Ali Mohammadi and Mohammadhossein Ebrahimi
Ali Mohammadi and Mohammadhossein (Mohammad) Ebrahimi studied together already in their home country Iran, where they completed their Bachelor degrees in Mechanical Engineering. It was through the research collaboration between their professor and the UEF colleagues that they first heard about the Master’s degree programme in Medical Physics – and they decided to apply, together.
– We also applied to other countries like Canada and even as far as Australia, and to several universities in Finland. But in the end, even though we got acceptances from several universities, the decision of coming here was pretty easy to make. We wanted to do research right from the start, and here it was possible to join a research group early on, which you cannot do in many universities, Ali explains.
From that decision, everything has been fairly straightforward. Both Ali and Mohammad finished their Master’s degree and are now pursuing their Doctoral degrees in the Department of Applied Physics at UEF, in the Biophysics of Bone and Cartilage (BBC) group.
As their background is in mechanical engineering, it took some time in the beginning to adapt to the medical field. However, soon they got accustomed to studying in English and learned the terminology –and started adapting to the whole new living environment.
– In addition to studying, we also had the opportunity to work in the research groups. Whatever project we started, we immediately aimed at publishing. We took part in the weekly meetings already as Master’s students, so we were really a part of the staff and almost felt like PhD students already. All of our colleagues were very supportive, and when we started our PhD studies, we just continued in the same office with the same people, Ali explains.
Now their PhD studies are advancing fast – they are even ahead of schedule as they have already two papers in hand and only one more to go before graduating. The BBC group investigates osteoarthritis from many perspectives, but following in the footsteps of their supervisor Rami Korhonen and due to their background, Ali and Mohammad are focused on the biomechanical point of view.
– One reason behind osteoarthritis is the person’s biomechanics, and you can investigate it on different levels: joint level, tissue level, cell level… My focus is on the tissue level, as I try to investigate how the tissue behaves when the osteoarthritis develops. Due to my engineering background, I love topics like stress and strain, so this approach is really natural to me, says Mohammad.
Ali, on the other hand, is studying how different lesions affect the development of osteoarthritis. Although he has been experimenting with different topics as well.
– In my Master’s I wanted to get familiar with computational modelling in brain, so I investigated TMS stimulation. The great thing about the UEF is that you can try different things and find your own field that for me is, in the end, biomechanics, says Ali.
Both Ali and Mohammad are satisfied with the organisation of studies as well as study facilities at the UEF.
– The facilities and testing devices are very good. The UEF also recently purchased new spectroscopical devices and microscopes, and especially one of the devices made my measurements significantly faster and more accurate. I would also say that Kuopio university hospital is one of the best hospitals in the world in terms of research, says Ali.
Life in Finland
Since Ali and Mohammad moved to Finland together, it didn’t cause such a culture shock when there was someone to share the experiences with.
– We shared a flat during the Master’s studies and did a lot of stuff together with friends. We weren’t that active in the KISA international student organisation, but we made close friends with the people in the research group, having parties on weekends or going to the gym or playing futsal, or just watching movies together, says Mohammad.
– Our supervisor told us that we don’t need to work on weekends, but it would be more important to focus on the studies. So, during weekends it was time to sleep and enjoy life – we both love travelling, so we used our pay checks to visit many European countries and cities as well as toured Finland, says Mohammad.
Ali and Mohammad found the balance between studying and free time, even though the course system in Finland differed a lot from the Iranian way of studying.
– Here in Finland you have 6 weeks during which you need to finish a course and pass the exam, whereas in Iran there’s more time to study for a specific exam. However, in the Eastern countries in general you don’t have that much choice, but here we really appreciate the freedom. When we came to study the Master’s, it was interesting to see that there were so many choices, from computational physics to biomechanics, radiotherapy, radiology, optics… So, there’s definitely something for everyone. There’s also the possibility to retake failed exams or to improve grades, which decreases the stress. Also, you can always go to any lecturer or the coordinator Siru and ask for help with anything.
Both Ali and Mohammad have considered post-doc as the future option, even though they want to keep their options open.
– Post-doc, some company in the field of medical physics in Finland or elsewhere, or working as medical physicist in an English-speaking country – I haven’t decided yet, says Mohammad.
However, Finland has left a mark on both of them, and only in a positive way.
– Finland really feels like a second home. Whenever I land at Helsinki-Vantaa airport, I feel like coming home to Iran. I speak Finnish to some extent and can communicate in daily routines. I really appreciate the opportunity that Finland has offered me to study here and I have truly enjoyed it, says Mohammad.
Being far away from home has aroused many kinds of emotions during the study years.
– I bet all students sometimes think that it is hard and they want to give up when there’s a difficult course and the family is far away. But on the other hand, when you succeed – when my first paper got published, when I was awarded as the Best Master student in class or chosen as the finalist for student paper competition, when I received my first salary – all those things feel so great. The saddest thing is that your family is not there on the great days, seeing you do well. But it’s just a part of the process that makes us stronger, more independent, and more successful in the future, Ali explains.
All in all, choosing UEF has proven to be the ideal choice for both Ali and Mohammad as they have been able to pursue research full-time - in an inspiring environment.
– Here the level of research is really high. So, if you just have a dream of being a medical physicist, UEF is an ideal choice. You can truly feel the change in your expertise as well as your independency, communication skills… The campus city Kuopio is small but we have liked it since there is a lot to do. You shouldn’t be afraid of the winter, either, because it is definitely beautiful and you can explore different winter activities. The darkness is terrible, though, but surely everything else will compensate for that, Ali and Mohammed laugh.