The Master’s Programme in Integrative Plant Sciences is a joint programme of the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences and the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, which ensures an exceptionally comprehensive curriculum. You will be able to study the diversity of wild and cultivated plants from the Arctic to the Tropics, as well as plant functions from the molecular level, such as ontogeny and regulation of growth and differentiation, to the ecosystem level.
When you have graduated from the Master’s Programme in Integrative Plant Sciences you will have the current answers, based on cutting-edge research by our scientists, to these big questions, and more, such as:
- How one plant cell develops into a complicated organism and how plant cells, tissues and organs communicate with each other and regulate each others’ growth at molecular and physiological levels
- How plants avoid, tolerate or defend themselves from external stress factors such as diseases, drought and excessive solar radiation, and adapt to their environment
- How plants sense their environment and communicate with each other and with other organisms
- How plants, interacting with microbes, fungi and animals, maintain ecosystems and thus life
- How the genotypic, functional and morphological differences among plants allow them to thrive in vastly different habitats
You will also be able to:
- Understand how research in plant sciences and biotechnology can contribute to plant breeding and production
- Plan, coordinate and execute high-quality basic and applied scientific research
- Have a good command of the scientific method and critically evaluate research across scientific disciplines
- Master the top notch lab techniques in molecular and physiological plant sciences
- Use the basic skills needed to expand your knowledge into other related fields and communicate professionally with experts in those fields
- Act in working life as an expert and innovator in your field, supported by your language, communication, lab skills and other transferable skills
- Be eligible for scientific post-graduate (doctoral) studies
The extent of the Master’s Programme in Integrative Plant Sciences is 120 credits (ECTS), to be completed in two years of full-time studies. The degree consists of:
- 80 credits of advanced studies (in integrative plant sciences), including joint courses (20 credits), alternative study modules (30 credits) and the Master's thesis (30 credits)
- 40 credits of other studies from this programme or other programmes
You study the diversity of wild and cultivated plants from the Arctic to the Tropics, as well as plant functions from the molecular level, such as ontogeny and regulation of growth and differentiation, to the ecosystem level. The topics include:
- Plant biotechnology and breeding
- Molecular biology and genetics
- Regulation of growth, reproduction and differentiation of tissues
- Biological basis of crop yield and wood formation
- Plants and environmental change
- Diversity and systematics of plants and fungi
- Species identification
A personal tutor will help you tailor an individual study plan according to your aspirations and requirements.
The teaching is diverse, consisting of lectures, modern laboratory and computer courses, field courses, seminars and excursions. The curriculum is closely intertwined with research. You will be introduced to the research groups from the beginning of your studies, so you will swiftly become familiar with research methods as your studies progress. Much of the study material is in various digital learning platforms (such as Moodle), which allow distance learning.
Your advanced studies include joint courses and alternative study modules. With the choice of courses, you can deepen your expertise in particular areas of integrative plant sciences and tailor your degree towards your aspirations. A personal tutor will help you to tailor an individual study plan according to your interests and requirements.
English is the main teaching language. Because the programme is multilingual, you can take your examinations, write your thesis and fulfil other programme requirements in English, Finnish or Swedish.
By completing your Master’s thesis (30 credits), you will show that you are:
- capable of scientific thinking
- able to design and carry out experiments under supervision
- profoundly familiar with the topic of your thesis
- capable of effective written scientific communication
A Master’s thesis project usually consists of four distinct phases:
- Design and planning of the study
- Gathering the data (fieldwork and/or laboratory work and/or mathematical modelling)
- Analysing the data (validation/quality control, statistical analysis, plotting)
- Interpreting and discussing the results in the light of existing literature on the topic
Typically, the work is carried out in a research project in which you have a clearly defined and independent role. You must write the thesis yourself. Your work will be supervised by a person, such as a professor or a lecturer, who has a PhD in the same field of research and who knows the topic and the relevant courses well. Upon completing your Master’s project, you will understand how a research project proceeds, from planning the work to carrying it out and reporting the results.
A multifaceted programme is only possible through the joint efforts of various parties. Therefore the teaching and research is carried out in cooperation with:
- Institute of Biotechnology (HiLIFE unit)
- Botany Unit of the Finnish Museum of Natural History
- Natural Resources Institute in Finland
- Plant Biotechnology Unit of the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
- Finnish Food Authority
- Finnish Environment Institute SYKE
- Boreal Plant Breeding Ltd. company
This ensures that you will have good prospects for jobs or apprenticeships.
The experimental greenhouses and outdoor fields on the Viikki campus are also used for teaching purposes. The five field stations in Finland owned by the University of Helsinki are a valuable asset and the venues for various field courses. Of the stations, Tvärminne Zoological Station is located on the southern coast, Lammi Biological Station and Hyytiälä Forestry Field Station in the southern Finland, and Värriö Subarctic Research Station and Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in Lapland, in the north of Finland. At the Taita Hills Research Station in Kenya, East Africa, you can have a completely different, once-in-a-lifetime learning experience.
After graduating from the Master’s Programme, you can apply for doctoral programmes in Finland or elsewhere. In Finland, the requirements for a doctoral degree are 40 credits plus a doctoral dissertation. Cooperation with Finnish and international institutions ensures excellent prospects for your successful doctoral studies.
The primary doctoral programmes at the University of Helsinki in this area of research are:
- DPPS, Doctoral Programme in Plant Sciences;
- LUOVA, Doctoral Programme in Wildlife Biology Research;
- AGFOREE, Doctoral Programme in Sustainable Use of Renewable Natural Resources;
Other relevant doctoral programmes are:
- DENVI, Doctoral Programme in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences;
- ILS, Integrative Life Science Doctoral Programme
Further information about doctoral education at the University of Helsinki.
What is it like to study in the Master’s Programme in Integrative Plant Sciences? What kind of career opportunities does the programme open? What is it like to live and study in Helsinki?
In this article, Quan Zhou and Skylar Burg tell about their experiences in the Master’s Programme in Integrative Plant Sciences.
Student life and especially the student organisation culture is exceptionally rich and diverse in Finland. Also at the University of Helsinki, the student community is very active.
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, basic healthcare services, sports facilities and student-priced meals. You also get numerous discounts, for example on public transport fees across the country.
The Master's Programme in Integrative Plant Sciences at the University of Helsinki gives the student the possibility to study plant sciences from all the relevant aspects. The ecology team is interested in a wide range of topics within ecology, including evolution and microevolutionary events such as adaptation to disease.
"We also have a really strong team looking at the molecular biology of plants," explains Professor Anna-Liisa Laine from the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences.
The Master's Programme in Integrative Plant Sciences also has expertise and offers courses on applied aspects such as food production and plant breeding and biotechnology.
"So you can really get the viewpoint of just marvelling at the diversity of plants in nature, or of thinking of them as a tool we need to survive, as well as thinking at different hierarchical levels, from molecules to individuals to populations and then to global distributions of biodiversity. I think that's the real strength here," Anna-Liisa Laine continues.
Plants help understand how life works
Plants can also give a lot of information about other organisms, not just the plants themselves.
"We can really get a peek into the inner machinery that makes the cell function and makes cells function together. We can ask precise questions about all the processes that make life work," says research group leader Michael Wrzaczek.
Viikki – a plant science hub with close connections all over the world
Viikki Campus, just 20 minutes away from the Helsinki city centre, is the hub for Plant Science research and studies. In addition, the Master's Programme in Integrative Plant Sciences is closely connected with three different University of Helsinki field stations, from southern Finland all the way to the northernmost field station in Europe, in Kilpisjärvi, Lapland .
The University of Helsinki also has a field site in the tropics, in the Taita mountains, so students have the opportunity to study biodiversity and how the ecosystem is functioning in different parts of the world.
The international atmosphere of the Viikki Campus is reflected at all levels, from the undergraduate level to the level of researchers. International students are well integrated into the student community and Helsinki.
"This is a pretty exotic place for many coming outside Finland, but Helsinki is a well-proportioned city with a lot of urban city culture and events. The public transport functions well. And Viikki is a great base for students – this is the community we feel right at home in," says plant science student Mikko Jalo.
University of Helsinki field stations connected with plant science: