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.

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.

VUvA logos

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

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application.

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. Academic writing skill is to be demonstrated by submitting a thesis. We do not require a GRE or GMAT test score. A Bachelor degree obtained at an applied university or higher vocational education (HBO in Dutch) in most cases does not grant direct access to the programme (only exceptionally high ranking students stand a chance of admission).

Specific requirements for the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology master’s programme

Students with a Dutch preliminary education
Since bioinformatics is an inherently multi-disciplinary field, prospective students may come from many walks of life. Typically, students with a Bachelor’s (or equivalent) in Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Medical Natural Sciences or Pharmaceutical Sciences are particularly suited for this programme.
The programme is open to you if you have a Bachelor, Drs or Master’s degree obtained at a Dutch institute or foreign university recognized by VU Amsterdam. You should have a thorough interest and experience in biomolecular and computational sciences. Some experience in programming is required. Depending upon your specific background, it may be necessary for you to take a number of supplementary courses in biology or computer science in order to bring your knowledge in these areas up to standard.
The programme is also open to students with other diplomas from universities or other research/teaching institutions they deem equivalent. They are kindly invited to contact us if interested in following the international Master's programme in Bioinformatics at the Centre for Integrative Bioinformatics VU.

  • Higher vocational education (HBO)
    If you hold a first degree from an institute of higher vocational education (Dutch HBO or equivalent), the subjects taken will determine your admission procedure. If your studies focused on bioinformatics and molecular biology subjects, you can generally join the Master’s programme without difficulty.

Admission to a Master’s programme: the Bachelor-before-Master rule
The Bachelor-before-Master rule is applied to all VU programmes. This means that you can only start a Master’s programme on 1 September if you have obtained your Bachelor’s degree. Uncompleted Bachelor’s subjects are not permitted if you want to start a Master programme. 

What does this mean now for students? - You may have to adjust your study plan. For example, if you’re planning a semester abroad in the first semester and you would like to start the following Master’s programme in September, please note that every part of the Bachelor’s study programme has to be completed – not only the compulsory parts of the programme. Other (short) interruptions of your study programme can also have an effect on your ability to proceed onto a Master’s programme. If the Bachelor’s programme is not fully completed, you cannot start the Master’s programme until the start of the next academic year. Take this into account when planning your study path! Please contact our faculty’s study advisors when you have any questions.

General language proficiency requirements
VU Amsterdam requires English at VWO level. International applicants and students with a HBO degree are required to take an English 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 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 contact the coordinators:

SpecializationContactPhone Email
BioinformaticsDr. Anton Feenstra+31 (0)20 598 7783k.a.feenstra@vu.nl
Systems BiologyDr. Douwe Molenaar +31 (0)20 598 6993  douwe.molenaar@falw.vu.nlempty

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

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. 

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. Academic writing skill is to be demonstrated by submitting a thesis. We do not require a GRE or GMAT test score. A Bachelor degree obtained at an applied university or higher vocational education (HBO in Dutch) in most cases does not grant direct access to the programme (only exceptionally high ranking students stand a chance of admission).

Specific requirements for the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology master’s programme

The Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Master programme is open to all science bachelor graduates (including psychobiology, medicine, physics, etc.). A strong interest in biological problems and in computational methods is required.

Minor deficiencies in either biology, programming or mathemathics 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). On the first day of these courses, you will get a questionnaire to assess your knowledge on these topics. To get some idea of what gap you may have in these deficiency topics, please check our page on what to do before you start the master. We advise you to at least refresh your calculus during summer.

Without any deficiencies in these three topics (bio, prog, maths), you are admissible with any bachelor science degree. With one deficiency, your GPA should be at least 6.5; with two deficiencies, at least 7.0. If you have a vocational bachelor degree (HBO) and one deficiency, your GPA should be at least 7.0, with two deficiencies, at least 7.5. In all other cases, will be directed to our pre-master programme, which depending on your background, consists of a selection of the courses mentioned below.

In addition, if needed, 12 ects out of the 120 ects Master programme can be reserved. However, it is strongly advised to select introductory courses during your Bachelor or as part of the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology minor. This will free up room for optional courses in your master. Depending on your background, take one or several of:

  • introductory course programming
  • 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

Starting with the entry courses 'Fundamentals of Bioinformatics' and 'Introduction to Systems Biology', you will be working towards a sufficient level of knowledge and skill in programming, mathemathics, biology. In some cases, an additional task may be assigned.

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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 or Anton Feenstra.

General language proficiency requirements
VU Amsterdam requires international applicants to take an English 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.

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
  • 2 Letters of recommendation
  • Letter of Motivation
  • Diploma(s) / statement of expected graduation
  • A transcript of the marks obtained during the Bachelor's programme.
  • Bachelor's or Master's thesis (written in English)
  • 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 can contact the specialization coordinator:

SpecializationContactPhone Email
BioinformaticsDr. Anton Feenstra+31 (0)20 598 7783k.a.feenstra@vu.nl
Systems BiologyDr. Douwe Molenaar +31 (0)20 598 6993  douwe.molenaar@falw.vu.nlempty

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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