The Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Tartu, is the only institute in Estonia, which teaches molecular and cell biology disciplines at all three academic levels of education (bachelor, master and doctoral level) and supports the teaching with robust research programs at corresponding areas. We highly value research-based higher education and maximally intertwine these two areas of academic activity using our own staff as well as collaborating with our colleagues from other academic units.
The Institute covers wide competence from microbiology and eukaryotic models to bioinformatics. Our research groups study new developments in bioinformatics, epigenetics, cell biology and enzymology. Important for us is to support collaboration and synergy between different research groups (e.g. molecular biology and genetics; biochemistry and cell biology). We have strong research infrastructure (microscopy, incl. electron transmission microscopy, FACS cell sorting, equipment for proteomics, metabolomics and transcriptomics). We also have a lab animal facility, incl. for transgenic mice.
The research programs at the Institute are covered with ca 25 different research grants and contracts: institutional and personal grants from Estonian Research Council; ERA-Net grants; international grants, incl. Horizon 2020; and several contracts with industry. This list reflects the intensity of our national and international research collaborations.
Our research programs are tightly connected with teaching of bachelor, master and PhD students. The number of PhD degrees awarded annualy has been around 10, quite stable over the years. Every year around 25 sudents get their MSc degree.
In that context, in 2018 the international evaluation of our two PhD programs, which included thorough self-assessment report and site visit of Evaluation Panel, took place. The decision of Estonian Quality Agency for Higher Education based on this evaluation was to give full accreditation to the PhD programs valid for the next 7 years. This means our main teaching programs at all levels (PhD, MSc and BSc) are fully accredited.
Nevertheless, in the developing world and new challenges of the labor market we have to constantly improve our teaching programs. In 2018 we created a new Master Program, Molecular Biosciences, which was formulated in tight collaboration with our students and employers and was approved by the University Senate. This program, started in autumn 2019, replaced the Gene Technologies MSc program.
In addition, we teach MSc program on Biomedicine (together with Faculty of Medicine) and are involved in BSc program in Biology and Biodiversity Conservation.
Also, the Institute is actively involved, together with the Institute of Technology, in teaching BSc level program Science and Technology in English (first graduates in 2019) and MSc Program Bioengineering from 2019, again together with the Institute of Technology.
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology is a leading partner in the Doctoral School of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, connecting other faculties of the University and our partners from TalTech, Tallinn University and Estonian University of Life Sciences.
The Institute is also active in popularization of research: we have Travelling Bioclass program for gymnasiums and active collaboration with Science Centre AHHAA and University School of Science (training talented students from gymnasiums). Together with Biology Students’ Association we have started with Genetics Workshops, where students from gymnasiums get their first experience of benchwork. Active collaboration with biotech companies (e.g. Icosagen, Solis Biodyne, University Clinics, Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltics, BiotaTec, BioAtlas, Centre of Competence for Health) creates for our students additional possibilities for training in these businesses, but also gives us valuable input for our further curriculum development.
The members of the Institute have actively contributed in writing fundamental textbooks in Estonian. In 2018 we published an electronic book “Cell Biology” written by 26 authors (T. Maimets and S. Kuuse, eds.). This adds to the Estonian language textbooks by our professors published earlier: “Genetics” by prof. Ain Heinaru (2012) and “Bioinformatics” by prof. Maido Remm (2015).
In 2020, Estonian-English-Estonian dictionary of genetics by prof. Ain Heinaru and Sulev Kuuse was published.
In years 2021-2023 the Director of the Institute is professor Maia Kivisaar, professor of Microbial Genetics in the University of Tartu.