Bioinformatics and Systems Biology

Discovering the simplicity of life

Bioinformatics and Systems Biology: Top rated Master's programme!

Vast amounts of data have been collected through genomics initiatives. They provide a golden opportunity to research the secrets of life, to understand more of its complexities, to improve quality of life and to conquer major diseases. Converting this huge volume of data into real understanding is the basic challenge of Bioinformatics research. With the Master's programme in Bioinformatics and Systems Biology at VU Amsterdam you become an expert in this field.

High-throughput methods like massively parallel sequencing and mass spectrometry generate more raw data than conventional computer models can handle efficiently. To process and analyse this data, computational techniques from Bioinformatics – such as sequence alignment, sequence assembly, biostatistics and machine learning – are required in order to make predictions about health outcome and to decide on a personalized treatment for the patient.

Both Bioinformatics and Systems Biology are strongly interdisciplinary fields. This programme combines molecular and cell biology, computer science and mathematical modelling to integrate vast amounts of biological data into fundamental knowledge. You will develop a strong feel for scientific research and high levels of abstraction, and learn to combine the rapid developments in these fields.

The Bioinformatics and Systems Biology program has been awarded the label "Top Master" in the 'Keuzegids 2017' of C.H.O.I. (Higher education information centre). The decision of granting this award is based on the ratings given by experts and students to the quality of the program.

Label Top Master

Joint degree with UvA
Bioinformatics and Systems Biology is a joint degree programme of VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Courses are taught at locations of both universities. VU and UvA jointly issue a degree certificate to graduates. As a Bioinformatics and Systems Biology student in Amsterdam you benefit from expertise, networks and research projects at both universities and affiliated research institutes.

Eva Deutekom

Student

Eva Deutekom“This master is a gateway to study the beautiful complexity of biological systems with the necessary interdisciplinary tools.”

The programme is shared between VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam (UvA), combining the resources of two excellent universities.

You can choose to complete your programme either with a more theoretical focus on the computational aspects of systems biology and on bioinformatics, or with a more experimental training relevant to systems biology. However, all students will be provided with a programme that guarantees cross-over to such an extent that the succesful student can communicate with his colleagues irrespective of his focus on experimental or computational disciplines. All students will get a basic introduction to biomathematics, biostatistics and programming. Aside from this, there are two tracks to choose from: Bioinformatics or Systems Biology, each with its own focus.

Before you start the master
Students who come in with more than one deficiency into our master programme, tend to struggle through the first period (September and October). We therefore strongly advise you to start working on your deficiencies before you come here. Ideally, you would enroll in our Bachelor minor programme Bioinformatics and Systems Biology at the VU. A next best is to pick optional courses during your bachelor. Alternatively, you may take a summer school. As a last resort, you should work through the material by yourself, as provided below.

Programming
Rosalind problems
Learning Python by Lutz

Calculus and Linear Algebra
1. Sign up for the VU Online Summer Prep-Campus, do the diagnostic test, and do the corresponding modules based on the results of the diagnostic test.
2. Or work through pages on Khan academy
3. Or work through Calculus made easy and lectures by Gilbert Strang (highly recommended): MIT OpenCourseWare

Molecular Cell Biology
Read the book 'Essential Cell Biology' by Alberts et al.

Course descriptions
Bioinformatics & Systems Biology courses in the Study Guide

Our graduates are in great demand: every student has immediately found employment in industry or the academic world. The vast majority go on to work within the field (40%) and find a suitable job in the biotechnology, finance, banking or insurance industry. 
More than half of our students (60%) continues scientific research as a PhD student. Thanks to technological advances such as next generation sequencing and the development of personalized medicine career prospects will only improve.

You can choose to complete your programme either with a more theoretical focus on the computational aspects of systems biology and on bioinformatics, or with a more experimental training relevant to systems biology. However, all students will be provided with a programme that guarantees cross-over to such an extent that the succesful student can communicate with his colleagues irrespective of his focus on experimental or computational disciplines.

All students will get a basic introduction to biomathematics, biostatistics and programming. Aside from this, there are two tracks to choose from: Bioinformatics or Systems Biology, each with its own focus.

Bioinformatics 

The Bioinformatics specialization has a theoretical focus on the computational aspects. Some of the topics that are covered in the programme: 

  • Algorithms in sequence analysis
  • Protein structure prediction and simulation
  • Next Generation Sequencing
  • Medical applications of Bioinformatics

Systems Biology

The Systems Biology specialization has a strong experimental focus. Some of the topics that are covered in the programme:

  • Modeling techniques
  • Experimental verification of models
  • Relevance of Systems Biology to cancer research
  • Synthetic biology (possibility to join the iGEM competition)

Course descriptions

All course information about the Masters programme can be found in the Course Guide. For further information about admission to the programme, contact the information officer.

Joint degree with UvA

Bioinformatics and Systems Biology is a joint degree programme of VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Courses are taught at locations of both universities. VU and UvA jointly issue a degree certificate to graduates. As a Computer Science student in Amsterdam you benefit from expertise, networks and research projects at both universities and affiliated research institutes.

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Excellent international reputation

The Master's programme in Bioinformatics has an excellent international reputation. It is led by research groups with extensive experience in a broad range of practical applications and theoretical research.

Integrated programme

The Master’s is a truly integrated programme that takes a bioinformatics perspective. This means no courses just for the sake of computational issues or biological knowledge. Teaching materials are streamlined using current issues, challenges and opportunities in bioinformatics. The Centre for Integrative Bioinformatics also deals with neurobiology and systems biology. This means that there are ample opportunities for an interesting and challenging traineeship.

Supervision 

Each student is assigned a mentor for the entire programme. Moreover, practical coursework and traineeships are supervised closely by one of the Bioinformatics staff members.


Each Master’s programme concludes with a graduation project or internship. This can be an individual project or a group project. Usually the research project(s) will be carried out at one of the participating institutes of departments of either the VU Amsterdam or the University of Amsterdam.

Overview of Master projects

Research topics include
Next generation sequencing, microbial evolution, human disease research, biotechnology, bio-simulation, sequence analysesis algorithmus and biophysics.

Institutes
NCBI, Cambridge University, NKI, CWI, EMBL, BaseClear, DSM and TNO.

Christian Groß

Student

Christian Gros“This Master Programme helps a lot to get in touch with a variety of disciplines. Working on projects with students from all around the globe, strongly supports everyone's development of tolerance and to gain different points of view on controversial topics.”

Overview Bioinformatics & Systems Biology

LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION

English

DURATION

2 years

TUITION FEE

APPLICATION DEADLINE

1 April for non Dutch EU/EEA and non-EU/EEA students*
1 June for holders of a Dutch bachelor’s degree (with a Dutch or EU/EEA nationality).
* non Dutch EU/EEA students with an international degree who do not need housing services through VU Amsterdam can still apply until 1 June.

START DATE

1 September

STUDY TYPE

Full-time

FIELD OF INTEREST

Computer Science, Mathematics and Business
Natural Sciences

Josan Yauw

Student

Josan Yauw

“The nice thing about this master is that it combines biology, mathematics and computer science into one.”  

Erika Vos

Student

Erika Vos

"The programme provided a good combination of theory and practice: a great foundation for starting my PhD!"

Dutch Students

In order to gain admission to the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Master’s programme, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. The programme is aimed at science bachelor graduates (chemistry, biology, biotechnology, biomedical sciences, artificial intelligence, computer science, mathematics, physics or similar) with a strong interest in biological problems and computational methods. The master requires some background in Mathematics, Programming, and (Molecular) Biology, and proficiency in at least one of these subjects. Without any deficiencies in these three topics you are admissible. With one deficiency, your GPA should be at least 6.5; with two deficiencies, at least 7.0. If you have a emptyvocational education (HBO) and one deficiency, your GPA should be at least 7.0, with two deficiencies, at least 7.5. In all other cases, you will be directed to our emptypre-master programme, which depending on your background, consists of a selection of the courses mentioned below.

For your admission you asked to provide:

  • A motivation letter of at most one A4. This letter should contain one paragraph on why you want to follow this program. Most importantly, and it should state which deficiencies you do (not) have (Mathematics, Programming and Molecular Biology). Please clearly indicate which courses, programs or other activities prove sufficient background in these topics.
  • An official transcript of your academic grades.

Minor deficiencies in either biology, programming or mathematics will be cared for as an integral part of the master curriculum during the first two compulsory courses (“Fundamentals of Bioinformatics” and “Introduction to Systems Biology”). However, it is strongly advised to select introductory courses during your (current) Bachelor for an optimal transition to the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Master programme. Depending on your background, take one or several of:

  • Introductory course programming (preferably in Python)
  • Introductory course calculus (and optionally linear algebra; most important are differential equations and matrices)
  • Molecular cell biology, e.g. a book like 'Essential Cell Biology' (Alberts)
  • Introductory course Bioinformatics, like Principles of Bioinformatics
  • Introductory course Systems Biology, like Principles of Systems Biology

Bring your own device
All students enrolled in Bioinformatics and Systems Biology are requested to bring their own laptop, due to the nature of the programme. More information on specific system requirements can be found here.

If possible, you could take appropriate optional courses in your current (bachelor) studies for an optimal transition to the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Master programme. We can advise you on the best choice of courses depending on your background. Please contact Sanne Abeln.

If you wish to apply for the Master's programme go to the page with more information.

For further information about admission to the programme you can send an e-mail to: BETA Info-msc-bsb. We will contact you as soon as possible.

Would you like to read the key points of the Master's programme? Order the brochure. Or find out more about the Master's programmes and visit our information days.empty

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International Students

In order to gain admission to the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Master’s programme, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. The programme is aimed at science bachelor graduates (chemistry, biology, biotechnology, biomedical sciences, artificial intelligence, computer science, mathematics, physics or similar) with a strong interest in biological problems and computational methods. The master requires some background in Mathematics, Programming, and (Molecular) Biology, and proficiency in at least one of these subjects. Without any deficiencies in these three topics you are admissible. With one deficiency, your GPA should be at least 6.5; with two deficiencies, at least 7.0. In all other cases, you will be directed to our emptypre-master programme, which depending on your background, consists of a selection of the courses mentioned below.

For your admission you asked to provide:

  • A CV
  • A motivation letter of at most one A4. This letter should contain one paragraph on why you want to follow this program. Most importantly, and it should state which deficiencies you do (not) have (Mathematics, Programming and Molecular Biology). Please clearly indicate which courses, programs or other activities prove sufficient background in these topics.
  • An official transcript of your academic grades.
  • Proof of English proficiency (e.g. TOEFL score, CPA certificate).

Minor deficiencies in either biology, programming or mathematics will be cared for as an integral part of the master curriculum during the first two compulsory courses (Fundamentals of Bioinformatics, and Introduction to Systems Biology). However, it is strongly advised to select introductory courses during your (current) Bachelor for an optimal transition to the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Master programme. Depending on your background, take one or several of:

  • Introductory course programming (preferably in Python)
  • Introductory course calculus (and optionally linear algebra; most important are differential equations and matrices)
  • Molecular cell biology, e.g. a book like 'Essential Cell Biology' (Alberts)
  • Introductory course Bioinformatics, like Principles of Bioinformatics
  • Introductory course Systems Biology, like Principles of Systems Biology

Bring your own device
All students enrolled in Bioinformatics and Systems Biology are requested to bring their own laptop, due to the nature of the programme. More information on specific system requirements can be found here.

General language proficiency requirements
VU Amsterdam requires English at VWO level. International applicants are required to take an emptyEnglish test and to submit their score as a part of the application. Exceptions are made for students who have completed their education in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand or Australia or who have obtained an international Baccalaureate or European Baccalaureate diploma.


If possible, you could take appropriate optional courses in your current (bachelor) studies for an optimal transition to the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Master programme. We can advise you on the best choice of courses depending on your background. Please contact Sanne Abeln.


Check all general information on admission and application to Master's programmes here.

The Bioinformatics and Systems Biology programme is open to both Dutch and International Students with a background in the Biological and/or Computer Sciences. If you have read the admission criteria below and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required.  

Step 1: Meet the admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online

Students with an international degree, please follow: Online application for students with an International University degree

For International degree holders, digital scans of the following documents are required:

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (only for EU citizens)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Letter of Motivation
  • Diploma(s) / statement of expected graduation
  • A transcript of the marks obtained during the Bachelor's programme.
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education
  • A list of all the main literature used during your previous higher education 
  • English language test 

Detailed descriptions of the required documents can be found here.

Step 3: Await decision on admission

The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!

Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. The conditions include sending a certified copy of your diploma and submitting the results of your English language test. Also, arrange payment of the tuition fees or authorize VU Amsterdam to withdraw the fees (you need to have a European bank account for this option). Here you will find an explanation of the registration procedure and the relevant deadlines. When all conditions are met you will receive a confirmation of your registration and you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

Further information about

Accommodation
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Scholarships

There are several possibilities for obtaining funding. VU Amsterdam, the Dutch governement and other organisations offer scholarships, fellowships and grants. Below you can find detailed information about scholarship programmes, grants and loans most often used by our international students.

VU Fellowship programme

VU Amsterdam offers fellowships to outstanding non-Dutch students who take part in its International Master's degree programmes, through the VU Fellowship Programme (VUFP). Selected students will receive a scholarship for the duration of the degree programme. There is a limited number of fellowships available. Please note that the VUFP application deadline is 1st of February.

General information about scholarships

Learn more about other scholarships:

  • Direct Loan Programme (US students)
  • Netherlands Fellowship Programme
  • STUNED Scholarship Programme
  • Libertas Support Fund
  • Other scholarships possibilities

Student grants and loans by Dutch government
If you have questions about a student grant and loan provided by the Dutch government, you should contact DUO (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs) or call the central information line on +31 50 599 7755.

Practical information about studying in Amsterdam
We will help you get the important things done during your stay, such as finding accomodation and obtaining a visa/residence permit. Find here all the extra information you need as an international student at VU Amsterdam or contact our International Office.


For detailed questions about the Master’s programmes or the application procedure contact your International Student Advisor at the International Office:

Central International Office

Email masters.fs@vu.nl

For further information about admission to the programme you cansend an e-mail to: BETA Info-Msc-Bsb. We will contact you as soon as possible.

Johan Hendriks

Student

Johan Hendriks

“Combining mathematics and biology pro‎vides a great tool in the ongoing quest to unravel the mysteries inside cells, the black boxes of molecular biology.”

Chao 'Cico' Zhang

Student

Chao Zhang

“I have enjoyed the down-to-earth learning of bioinformatics and systems biology from this master programme, which gives me a whole and clear picture of bioinformatics as well as the insights into the edge science. This programme, for me, is an eye-opener and confirms my pursuit in this field.”  

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