What Vidula says about the Master's in Biology, Conservation Biology
Vidula Varadarajan from India
How did you find out about Lund University and this Master’s programme?
“I did my Bachelor’s degree in zoology and biotechnology. Since it was a three-year Bachelor’s programme, I went on to do a two-year Master’s programme in biodiversity back in my home country. The Master’s in biodiversity that I did in India was very interesting and I felt like I had to increase and deepen my knowledge in the same line. I searched for Master’s and PhD programmes in this line – conservation biology – and when I found the programme at Lund University, I felt like it was the right one.”
What made you feel like this programme was the right one?
“I liked the syllabus, to begin with. Then I looked up the kind of research that they are doing here and I liked it.”
What was the main difference between your previous Master’s degree in India and your programme here?
“I would say the teaching is very different. In India, it’s more like an exam-methodology where you need to learn things and then write the exam. Here, there’s a more open approach. We have open book exams. They don’t really stress on remembering the formulas and memorising the facts; we can go back to the books and refer. They mainly stress on the concepts and that’s something I like.”
What makes conservation biology differ from the other biology specialisations?
“Each biology specialisation focuses on something specific. For instance, evolutionary biology focuses on evolution of the species. However, all the fields are interdisciplinary and we must apply our knowledge holistically. Conservation biology is different because it stresses on how to protect the species. I particularly like conservation because I want to protect species in the long run, especially the endangered species, by maintaining the ecological balance. So, the Conservation Biology programme fits my long-term plans.”
What is your long-term career goal?
“My immediate goal is to get a PhD. I’d like to work on topics relating to climate change, habitat fragmentation and how it impacts animal species. My long-term goal is to pursue a career in conservation in order to protect endangered species by restoring their habitat.”
What do you think is the best thing about your programme?
“The best thing about my programme is that it’s very well structured so it doesn’t stress you out too much. You don’t have to think about too many courses at once. You do just one course in one period, so it’s pretty much just focused on that course. You get to learn more about that particular subject.”
What do you think of the teaching style and the relationship between the professors and the students in the faculty?
“The professors are really open and that’s something I really like. You can ask them questions at any time, even interrupting them during a lecture. They understand the fact that you won’t remember your questions at the end of the lecture. They’re also approachable anytime in their offices, you can just go in.”
Have you been able to gain any practical experience so far?
“We have more field work than lab work. We had a field week in the Hörjel farm, Haväng, Söndre Klack and Stenshuvud National Park where we did our field work, which was pretty intense and good. The programme is structured in such a way that in the wintertime, when you can’t do the field work, you learn the theory. Then the field courses start. I’m taking a course in biological monitoring in the next period and that’s a very field intensive course. To do our field work, we go out into the field and collect data according to the research question and then analyse the data to get the results.”
What have the opportunities for networking been like so far?
“I think you need to take your own initiative and go and talk to the professors. They are very open. One thing I’ve found is that they’re also very open for you to work with others, not just with them. If you go and talk to them they will of course give you contacts in the line you need, but you need to be interactive yourself as well.”
Why do you think prospective students should choose this specialisation?
“I think this is an important field that helps us to address global issues like the extinction of species. We know that human activities are increasing the rate of the sixth mass extinction. Hence, it is important to revert the damage caused by such activities and find a global sustainable solution. One of the ways this could be executed is through restoration projects. I believe this could be done by someone who has the knowledge in this field.”
Is there anything else you think prospective students would be interested in hearing about your programme?
“Even though it’s a research-focused programme, you also get to know how to work with NGOs to apply your knowledge. The programme is not just for students who are interested in a research PhD. You can apply the research as an officer or a researcher, so that’s up to you to decide.”
What’s it like to be an international student at Lund?
“Lund is a very student-friendly city and that’s something I like. It doesn’t have all the noise of the big city life. Mostly everyone goes by bike, which is environmentally friendly. The nations are pretty good. You have a lot of nation activities that you can get involved with, it’s not just parties. If you’re interested in environmental issues, there’s a nation with an environmental committee that addresses such issues. Because it’s a student city, you can pretty much start anything you want, which is really motivating.”
Are you involved in any extracurricular activities in Lund?
“I used to go hiking during the warmer months. I went mostly to Genarp and Soderåsen National Park. Soderåsen is definitely one of my favourite spots.”
Do you have any more favourite places to go around Lund or Skåne?
“I visited Falsterbo in Skåne. I went there last October, and I had a good time. It’s also the period of bird migration, so we got to see a lot of birds.”
How do you like living in Sweden? Did you feel welcome here?
“Yes, people are very friendly. In the first week I kind of got lost, and there was always someone to help me out with directions and busses. With Lund being a small town, you eventually learn how to get around, however.”
Do you have any advice for other students that are considering coming to Lund?
“I think the accommodation is one thing to consider early. Of course, I personally didn’t have an issue with this because I had the housing guarantee from the University. I think the Arrival Day was very well organised. The University also has events in other countries, which I went to. I used this opportunity to ask as many questions as possible. So, it was always very swift. As an international student, my advice would be to learn a little bit of Swedish, especially for shopping etc.”