The fascinating world of biology and computers

Master's degree programme in Biomedical TechnologyEbrahim Afyounian

34-year-old Ebrahim Afyounian is working in the field of bioinformatics at the BioMediTech Institute, which is the joint research centre of the University of Tampere (UTA) and Tampere University of Technology (TUT). He is also writing his doctoral dissertation. “I came here four years ago to study in the Master’s degree programme in Bioinformatics,” Ebrahim says.

Before coming to Finland, Ebrahim had already studied for three years and earned a Master of Science degree in Sweden. It took him less than two years to complete his second M.Sc. degree at UTA for which he earned the grade ‘excellent’.

Ebrahim finds the contents of the Master's degree programme in Bioinformatics relevant, up-to-date, and enabling.

“During my Master's studies in Bioinformatics, I gained not only up-to-date theoretical knowledge but also had the chance to use that knowledge in practice in practical sessions and in small projects. I appreciate that ‘learning by doing’ is emphasised in Finland. I think that the programme gave me enough knowledge, experience, and confidence that I decided to stay and start building my career in this field,” he says.

Ebrahim has been working at UTA since April 2014 and he expects to complete his PhD dissertation in the summer of 2018.

“That is, if everything goes as planned. Of course, you can never know for sure about the future. I will need three peer-reviewed articles one of which has been already published, one is under review and the third one will be completed soon. After that, I will work on compiling the dissertation,” he says.

The possibility of using computers to study biology fascinated Ebrahim in bioinformatics. His previous education is in the field of computer engineering.

“The research group where I work is studying the underlying mechanisms of cancer at molecular level. We hope our research will eventually help develop new cancer treatments,” Ebrahim says.

An academic career requires international networking and experience. After completing his dissertation, Ebrahim is planning to move abroad. As yet, he is not entirely sure where he will go.

Ebrahim is interested in a research career.  One noteworthy option is to continue working at UTA after earning his doctorate.

“If I’m lucky, I might end up working here. Bioinformatics is a rapidly growing field with a lot of competition. My primary goal is to remain in the academia also in the future. I like Finland and Finns and I’d be happy to return to Finland for a longer time in the future.”

In Finland and Tampere, Ebrahim appreciates the nature. In the autumn, he often picks mushrooms.

“Tampere is a nice place to live, but unfortunately I do not have a lot of spare time to explore it due to my studies. I actually go to town just to shop for groceries,” Ebrahim laughs.

During a hard workday, Ebrahim sometimes goes for a short walk in the woods. Walking provides a nice break from work and gives new energy.

“It's fantastic that the nature is just a few minutes away in Finland. Walking in nature is very relaxing and you go back to work refreshed," he says.

Text: Jaakko Kinnunen
Photo: Jukka Lehtiniemi