of Chemistry of University of Tartu is a designated institute by the BIPM since 2010.

We are sure that being on this platform, will enable more people to find our course.

Naela Delmo (EACH 2022 graduate) wrote about her experience with the EACH programme.

“As this month comes to an end, I am happy to share that I have successfully defended my master’s thesis and officially completed my degree of Master of Science (Technology) with distinction within the Master’s Programme Excellence in Analytical Chemistry (EACH) at Åbo Akademi University. I would like to thank Prof. Johan Bobacka, my supervisor Docent Zekra Mousavi and my opponent Docent Tomasz Sokalski, for their kindness, guidance, and support as I work on my specialization and research on electrochemistry and sensors.

The EACH programme is an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree Programme hosted by the University of Tartu where I spent my first year of graduate studies. Many thanks to Prof. Ivo Leito and Dr. Anu Teearu-Ojakäär for ensuring that we had a high-quality learning experience despite being in the middle of a global pandemic.

My summer internship at Kajaani University of Applied Sciences was full of learning and adventures, and I would like to thank Dr. Esther Takaluoma for this opportunity.

Lastly, I am grateful and inspired to continue with sensors research, as I am currently working as a Research Assistant at the Materials in Health Technology group headed by Associate Prof. Emilia Peltola of the Department of Materials Engineering at the University of Turku.

Here are some memorable photos from this life-changing journey. Looking forward to visit home (the Philippines) soon to celebrate with my family!”

During the summer of 2022, the 6th edition of EACH students successfully graduated from the programme. By now, most of them have managed to secure a new position – 15 out of the 16 graduates from the intake 2020 have already started a new chapter in their career!

This time, the majority of the graduates – 12 – continue their careers in academia as PhD students. Three of the graduates have secured a job – as an R&D engineer in a world-leading passive electronic component company (Taiwan), as an associate scientist at DSM (Switzerland), and as an analytical scientist at Randstad (Sweden). The acquired PhD positions range from Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (Germany) to Karolinska Institute (Sweden), University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands) to University of Tartu (Estonia), and University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University.

Here is what some of our recent graduates have to say about the EACH programme:

Lukas

Lukas Ramašauskas (UU study-track) currently working as an associate scientist at DSM, Switzerland:

“The last two years were like a roller coaster for me. Changing the field from biotechnology to analytical chemistry was rather challenging and successful at the same time. During these two years, I obtained two master’s degrees in analytical chemistry at Uppsala University and the University of Tartu with a help of an international programme called Excellence in Analytical Chemistry. In addition, I completed two internships mainly working with LC-MS/MS at Q-linea and RECIPHARM OT CHEMISTRY AB in Sweden, wrote the master thesis titled “Analytical method and formulation development for Gram-negative antibiotics intended for antimicrobial susceptibility discs” and changed the living place TWO TIMES. The people I met, and the struggles I faced made me rethink my values and future goals, taught me how to adapt and be more versatile and open-minded. It was a very fruitful period of my life!!!

However, my journey does not end here. In July I am joining DSM in Basel Switzerland as an Associate Scientist. Couldn’t be more excited and thankful to DSM and the bioanalytical team for this great opportunity. Here are some memories from this journey.”

Viktoriia

Viktoriia Turkina (UCBL study-track), currently a PhD student at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands:

During these two years I have broaden my world perception enormously, met people across the whole world, shared happiness and difficulties together, found bright or subtle differences and similarities in our cultures.

In the University of Tartu I explored the world of analytical chemistry, theoretically and experimentally filling the gaps in my knowledge in that field. The quality of the courses meet very high standards, where all student questions are patiently and thoroughly explained. Also, the ambiance of the city is incredibly welcoming for international students. The UCBL program covers several interdisciplinary subjects that give even a bigger picture of the analytical chemistry application and a look at it from a different angle. We also got a precious chance to collaborate with industrial partners during our internship.

Along the whole journey besides meeting good friends I was introduced to brilliant people, experts in their fields, who inspired me to continue my career path with a PhD. I am looking forward to the following 4 year journey at the University of Amsterdam.

From left: John Paulo, Naela, Raegan, Majid, Bojidar, and Angelo

Graduates from ÅAU study-track: Angelo Robiños (PhD at Åbo Akademi University, Finland), Bojidar Mandjukov (PhD at University of Tartu, Estonia), John Paulo Samin (PhD at University of Tartu, Estonia), Majid Al-Waeel (PhD at University of Turku, Finland), Naela Delmo (PhD at University of Turku, Finland), and Raegan Chambers (PhD at University of Tartu, Estonia):

We can really tell that everyone involved in the program genuinely cared for us and wanted us to be successful. Feedback was always asked to continuously improve the quality of teaching. The study program was also very well-structured: our first year at the University of Tartu (UT), Estonia was spent strengthening our core competencies in analytical chemistry while our second year at Åbo Akademi University (ÅAU), Finland focused on our specialization, which is electrochemistry and sensors. In addition, we had a summer internship that provided us with valuable working experience in a real-world setting. Collectively, we agree that the EACH experience is definitely one of the best decisions we have ever made in our lives, both in a personal and professional sense. With EACH, we came out more mature, resolute, and competent. One indication of this is the fact that all six of us in the ÅAU-track were successful in securing PhD positions at various universities months before our graduation! This is something that we really take pride in, and we will always be grateful to EACH for making it possible.

We wish all the best to our recent graduates in their new careers!

Viktoriia Turkina (EACH 2022 graduate of UCBL study-track) gives insight to her EACH journey:

Viktoriia in front of UT main building (Tartu, Estonia)

“There are not enough words to express my gratitude for giving me an opportunity to be a part of EACH. The day I received my admission letter I was sure that it would be the life changing experience and I can definitely say it lived up to all my wild expectations.

During these two years I have broaden my world perception enormously, met people across the whole world, shared happiness and difficulties together, found bright or subtle differences and similarities in our cultures.

In the University of Tartu I explored the world of analytical chemistry, theoretically and experimentally filling the gaps in my knowledge in that field. The quality of the courses meet very high standards, where all student questions are patiently and thoroughly explained. Also, the ambiance of the city is incredibly welcoming for international students.

The UCBL program covers several interdisciplinary subjects that give even a bigger picture of the analytical chemistry application and a look at it from a different angle (worth to mention, my favorite course, Data Analysis, is extremely helpful for any career path you can imagine in the contemporary world).  We also got a precious chance to collaborate with industrial partners during our internship.

Along the whole journey besides meeting good friends I was introduced to brilliant people, experts in their fields, who inspired me to continue my career path with a PhD. I am looking forward to the following 4 year journey at the University of Amsterdam.”

Front row (from left): Naela, Raegan, Angelo and back row (from left): John Paulo, Majid, Bojidar

The recent EACH graduates of the AAU study-track – Naela, Raegan, Angelo, Majid, Bojida, and John Paulo look back at their time in the EACH programme:

Finishing a master’s degree is incredibly challenging. Moreso, when doing it in the midst of a pandemic.

The experience of the EACH 2020–2022 intakes, also known as the COVID batch, is completely distinct from that of the previous ones. Prior to the start of our studies, we had to deal with various obstacles and uncertainties. Most of us processed our visas and travel documents while navigating through tighter border controls, canceled flights, lockdowns, and quarantines. To get to the home university in Estonia, some of us even had to board a total of seven airplanes! However, amidst all these adversities, the people from EACH were there to assist and take us into consideration.

Celebration

COVID-19 was certainly a mess, but the EACH program is not! Instead, the EACH program was resilient. They did their best to maintain order even in the face of chaos.

We can really tell that everyone involved in the program genuinely cared for us and wanted us to be successful. Feedback was always asked to continuously improve the quality of teaching. The study program was also very well-structured: our first year at the University of Tartu (UT), Estonia was spent strengthening our core competencies in analytical chemistry while our second year at Åbo Akademi University (ÅAU), Finland focused on our specialization, which is electrochemistry and sensors. In addition, we had a summer internship that provided us with valuable working experience in a real-world setting.

It has been a great privilege to work with and be mentored by scientific experts, do inspiring research work, explore new places, and meet such an amazing, smart, and kind group of people, especially our dear EACH friends. One of us also found true love in Tartu 😍. Truly, a life-changing journey!

Naela, John Paulo, Raegan, Majid, Angelo, and Bojidar discovering Åbo/Turku

Collectively, we agree that the EACH experience is definitely one of the best decisions we have ever made in our lives, both in a personal and professional sense. With EACH, we came out more mature, resolute, and competent. One indication of this is the fact that all six of us in the ÅAU-track were successful in securing PhD positions at various universities months before our graduation! This is something that we really take pride in, and we will always be grateful to EACH for making it possible.

From: Angelo Robiños (now a PhD student at Åbo Akademi University), Bojidar Mandjukov (now a PhD student at University of Tartu), John Paulo Samin (now a PhD student at University of Tartu), Majid Al-Waeel (now a PhD student at University of Turku), Naela Delmo (now a PhD student at University of Turku), and Raegan Chambers (now a PhD student at University of Tartu).”

The new EACH and AMS intake has started exploring Tartu and with it, Estonian history and culture!

Merili (in the picture – in the middle of the front row), one of the newest EACH master students wrote about their visit to ERM:

“Last Saturday, a group of us visited the Estonian National Museum (ERM). We first got an overview of the main exhibition with a tour guide and then explored the rest of the museum ourselves. The design and interactivity of the exhibitions were amazing, and there was a lot to see, from relics of the stone age to beautiful artwork from the Golden Age of Estonian Art! What really made the museum visit special was the fact that while we were there, the President of Estonia himself was giving a tour there. So the day definitely was a crash course to Estonia!”

On Thursday, September 1st 2022, five EACH students at UCBL defended their master’s theses.

During the last semester, Viktoriia, Thuong, Yu-Yen, Noemae, and Pamela (see picture) worked on their master’s theses at different industrial institutions such as Axel’One, Servier, Elkem Silicones, and IFPEN. As usual, the topics of the theses the students worked on, were related to the interests of the industry needs, and combined analysis approaches with data management and methodological optimization.

From left: Thuong, Yu-Yen, Pamela, Noemae, Viktoriia

The students defended the following topics:

Viktoriia Turkina – Proton low-field NMR combined with chemometrics for the prediction of various properties of distillated petroleum cuts for monitoring hydrocracking processes;

Thuong Hoai Nguyen – Study of different techniques for total chlorine and water content online analyses in organic effluents;

Yu-Yen Ting – Transportation and adsorption of metallic ions on mesoporous solids: application in heterogeneous catalysis and water decontamination;

Pamela Rivera Rivera – Feasibility study of NIR and Raman spectroscopy for the quantitation of SiH on silicone oil volatiles and storage tank concentration measurement by data fusion.

The topic of Noemae Enriquez Lim thesis was related to industrial process monitoring (the exact contents of the work are confidential).

We wish all the best to our most recent graduates!