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MSc Bioinformatics & Systems Biology

University/Institute: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VUA)
Location: Netherlands - Amsterdam
Focus: Bioinformatics
Recommended Undergraduate Degrees: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Math/Statistics
Degree Offered: MS/MSc/MA/M.Eng (2 years)MS/MSc/MA/M.Eng (Major/Primary Degree)

Key characteristics of program:

This is a joint-degree programme between the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VUA). Within the curriculum of bioinformatics and systems biology we concentrate on three key elements: balance, translation and focus. Balance must exist at many levels. Most importantly, we train individuals to have a balanced understanding of biological, mathematical and computational disciplines. Moreover, right from the start of the curriculum we teach students how to translate research problems from one discipline to another, and instruct students how to communicate with people from a different scientific background. Lastly, we make sure to focus within each course both on technical skills such as programming, experimental design and mathematical modelling, and on the application of these skills to complex problems within the life science domain. For a more in-depth explanation of our aims and objective of the curriculum we would like to refer to Abeln et al. (2013) and Feenstra et al. (2018).


Abeln, S., Molenaar, D., Feenstra, K.A., Hoefsloot, H.J.C., Teusink, B., Heringa, J. (2013). Bioinformatics and Systems Biology: bridging the gap between heterogeneous student backgrounds, Briefings in Bioinformatics, 14(5):589-98. doi: 10.1093/bib/bbt023. Epub 2013 Apr 19.

Anton Feenstra, K., Abeln, S., Westerhuis, J. A., Brancos Dos Santos, F., Molenaar, D., Teusink, B., Hoefsloot, H. C. J. & Heringa (2018). Training for translation between disciplines: A philosophy for life and data sciences curricula, Bioinformatics 34, 13, p. i4-i12, https://doi.org/10.1093/bioinformatics/bty233 .

Program Goals:

Bioinformatics and systems biology are challenging research disciplines, which require practitioners to have a well-developed concept of the art of doing science, a high ability for mathematical and algorithmic abstraction, a broadly developed knowledge, an ability to quickly absorb and integrate novel concepts, and well-developed modelling, engineering and practical skills (focus). These aspects are broadly emphasised as critically important for the job market. Our master's programme in bioinformatics and systems biology yield students with a transferable skill set, independent of their portfolio of optional courses, enabling students to also find employment outside the life sciences. In general over half of our students continue studying towards a PhD, while the other part either continues in medical centres or in companies. By instilling a balance between the things learned by students and translation capability in applying knowledge and skills to varying applications areas, our master prepares our students well for the job market and/or a career in science. As far as we have been able to monitor, all our students hitherto managed to find a position and never were unemployed since.

Additional Information

Year Program Established: before 1998
Scholarships/assistanceships may be available: Yes
Type of academic terms: Semester

Average number of applicants per year: 100
Average number of applicants accepted per year: 85
Average number of incoming students per year: 80
Average number of graduates per year: 75

Program URL: https://masters.vu.nl/en/programmes/bioinformatics-systems-biology/index.aspx
Syllabus URL: https://studiegids.vu.nl/en/master/2019-2020/bioinformatics-and-systems-biology?_ga=2.14802741.261514185.1579206213-1134466120.1

Contact Person: K. Anton Feenstra ( k.a.feenstra@vu.nl )

Last updated: Jan 16, 2020

While ISCB provides for degree and certificate program listings that may be of interest to members and bioinformaticians at large, ISCB is not responsible for the content provided by outside sources. Such listings are not meant as an endorsement by ISCB.

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