Teacher interview: Anna-Lea Rantalainen

University Lecturer Anna-Lea Rantalainen’s field of teaching is environmental chemistry.

What do you teach?

Environmental chemistry and the basics of chemistry, both in theoretical and laboratory courses.

What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of teaching?

The biggest challenge is adapting your teaching to the right demands level, since students’ prior knowledge of chemistry varies so much. Some have read a lot of chemistry in general upper secondary school, others very little. The most rewarding thing is to see the latter group succeed too. Another thing that is always wonderful is getting positive feedback on my teaching.

How do you develop or wish to develop teaching?

I try to keep myself up to date in my own field and assimilate new knowledge into my teaching. I would like to make my teaching increasingly diverse in terms of teaching methods. Consistent student feedback can affect the planning of teaching, but changes cannot usually be made to teaching on the basis of individual feedback. I also discuss, for example, the implementation of course assessment with my students too.

What do you investigate alongside teaching? How is your research mirrored in your teaching?

My research focuses on the concentration and fate of chemicals in the environment. At the moment, we are investigating the occurrence of cancer drugs in wastewater and the environment. My research is reflected particularly in master’s level instruction, where I describe both research methods and results. On laboratory courses, we use the same methods and analysis equipment to examine the same compounds as in actual research.

What languages do you use in teaching?

I use Finnish in the bachelor’s level courses and English in the master’s courses.

Why does your subject matter, and what challenges can it help to tackle?

Chemistry is a very important discipline as an independent natural science, as well as in connection with a number of other natural sciences. As chemicals are often associated with environmental issues, expertise in environmental chemistry is extremely important in many of the fields active at my Faculty. The chemicalisation of the environment is a major problem, and addressing it requires information on the transport of chemicals and, of course, their effects in the environment.