“My studies in Food Sciences have taught me how food products are created”

The Master’s Programme in Food Sciences provides high-quality teaching and helps students gain skills in scientific research and product development. We talked to Ana Debel and Marianna Koivisto, who study in the programme, about their experiences. Both of them have studied in the programme for two years, and will graduate soon.

What is it like to study in the Master’s Programme in Food Sciences at the University of Helsinki?

Ana Debel: “I have truly enjoyed studying in the programme. It is very versatile, and you can learn about food from many different perspectives. You can specialise in the topics that you are the most interested in, and design your studies for yourself. Personally, I am most interested in food technology and product development. It is easy to combine your studies with real research: the courses teach you to work in a laboratory, and there are often available positions in research groups. I am working as a research assistant in a group that studies vitamin B12.”

Marianna Koivisto: “The quality of teaching in the programme is excellent. You learn both the theory and how to apply it to concrete research. The teachers are very experienced, and they are also super nice. They always want to help you and can be easily reached. I have learnt a lot while studying here.”

What are the most interesting things you have learnt while studying in the programme?

Koivisto: “I applied for the programme because my passion was to learn how food products actually work. I was and still am interested in what happens when creating food products: what kind of changes can be made at the molecular level to achieve a certain result. The programme has suited this perfectly. It provides a comprehensive view of the different parts of food production and how they work together.”

“I specialise in grain science and technology and food chemistry. At the moment, I am writing my master’s thesis on the structures of different varieties of oat. The thesis is part of a research project that aims to understand the health benefits of beta-glucans that can be found in oat. It is valuable to be able to participate in real research at a master’s degree level. It is a great way to learn about scientific research.”

Debel: “The courses in the programme are very advanced, and I have learnt a lot from them. I have especially enjoyed learning about different ways to make food sustainable and healthy. My favourite course has probably been one called Food Solutions Masterclass, where you develop your own food product in a group and participate in a competition. My group is trying to develop chocolate pudding from fava beans. It is a fun course, and you learn a lot about group work. I recommend this course to everyone.”

“Of course, I have also learnt a lot by writing my thesis. My thesis is part of a research project that looks into how music could be used in cheese maturation process. We try to determine whether the frequencies of music change the flavour or structure of the cheese, or if they speed up the maturation process. There could also be differences if you play rap or pop to the cheese! I have learnt by studying in the programme that the field of food sciences is extremely innovative.”

How do you see your career opportunities after graduation?

Koivisto: “There are plenty of career opportunities for people who graduate with a degree in food sciences. I am not yet sure what I want to do after graduation, but I am confident that I will find work when the time comes. I am interested in product development and quality control, so I could work as an expert in the food industry, for example. The programme teaches you a lot about practical work in the food industry and scientific research. This is very helpful when trying to find a job.”

Debel: “I would like to work in a company where I could use my knowledge of sensory science and product development. I think that a master’s degree in food sciences is a great foundation for your career. The programme provides you with plenty of information but also challenges you to develop your personality and thinking. It teaches you to ask questions and tackle problems, which helps you to gain different skills and confidence. Self-esteem is incredibly important in working life.”

How is life in Helsinki as a student? What are the opportunities for free time?

Koivisto: ”The societies at the University of Helsinki organise plenty of events – parties, of course, but also special events that teach you about a topic or support your career. For example, there is a craft beer society that organises excursions to breweries! Personally, I have attended a couple of events, but most of my friends are from outside university. However, if you are interested in being more involved in university social life, the environment is very welcoming.”

Debel: “I have lived in Finland for five years now. I am originally from Ethiopia, but these days I am a Finnish citizen. I am married and I have a four-year-old son, so my opportunities for free time are very limited! However, I think that Finland is great for students who have children, as the public day care system is good. It is possible to study even if you have small children. I really like it here.”

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