Meet Ria, the student ambassador of MDP in Photonics

Ria Talukder is now completing her second year in the MDP in Photonics, but the path to this point - studying photonics in Joensuu, the international hub of photonics in Finland, took some extra twists and turns. Now learning in a very encouraging environment with the help of novel teaching methods is something that she really appreciates. She has also found a little nature enthusiast in her after a while in her new, calm living environment with snowy winters and magical Auroras.


The reputation of the MDP in Photonics of the University of Eastern Finland has travelled far and wide, as Ria first heard about the programme from her professor at the University of Calcutta, India.

–Some of my seniors had already completed their Master’s degree at UEF with flying colours and some were continuing with PhD. I was convinced to apply after hearing only positive things about the innovative teaching methods and the high quality of education that Finland overall is famous for.

Ria’s interest in photonics was sparked during her Bachelor degree studies in Physics. She wanted to continue with physical optics and laser physics.

–I decided to take up B. Tech in Optics and Optoelectronics back in India. This course was an eye-opener for me, clearly pointing out that my real interest lies in photonics, so I’m very happy to be able to pursue my passion at UEF now. During my journey, one of the most important things which I have learnt is that, there is no shame in failing or sometimes not performing the way we want; all what matters is what we learn from those failures and how we make a comeback. 

This dedicated spirit can also be seen in Ria’s extracurricular activities. Throughout her studies, Ria has been actively promoting physics and photonics outside university classrooms as well – spreading knowledge and sharing enthusiasm about the subjects among young people.

–I believe that education is one way we can contribute to making our societies better. At the University of Calcutta, I was an active member and president of the Student Chapter of SPIE (International society of optics and photonics). I organised many outreach programmes where our members went to schools and colleges to spread knowledge about optics and photonics in an interesting way - such as letting the students understand science in an easier way through science models.

Her active role continues also at UEF, as she is currently the Student Ambassador of the Photonics programme, taking responsibility for the promotion of the programme.


As Ria had heard about the programme from her peers, it obviously set the expectations pretty high. However, she says that the study content has exceeded her expectations.

–I especially like the way the education is designed here. It focuses more on visualising what we are studying, in order to build a clear understanding of those facts, and not merely memorising the facts on lessons for passing the exam.  I feel that the studies really prepare us to work in a team as well as individually. Moreover, all the students get access to huge collection of resources like books, journals, etc. in the library whenever needed.

The modern teaching methods that emphasise students’ own initiative and responsibility get full support from Ria.

–For instance, in one of the subjects we were given a one-month window in which we got the liberty to select our own examination date, as the professor thought that it is not necessary that everybody does it on the same day. This kind of arrangement makes a student self-motivated. They don’t feel pressured and at the same time they have to make a proper study schedule in order to succeed in the exam.

For Ria, it is relieving to know that help is always at hand when she has any kind of queries. 

–The professors are always eager to help whenever we get stuck somewhere in our studies, all we have to do is take an appointment. Moreover, I would like to mention our programme coordinator Noora Heikkilä – no matter what the problem is, she can always suggest a way out. So, as a newcomer it was relieving for me to know who to contact if I have trouble with registrations or any other stuff.


For Ria, getting accustomed to the Finnish lifestyle was somewhat a struggle at first.

–Of course, as I come from a different country, I had some preconceptions about Finland and coming here. I was thinking that maybe I will experience a culture shock of some kind, or what if the people over there are not friendly towards foreigners.  But after coming here all such thoughts got dissipated.  It’s obvious that there will be some differences in one way or the other since I’m a foreigner here, but then people here are modest and shy as well. If you want to make friends with a Finn, be patient and modest as well. I was a bit worried about the climate, too, because I come from a warmer climate.

However, now after some initial turmoil, Ria concludes that things have turned out really well.

–It has been a wonderful journey till now. It’s been a year I'm in Joensuu and I'm fortunate to experience natural beauty and peace everywhere. Initially it used to bother me because I never liked silence this much, but I have started liking it more now because it lets me introspect, which is an essential practice. When I have free time, I like playing guitar and spending some time with my friends. Also, walking in the woods makes me feel refreshed. You can witness nature at its best over here – colourful summers, snowy winters and magical Auroras will always fill you up with fantasy.

The international study group offers a lot of support and perspective in daily life – as well as potentially new culinary experiences.

–In my program we have students from countries all over the world. At first, I remember looking for students from my own country, maybe because I thought it will give me homely vibes. However, when I started befriending others also, it felt nice too. Some of them have become a part and parcel of my life now. We discuss about different things that are going on in each other’s countries and sometimes also try to bring out the “MasterChef” in us while letting others taste the special cuisine of our countries. It’s always interesting to know about different cultures and make new friends.

Ria’s advice for someone who’s interested in applying to the Photonics programme is just to go for it:  there’s no doubt about the quality of education, and the education will help you land with good jobs in the field - maybe even in Joensuu.

–The Photonics industry in Joensuu is very strong, despite it being a small city. The national Photonics cluster Photonics Finland is based here, supporting the cutting-edge R&D and helping to launch new products in to the market. Also, the European Optical Society EOS is based in Joensuu. It is a European cooperation forum between companies, individuals and other organisations working with optics. The environment is really international and full of potential.