"My studies in neuroscience give me multidisciplinary knowledge and international opportunities"

Independent lab work, a wide variety of courses across disciplines and universities, student exchanges, internships and nature always nearby. We talked to Meera Jakkli, Maia Moog and Tomás Garnier Artiñano about studying in the Master’s Programme in Neuroscience at the University of Helsinki and the opportunities it offers.

Meera Jakkli is a master’s student with a BSc in Life Sciences from Mumbai India. Maia Moog is from San Francisco, California, where she completed her B.A. in Neuroscience and is finalising her master’s thesis in UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. Tomás Garnier Artiñano is Costa Rican by nationality and completed his BSc in Biology in the UK.

They all study in the Master’s Programme in Neuroscience (MNeuro programme), an interdisciplinary programme with two complementary study tracks: The Neuroscience study track and the Cell and Systems Physiology study track. Jakkli, Moog and Garnier Artiñano are students in the Neuroscience study track.

What is it like to study in the Master’s Programme in Neuroscience?   

Garnier Artiñano: "The MNeuro programme is multidisciplinary and flexible by nature. This allows you not only to pursue the areas of neuroscience that you like but also to experiment with areas that you may not be too acquainted with. For example, I have a biology background and I have now been learning to program. It will be very useful in the future. This interdisciplinarity allows you to also find out which areas you like the best to then go and work in labs on those areas. It is very enriching to work in the labs here. You are treated as a scientist. After an introduction to the lab and being taught the protocols you get a lot of freedom. This is not only rewarding but also teaches autonomy."

 Jakkli: "Studying in the Master's Programme in Neuroscience has been a great decision, especially as I was interested in neuroscience as a whole and undecided about the specific area of research I want to pursue. The programme is very customisable for each individual student. It's great to have classmates who are interested in completely different areas of neuroscience research, with topics of interest varying from cellular physiology to cognitive, developmental or medical neuroscience." 

"After the initial semester of common foundational studies, we could choose elective courses from both study tracks as well as other related courses at the University of Helsinki – such as genetics, translational medicine, or psychology. It is also possible to take relevant courses from Aalto University. I have done this several times and I am currently completing my Master's thesis from the Brain and Mind Lab at Aalto University. It is part of the Doctoral Programme Brain & Mind of the University of Helsinki and Aalto University."

Moog: "Studying neuroscience at the University of Helsinki means sharing a classroom with students from all over the world and of all backgrounds. My particular cohort included students from Hong Kong, Germany, Costa Rica, Poland, Belgium, America, India, Sweden and, of course, Finland. Some of my peers had extensive research experience in Neuroscience and others were entering the programme with no laboratory exposure. It is refreshing to be in an environment where you benefit from the knowledge of your classmates almost as much as that of the professors."

"That being said, perhaps the best feature of the master's programme would have to be the faculty. If there is a particular technique you are interested in learning or topic you wish to explore further, it is very likely that a professor will either take time to train you or provide you with names of contacts to reach out to. The programme is made up of a warm and supportive group of people, proving that it is possible to create a non-stressful environment that still produces the highest quality of research."

"Finally, I will note that the MNeuro programme is truly what you make of it. Beyond some core coursework in the first year, it is very much catered to the student’s interests, whether it be molecular neuroscience, omics, cognitive neuroscience, or electrophysiology." 

How does the programme support international networking?  

Garnier Artiñano: "The University is well connected with other institutions around the world for exchange programmes. Specifically, for the MNeuro programme, the NeuroSchool exchange with  Aix-Marseille University is a great opportunity to get experience in a lab and live in France for up to a semester. I was accepted, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic planning for it is now difficult. The flexibility of the programme also allows you to accommodate an Erasmus exchange or organise an internship at an international company during your studies. There are loads of opportunities."  

"The researchers and professors in the MNeuro programme are well connected internationally. There are loads of talks and conferences that you can attend as a student offering great networking opportunities."     

Jakkli: "The MNeuro programme is part of several international associations like BSRF, NENS. It also provides international resources to students to apply for conferences, research positions, exchanges, and grants throughout your master's studies and after.  I received the Erasmus grant to complete a summer internship at the Donders Institute of Cognition in the Netherlands. It was a wonderful and very impactful international research experience for me."    

"Being a student representative in the executive group of the MNeuro programme was an interesting experience. It gave me a lot of insight into how master's programmes are coordinated and managed in a big university, how admissions work, and how student feedback is incorporated into the courses. I'm glad to have gotten this opportunity while studying."

Moog: "The master’s programme frequently hosts visiting scientists from all over the world for seminars that are open to the student body. Students can also take advantage of grant opportunities to conduct traineeships or even entire thesis projects in labs abroad. I was able to work in San Francisco, California for my second-year thesis project, under the HiLIFE grant."

What kind of career opportunities does the programme open? 

Garnier Artiñano: "Neuroscience is a very versatile subject. The programme offers a wide variety of courses, which allows you to explore various areas within and beyond neuroscience. The focus one can get on research also gives you good experience to pursue a career in either academia or the industry. During my master’s studies, I have found fascinating the way the senses work and how the brain processes sensory information. I have done multiple placements too and I thoroughly enjoy my time in the lab. I plan to pursue a PhD after my master’s degree. I hope to one day dedicate to academia and build a career in research trying to explain how the brain understands the world around it." 

Jakkli: "The master's programme provides a wide range of opportunities during and after the course for career advancement - from internships, research assistantships to lab placements abroad. The customizable nature of the program allows you to choose the career path you're interested in whether it's academia, science communication or industry roles. It provides resources like career guidance, job-seeking workshops and access to international neuroscience school and lab networks." 

"I would like to use the knowledge and experience gained through my degree to better understand how individuals make decisions and the systems and phenomena in the brain that are involved in this process. I am interested in the relationship between the cognitive and neurobiological processes of decision-making, behaviour and subsequent action. In the long term, I would love to work on neuroscientific research that can be applied to industries or aid in solving societal problems that rely considerably on understanding human interactions and behaviour."

Moog: "I am currently applying to PhD programmes in Europe and the US, and I have classmates who are completing their degree and transitioning into careers in medicine, start-ups, research, and industry. During the master’s, students can receive credits for exploring a career path of their interest through a 5- or 10-week traineeship."

What is it like to study and live in Helsinki?    

Garnier Artiñano: "Studying at the University of Helsinki is very flexible in general. Every student can organise their time and responsibilities as they wish. Apart from the initial compulsory courses, students can take the courses they find the most interesting. It is also understood that you are a person outside of the university. If you have a problem with a project or exam, you can talk about it with your professor."    

"Helsinki is a lovely city with loads to do and a calm lifestyle. There are many interesting museums around, two national parks close by and accessible by public transport, and of course many saunas. In terms of travel, there are many interesting places to visit both in Finland and close by, such as Rovaniemi, the Åland Islands, Turku, Tallinn, Riga and Saint Petersburg. For me, it is nice that these amazing places that would seem too far away to visit from home are easily accessible from Helsinki."   

Jakkli: "Helsinki is a great place to live and study in. While being the capital city, it also has a lot of nature in and around the city. There are plenty of cafes and library spaces. My student accommodation, which the university helped to find, is close to my university department. There's a forest and the ocean really close by, which I love."     

"Everyone can speak good English. As an international student, that was super helpful when I first moved. I've also been trying to learn Swedish (the 2nd official language of Finland) through the Language Centre courses at the University!"

Moog: "Helsinki is a lovely place to live and study. I took most of my classes at the Viikki campus, which is located outside of the city centre. I would often jog or ride my bike through the nearby parks and wooded areas after class, admiring the bunnies and deer that would be nibbling at something in the ground. If I wanted to spend a day in the city, I was just a short bus ride from downtown Helsinki. A note: the winters are dark and generally cold. Just something to consider. The good news is that Helsinki is home to some of the best study spots, whether it be a cosy neighbourhood café or the spectacularly designed Central Library Oodi."

Master’s Programme in Neuroscience

The Master’s Programme in Neuroscience at the University of Helsinki is an interdisciplinary programme with two complementary study tracks:

  • The Neuroscience study track provides you with an understanding of both fundamental and ​cutting-edge neuroscience, studying the brain and the entire nervous system at different levels of organization, from genes and molecules to nerve cells and networks; and beyond.  

  • The Cell and Systems Physiology  track provides you with a holistic view of the integrated mechanisms that govern the functions of organisms, from cells to functional systems, from development to ageing, and in health and disease.

Find out more about the structure, content and courses of the programme by checking out our webpages.

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