Qbio honours programme

tree of life

Quantitative Biology & Computational Life Sciences

Discoveries in the biological and biomedical sciences increasingly require combining sophisticated technologies, quantitative measurements, and theoretical approaches such as bioinformatics, mathematical modelling and computer simulations. Hence, modern Life Sciences research faces the challenge to integrate different scientific disciplines and foster collaborative projects between biologists, chemists, physicists, computer scientists and mathematicians to make biology a quantitative natural science.

At the Institute for Biodynamics and Biocomplexity (IBB) we have developed an educational programme for students in biology, mathematics, physics, chemistry or computer-science, with a genuine interest in interdisciplinary work. The aim of the programme is to train the next generation of scientists in Quantitative Biology. This QBio programme starts with an honours programme for Master's students in the Natural Sciences or the Life Sciences, and the best Master's students will be invited to write their own PhD proposal. The second part of the QBio programme is to participate in a PhD programme in Computational Life Sciences (CLS), and the best PhD proposals written by the honours students will be awarded with a 4-year PhD position in the CLS programme.

1. QBio honours master programme

First year Master's students of the Utrecht University (UU) Graduate School of Natural Sciences (GS-NS) or Life Sciences (GS-LS) can enroll in the QBio honours programme, while continuing their master programme.

The honours programme consists of the following study components:

  • One week Summer School in July introducing Quantitative biology (1.5 EC). This international summer school is aimed at students at the end of their bachelor in biology, physics, mathematics, chemistry or computer science (or students at an early stage of their master). The 2016 programme can be found here. There is a maximum of 40 participants. Fees will be waved for UU students. Selection for participation will be based on the short motivation paragraph provided during the application on the website of the summer school. The aim of the summer school is an introduction into Quantitative Biology and to raise interest in the QBio honours and PhD program.
  • Three week QBio spring course (4.5 EC) introducing the research of the participating groups, discussing interdisciplinary papers, and having short lab rotations (max 25 participants). Selection for admission will be based on a motivation letter, and the grades and type of the courses of your previous education. The aim of this course is to learn about current research in Quantitative Biology and to become familiar with the research of the IBB groups and their affiliates (which is required to later choose a research project and a topic of the PhD propopsal).
  • Monthly journal club for the maximally 12 students selected into the QBio programme after successfully completing the spring course. The aim of this journal club is to learn to read interdisciplinary papers and to get a general overview of Quantitative Biology.
  • Writing your own PhD proposal. Students choose their own research topic, and choose by which group they would prefer to be supervised (7.5 EC). A national committee will grade the PhD proposals. The aim is to learn to write a competitive grant proposal.
  • We expect participants to perform at least one interdisciplinary research project within the IBB during their Master.

Enrolment and criteria

  • To apply for the honours program please send an email to Dr. Can Kesmir before the 1st of December 2016. Please attach a motivation letter, your CV, and a transcript of your high school, Bachelor and Master grades to this email (see the criteria listed below). Mention your name and student number in this email, and whether or not you participated in the summer school.
  • The selection will be done by the coordinators of the QBio program, and will be based on the following criteria:
    1. your letter of motivation expressing your interest in interdisciplinary Life Sciences research,
    2. evaluation from supervisors of your current disciplinary Master's programme,
    3. grades and the particular selection of relevant courses in their Bachelor's programme, and
    4. grades and track chosen during your high school education (e.g. your choice of math courses).
  • In January you will hear about your admission to the QBio course in the spring term.
  • Following this course the coordinators will select maximally 12 students to continue with the complete honours programme. The selection will be based on the same criteria as listed above, and your:
    1. general performance during the course,
    2. competence to perform interdisciplinary quantitative biology research, and
    3. contribution during lab rotations and discussions of papers.
  • In March you will hear about your selection into the full honours program.
  • The precise match between the QBio honours programme and the normal master programme differs somewhat between the GS-LS and GS-NS programmes. Check the websites of your programme, and/or contact your coordinator for the exact rules for joining the QBio honours programme.
  • In 2017 you can apply here for the summer school.

2. QBio CLS PhD programme

In the summer of 2016 and 2017 we will award 2 PhD positions from the research proposals written by the second-year MSc students in the QBio honours programme (for 2018 and later we have no funding for this yet). While writing their research proposal, students have made a choice for the research line of one or multiple participating groups. Students therefore choose the group they would like to do their PhD in. The PhD will be performed within the CLS PhD programme of the IBB. This programme has the same educational requirements as other PhD programmes of the UU GS-LS.

More information

The programme started in 2014 with the Summer School in July, and the first spring course was given in March 2015.

Participating groups within the IBB

  • Prof. dr. Rob J. de Boer (co-chair, Theoretical biology)
  • Prof. dr. Sander van den Heuvel (co-chair, Developmental biology)
  • Prof. dr. Anna Akhmanova (Cell Biology, Cellular dynamics)
  • Prof. dr. Casper Hoogenraad (Cell Biology, Neurobiology)
  • Prof. dr. Han Wosten (Microbiology)
  • Prof. dr. Berend Snel (Bioinformatics)

Affiliated groups at Utrecht University

  • Prof. dr. Sjoerd Verduyn Lunel (Mathematics)
  • Prof. dr. Remco Veltkamp (Information and Computing Sciences)
  • Prof. dr. Hans Gerritsen (Physics)
  • Prof. dr. Gerhard Blab (Physics)
  • Prof. dr. Alexander van Oudenaarden (Hubrecht laboratory)
  • Prof. dr. Rik Korswagen (Hubrecht laboratory)
  • Prof. dr. Marvin Tanenbaum (Hubrecht laboratory)
Contact Can Kesmir (C.Kesmir@uu.nl) for further information on the QBio honours programme, and Rob J. de Boer (R.J.DeBoer@uu.nl) or Sander van den Heuvel (S.J.L.vandenHeuvel@uu.nl) for information on the PhD programme. Please check out this flyer.