Nature blog

Doctoral studies - an eye opening experience

Md Musa Howlader PhD student in analytical biochemistry at the School of Natural Science and Health. This is his third year at Tallinn University. Let's ask Musa how his third year as a doctoral student is going.


What gave you that “push” to pursue doctoral studies?

I came to Tallinn University in fall 2018. Before I arrived here, I was looking for different options for my doctoral studies. When I got accepted at Tallinn University for my PhD programme, I found Tallinn University could be that one place where I can get the proper opportunity and direction I needed for my studies.  


Md Musa Howlader

Analytical Biochemistry doctoral student.
He also works part-time at SYNLAB Estonia, where we analyzes test for Covid-19! Read more HERE.

Since the beginning of my bachelor studies, I always wanted to pursue a PhD. When I started my Masters in Microbiology in Bangladesh, I started looking for PhD opportunities right away. One day I came across a really interesting article on the internet by one of the professors at School of Natural Science and Health, so I contacted the professor by mentioning my interest. Then through a Skype meeting I met Dr Rando Tuvikene, he agreed to become my supervisor and I started my application process. 

Meanwhile, I was also gathering more information regarding School of Natural Science and Health (SNSH), the laboratories, faculties and Estonia in general. Luckily I got selected for the PhD position and ended up here. Since then my experience at SNSH, Tallinn University and Estonia altogether has been amazing.

Please describe your first day at our laboratory.

My PhD curriculum is laboratory research based, so I have to spend most of my time in the laboratory. I still remember my first day very well. I was nervously excited and my supervisor Dr Rando Tuvikene gave me a full laboratory tour, then our Research Laboratory Manager Krinsli Pius explained the laboratory rules and regulations. It was a great feeling to see how bright, modern and organized our laboratory is.

And in life science research, every day is new and challenging. You can plan experiments for weeks for just to fail and you start planning again yet achieve something new each time. So, keeping patience is the key, your well planned experiment can fail many times, but instead of losing hope, taking it as a challenge until you succeeded is the key factor.     

What is your PhD thesis about?

My PhD project is mainly focused on polysaccharide degrading enzymes from marine bacteria. Until now, we have collected bacterial samples from Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Norway, Sweden, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain and Estonia. 

After collection, I cultivate these bacteria in our laboratory with optimal growth conditions and extract enzymes that have the ability to degrade marine polysaccharides and the production of oligosaccharides. The produced oligosaccharides have different biological activities such as antioxidant, anticoagulant, antiaging, antiviral which will be used mainly in the food and pharmaceutical industries.

"And in life science research, every day is new and challenging. You can plan experiments for weeks for just to fail and you start planning again yet achieve something new each time."

My thesis will be focused on different marine bacterial species, their optimal growth conditions to enzyme production and enzyme characterization.

I am also happy to announce that the first paper of my PhD project has been published at "International Journal of Biological Macromolecules" with an impact factor of 5.162; cite score 6.9! Read more about it HERE.

Do you like to teach and be a supervisor?

Lab tour

Md Musa Howlader giving visiting high school students an idea of what the researchers are doing in Tallinn University laboratories.

In the last 2 years, I have supervised around 8 students in the university and I really enjoy it. I always try to be friendly and emphatic towards my students and keep a healthy relationship. I try my best to work as a team with my students towards the same goal.

So, instead of having a typical formal relationship with my students, we rather share a friendly and understanding relationship. I should mention, I have learned these qualities from my PhD supervisor Dr Rando Tuvikene, who is always there for me regarding any problem and very understanding.

Also, I am a very active member and the Partnership Coordinator at Tallinn University International Club (TUIC) and have a lot of friends there. I am teaching a laboratory practical course at the university currently and one of my friends from that club just happened to be my student in that class!

And recently I became one of Tallinn University's official student ambassadors.

Have you seen Estonia during your free time?

"In the last 2 years, I have supervised around 8 students in the university and I really enjoy it."

Well, when I googled about Estonia first, the one particular fact made me so happy is the richness of Nature in Estonia. I always try to make a window in my schedule and visit different places in Estonia and especially this summer, I have travelled a lot in Estonia. Until now I have visited Saaremaa, Tartu, Narva, Roosta, Nelijärve, Laulasmaa, Võru, Põlva, Jägala, Suur Munamägi and some other nearby places to Tallinn. 

Among them, I loved my experiences in Saaremaa the most, it was so beautiful, isolated and full of nature which will make me visit Saaremaa again and again. Also, this summer I travelled to Southern Estonia with my friends, it was a great experience. I could see and experience a lot of things I have always dreamt of there!  

Do you recommend Tallinn University to other future doctoral students as well?

I certainly do! Tallinn University is so modern and international with the best student-friendly environment. When I look back on my journey here from 2 years ago, I see my growth as a person and a researcher and I am so satisfied and grateful for it. Definitely, my friends should have Tallinn University as their PLAN A!