“Our studies are a fit for scientific and curious minds, and for those who want to change the world”

If you’re interested in food production, anywhere from primary production to food processing to consumers, there’s no place better to explore new innovations and cutting-edge food sciences research than Viikki Campus.

We talked to two former students, Wai Ingström and Elina Kovasin, about their experiences studying in the Master's Programme in Food Sciences.

What was it like to study in the Food Sciences programme?

Elina: I found the studies very inspiring. There are a lot of lab courses and practical courses like a Cheese course and a Yoghurt course. These courses are connected to real issues, and you can see your input. The programme is also very versatile. You can choose your track from dairy, meat, grain technology, food technology, food chemistry, and food safety, among others. It is great to have the opportunity to try different tracks and see what you like the most. There is a lot of flexibility in the studies, and you can direct your degree to the topics you find most interesting. The atmosphere at the Viikki Campus is warm and inviting, and you can come as you are. There’s a low threshold to get involved.

Wai: The studies are quite practical. Many courses require you to be present in person. There are some book exams you can take, but most of the courses are practical or lab courses.

Who is the programme and career opportunities suited for?

Wai: This programme suits anyone with a scientific and curious mind and who wants a practical job where you can see the results of your work.

Elina: This is for the people who want to change the world. Our food culture is going through a massive change, especially in plant-based products, which will continue to grow in market share. Of course, it helps to have an interest in food, an innovative mindset, and an inclination for natural sciences like chemistry or biology. If that speaks to you, food sciences will offer you a concrete and practical study field.

Did you know from the beginning what you wanted to do after graduation?

Wai: When I started my bachelor's, I had no clear idea of what I wanted to do. I've always been academically strong in natural sciences. Food was safe and familiar, good food makes you happy, and it was easy to understand the career paths related to food. So, I decided to try it out, and I liked the studies. They're practical but, at the same time, innovative. I really enjoyed, for example, product development, where you can try new things and see how they work. It's a bit like detective work. The product is your baby, and it's great to see it on the shelf.

Elina: I grew up on a farm surrounded by primary food production. I was interested in biology, chemistry, and other natural sciences in high school. I wanted to study something practical, and biology and chemistry felt too theoretical. I chose to concentrate on food and dairy technologies, and food safety. In many ways, I knew what I wanted from the start. I knew I wanted to work in the food industry and in product development because of my studies and previous work experiences. I find the work fascinating.

What kind of programme-related work experiences have you had?

Wai: I've been working summers in the field since my first year of bachelor studies and continued in those places during the semesters. I worked at Paulig, a food, and beverage company, on the production line where coffee is packaged. Then I moved to Arla, a dairy company and worked in quality control. As my last summer job, I worked for Kesko, a Finnish retailing conglomerate. My summer job was in the lab, and after the summer, I scored a job as a temporary product quality manager with the same company. It later turned into a permanent position. In my work, I make sure that the packaging information is according to the law, oversee the development of Kesko's brands, do tastings, and decide together with the team which products to incorporate under the company brand. I'm also involved in choosing what we pick for our products.

Elina: I started at Jukkola Food, a small dairy company and spent two summers working for them. After my second year of bachelor's studies, I scored a summer job at Maitokolmio, a bigger dairy company. My third industry-relevant job was at Finnspring, a spring water product company as a quality assistant. Currently, I work as a product developer at Mö Foods, a Finnish oat dairy. The products are made from Finnish oats with traditional dairy processes. In my work, I develop new oat-based products, work on recipes and take care of quality control.

What kind of careers have others from your programme had?

Wai: In Food Sciences, many alumni end up with big players like Fazer and Valio. Your job description can vary from quality expert to product quality manager to product development, or even the more technical fields like packaging or working as a food control authority.

Elina: There's a wide scope of careers available from sales and marketing to quality control and product development to manager positions in production. Some work as food inspectors, in research, in projects at the universities of applied sciences, trade unions, NGOs or laboratories – an extensive range of fields and professions, which is descriptive of the width of the programme.

How did you find the transition from student life to work life?

Elina: It's been interesting to see that some of the things I learned in my theoretical studies have found their practical application in my work. Sometimes during a class, you wonder, "Do I really need this later on?", but I've had many instances where the lessons learned have come in handy. I remember wondering about a course on food structure where we talked about things like viscosity. Now it's very relevant to my work.

Wai: I’ve noticed there’s now a clear difference between work and free time. When I was studying, the line between those two was not always clear-cut.

Which part of your studies and student life has helped you the most in your career?

Elina: In terms of studies, I've naturally got the most out of dairy and grain technology. In addition, a course on food structure is very useful in my job at the moment. Food legislation is very important and useful. Outside of my studies, the contacts I made through working have been very important and have enabled me to get a foot in the door. The people you study with are also an important part of that network. They may be your colleagues or subcontractors at a later point.

Wai: Working life has taught me a lot. But the studies give you a solid grounding. While I don't work in product development, the product development courses have benefited my work. This degree gives you a broad skill set that you can define through working life later. The networks you build in those places are super important. It is good to understand the opportunities this degree gives you, the profession, and employers in the field.

Do you have any special plans for the future?

Wai: I really like where I am right now. I like the work and my colleagues and the atmosphere at work is incredibly supportive and cooperative, so I haven't thought much about the future.

Elina: I also feel like I'm in the right place. I'm excited about my work. At some point, perhaps I could return to the university for a PhD and concentrate on oats and their qualities in particular. Oat is a very special kind of grain. Finland is one of the top European producers: it's part of the Finnish food culture and has excellent nutritional value. I find it an exciting raw material, so it would be interesting to study it more in-depth. 

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Master's Programme in Food Sciences 

What do they eat now? What is behind the good taste of food? Raw materials? Processing technologies? How to improve the healthiness, safety, ecology and ethics of food and food processing? If this is for you, apply to the Master's Programme in Food Sciences the University of Helsinki.

The programme covers the whole food production chain from primary production via food processing to consumers. You explore innovations in food and how to improve the healthiness, safety, ecology and ethics of food and food processing. You also learn laboratory working skills and increase your knowledge of food composition, processing, structure and legislation.