Bioinformatics MSc

Research in Bioinformatics in its broadest definition concerns the analysis of informational processes within living systems with the help of computers. To do this succesfully, Bioinformatics actively uses and integrates contributions from areas such as Mathematics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Medicine and Biology. Bioinformatics has recently become one of the keywords in the life sciences as well as in Biotechnological and Pharmaceutical industries. Although in essence the field exists for over two decades and bioinformatics techniques developed over the years have come of age, the field has gained major prominence relatively recently, owing mostly to the world-wide human genome projects and subsequent structural and functional genomics initiatives. While the complete human genome sequence has been obtained at relatively little cost of around two billion Euros, the current investments in for example proteomics industries amount to orders of magnitude more. Also other genomic technologies, aimed at gaining insight in human physiological functioning such as microarray (gene chip) technology, have attracted multi-billion Euro investments both in industry and academia. Currently, many new small/medium enterprises (SMEs) and large international biotechnological and pharmaceutical companies are actively recruiting bioinformaticians, but experience hardship in doing so due to the lack of individuals with proper training. Similar problems are encountered at national academic centres in The Netherlands, particularly in microarray centres. As the interpretation of the data coming from all the above large-scale projects is crucially depending on the application and creation of new bioinformatics techniques, it is clear that a broad based and integrative master's curriculum in bioinformatics at the Vrije Universiteit is timely.

The international Bioinformatics Master study takes 2 years and is organised by the Integrative Bioinformatics Institute VU (IBIVU) at the Vrije Universiteit since 2003. The IBIVU is a multidisciplinary centre within the Vrije Universiteit in which three faculties (Faculty of Sciences; Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences; and the Faculty of Psychology) and the VU Medical Centre take part. To prepare for the Bioinformatics master course, various Bachelor programmes at the Vrije Universiteit offer integral courses in Bioinformatics, such as Medical Natural Sciences and Biomolecular Sciences. These Bachelor programmes (taking 3 years) are dedicated to providing the student with a broad and thorough basis in each of their areas of study, which is indispensable for starting the Bioinformatics Master programme. The Bioinformatics Master's provides the student with an opportunity to deepen his/her knowledge of the various aspects of Bioinformatics, while the student has ample possibility to specialise in one or a few areas of choice. It is expected that the breadth and flexibility of the masters programme resulting from the multi-disciplinary setup of the Integrative Bioinformatics Institute as well as the emphasis on creating bioinformatics tools from the strong embedding in the Informatics department (e.g. AI, Computer Systems) will be attractive for students.

The Bioinformatics Master studies are currently organised by the Faculty of Sciences and the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences. The latest information can always be found at: http://www.ibi.vu.nl/.

Depending on the individual furnishing of his/her Master programme, the student can attend lectures in other faculties and centres, for example Biology or the Centre for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR). Graduation projects can vary from practical to rather fundamental, depending on the preferences and capacities of the students. Students can also go to companies, research institutes or universities either in The Netherlands or abroad.

Study advice is open to all. Advisor prof. dr. Jaap Heringa can be contacted at all times. Furthermore, the website http://www.ibi.vu.nl/ contains information regarding the international Bioinformatics Master programme.

Formal procedures during your master

The full Master's programme in Bioinformatics takes two years and is worth 120 credit points (within the European Community Course Credit Transfer System). The global lay-out of the programme is approximately ten months (60 credits) of practical training and ten months ( 60 credits) of courses and other theory supported subjects.

Note: Every programme, including the choice of optional courses, has to be discussed and agreed upon with the master coordinator or a personal mentor and approved by the Examination Board.

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