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Miguel Ángel

Ask Miguel Ángel questions about KTH and read more about his decision to study at KTH, thoughts about Sweden, advice to prospective students and his plans for the future.

My name is Miguel Ángel, and I come from Málaga, Spain, where I studied Biochemistry. After a year in exchange at the University of Skövde, Sweden, I was delighted by the education system and decided to come back for my master’s studies. I love reading, hiking and watching the sunset in the city. You can sometimes find me sneaking in some practice in the piano room after studying at the library.

Why did you choose this master’s programme at KTH?

In my first week in high school, our biology teacher taught us about emergent properties in living beings.I knew I wanted to learn about that infinite in-between separating inert molecules from living cells from then on. I thought this is the future of human technology.

However, it was so frustrating to see that, despite decades of development and an established body of knowledge, biochemistry has barely impacted our everyday life. The most successful applications (pharmaceutical and agricultural) are concentrated in very few wealthy companies. I wanted to learn how to apply biotechnology to the needs of people right now in a sustainable way. That may be an impossible endeavour but, when I learned about this master’s programme, it seemed a perfect option to fill the gaps in my education: application and sustainability.

Have you chosen a specialisation track within the programme?

I usually struggle with these decisions because most things in biotechnology are so interesting, and I don’t want to miss anything. That is why I like the system here. Even though I chose the enzymology track, I can pick and choose courses from the other two tracks. This way, I can take almost any course that sounds interesting and delay the fateful day that I’ll have to specialise. 

What are some of your favourite courses so far?

I liked two courses that do not have biotechnology as their main focus: “Theory and methodology of Science (THAMOS)” and the Sustainability module in Sustainable Development and Project Management. In THAMOS, it was wonderful to learn about the reasons behind scientific praxis, its flaws and limitations; and think about trust and responsibility in expanding and communicating human knowledge. In the Sustainability module, we played tabletop games to analyse and discuss resource depletion and the circular economy. More broadly, we looked at the problems brought by current industrial practices and how new paradigms may overcome these.

My favourite biotechnology course was Biocatalysis, where we learned about the integration of enzymatic catalysis in chemical industrial processes. I liked it because, in every lecture, I discovered new smart solutions, weird quirks of enzymes and interesting, novel perspectives to industrial biotechnology. Besides, we were always applying the new concepts we learned to solve exercises or design our own enzymatic process.

How do studies at KTH differ from your previous studies?

Compared with universities in my home country, the focus is much more on application and practice than theory. Instead of every course having you memorise most of a book, you get some basic theory and then a mix of example applications of it, discussions on deeper theory and current developments, and projects where you apply the knowledge yourself. The school trusts in your ability to solve a problem and always offers you the possibility to request help if you need it. It was also quite surprising that some activities are supervised by senior students, which shows the independence and trust KTH places in us.

Perhaps the most important aspect is the workload. While there are many practical activities to compensate for the lower theoretical content, the sum is still less than what I’m used to in Spain. I think this is very forward-looking, now that society is starting to shift away from putting too much stress on people. Additionally, this allows and encourages you to ask questions, research on your own and, in general, have a more active role in your education.

How is student life in Stockholm?

My first year at KTH was complicated and stressful because of the pandemic. Thankfully, Stockholm is full of beautiful nature, and the country has a great network of nature reserves. So it was easy to take advantage of this, and I had many pleasant walks through the forests, beaches and parks in or near Stockholm. 

Online teaching made meeting up with your classmates hard, but in difficult times people band together and, at least I, felt very supported by them throughout the year. It was also great to have some seminars and hands-on lab work, which allowed me to meet fellow students, thanks to the significant efforts made by teachers to keep some activities in person.

Beyond the pandemic, living in Stockholm has some challenges for a foreigner, but it is quite comfortable once you get used to it. There are bicycle lanes to get everywhere, and the transit network is impressive. I love riding my bike through a forest trail when going to the supermarket.

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MSc Industrial and Environmental Biotechnology