Studying
The Master's Programme in Life Science Informatics (LSI) is designed for students with background in mathematics, computer science and statistics as well as for students of the life sciences with sufficient background in these fields. The minimum requirements are 25 credits in one and 15 credits in another of the three fields mathematics, computer science and statistics.
How do you study in the programme?
  • Introductory courses from different study tracks give you a broad perspective and help you to choose a specialisation.
  • By the end of the first semester, you choose one of the four study tracks:
    - Biomathematics
    - Biostatistics
    - Ecological Informatics
    - Bioinformatics and Systems Medicine
  • You can combine in-depth learning in your chosen study track with courses from other study tracks and from other programmes (biology, medicine, computer science, mathematics etc) according to a personal study plan.
  • You can get help from an academic mentor to plan your studies.
  • You can choose to write a Master thesis based on research at the cutting edge, working with an outstanding researcher as your supervisor.
Why Life Science Informatics?

As a graduate of the Master's Programme in Life Science Informatics you will

  • have first class knowledge and capabilities for a career in life science research and in expert duties in the public and private sectors
  • understand the general principles of mathematical modelling, computational, probabilistic and statistical analysis of biological data, and be an expert in one specialisation area of the LSI programme
  • understand scientific reasoning and be able to critically assess research-based information
  • have experience in scientific research to discover new knowledge
  • be able to report scientific results
  • have gained transferable skills to use in a variety of fields where informatics and quantitative data analysis are of central importance
  • have good opportunities to continue your studies for a doctoral degree (scroll down for details)

Career planning

Structure and content

The Master's degree comprises 120 credits and it is possible to complete the programme in two years. The degree includes min 85 credits of advanced studies in life science informatics and can include up to 35 credits from other studies.

1. At least 85 cr of advanced studies, including:

  • introductory core courses, min 15 cr
  • study track-specific courses, min 35 cr, which include
    • min 15 cr from a list of courses specified by the student's own study track
    • other advanced courses from the student's study track, from other study tracks or from other programmes as approved by the student's personal academic mentor
  • Master’s thesis, 30 cr
  • Master's seminar, 5 cr

2. Other studies 0-35 cr, which may be

  • a study module of a minor subject
    • A study module is an approved package of courses. A student of LSI may, for example, wish to take a study module of computer science or mathematics. These modules are provided by the corresponding Master's programmes.
  • courses chosen freely from other Master's programmes
  • courses from other disciplines (these may be BSc level courses)
  • a study module of exchange studies
    • Students can include 15-30 cr of studies completed at an exchange destination of the University of Helsinki in their degree as an optional study module.
  • language courses
  • work experience
  • a course organised by the Faculty of Science on sustainability
  • BSc level courses of mathematics, statistics and computer science can be approved if necessary (this depends on the content of the BSc degree of the student)

More information about the structure of the programme can be found in the Instructions for students. Make sure to select the correct programme in the drop-down menu.

Language of instruction

All teaching is in English.

Courses and teaching

The courses of the Master’s Programme in Life Science Informatics include lectures, exercise classes, and study of the literature. Most courses award the credits based on exams or project assignments. Some courses are completed by independent study and literature-based exams. 

The courses are organised into four study tracks:

  • Bio­mathem­at­ics
    This study track focuses on mathematical modelling with emphasis on ecology. The introductory courses on mathematical biology and on mathematical modelling are of wide relevance as models are at the heart of theory and also of modern Bayesian statistics. Further courses include the mathematics of infectious diseases, spatial ecology, stochastic population models, game theory, and adaptive dynamics; these assume background in mathematics and are offered also through the Master's Programme in Mathematics and Statistics. The courses are given only every other year but in a reliable cycle so that every student can take any course in the 2-year span of Master studies. Taken together, this study track offers exceptionally deep knowledge in mathematical ecology with transferable skills in modelling.
  • Bio­s­tat­ist­ics 
    Biostatistics studies how to make principled statistical inference in real-life situations. The breadth of biostatistics is demonstrated by the introductory course Topics in biostatistics. Specialised courses include statistical epidemiology, population genetics, genome-wide association studies and design of experiments. The applied courses are complemented with advanced courses in mathematics and statistics, such as computational statistics, high-dimensional statistics and event-history analysis. The courses in the biostatistics track turn you into an expert in data analysis using software for statistical computing, which is a highly regarded skill across quantitative fields.
  • Ecological In­form­at­ics
    In the Ecological Informatics study track, you specialise on mathematical, statistical and machine learning methods in ecology. In a nutshell, ecology studies the distribution and abundance of species and their interactions with other species and the environment. As a scientific field, it has a key role in our ability to respond to the challenges posed by global change. In turn, mathematical and statistical modelling as well as machine learning are essential for analyzing large ecological data sets. In the ecological informatics study track, you will be trained to the latest methods and techniques of analysis in the field. In addition to courses provided by the Life Science Informatics master's programme, your methodological skills will be  strengthened by courses from the Master's programme in Mathematics and Statistics and your ecological understanding will be  strengthened by courses from the Master's programme in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
  • Bioin­form­at­ics and Systems Medicine
    This study track combines expertise from all three Faculties involved in the Master's Programme, the Faculties of Science, of Medicine and of Biological and Environmental Sciences. After introductory courses on bioinformatics and on systems biology, we offer courses on genome analysis, machine learning, clinical data mining, and systems medicine. For example, we offer biology-tailored algorithm and machine learning  studies for analysing molecular biology data as well as computational approaches that allow the interpretation of high-throughput biomedical data obtained from patients. Studies in Bioinformatics and Systems Medicine prepare you for a post as a bioinformatics expert in a biology or biomedical research lab, working with processing, analysing and interpreting big molecular or clinical data.

All study tracks give a strong basis for pursuing a PhD.

More information about the study tracks and the research groups involved in the programme.

Plan your studies or take a look at the model timetables in the Studies service.

Check out courses in the online course catalogue for University of Helsinki student in the Studies service.

The University of Helsinki also offers Finnish courses for international students.

Master's thesis

The programme includes a mandatory Master's thesis, a scientific research project. The project can be theoretical or practical in nature, including biological or medical data-analysis from an ongoing research project. The resulting thesis is a written work that demonstrates how you can apply your knowledge to a novel problem, your aptitude in scientific reasoning and your familiarity with the relevant scientific literature. You will be appointed a supervisor, who will ensure that your thesis work proceeds smoothly and on schedule. The thesis is worth 30 credits (ECTS), corresponding to full-time studies for one semester. The thesis is independent work, but it is often done as a well-defined task within a research group.

Doctoral education

After completing the MSc programme in Life Science Informatics, you can apply for doctoral studies in the University of Helsinki, elsewhere in Finland or abroad. The high level of international recognition of the University of Helsinki and the Life Science research groups offers you excellent opportunities for doctoral studies at top universities. The additional education and practical skills gained in doctoral studies are useful not only for an academic research career but also for working in the private sector.

At the University of Helsinki, suitable doctoral programmes include:

Qualified students who intend to pursue a research career can apply to a doctoral programme during their second year of Master's studies. More information about doctoral education at the University of Helsinki

FinBioNet: Doctoral programmes in the life sciences in Finland

Students and student life

Student life and especially the student organisation culture is exceptionally rich and diverse in Finland. Also at the University of Helsinki, more than 250 student organisations operate within the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY), ranging from faculty and subject organisations to political and societal organisations, and from choirs and orchestras to sports and game clubs. Their activities include anniversary celebrations, academic dinner parties, cultural events, get-togethers and excursions.

As a student and member of the Student Union (HYY), you are entitled to many benefits and services. For example, affordable student housing, low-cost sports services and student-priced meals. You also get numerous discounts, for example on public transport fees across the country. 

Read more about student life, services and benefits when studying at the University of Helsinki.

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