Making the world better with microbes and biotechnology


The Microbiology and Microbial Biotechnology Master's programme has a very broad view of the world, even though many of the research subjects are minute. On the Viikki Campus you can study microbes at the genetic and molecular levels and broaden your views all the way to economically and environmentally hot applications such as biofuels.

Microbes are everywhere. They are masters of survival in different and often difficult environments from the depths of oceans to hot water springs.

From the human point of view, "good" microbes protect us from diseases and allergies, and "bad" microbes can even cause worldwide epidemics. Some microbes can be harnessed to produce, for example, food, fuel and medicines. Some can even purify soil polluted by oil or other compounds.

Doctoral student John Evans is interested in viruses.

"I study viral proteins, purify them and discover their structure. Then I figure out how these proteins assemble the virus and how the proteins can be stopped from doing their work," he explains.

Being from Michigan, the US, he feels very much at home in Helsinki.

"The feel of Finland reminds me a lot of the feel of Michigan – Michigan is just Finland on the other side of the world. Helsinki is a very nice, very safe and open city. You can go anywhere and do anything you want generally. I like it very much."

Master's Degree Student Ahmed Muhammad comes from Pakistan and specialises in microbial biotechnology. He likes many things about the studies on the Viikki Campus.

"I have a lot of choices regarding the courses that I take. I can take lab courses, lecture courses and just go and attend other courses where I don't have to take an exam.”

Ahmed Muhammad also feels at home in both Helsinki and the student community.

"You just feel like the Finnish students here. We get equal opportunities, we can do anything that we like. I live near the Viikki Campus, in housing offered by HOAS. The good thing about this is that they have really cheap apartments, and they try to give you apartments near the campus where you're studying. With the minimum rent they give you everything: electricity, heating, internet, TV.”

Research group leader David Fewer is originally from Ireland, did his PhD in Germany and finally moved to Helsinki. Now he has established his own research group working with cyanobacteria. These are very well known in Finland for causing toxic, harmful blooms which often lead to animal poisonings. They also are a threat to human health and cause drinking water issues.

"Cyanobacteria are a very good source of natural products that have a variety of biological activities which can be useful in the search for new drugs," David Fewer says.