Food sciences programme interviews
Yujie Wang, doctoral student

A deeper knowledge of food sciences on the Viikki Campus

Yujie Wang, doctoral student

To begin with, I had a dream of becoming a scientist, but I didn’t understand what it involves.  I didn’t understand food sciences very deeply either when doing my bachelor studies, but when I came here to Viikki I had the opportunity to discover what really interests me and to go deeper into the science. Then came the big question: how can food science make the world a better place? That is also one of the reasons I started my PhD studies.

Viikki is quite known in China in food sciences, and my University even has an exchange programme with the University of Helsinki.  In the beginning, we got tutoring and support from our professors, as well as support from a Chinese professional association. I received a lot of information and a better view on what it means to be a food scientist. I know I need a global view on food challenges and how to tackle them. The professors and senior students have explained a lot and have also guided me on what and how to study.

What are the best parts of studying in Viikki and at the University of Helsinki?

Firstly, the University of Helsinki is doing real research work, so if you are interested in research you definitely should come here. Secondly, the University is located in the city of Helsinki, which is a big city where I enjoy living, because it has everything.  When studying in Viikki, I’m not missing out on any aspects of life such as a social life - in my opinion this is a really great place to study. You have everything needed for life here, including city life and social life – the ability to combine both is the best part. My time is spent in a valuable way, and I enjoy staying here. Even the winter time is wonderful here – most Chinese people love snow because we don’t have much snow in China where I come from. It is exciting. Living in Helsinki is easy, and the Viikki Campus is just half an hour from downtown.


Exciting food sciences

Professor Marina Heinonen

I’m excited about the safety of food, especially the chemical safety of food. I teach based on science; I want to give to the students what I have learned during my career as a food scientist, such as how food additives are evaluated, what the contamination risks are in our food, and how we can prepare our food so that no harmful products will be formed.

I’m especially interested in the chemical reactions in food; you could talk about oxidation and what affects the proteins and the lipids or diminishes the nutritional value of the food, and what has an impact on food structure.

Food sciences reaching towards the future

 Studying food sciences is a good choice because we all eat! We need our food to be safe and nutritious. It is a research area where you are needed in the future. The big issues right now are sustainability and the safety of food. We need to make sure we have enough food sources for everyone globally and that we are not creating waste. In Finland we are studying the best sources for proteins. We also tend to focus on those foods that are our domestic raw materials such as cereals or berries.

We provide a very broad education, starting with components in food such as vitamins or bioactive constituents such as lipids or carbohydrates. We teach the students about processing, that is, how to make good quality, tasty food with these ingredients, and we also handle the ethical and sustainability side of food with issues like defining good sources of protein, which is a hot topic right now. We are also always concerned about the safety of food and the healthiness of the food. All of these make up a top programme in food sciences.

In building our programme, we have not proceeded alone in the academic community, but we also listen to what the food industry and consumer organizations or authorities think about our education.  This allows us to create a programme which ensures that graduating students are valuable to their employers.

Why study on the Viikki Campus?

 In Finland, Viikki is the only place you can get a broad education in food sciences. It is also an advantage that we are part of a multidisciplinary campus among the other top players in science fields, such as veterinary medicine, bio sciences and pharmacy. We benefit from collaboration both in research and teaching. The University of Helsinki has a very good reputation all over the world; we are always giving our best to our students.

Benchmarking is a good way to see what is happening globally in food sciences, and our teaching is science based. We also have good relationships with academia, the food industry and authorities. This means we can ensure that we have a lot of knowledge at our disposal to share with the students. Viikki has an international atmosphere – we have been teaching food sciences in English for almost 10 years now. Our Finnish students are completely at ease with our English-speaking students.

What makes a good student?

As a teacher, I prefer interaction and want my students to ask questions. If I can provoke interest in a student so that she/he starts to think and wants to know more – that is the key. We have plenty of interaction because we have different ways of teaching, not just lectures; we encourage group work, in the laboratory we elicit problem-based solutions, and we have visitors from the industry or authorities sharing their practical insights. All in all, our students are active about asking questions.