MSc students in Urban Analytics and Urban Transport visit Aalto University

Six UBDC students on our MSc in Urban Analytics and Urban Transport programmes have recently returned from a rewarding study visit to Aalto University near Helsinki, Finland. The visit provided an opportunity for the next generation of analytics and transport students from Glasgow to develop their networks and exchange ideas.

Senior Lecturer in Urban Analytics in the School of Social and Political Sciences, Qunshan Zhao, who leads UBDC's Urban Sensing & Analytics research said: “This is the second year we have sent our best MSc Urban Analytics and Urban Transport students to Aalto University, under their Geoinformatics subject area.  

“Because of the success of the UK Turing Scheme application, we extended the visit from 2 weeks to almost 6 weeks this year. The longer visit allows for more teaching activities, research engagement, and industry visiting events. The support from the Turing Scheme also eases the financial burden of study abroad for our best MSc students.  

“We’re actively working with our partner in Finland to develop an MOU between the two universities, and envisage this exchange will be a long-term collaboration between the two departments. We will continue apply to different funding sources and hope to support further exchange opportunities in the future.

“If you are interested in learning data science to address new and emerging urban questions, and are keen to have an excellent study aboard experience, feel free to check out our Urban Analytics and Urban Transport MSc page.”

Professor Juha Oksanen said:
"The visit of the student group to the Department of Geoinformatics and Cartography (Finnish Geospatial Research Institute FGI, National Land Survey of Finland) was one of the highlights of May. During the spring afternoon we had time to cover a wide range of topics from post-glacial land uplift to open sharing of privacy-preserving personal-level geospatial data and collection of eye-tracking data. Sharing knowledge with young enthusiasts is always a pleasure, and for the enthusiastic group of students coming from the Urban Big Data Centre, University of Glasgow, it was a special treat!"

Henrikki Tenkanen, PhD Assistant Professor in Geoinformation Technology at Aalto University, Finland said: “It has been a great pleasure to host the students at the Geoinformatics Master’s program at Aalto University. I hope the UofG students had a good experience with us and hopefully the visit was able to expand their horizons about the numerous possibilities that geospatial technologies provide for different domains, ranging from transportation and urban planning to monitoring environmental changes with Earth observation satellite data.

“The exchange is also fruitful and interesting for Aalto students (and staff) because it gives us an opportunity for the students to interact and learn from each other, as well as exchange experiences of how it is to study and live in different countries. I hope that in the future we can continue and deepen this teaching collaboration by sending also Aalto University students to Glasgow for a student exchange, as I believe University of Glasgow and the Urban Big Data Centre provides inspiring possibilities to learn more about urban analytics and transportation.”

Students, Albright Ngum Numfor Besung, Yunhan Liu, Yichen Zhang and Yifan Wang share their experiences of the study trip to Finland.

Albright Ngum Numfor Besung said: “
The trip to Finland was an enriching experience on multiple levels, and I’m happy to share my reflections.

“The academic exchange was incredibly valuable. The seminars and workshops provided deep insights into current research trends and methodologies in our field. A highlight was gaining insights into geoinformatics and its application in urban studies, a new and intriguing topic for me. The presentations on using geospatial data to tackle urban planning challenges were particularly enlightening and have inspired a new field of interest for me. The sustainable mobility course taught us about social sustainability, an often latent aspect of urban mobility that is rarely addressed.

“Our visits to various industry sites were equally informative. We toured ICEYE, a leading company in geoinformatics technology, particularly in satellites. It was fascinating to learn about building satellites and real-time data use. These visits underscored the importance of industry-academic collaboration and highlighted emerging trends and technologies that could shape the future of our urban analytics field, especially in data capturing and usage—a key strength of Aalto University that I took note of.

“The visit also allowed me to immerse myself in the reserved Finnish daily life, observing how sustainability permeates various aspects of life, from their street design principles to everyday practices even in shops. Experiencing the Vappu festival offered a rich perspective on their social aspects.

“Finland’s natural scenery is beautiful. From the serene lakes to the expansive forests, the harmony between nature and urban spaces was calming and therapeutic. The highlight was witnessing the Northern Lights, a truly magical experience.  

“Navigating a city with a language different from English was a fun and challenging experience for me. Although Finnish is known to be a difficult language, it boosted my interest in learning a third language in the future.

“Overall, the visit to Finland was a holistic experience. Thank you again for this opportunity.”

Yunhan Liu said: “The visit to Aalto University in Finland was very enriching. There were various activities during the exchange, including courses related to geographic information and spatial analysis, visits to local companies and participation in academic conferences.

“The course ’Visual Geodata Mining' was particularly interesting. It focuses on using user-friendly mining software rather than complex coding to explore the relationships between variables and the spatial distribution of datasets. This approach is helpful in the early stages of research. Additionally, I had the opportunity to attend classes with local students, allowing me to experience a different teaching style.

“Our visit to 'ICEYE', a company located at Aalto University, was impressive. It was the first time I have learned about the manufacturing process of satellites and seen a microsatellite. It’s really cool!

“The exchange coincided with the local Vappu festival, where the streets were filled with locals celebrating in white hats, creating a lively atmosphere. During the exchange, it was springtime in Finland. Witnessing the transformation from the bare trees of winter to a lush, sunlit landscape was an unforgettable experience.”  

Yichen Zhang said: “My month-long Turning Scheme in Helsinki, hosted by Aalto University, was an unforgettable experience. Arriving in May, I was fortunate to witness the city transition from the barren winter to a lush spring, timed perfectly with the festive Vappu celebration that marks the onset of spring.

“The courses and activities during the exchange were incredibly enriching. One of the highlights was the Advanced Remote Sensing course, which was my first exposure to this field. It introduced me to various platforms including Google Earth Engine, significantly broadening my perspective. The Sustainable Urban Mobility course, taught by Professor Henrikki, was particularly relevant to my studies. It not only enhanced my Python skills but also introduced advanced methods of mobility analysis, which will be invaluable for my future studies and research.

“In the Visual Geodata Mining course, I learned to use two types of geographic information software. Understanding their design principles and testing their usability in a collaborative project with fellow Aalto students was a practical and engaging experience. Visits to ICEYE and FGI were another highlight, providing insights into cutting-edge geographic information technologies and operational insights that sparked ideas about potential career paths.

“The interactions with Aalto's faculty and students deepened my understanding of the university and Finnish educational culture. Experiencing a different teaching atmosphere and learning methodologies was enlightening, contrasting significantly with what I was accustomed to back home.

“Outside the classroom, I embraced the opportunity to immerse myself in the local culture. Engaging with the residents, I gained insights into their daily lives and activities, which helped me appreciate the nuances of Finnish society. Contrary to my initial perception of Helsinki as sparsely populated, I found the city to be well-developed with an excellent public transport system that made getting around both easy and pleasant.

“The art scene in Helsinki was particularly captivating. Visiting museums like Kiasma, Ateneum, and Amos Rex allowed me to indulge in the local art scene, each offering a unique perspective on contemporary and historical art. These experiences enriched my understanding of Finnish culture and added an artistic dimension to my stay.

“The local cuisine was another delightful aspect of my stay. Sampling traditional dishes like salmon soup and a variety of seafood was not only a treat to my taste buds but also a glimpse into the Finnish way of life.

“Reflecting on my exchange experience in Helsinki, I am profoundly grateful for the academic growth, professional insights, and cultural enrichment I gained. The program was a blend of rigorous academic exposure and engaging cultural experiences, each element complementing the other to provide a holistic educational adventure. The knowledge and memories I have gathered from Helsinki will undoubtedly influence my academic pursuits and personal development for years to come. This exchange program has not only expanded my educational horizons but also deepened my appreciation for global diversity and intercultural understanding.”

Yifan Wang said: "The Turing program has brought me much more than I expected. During this visit, I not only learnt about the cutting-edge knowledge of geographic information, but also experienced the application of geographic information technology in different fields, and benefited greatly from the communication with professors and students.

"The Visual GeoData Mining course taught by Prof. Jukka Krisp from Augsburg University brought me the most benefits during the exchange. Professor Krisp led us to learn about different software applications and the functions and applications of different statistical charts. We also learnt how to create dynamic and interactive geospatial data visualizations to better explore and interpret the data. And learnt how to integrate different data sources and visualization techniques to create integrated visualization solutions.

"During the exchange, I was impressed by the visit to ICEYE. Here, I not only learnt interesting knowledge but also visualized the application of satellites in geographic information. The company uses microsatellites for all-weather, all-day Earth observation, and is able to obtain high-resolution images and data. In addition, we visited Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI) and learnt about its research in the fields of geographic information science, earth observation, mapping and geospatial data.

"All in all, it was a memorable exchange visit! I'm thankful for the opportunity."


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