Neuroscience is a rapidly advancing field and considered one of the most important in current science. By its very nature, neuroscience is genuinely multidisciplinary and therefore attracts researchers and students from diverse backgrounds. Students in the international Master’s Programme in Neuroscience at the University of Helsinki receive high-quality academic training and exposure to cutting-edge research, with plenty of freedom to forge their own path towards specialisation. This can all be achieved while enjoying a vibrant student life as a member of a multinational scientific community.
We asked Professor Juha Voipio, director of the programme, what makes studying neuroscience at the University of Helsinki special.
“Neuroscience is a fascinating field to begin with. We study the brain from various perspectives and at different levels, from molecules and cells to physiological functions and behaviour. The human brain is often said to be the most complex system in the world. Getting an idea of how much is currently understood about its structure, function and development is exciting — just as it is to realise how much more there is we still don’t know about,” Professor Voipio says.
High-quality education combined with practical work
The level of neuroscience education at the University of Helsinki is excellent, as judged by a number of external evaluations. The programme we are offering is built on internationally recognised research and all faculty members are also active scientists. In addition, the master’s programme combines theory with hands-on work and laboratory demonstrations, covering the fundamentals of current research in a multifaceted and comprehensive way.
Neuroscience is one of the strongest fields at the University of Helsinki. The scientific community is large, and the students get to be part of it from the very beginning of their studies. Our master’s programme provides a good stepping stone for doctoral studies either here or at other universities, Professor Voipio says.
The programme offers each student plenty of freedom to determine their own path, based on their particular interests and goals. The first autumn term comprises mainly mandatory core courses, after which students can choose from a wide range of electives.
Neuroscience exploits knowledge from multiple fields
Neuroscience courses at the University of Helsinki are taught by researchers with a broad range of scientific and educational backgrounds, holding degrees in fields ranging from physics, chemistry or mathematics to biology, medicine and psychology. The University of Helsinki stands out in molecular and cellular neurobiology, and in neuroscience in health and disease.
“A fundamental characteristic of neuroscientific research is utilising an enormous range of methodological and theoretical approaches, from genomics and molecular biology to neuronal network functions and cognitive processes. Many teams at our university conduct basic research, while others may, for instance, work towards medical applications in their translational projects. This diversity gives students the choice to focus on, say, developmental neuroscience, neurological and neurodegenerative diseases, systems neuroscience or cellular and network electrophysiology, just to give a few examples,” Professor Voipio says.
Voipio himself is interested in understanding the brain from a biophysical point of view — in other words, how functional protein molecules are assembled in neurons and neuronal networks, and how this machinery operates in brain development, health and disease.
“This personal interest reflects my background: I graduated with degrees in physics, but since the 1980s my career has been in neurobiological research and teaching. As a physicist, I find processes of life and the brain more fascinating than anything else,” he says.
Vibrant, international student life
Helsinki is a fun place to be a student.
“The Student Union and other organisations arrange all kinds of activities and events, and our students enjoy their life to the full both inside the classrooms and laboratories, as well as outside,” Voipio says.
In addition to international students in various degree programmes, the cosmopolitan atmosphere on campus is further enriched by the presence of exchange students from all over the world.
The Master’s Degree Programme in Neuroscience opens up numerous career possibilities in research, academia, industry and business. Graduates from the programme may also be employed in specialist positions that require a well-rounded education in natural science, as science writers for media outlets, in the public sector, or working for private companies.