Genes in Behaviour and Health: Research Master

Exploring gene-environment interplay across our lifespan

Genes in Behaviour and Health: Research Master

While the 20th century was the century of physics, we have now entered the century of the genome. Twin studies and more recently molecular genetic studies have highlighted the influence of our genetic code on our behaviour and health. To adequately understand and influence behaviour and health, we need to increase our understanding of the way our genes play their part, by itself and in interaction with our environment.

The research master Genes in Behaviour and Health is a two-year full time programme that will equip you with the knowledge and understanding of the relevant research methods to design and carry out high-quality research within the field of behaviour genetics and genetic epidemiology. In choosing this research master you will take the first steps to become part of a new generation of talented researchers capable of contributing to the rapid spread of omics from curative medicine to wider applications in the behavioural and health sciences involving prevention and care.

Opting for the research master’s programme brings you into an inspiring research environment. The Department of Biological Psychology is famous for its Netherlands Twin Register, an unique data repository, containing genetic and environmental information for more than 50,000 twin families, who are followed longitudinally. You will be taught by expert staff members and by researchers from other institutes worldwide regularly visit to give lectures and workshops.

Overview Genes in Behaviour and Health: Research Master

LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION

English

DURATION

2 years

TUITION FEE

APPLICATION DEADLINE

1 June for Dutch students. For International students who apply after April 1 Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam can not guarantee that accommodation will be available for them.

START DATE

1 September

STUDY TYPE

Full-time

FIELD OF INTEREST

Behavioural and Social Sciences
Health and Movement

The research master Genes in Behaviour and Health takes two years to complete and consists of eleven courses and two internships. Read an overview of the programme. Below you will find a brief description of the courses per year.

More information will be available Spring 2018. Should you need more information, please contact the administration: rm.gbh.fgb@vu.nl.

Introduction to omics
Lecturers: Dr. Hamdi Mbarek, dr. Rene Pool
Students are provided with basic background knowledge on the organization and transcriptional regulation of the human genome, and how this forms the cornerstone of the biological pathways that influence behaviour and health. Key techniques in molecular genetics are reviewed.

Gene finding: GWA studies and their follow-up
Lecturer: Dr. Jouke-Jan Hottenga
Students learn the basic computational skills needed to conduct gene finding studies, using the latest techniques applied. They will gain hands-on experience finding genes for psychological traits and learn how to evaluate the importance of their genetic findings using techniques such as GCTA, LD regression, and the application of meta-analyses across multiple gene finding studies.

Behavioural Genetics
Lecturers: Prof. dr. Conor Dolan, Dr. Camelia Minica, Dr. Lannie Ligthart
Focusing on classical twin studies as well as extended pedigree analyses, students learn to formulate structural equation models in R and OpenMx to investigate the heritability of traits within the area of psychology, behaviour and health and test gene x environment interactions. Input for the analyses will be generated from datasets that have been or are used within the Netherlands Twin Register, providing real-life examples of the route from data to publication.

Epigenomics and Sequencing in Behaviour and Health
Lecturers: Prof. dr. Dorret Boomsma, Dr. Jenny van Dongen
Though our genetic material make be fixed at base, the expression of our genes is subject to outside influences. This course builds further on the base provided in period 1 and teaches students how to analyse a specific form of gene expression regulation: epigenetics. Epigenetic analyses based on methylation marks will be conducted using actual data from the Netherlands Twin Register.

Imaging and Cardiovascular Genetics
Lecturers: Dr. Dennis van ’t Ent, Prof. Dr . Eco de Geus
To understand the pathway from genes to health, endophenotypes may play an important role. Here two important phenotypes are highlighted, brain function and autonomic nervous system function and the way these are influenced by genetics. Students learn how to assess variation in brain and autonomic functioning by experimental techniques like MRI, ECG and impedance cardiography. They get hands-on experience in (1) using the VU-AMS monitor to collect data and analyse the involvement of specific genes in cardiovascular function using data collected in twin-families, (2) analysing fMRI data sets collected in the context of imaging genetics studies.

Elective1
In addition to these courses, you choose one elective course to extend your study to a specific areas of interest. You may want to focus on psychiatry, clinical psychology, neurodevelopment, brain imaging, or personalised medicine. The course may be one provided within the faculty itself, but may also be chosen from programmes at another faculty at the VU or at another university.

Internship I
The knowledge and experimental and data-analytical skills you obtained in the first year will be applied at the end of the year in a first internship in which you engage in a research project.

Exposome and gene-environment interaction
Lecturers: Prof. dr. Meike Bartels, dr. Michel Nivard
In this course students learn how to use large population-based information databases (e.g. neighbourhood characteristics, electronic patient files, cancer registration), in the study of human genetics. Combining information available from publicly shared databases may generate new testable hypotheses, but also presents computational challenges (e.g. record linkage with careful attention to privacy / de-identification steps).

Complex trait genetics
Lecturers: Prof. dr. Dorret Boomsma, Dr. Jenny van Dongen
In this course the focus is on the theoretical foundation of biometrical and quantitative genetics and the insights needed to understand genetic findings from empirical studies. Our genetic make-up has evolved over thousands of years, leading to large and small individual differences within and between populations. The implications of such genetic variation is discussed.

Personalised medicine in mental and physical health
Lecturers: Dr. Gonneke Willemsen, Dr. Eveline de Zeeuw
It is now clear that genes and environment each play a role in our mental and physical health. In this course the latest research on psychiatric genetics and the implications of genetic findings for stress research are presented. A particular topic is how the interplay of genes and environment may be taken into account in personalised medicine.

Grant writing and science communication
Lecturers: Prof. dr. Eco de Geus, Dr. Elsje van Bergen
Grant writing has become an essential aspect of academic life. To be able to write a successful grant one needs a good overview of the studies to date on the topic, to identify the gaps in our knowledge that need to be filled and of course write a good grant proposal. Successful applicants will share their knowledge and will help students write their own grant proposal. Essential in a grant proposal is also the societal importance and impact. This requires a desirable trait in any research master: good communication of science results, not only to colleagues but also to the general public. The second part of this course therefore focuses on science communication via newspaper articles, websites and social media.

Elective 2
As in year 1, again you choose one elective course to in addition to the above courses to extend your knowledge in a specific area of interest.

Internship II
In a second internship, encompassing period 4 to period 6 of the second year, you will independently conduct a research project, often in an external (inter)national research setting. This internship will be completed by the writing of a Master thesis, according to the submission criteria of a peer-reviewed journal relevant to the topic.

The rapid growth of genetic knowledge and research has led to a great demand for people with the knowledge and skill to link genetics to human behaviour and wellbeing. Young researchers with knowledge on behavioural sciences, statistics, genetic epidemiology, statistical genetics and omics are very much needed in the growing and promising field of genetics. This results in excellent career perspectives. Most graduates from the Research Master Genes in Behaviour and Health will continue to pursue a career in science and undertake a PhD at a university, either in the Netherlands or abroad. Others might get employed as a researcher at a national or international applied research institute. The RM program provides the upcoming academic researcher with the theoretical basis, methodological proficiency and research practice needed to pursue an academic research career. Outside academia, jobs may be found in biotechnology oriented top sectors focused on health or medical technology where graduates can work as consultants, researchers or big data analysists.
Unique study program
The research master Genes in Behaviour and Health is unique in the Netherlands and one of the few programmes worldwide to offer such as comprehensive master program in behaviour genetics, taught by internationally known experts who are active researches themselves. Teaching takes place in small groups, providing ample opportunities for interaction with the staff.

Active research environment
The teaching staff regularly publishes in leading international journals, and are actively involved in large international collaborations. Student internships are often an integral part of active academic projects and frequently contribute to a publication.

International orientation
All courses are taught in English and the programme aims to prepare students for an international (academic) career. Teaching staff is strongly internationally orientated and the Department regularly welcomes researchers from around the world who provide lectures and workshops, which can be attended by students. Students are encouraged to take one of their internships abroad.

Dutch students

We are looking for highly motivated students with an interest in the application of genetics in the behavioural or health sciences, with sufficient background in statistics, biology and psychology.

The general requirements for admission to the Research Master's programme are:

  • A relevant Bachelor's degree in Psychology, Health Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Bioinformatics, Educational Science or a closely related subject area
  • An active interest in research as demonstrated in research oriented courses, internships and/or thesis
  • Good average grades. Your average grade for your academic bachelor's is 7.5 or higher (or the international equivalent, e.g. a B+ or a GPA of 3.3). In its assessment, the admission board focuses at the grades obtained for courses on statistics, research methods, courses related to more biologically orientated courses (biological psychology, neuropsychology, neuroscience, genetics) and thesis.
  • Highly motivated as demonstrated by motivation letter.
  • Strong interest in and aptitude for research, demonstrated during your Bachelor’s.
  • Proficiency in English. English language skills for those who did not follow earlier English-language education will need to be demonstrated, as reaching an IELTS score of 6.5, TOEFL paper-based test score of 580, a TOEFL Internet-based test score of 92-93 or Cambridge Advanced English classification of A , B or C.
The Admission Board of the research master will base its decision on the overall picture presented by the student. Exceptions with regards to the course grade requirement are possible, in case of ancillary activities which demonstrate a great motivation for this master programme.

In case the Board decides positively on your application, you will receive an official admission letter and the central student administration will accordingly update your status in Studielink. In case of a negative decision, you will receive an email message in which this decision is explained.

See also the application and admission procedure for Dutch students


Contact
General information: studiekeuze.fgb@vu.nl

Information on study related issues as courses, study programme and study choice:
Study advisor: studieadvies.fgb@vu.nl

Information days
10 March 2018: VU Master's day

Graduate School Faculty of Behavioural and Human Movement Sciences
Read more about objectives and activities of the School and PhD training track, the PhD Education Committee (PEC) and the organization of the Graduate School.

International students

We are looking for highly motivated students with an interest in the application of genetics in the behavioural or health sciences, with sufficient background in statistics, biology and psychology.

The general requirements for admission to the Research Master's programme are:
  • A relevant Bachelor's degree in Psychology, Health Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Bioinformatics, Educational Science or a closely related subject area
  • An active interest in research as demonstrated in research oriented courses, internships and/or thesis
  • Good average grades. Your average grade for your academic bachelor's is 7.5 or higher (or the international equivalent, e.g. a B+ or a GPA of 3.3). In its assessment, the admission board focuses at the grades obtained for courses on statistics, research methods, courses related to more biologically orientated courses (biological psychology, neuropsychology, neuroscience, genetics) and thesis.
  • Highly motivated as demonstrated by motivation letter.
  • Strong interest in and aptitude for research, demonstrated during your Bachelor’s.
  • Proficiency in English. English language skills for those who did not follow earlier English-language education will need to be demonstrated, as reaching an IELTS score of 6.5, TOEFL paper-based test score of 580, a TOEFL Internet-based test score of 92-93 or Cambridge Advanced English classification of A , B or C.
The Admission Board of the research master will base its decision on the overall picture presented by the student. Exceptions with regards to the course grade requirement are possible, in case of ancillary activities which demonstrate a great motivation for this programme. In case the Board decides positively on your application, you will receive an official admission letter and the central student administration will accordingly update your status in Studielink. In case of a negative decision, you will receive an email message in which this decision is explained.

See also the application and admission procedure for international students

Information on practical matters (application & registration procedure, admission requirements, scholarships, etc.):
Floris Korbee
International student advisor: admissionsfbms@vu.nl

Information on study related issues as courses, study programme and study choice:
Study advisor: studieadvies.fgb@vu.nl

Information Days

Graduate SchoolFaculty of Behavioural and Human Movement Sciences
Read more about objectives and activities of the School and PhD training track, the PhD Education Committee (PEC) and the organization of the Graduate School.