What students say about the Master's in Biotechnology
Rebeka Kovačič from Slovenia
Why did you decide to study at Lund University?
I wanted to do a part of my education abroad, especially in Scandinavia, since I had read a lot about how great the school system was, and about the quality of life in general. I had also been there before and got a very good impression; especially by people speaking in English.
I searched online for universities with biotechnology programmes and then decided on Lund, since it seemed like a very cosy, middle-sized and student-friendly city. I considered universities in Copenhagen (Denmark) and Uppsala (Sweden), but the programme in Lund convinced me. It was also very helpful to read the Student Prospectus brochure; I really got a good picture of how studying in Lund would be like.
What were you looking forward to the most before you came to Lund, Sweden?
I was curious to see how it will be to study in a foreign country, in a foreign language and having new schoolmates from all over the world.
What is your programme about?
I am studying industrial biotechnology, which means that we are learning how to manipulate living organisms (mostly bacteria and yeast) for producing various goods; we are also designing plants for industrial production.
How did you like your programme and its course content? Did you have any favourite courses?
What I liked most about the programme was that, besides the lectures and lab work, we also studied course literature. We had problem-based learning exercises, where we critically evaluated scientific literature and learned how to tackle concrete problems, respectively. In addition, when preparing presentations for our assignments, we got valuable feedback from our professors and the opponent group. This way of teaching suited me best and I managed to gain lots of useful skills.
There were quite a few courses that I really liked, but I would say that Protein Engineering was my favourite.
How did you like the professors and lectures?
All teaching personnel are very friendly, simple and available. There is no hierarchy and I like that we call each other only by name; it creates a more relaxed atmosphere. The lectures themself were nothing special, some were more interesting than the others, and some professors did a better job than others.
How is the way of studying and teaching at Lund University – does it differ from your home university?
At my former faculty, we did not have literature study and problem-based learning exercises. There was also a difference in lab equipment: In Lund, we used some state-of-the art technologies, which was not the case in Ljubljana. Also, the exams in Lund were much longer (5 hours), which really allowed the professors to test our knowledge on everything from basic theories to problem solving skills. Although it sounded tough at the beginning, it was actually not too bad. We were also allowed to bring food and drinks to these exams, which was very nice. At some courses we even had take-home exams, which was a positive new experience for me.
Will the things you’ve learned at Lund be useful to your future work/studies?
Yes. I took a wide variety of courses – from Human Nutrition, Food Microbiology to Protein Engineering and Bioprocess Technology – which provided me with knowledge on not so similar topics. Therefore, I have more possibilities of finding future work. In addition, I really improved my (scientific) writing skills and my ability to evaluate scientific literature. Those skills are always desired, especially if I ever consider continuing with a PhD.
What is the social life in Lund like? Did you feel welcome?
Yes, I felt welcomed. At the beginning of the semester, we had mentor groups that were very nice. We got to meet new people from other faculties and got useful information from the Swedish students about basically everything in Lund.
Student life in Slovenia and Lund is quite similar: we do not have ‘Student Nations’ in Slovenia, but a lot of other student organisations which I have not seen here. In Lund, gala balls are very popular, so you can often see suited-up students around town.
Are you involved in any extracurricular activities?
Yes, I sing in 'LTH-Kören', the Lund Institute of Technology Students' Choir.
Which were the highlights of your time at Lund? And which challenges did you face?
Life experiences I would not have gotten if I had stayed in my home country. The difficulties were connected to the long dark winters, which really affected my mood and motivation to study, but I managed to overcome it by exercising and seeing friends.
What are your favourite things to do in Lund?
I adore Lund. It is such a cosy little town. The infrastructure allows us to safely bike anywhere. It is quiet, safe, clean and just rural enough for me to see horses and rabbits almost every day. I really enjoy biking in Lund, but also walking around the Botanical Gardens and Stadsparken (the City Park). I like window-shopping in the town, going to the library and having ‘fika’ (having coffee or tea) every now and then. In summer, I enjoy lying in the grass and reading in Stadsparken.
Did you travel anywhere in Sweden during your stay here?
I went to Gothenburg, Stockholm and Malmö; I cycled to Lomma and swam in the Baltic Sea. I also went hiking to Söderåsen National Park and visited Ales stenar near Ystad (a prehistoric monument that is sometimes called the Swedish version of Stonehenge). There are still quite a few things on the list of places I want to visit. I would really like to also go to the north, where there are more mountains and forests.
Any advice to other students coming to Lund?
It is wise to know how to cook, since students here mostly prepare food on their own.
Previous studies: Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Doing in five years’ time: Engineering proteins to be used in sustainable and environmentally friendly bioprocesses. I could also see myself as a science communicator.
Venkatachalam Narayanan from India
Venkatachalam Narayanan has learnt a lot during his first year on the Master’s programme in Biotechnology. So much, in fact, that he has got the chance to work on a research project over the summer.
Venkatachalam Narayanan has had no trouble settling in as a new student in Lund.
“Lund is a very hospitable city – it’s easy to be a newcomer here. There are a lot of students and everyone speaks English.”
The reason it has been so easy is probably that Venkatachalam has got involved in student life. Not only is he an active cricket player who has joined a team, he is also involved in a number of different student organisations.
“After a year in Lund I always meet someone I know when I’m in town. I’ve never felt lonely here.”
It was a former course-mate from Madras who inspired Venkatachalam to apply to Lund.
“I did some research and realised that Lund University, besides having a high international ranking, was also at the forefront in biotech research. This was the crucial factor that made me apply here.”
After a year on the Master’s programme in Biotechnology, Venkatachalam says that he has developed and learnt a tremendous amount.
“I have always been interested in biology; it seemed natural to continue my studies in biotechnology. It is an important field that concerns the most essential aspects of life; you could help develop drugs that will save people’s lives.”
In Venkatachalam’s view, one very positive aspect of the programme in Lund is the close cooperation with industry.
”When we study a subject, our lecturers always use examples from industry. This means that the students get a clear link between theory and practice.”
Two modules were taught exclusively by lecturers from industry. They spoke about what they did in their jobs, which gave a good insight into their respective businesses.
“In the future I want to start my own consulting firm, so these experiences mean a lot for me. Having this chance to gain contacts within the industry is an invaluable privilege that I think will be very useful later on.”
Venkatachalam is very ambitious, so when the time came for the summer vacation, he enquired about the possibility of working on a project at the department. His enquiries bore fruit and Venkatachalam was recruited by a professor to a project that is developing functional foods.
“I work in the lab, developing cholesterol reducing fibre from agricultural waste. The project is a collaboration between the University and industry and has been a fantastic opportunity for me to learn something new. I also hope that in the future my research will result in products that help people to live a healthier life. That feels very important.”
Previous studies: Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology, Sastra University, graduated in 2007
Best thing about Lund: That it is a great student city and that all Swedes speak English.
Doing in five years’ time: I want to have started my own biotech consulting firm in India.
Baburaja Asokan from India
Baburaja Asokan had never been to Europe before he arrived in Lund last autumn.
“Lund is the perfect city in which to study. The city is old and beautiful and student life here is fantastic. I have a lot of fun!”
Nonetheless, Baburaja did not come to Sweden just to have fun – he came to study. He was working in Singapore when his boss told him about Lund University and Baburaja became curious.
“Lund is at the forefront of research in my field, and this made me realise what a good opportunity studying here would be for me”, he says.
After one year of the Master’s programme in Biotechnology, Baburaja feels that the programme has more than lived up to his expectations.
“I have learnt a tremendous amount during the first year, largely owing to the freedom to test my own ideas. In Sweden students are encouraged to think independently and critically. The relationship between the lecturers and the students is also very informal, which makes it easier to interact. You quite simply learn more.”
Baburaja is also impressed by the facilities.
“I have never done as many laboratory sessions as during this year at Lund University”, he says.
The MSc in Biotechnology has a lot of cooperation with industry, and Baburaja sees this as a further advantage when it comes to developing a network of contacts in Europe.
“An investment company with which the University cooperates announced a competition for students with a prize of SEK 100 000 for the best business plan. I didn’t win, but I learnt a lot and got a lot of help from the company with regard to entrepreneurship in the field of biotechnology.”
Even if his studies take up a lot of his time, Baburaja has also got involved in student life.
“The student associations known as the ‘nations’ are a completely new experience for me. I have got involved in one of the nations and work as a bartender there at the weekends. As well as being really good fun, it’s also a very good way to get to know people when you are new in Lund”, he says.
Getting to know the Swedish students has taken a little time, in Baburaja’s view, but his involvement in the nation and the fact that he lives in a hall of residence has made it easier.
“The Swedes can be a bit shy initially, but once you get to know them they’re really nice.”
Previous studies: Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology, Sastra University, graduated in 2007
Best thing about Lund: The student nations and the informal contact between lecturers and students.
Doing in five years’ time: I want to work as a scientist in industry in the USA or Europe. Once I have gained experience I want to go back to India and start my own company.