Opiskelija – Anusha Balla

Studies on topical ocular formulation at UEF

Anusha Balla, Post-Doc researcher at UEF

In my research, I am exploring novel approaches methods for the treatment of anterior segment eye diseases focusing on the drug distribution in ocular tissues and prolonging retention time of drugs on the ocular surface. I got this opportunity after being selected as an early-stage researcher in the EU funded Marie Curie project in October 2018.

Warm welcome

As an international student from Nepal with no exposure to the European academic environment, I was intrigued by the warm welcome by the supervisors and colleagues into the group. I am very grateful for their help through all the initial administrative processes such as registrations, banks, and taxes.

Multidisciplinary collaboration

My first lab experience here was the dissection of porcine eyes. Emma, a colleague of mine showed me the process and although I had previously worked with rat tissues, it was my first experience with the eyes. I remember being surprised how tough the eyes were as they are perceived as very sensitive and delicate. After that, working with ocular tissues became routine work and a huge part of my project. Recently I showed the eye dissection to a new colleague of mine, and it was like coming to full circle moment for me.

Here at UEF, I got a great opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary Ocular Drug Development (ODD) group. I am thankful for getting to learn and perform a wide range of techniques in in vitro, ex vivo, in silico, and in vivo studies. The excellent supervision and guidance of my supervisors Marika Ruponen, Kati-Sisko Vellonen, and Arto Urtti, our frequent meetings, and their kind words of encouragement have motivated me throughout my research.

Practical and tailorable courses

The university education system here in Finland is quite different from my past experiences in Nepal, where I studied till my undergraduate studies, and in South Korea, where I completed my master’s degree. Here the courses are more flexible, practical, and tailorable to personal interest, need, and expertise. Also, there are many courses in English which is a huge perk for international students. I enjoyed the practical courses like pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, clinical pharmacokinetics, and biostatistics. I also got proper training for handling animals in research which enhanced both my theoretical and practical knowledge. The courses for developing verbal and written academic English as Conference English with active feedback sessions helped me immensely.

Memorable moments

Arriving in Finland for the first time, I did not know what to expect. Based on my quick internet search, it is the happiest country with a good education system. This was a good reason for me to move here. In my first winter here, I was surprised by how dark it got during the day in November and that we could walk on the frozen lake. The most memorable experience in Finland has been seeing the northern lights for the first time after waiting on the frozen lake for more than a half an hour. Another one is smoke sauna and ice dipping on a cold winter night. It is very easy to fall in love with Finland. The scenic beauty, lakes, pretty autumn, a short but hot summer, and winters that turn cities into winter wonderlands make it impossible not to fall in love with Finland. Kuopio, the city where I have now lived for more than 4 years is now like my second hometown.

“Why did you choose Finland for your Ph.D. studies?” is the question I still get as an international student. Well, my answer now would be “why not”? Finland has top-notch scientific advancements, a great scientific community, serenity, nature, and work-life balance. I defended my Ph.D. thesis in May 2023. I am honored to have pursued my Ph.D. at UEF with a great team. No matter where I will move for my future endeavors, Finland and UEF will always have a special place in my heart.