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Plant Biology - MSc

Course Description

Life on Earth depends on solar energy captured by plants - they are the base of most food webs and underpin the functioning of all major ecosystems. Plants release the oxygen we breath. They convert solar energy into chemical energy, providing us with food, fibres, renewable energy sources, and raw materials for many industries. Plants do not carry out these processes in isolation. They interact with other organisms and the physical and chemical environment, communicate and actively adjust to their circumstances. How do they do these things and how can we profit from understanding them? When you have graduated from the Master’s Program in Plant Biology you will have the answers 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
-How plants avoid, tolerate or defend themselves from external stress factors such as diseases, drought and excessive solar radiation
-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 between plants allow them to thrive in vastly different habitats

You will also be able to:
-Understand how research in plant biology 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.
-Use the basic skills needed to expand your knowledge into other related fields and communicate with experts in those fields.
-Act in working life as an expert and innovator in your field, supported by your language, communication and other transferable skills.
-Be eligible for scientific post-graduate (doctoral) studies.

After earning your degree, you can continue towards a PhD or move directly into a career. If you have a Bachelor’s degree in a field of biology from another Finnish university or from a foreign university anywhere in the world, you are welcome to apply for the Master’s programme in Plant Biology. Based on your previous studies we will evaluate the possible need for supplementary studies, which will be included in your degree.

The University of Helsinki will introduce annual tuition fees to foreign-language Master’s programmes starting on August 1, 2017 or later. The fee ranges from 13 000-18 000 euros. Citizens of non-EU/EEA countries, who do not have a permanent residence status in the area, are liable to these fees. You can check this FAQ at the Studyinfo website whether or not you are required to pay tuition fees.

Programme Contents

The Master’s Programme in Plant Biology 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 to the ecosystem level.

The teaching is diverse, consisting of modern laboratory and computer courses, field courses, seminars and excursions. The curriculum is intertwined with research. You will be introduced to the research groups from the beginning of your studies, so you will become familiar with research methods as your studies progress. Much of the study material is in various learning platforms (such as Moodle), which allow distance learning. You will have a personal tutor who will help you tailor an individual study plan according to your requirements.

Within the programme you can choose among several optional study modules and focus on, for example:
-Plant biotechnology and breeding
-Molecular biology and genetics
-Regulation of growth, reproduction and differentiation of tissues
-Biological basis of crop yield
-Plant ecology and evolutionary biology
-Evolutionary history and systematics of plants and fungi
-Species identification

All modules are worth at least 15 credits. They are interlinked to ensure a coherent and balanced degree that allows you to obtain a broad perspective. Alternatively, you can focus on your primary research interest while acquiring the skills needed to follow your career goals on completion of your degree.

A translational perspective is emphasised in courses in which it is relevant. That will allow you to apply the acquired basic knowledge in problem-based research, bridging the gap between basic and applied research.

Selection of the Major

By choosing study modules you find interesting you will be able to deepen your expertise in particular areas of plant biology. Your degree can thus be tailored depending on your aspirations, whether you want to be a university researcher, entrepreneur, or environmental/agricultural consultant. You will also be free to pick individual courses from any module, without having to take all courses in it. However, each module is a coherent entity so we recommend that you take all of the courses in it.

Programme Structure

The extent of the programme is 120 credits (ECTS), to be completed in two years of full-time studies. The degree consists of:
-60 credits of advanced studies (in plant biology), including Master’s thesis (30 credits).
-60 credits of other studies from this programme or other programmes.

The curriculum contains a personal study plan and it can contain career planning or transferable skill studies.

Career Prospects

With a Master’s degree in Plant Biology, you will have many potential career opportunities. You can work especially:
-As a researcher and/or part-time teacher at universities or other institutions of higher education.
-As a researcher in national and international institutions in the public and private sectors.
-As an expert, civil servant, authority or PR officer in public administration.
-In various positions in international organisations or enterprises engaged in bioeconomy.
-As an entrepreneur in the biological or environmental sectors of business.


International scope is a key benefit of the Plant Biology programme. You will be encouraged and helped to seek exchange possibilities in international student exchange programmes with cooperating universities. In this way you will get new ideas, perspectives and personal contacts that may prove useful later in your working life or doctoral studies.

All of our research groups include numerous members from Europe and farther afield. Thus you will be doing research in an international community and will be able to improve your skills in foreign languages, especially English, which is of primary importance in working life today.

You can also tutor international students or act in the student’s subject association or Student’s Union and get valuable experience of international and multicultural communities.

Visit the Plant Biology - MSc page on the University of Helsinki website for more details!

Entry Requirements

See the website for the latest admission requirements: View Website

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