Master’s in Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine - is it rewarding?

About five outbreaks (Influenza, Ebola, Zika virus, Nipah virus, Coronavirus) have been recorded in the last decade. In addition, scientists are researching other dominant non-contagious diseases, such as cancer. These were my thoughts when I decided to pursue a master's degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, and it has been a year full of exciting and valuable experiences worth sharing.
A lobby area in Kontinkangas campus

Study content in Biochemistry programme

Prior to applying, I had some practical experience related to biochemistry and molecular medicine during my undergraduate studies in my home country, so the programme content listed on the faculty website appealed to me greatly.

I figured that 4-9 months of practical experience was exactly what I needed, and honestly, I have had enough and much more practical experience so far. In just one year of my studies, I have been able to get about four months of hands-on experience in protein science, molecular biology, microfluidics, and extracellular matrix, which includes histology.

I particularly enjoyed the nine-week orientation period, a lab rotation in three different labs of my choice.

During this lab rotation, I started my first three weeks in a Tumour Biology research group, and I was so excited about the opportunity to do research on cancer. I gained further experience in Protein research and in a Molecular Genetics lab, where I am now doing my master's thesis.

Although I chose to do my orientation internship (lab rotation) in research groups, this opportunity is not only limited to research groups, but you can do your internship at research and pharmaceutical companies or in the marketing industry.

This is one of the histology labs where organ sectioning, embedding, and staining is done. I particularly love the advanced and automated equipment in this laboratory.

Flexibility of the programme

Although I knew I wanted to study Molecular Medicine and Genetics, it was interesting to me that I had the opportunity to explore and choose from other fields such as Protein Science and Bioinformatics. I also learned about the possibilities of incorporating all of these experiences into my desired career path. Knowing that the need for tech-savvy individuals has increased in recent years, I was happy to find that the programme offered the opportunity to take a few bioinformatics courses.

In the introductory session for first-year students, I was amazed when we were told that we could write a course exam three times and the best grade would be included in our transcript, whereas in my home country, Nigeria, we could write only one exam for each course. I really liked this difference.

I also noticed that the lecturers were not only interested in teaching, but also in the success of the students, which contributed to my eagerness and boosted my confidence.

In addition, thanks to the flexible study structure, I was able to combine work and study, although, in the first semester, it was a bit difficult to combine these two situations. Later, I managed both situations by getting help and advice from friends. I also received educational support through the student tutoring programme organised by the university.

This is the faculty guild room where we relax and interact.

Skills, Career advice and Employability

It is no news that the University of Oulu is one of the 500 best universities in the world and one of the top five universities in Finland. During my first year of studies, I observed that graduates of my faculty got jobs in companies and as postdocs at universities outside and in Oulu. Since I hope to continue my career in academia, this observation gave me some conviction about the level of recognition of graduates of the Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine programme.

To achieve this employability, I noticed that at the end of my first year how much I excelled in laboratory skills and the development of other soft skills through university-organised experiences outside my field of study, and this confirmed for me why the degree offered by the university is so valuable.

To me, skills are the basic unit for any career. Even though people prefer to talk about careers in the context of a specific degree programme, I believe that if you have numerous and aligned skills, you are an asset to the industry.

People would also agree with me that it is not enough for a biochemist to list numerous essential laboratory skills on their resume, but that they must also be good at those skills.

Another fact I considered when I moved to Finland for my studies was finding a job after graduation. So, I immediately signed up for the six-month mentorship programme organised by the university's Career Centre for master's students and was matched with a mentor from a similar field to mine.

I have to say that not only did this programme prepare me for the industry and provide me with assistance in writing cover letters and resumes that were in line with the required application style, but I also felt less stressed and anxious knowing that I had my mentor and career advisor to look up to when I needed advice.

All of these and many other reasons made me realize that the master's degree in Biochemistry at the University of Oulu is so rewarding and worth my time and coming all the way from my home country of Nigeria, the giant of Africa.

About the author

Oluwatosin Justina Abe from Western Nigeria is currently studying in the Biochemistry master's programme. She loves music and spends most of her time singing. She also loves serenity and she found this in Finland.