Biomolecular Sciences

Prepare for a career in Biomolecular Life Sciences

Why Biomolecular Sciences?

Modern society faces an ever-increasing variety of challenges in the Life Sciences. Improved medical care has resulted in an ageing population, creating a greater need to understand and treat age-related disorders such as various forms of cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Bacteria under high selective pressure are acquiring broad antibiotic resistance, so we are constantly forced to develop new and innovative antibacterial drugs. And the potential risks inherent in industrialized food production are only just becoming apparent.

It is more and more obvious that a thorough understanding of the molecular basis of the underlying cellular processes is essential to any successful and safe intervention. Moreover, the Biomolecular Sciences are increasingly encroaching into the realm of technology. The MSc Biomolecular Sciences aims to prepare students for a career within the international Life Sciences research community.

The Master’s programme in Biomolecular Sciences takes two years and comprises 120 ECTS. The entire programme is taught in English. The teaching is done in the form of lectures, research tutorials, work groups, demonstrations, lab visits, lab practicals and training, and specific computer-assisted applications.

Biomolecular Sciences courses in study guide.

There are many job vacancies for those with a Master’s degree in Biomolecular Sciences. Some graduates work for medical product manufacturers or pharmaceutical companies. Most of our graduates aspire a career in research and go on to earn a PhD. Others continue their studies as postdoctoral researchers, work as university lecturers or hold jobs in industry.

If you only have a Bachelor’s degree, your scope in this discipline is limited, especially in research. This scientific domain has burgeoned in recent years, so an additional Master’s programme is an absolute must. A Masters degree in Biomolecular Sciences is a great start for a scientific career. With this degree you will be prepared to conduct PhD research at any university or specialist institute.

Good, well-motivated students who aspire to a career in research could consider taking a PhD and continue their studies as a postdoctoral researcher. Further study is essential to obtain a higher research position. Positions such as university lecturer, senior lecturer, or professor and many jobs in industry (DSM, Unilever, et cetera) are held by people with a PhD in Molecular Biology or Biochemistry. Obviously, a PhD is not necessary for all jobs. You could also make a career in management or as a representative for medicinal products or chemicals etc. A Master’s degree is an advantage in these positions.

Spending part of the programme conducting external traineeships and research projects helps to prepare and familiarize students with the labour market. In addition, students are introduced to the labour market during Business Days organised by NiBi (the Netherlands Institute for Biology). Seminars given by people from trade and industry are organized every year at a different Dutch university. More information on NiBi can be found on the Dutch website www.nibi.nl

The Master’s programme in Biomolecular Sciences offers a choice between two specializations. It is possible to choose and combine two specializations within the Master’s programme:

  • Cell Biology
  • Biological Chemistry 
The field of Biomolecular Sciences is a core research area at VU Amsterdam. Much of the faculty’s research in this field has been bundled in a single organization, the Institute of Molecular Cell Biology (IMC), a leading research institute in the scientific world.

Our wide-reaching network of research institutes gives you as a Master’s student the opportunity to fulfill your work placements in a cutting-edge research environment here and abroad.

You will learn to work with state-of-the-art techniques to conduct essential research in this vital field of study. A good example of the technology we use in our research is the development of fluorescence techniques, which can be used to identify the location of certain proteins in a cell visible.

Members of the Biomolecular Sciences teaching staff come from diverse backgrounds and work in various faculties, hospitals and companies. Students can count on training and guidance from teachers who all have extensive international experience.
Also the students have various backgound in degrees and countries. Apart from students from Dutch Universities many Biomolecular Science students come from the HLO and from other countries all over the world.

Overview Biomolecular Sciences

Language of instruction

English

Duration

2 years

Tuition fee

Application deadline

15 July for Dutch students. 1 April for EU/EEA and non-EU/EEA students. EU/EEA students with an international degree who do not need housing services through Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam University Amsterdam can still apply until 1 June.

Start date

1 September

Study type

Full-time

Specializations

Cell Biology, Biological Chemistry.

Field of Interest

Health and Movement
Natural Sciences

  • A new method to fight tuberculosis
    After a period of relative calmness, tuberculosis seems to be on advance again, causing currently some 2 million casualties per year. Mycobacterium tuberculosis excretes different proteins all playing a role in disease development. Knowledge about the underlying mechanisms of excretion can be applied in the development of new drugs to fight the bacteria.
  • Regulation of gene expression
    It is a miracle how a single fertilised egg cell develops into a complex organism and how undifferentiated stem cells can be assigned to take their role in this process. Expression of genes in eukaryotes is often controlled transcription factors, but in addition there is also post-transcriptional control. Unravelling these regulatory networks will open up huge possibilities in biomedical and biotechnological research.
  • Virus induced cancer
    Do virusses play a role in the development of cancer? Research from the VU University in Amsterdam suggest that they indeed do. These findings are important for the development of new cancer therapies.
  • Busy traffic within cells
    Within our cells, there is ongoing and busy traffic of nutrients, organelles and signalling compounds, driven by motor proteins. In order to visualize, count and track these motor proteins and figure out how they cooperate in their job advanced new microscopy methods have been and still need to be developed.

There are an unlimited number of options for internships available. Your internship can be in- or outside VU University Amsterdam, VU Medical Centre (VUmc) or the Netherlands. We advise those students without much practical (internship) experience, to find an internship at VU University Amsterdam. In this case, you will be guided by lecturers. In general, in a medical center or a company students are expected to be more independent.
Internships can be found by contacting lecturers of the courses you are attending or look at the research pages of:

  • VU University Amsterdam
  • Medical Centers like VUmc, LUmc, AMC, UMC and Erasmus MC
  • Research institutes like NKI, ACTA (dentistry), AMOLF or KIT
  • Companies like Sanquin

Your second internship can be done abroad, as by then you are more experienced in doing research. Organising an internship abroad takes more time and you can consult our International Office for the formalities.
For an internship outside VU University Amsterdam or VUmc a second VU or VUmc lecturer is required for supervision. Before starting an internship, the internship should be approved by the master's coordinator. For a literature study the rules and procedures are the same. The difference with an internship is that the research is based on literature.

Specializations

Program structure
Biological Chemistry is one of two tracks in the Biomolecular Sciences Master next to Cell Biology. The Biological Chemistry track starts with the compulsory program that runs from September until February. Apart from the first two courses, individual choices regarding the Biological Chemistry program can already be made in the compulsory program. After the first period, students start with one of their two internships. A Major internship in either the Molecular Toxicology or the Medicinal Chemistry section can be extended with additional theoretical courses that provide in depth knowledge of their respective research areas and methodologies. A literature thesis and colloquium and additional courses of choice will complete the full 120 ECTS of the Master program, which takes 2 years.

Compulsory courses
The Biological Chemistry track will start with the compulsory program:

  • Protein Science (6 ECTS, Sept)
  • Genomes and Gene expression (6 ECTS, Oct)

Followed by a choice of either:

  • Drug-induced Stress and Cellular Responses (6 ECTS, Nov) AND/ OR
  • Signal Transduction in Health and Disease (6 ECTS, Dec)

If only one of these courses is followed, one of the following courses, can be chosen as alternative as well as other courses from this or another Master’s programme.

  • Cell Structures and Function (6 ECTS, Nov) OR
  • Evolving Networks (6 ECTS, Dec)

In January and February, several technical modules can be selected. The aim of these modules is to prepare the students optimally for their research internships. The students can use this period to acquire (new) research skills and to get acquainted with possible areas of research in which they may want to do their internships. 

Formative Academic Skills (9 ECTS in total)

  • Ethics (3 ECTS)
  • Business and Innovation in Life Sciences (3 ECTS, Choice option)
  • Scientific Writing in English (3 ECTS)

Work placements
Your work placements will account for a minimum of 60 ECTS, one shorter work placement (24-30 ECTS) and one longer work placement (30-36 ECTS). You are free to carry out your work placements within VU University Amsterdam or VUmc, at a hospital or company or an institute or other university in the Netherlands or abroad. Your first work placement should preferably be carried out in Amsterdam.

Literature survey
Under supervision of a lecturer from the teaching staff, the students will explore a subject in the literature to answer a specific scientific question. The results will be presented in a thesis and a colloquium (9 ECTS).

Optional courses
The remainder of the 120 ECTS of the Master track Biological Chemistry can be used to attend courses of choice. Those can be courses or selected topics offered within the Biomolecular Sciences Master program, the Drug Discovery and Safety program or other Master programs. The Molecular Toxicology and Medicinal Chemistry groups offer two in-depth courses covering aspects of High Throughput Analysis, Protein Modeling and Analytical Chemistry:

  • Chemical Biology (6 ECTS) and
  • Project Computational Design and Synthesis of Drugs (6 ECTS)

Examples of selected topic are for example:

  • Epigenetics (6 ECTS)
  • Structural Biology (6 ECTS)

Optional courses of choice need to be approved by the track coordinator.

Online course information with respect to Biological Chemistry can be found at Course guide

For more Information, contact the programme coordinator Biological Chemistry.

Programme structure
Cell Biology is one of two Master’s programmes in Biomolecular Sciences; the other is Biological Chemistry. The Cell Biology compulsory courses run from September to the end of February. Most of the students begin with this. Students who need to catch up on certain subjects can take specific Bachelor’s courses in this period so that everyone is at the same level in February. Most students start their first work placement after the compulsory courses. The second work placement, the literature survey and the additional selected topics form the main elements of the second year of study.

The full Master’s programme takes two years and is worth 120 ECTS. The programme consist of the following elements:

Compulsory courses
 
The Cell Biology programme starts in September and October with two compulsory courses: 

  • Protein Science (6 ECTS, September);
  • Genomes and Gene Expression (6 ECTS, October);

Followed by a choice of either: 

  • Cell Structures and Functions (6 ECTS, November);
  • Evolving Networks (6 ECTS, December)

If only one of the above mentioned courses is followed, one of the following courses can be chosen as alternative as well as other courses from this or another Master's programme:

  • Drug-induced Stress and Cellular Responses or Developmental Biology (6 ECTS, November)
  • Signal Transduction in Health and Disease or Extreme Biology (6 ECTS, December)

And a program with technical modules in January until March of which also 6 ECTS are compulsory. This programme provides you with a thorough grounding in the subjects and methods of the Institute and prepares you for one or more work placements.

Formative Academic Skills (9 ECTS total)

  • Ethics (3 ECTS)
  • Business and Innovation in Life Sciences (3 ECTS, Choice option)
  • Scientific Writing Skills in English (3 ECTS)

Work placements
Your work placements will account for a minimum of 60 ECTS, one shorter work placement (24-30 ECTS) and one longer work placement (30-36 ECTS). You are free to carry out your work placements within VU University Amsterdam or VUmc, at a hospital or company or an institute or other university in the Netherlands or abroad. Your first work placement should preferably be carried out in Amsterdam.

Literature survey
As a Master’s student you are also required to carry out a literature survey (9 ECTS). You are expected to complete this task more or less independently, though you will, of course, receive expert guidance from one of the teaching staff. You can decide on your own topic and research question.

Optional courses (12 ECTS)
  • Two courses can be selected from the course programme as mentioned above 
  • One or more courses can be selected from ‘selected topics’
  • The traineeship can be extended with 6 ECTS
  • Courses can be selected from other programmes within the Master.
  • Courses can be selected from other masters.

In case of any deficiencies, a maximum of 12 ECTS can be spend on Bsc courses.

The research institute BioCentrum Amsterdam offers a number of short and intensive courses in among others mass spectroscopy, protein purification and protein synthesis.

Selected topics (each 6 ECTS)
The aim of the selected topics/optional components is to provide you with in-depth knowledge of various areas. You will deal with the theoretical and practical aspects of the subject. Your choice of courses and optional components will depend on your own interests and the topic of your research work placements. If necessary, you can take a tutorial to fill in any gaps in your existing knowledge. The optional components in the Master’s programme in Cell Biology are:

  • Epigenetics
  • Structural Biology 
  • Protein Structure as Molecular Basis of Disease 
  • Molecular Biotechnology 
  • Cellular Protein Trafficking 

Once you have passed all the components of the Master’s programme, you will be awarded the title Master of Science in Biomolecular Sciences. This is recognized internationally. 

Online course information with respect to Cell Biology can be found at Course guide

For further information about admission to the programme you can contact the mastercoordinator.

Dutch students

Below you can find detailed information for Dutch and international students about the procedures involved in applying to VU Amsterdam.
StudentsDeadlineApplication
non-EU/EEA and EU/EEA students who also wish to apply for a VUFP grant1 MarchHow to apply?
non-Dutch students with an international degree1 AprilHow to apply?
non-Dutch students with a Dutch degree1 JuneHow to apply?
Dutch students from institutions other than VU Amsterdam 1 JuneHow to apply? (Dutch)
Dutch students from VU Amsterdam 1 June How to apply? 
Dutch students with an international degree 1 June How to apply? 


Once you have been admitted to the Master’s programme by the Master’s Admission board, you have completed the first part of the procedure of becoming a VU student. During the 2nd part you will be informed about all that is required to register as a VU student. International students will also be contacted by the VU Admission office about how to prepare for their stay in the Netherlands.


In order to gain admission to one of or Master’s programmes, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or institute of higher education including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. We do not require a GRE or GMAT test score.

Specific admission requirements for the MSc Biomolecular Sciences programme:

All students are strongly encouraged to contact the Master’s coordinator (biomolecular.master@vu.nl) before applying.

To be considered for admission to the Master’s programme in Biomolecular Sciences you must meet the following requirements depending on your previous education:

WO Bachelor degrees from Dutch universities in related fields:
Admission to the Master’s programme in Biomolecular Sciences is possible with a Bachelor’s degree from VU Amsterdam in Biomedical Sciences, Gezondheid en Leven (major Biomedische Wetenschappen) or Biology.  If you have a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences, Biology, Medical Natural Sciences, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Molecular Life Sciences, (Bio)chemistry or related studies from another university in the Netherlands, you can also enter the Master's programme.

In all of the above cases, students should also meet the following criteria:

  1. An average Bachelor grade of 7.0 or higher
  2. A Bachelor internship in a relevant field (Biochemistry/ Cell Biology) with a minimum grade of 7.5

If a final grade is not yet available an interim evaluation by the internship supervision will be considered.

WO bachelor students from other fields, students from institutes of higher education and international students:

If you have a Bachelor’s degree from a Dutch university in a field not mentioned above, a Bachelor’s degree from an institute of higher education in the Netherlands, or a Bachelor’s degree from abroad, the Admission board will decide on your admission based on the following criteria:

  1. A minimum of 24 EC coursework in Biochemistry/Molecular Cell Biology at the 300 level (last year of Bachelor).
  2. An average Bachelor grade of at least 7.0 out of 10, or equivalent (GPA of at least 3.0 out of 4.0, second class upper division or higher).
  3. Bachelor internship in a relevant field (Biochemistry/ Cell Biology) with a minimum grade of 7.5 out of 10 or equivalent in other grading systems. If a final grade is not yet available an interim evaluation by the internship supervision will be considered.
  4. Experience with practical laboratory techniques gained in coursework and the Bachelor internship.
  5. Academic competence at the MSc level and motivation for a career in research which will be evaluated during an interview (either in person or by computer).
  6. The Admission board may set additional requirements if necessary, for example Bachelor courses from the Minor Biomolecular Sciences.

HBO/HLO students:
Some HBO/HLO specializations (for example the research specializations Biochemistry, Molecular Biology or Biotechnology) provide adequate preparation for the Biomolecular Sciences Master's programme. The Admission board will decide about admission on the basis of the above criteria. In some but not all cases, admission may be possible without the need for a pre-master programme.

General language proficiency requirements
VU Amsterdam requires international applicants requiring a residence permit to take an English test and to submit their score as a part of the application. In order to assess their English proficiency by the Admission board, EU students including Dutch students should contact the Master’s coordinator (biomolecular.master@vu.nl) first. If applicable they can get an exemption from the language test. Exemptions are given to  students who have completed their education in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand or Australia, who have obtained an international Baccalaureate or European Baccalaureate diploma and students from a Dutch University College such as AUC.

Contact
In case you wish to contact the Master’s coordinator for information or advice you need to know that no rights can be derived from the reply given by the coordinator regarding your admission. The Master’s coordinator will evaluate your application and advise the Admission board on conditions for your admission. The Board will review the application and the coordinator’s recommendation, and will decide if you can be admitted and under which conditions. Only by the admission email you will be notified about your conditional or unconditional admission.

 

A non-binding pre-master’s assessment is required for all applicants from higher vocational education. The assessment does not determine whether you will be admitted or not. The aim of this assessment is to find and redress any gaps in your general academic skills. For more information, please visit:

More information (in Dutch)

For further information about admission to the programme you can contact the master coordinator.

VU Amsterdam
Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences
Dr. Jan Kooter
De Boelelaan 1085, room M-556
1081 HV Amsterdam 
T +31 (0)20 59 87197
E biomolecular.master@vu.nl


For specific questions about the different master’s specializations, please contact any of the people below.

SpecializationContactPhoneEmail
Cell BiologyDr. Jan Kooter+ 31 (0)20 5987197biomolecular.master@vu.nl
Biological ChemistryDr. Marco Siderius+ 31 (0)20 5987564m.siderius@vu.nl         
Please contact the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences Education Office:

Information for Dutch students

Onderwijsbureau Bèta
Mw. Nicole Staalenhoef
E: toelating.beta@vu.nl

General information about VU Amsterdam

Please phone us at +31 (0)20 59 85000 (Monday-Friday 10:00 to 12:00). You may also email us at study@vu.nl.

International students


Below you can find detailed information for Dutch and international students about the procedures involved in applying to VU Amsterdam.

StudentsDeadlineApplication
non-EU/EEA and EU/EEA students who also wish to apply for a VUFP grant1 MarchHow to apply?
non-Dutch students with an international degree1 AprilHow to apply?
non-Dutch students with a Dutch degree1 JuneHow to apply?
Dutch students from institutions other than VU Amsterdam 1 JuneHow to apply? (Dutch)
Dutch students from VU Amsterdam 1 June How to apply? 
Dutch students with an international degree 1 June How to apply? 


Once you have been admitted to the Master’s programme by the Master’s Admission board, you have completed the first part of the procedure of becoming a VU student. During the 2nd part you will be informed about all that is required to register as a VU student. International students will also be contacted by the VU Admission office about how to prepare for their stay in the Netherlands.


In order to gain admission to one of or Master’s programmes, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or institute of higher education including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. We do not require a GRE or GMAT test score.

Specific admission requirements for the MSc Biomolecular Sciences programme:

All students are strongly encouraged to contact the Master’s coordinator (biomolecular.master@vu.nl) before applying.

To be considered for admission to the Master’s programme in Biomolecular Sciences you must meet the following requirements depending on your previous education:

WO Bachelor degrees from Dutch universities in related fields:
Admission to the Master’s programme in Biomolecular Sciences is possible with a Bachelor’s degree from VU Amsterdam in Biomedical Sciences, Gezondheid en Leven (major Biomedische Wetenschappen) or Biology.  If you have a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences, Biology, Medical Natural Sciences, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Molecular Life Sciences, (Bio)chemistry or related studies from another university in the Netherlands, you can also enter the Master's programme.

In all of the above cases, students should also meet the following criteria:

  1. An average Bachelor grade of 7.0 or higher
  2. A Bachelor internship in a relevant field (Biochemistry/ Cell Biology) with a minimum grade of 7.5

If a final grade is not yet available an interim evaluation by the internship supervision will be considered.

WO bachelor students from other fields, students from institutes of higher education and international students:

If you have a Bachelor’s degree from a Dutch university in a field not mentioned above, a Bachelor’s degree from an institute of higher education in the Netherlands, or a Bachelor’s degree from abroad, the Admission board will decide on your admission based on the following criteria:

  1. A minimum of 24 EC coursework in Biochemistry/Molecular Cell Biology at the 300 level (last year of Bachelor).
  2. An average Bachelor grade of at least 7.0 out of 10, or equivalent (GPA of at least 3.0 out of 4.0, second class upper division or higher).
  3. Bachelor internship in a relevant field (Biochemistry/ Cell Biology) with a minimum grade of 7.5 out of 10 or equivalent in other grading systems. If a final grade is not yet available an interim evaluation by the internship supervision will be considered.
  4. Experience with practical laboratory techniques gained in coursework and the Bachelor internship.
  5. Academic competence at the MSc level and motivation for a career in research which will be evaluated during an interview (either in person or by computer).
  6. The Admission board may set additional requirements if necessary, for example Bachelor courses from the Minor Biomolecular Sciences.

HBO/HLO students:
Some HBO/HLO specializations (for example the research specializations Biochemistry, Molecular Biology or Biotechnology) provide adequate preparation for the Biomolecular Sciences Master's programme. The Admission board will decide about admission on the basis of the above criteria. In some but not all cases, admission may be possible without the need for a pre-master programme.

General language proficiency requirements
VU Amsterdam requires international applicants requiring a residence permit to take an English test and to submit their score as a part of the application. In order to assess their English proficiency by the Admission board, EU students including Dutch students should contact the Master’s coordinator (biomolecular.master@vu.nl) first. If applicable they can get an exemption from the language test. Exemptions are given to  students who have completed their education in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand or Australia, who have obtained an international Baccalaureate or European Baccalaureate diploma and students from a Dutch University College such as AUC.

Contact
In case you wish to contact the Master’s coordinator for information or advice you need to know that no rights can be derived from the reply given by the coordinator regarding your admission. The Master’s coordinator will evaluate your application and advise the Admission board on conditions for your admission. The Board will review the application and the coordinator’s recommendation, and will decide if you can be admitted and under which conditions. Only by the admission email you will be notified about your conditional or unconditional admission.

 

There are several possibilities for obtaining funding. Among them are:

  • VU Fellowship Programme (VUFP)
  • Holland Scholarship Programme (HSP)
  • Orange Tulip Scholarship (OTS)
  • Fulbright scholarship
  • STUNED Scholarship Programme
  • Indonesia Endowment Fund of Education (LPDP)
  • Netherlands Fellowship Programme (NFP)
  • Direct Loan Programme 
Information about scholarships, fellowships and grants

For further information about admission to the programme you can contact the master coordinator.

VU Amsterdam
Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences
Dr. Jan Kooter
De Boelelaan 1085, room M-556
1081 HV Amsterdam 
T +31 (0)20 59 87197
E biomolecular.master@vu.nl


For specific questions about the different master’s specializations, please contact any of the people below.

SpecializationContactPhoneEmail
Cell BiologyDr. Jan Kooter+ 31 (0)20 5987197biomolecular.master@vu.nl
Biological ChemistryDr. Marco Siderius+ 31 (0)20 5987564m.siderius@vu.nl          empty

For questions regarding your application, registration or general inquiries, please contact the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences International Student Advisor:

Sandra van Daalen
T: +31 (0)20 59 87459
E: admissionsfels@vu.nl

General information about VU Amsterdam

Please phone us at +31 (0)20 59 85000 (Monday-Friday 10:00 to 12:00). You may also email us at study@vu.nl.

Contact our student ambassadors

If you are wondering what it is like to live and study in Amsterdam from a current student perspective, do not hesitate to contact our student ambassadors; they would love to share their experiences with you! empty



Mariella Franker

Student Cell Biology

Mariella Franker

"What I like about Biomolecular Sciences is its small scale that allows close contact with teachers and the many international students that participate. With my background in Medical Natural Sciences, Biomolecular Sciences broadened my view on possibilities in biological research. The fun thing about this master's programme is that you can design your own course schedule and easily take courses outside your field. It takes some planning and looking around, but is definitely worth the effort! I am now doing an internship at Complex Systems at VU Amsterdam and next year I'll do my final internship in New York. Questions? This is my e-mail address: mfr210@few.vu.nl"

Pia Burgmer

Student - Cell Biology

“I chose Biomolecular Sciences because I wanted to move away from my Bachelor's programme partially focussing on the medical side of Biology. A variety of courses such as Protein Science, Biological Fluorescence, and Molecular Cell Physiology and Function gave me insight into new possibilities of different branches of Molecular Biology. The programme also offers what I was additionally looking for: small groups to study in and good supervision throughout. After my Master's degree I hope to work for a company. I like the combination of working in the lab as well as planning my own experiment.”