When Mohammad Azizkhani was a child, his older sister told him stories about school and food-industry factories that she had visited in her food-quality control studies.
“It was easy to influence a seven-year-old boy and get him interested in different things, and here I am, doing the same thing that got me excited in my childhood,” laughs Azizkhani.
So Azizkhani did his bachelor’s degree in Iran, majoring in food-quality control like his sister.
"In many universities it’s all about the quantity, not the quality and that’s why the University of Helsinki stood out”.
In the second year of his bachelor studies, Azizkhani became interested in doing research and, at the end of his studies, he had three patented projects and a handful of research papers. At that point, Azizkhani already knew that he wanted to study abroad, so he started to develop his English skills.
“The University of Helsinki caught my eye, because I read from the university rankings about the quality of research done here. In many universities it’s all about the quantity, not the quality and that’s why the University of Helsinki stood out,” Azizkhani states.
According to Azizkhani, many people forget to research something about the country they have their sights set on.
“You have to keep in mind that studying is not your whole life, it’s also important to enjoy your life outside school as well. I did my homework in advance and I really like everything about Finland and Helsinki”.
What does the future have in store for food production?
At the University of Helsinki, Azizkhani is studying in the Master’s Programme in Food Sciences and specializes in food safety. He thinks that the food safety research and industry have a bright future.
“We’re going towards more sustainable food production that is less harmful to the environment and also to humans. At the moment, many people are doing research in how to increase microbial safety of food using natural preservatives and other natural approaches”.
Azizkhani has started his thesis in a similar field of natural preservatives. He is isolating bacteria from a symbiotic system. These bacteria have an antibacterial effect on the pathogens that are harmful for us.
“After isolating these bacteria, I’m re-introducing them into different food systems and observing if they reduce harmful bacterial growth in that system. My dream is to see self-preservative foods, where no chemicals are added.”
Azizkhani thinks that it is important to keep an eye out for food safety now and in the future.
“The industry is mass-producing food and especially ready-to-eat foodstuffs, so it’s even more important to imagine alternative and less harmful ways to preserve it”.
"My dream is to see self-preservative foods, where no chemicals are added”.
If the population of the world keeps growing, Azizkhani sees that veganism will become more common, while meat and dairy products will become more of a luxury. Because of this, it’s also important to find new sources of protein.
“Insects have been used in different cultures for a long time. I can see that they might become a big thing in the future, but we can also get the same nutrients from plant-based sources”.
Feeling right at home in Finland
Azizkhani is very grateful for the support and guidance that he has received regarding his studies and research.
“I can sit down with the professors and discuss the things that are going through my head. Everything here is really flexible; for example, I wanted to start my thesis, even though I hadn’t passed all that many courses, and that was okay!”
Azizkhani was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of the service he got during the application process.
“My emails were responded to very quickly and the people really outdid themselves, if I needed information about funding my studies, accommodation or studying in general”.
"Other students have been really helpful and have gone to great lengths to make me feel at home. This is one of the reasons I became a student ambassador".
Before his studies, Azizkhani had read that people in Finland are quiet and withdrawn.
“After spending time here, I can say that isn’t true. Other students have been really helpful and have gone to great lengths to make me feel at home. This is one of the reasons I became a student ambassador. I want to pay it forward and help others to find their place in our university family”.
After graduation, Azizkhani would like to stay in Finland and find work here.
“There are good work opportunities here in Finland. Many multinational food-related companies have offices and production sites here. I would like to learn my ropes in some big company and then maybe someday start my own business”.