Research area

Fundamental developmental processes are frequently affected in human disease. Many of the important genes and mechanisms controlling development also regulate adult physiology, and deregulation of these processes may result in pathological conditions. Our understanding of the genome (all genes) and the proteome (all proteins) is rapidly increasing, but the regulatory processes that shape our bodies and, when affected, cause diseases such as cancer, are still poorly understood and require fundamental research. Genomic and proteomic technologies have shaped a new area of research enabling us to monitor the expression of some 20,000 genes simultaneously and to monitor the presence and modifications of proteins. Bioinformatics has become a major aspect of modern biomedical research. In addition, microscopic analysis has witnessed a true revolution in the past few years.

The PhD programme Cancer, Stem Cells & Developmental Biology focuses on understanding processes underlying cancer and developmental biology using techniques and applications of post-genomic research, including microarray analysis, next generation sequencing, proteomics, metabolomics and advanced microscopy techniques. PhD candidates in this programme explore research questions concerning embryonic growth, stem cells, signalling pathways, gene regulation, evolution and development in relation to health and disease using various model systems.

Associated research groups

All information regarding our researchers and research groups can be found at our website

Profile of prospective PhD candidates

Prospective PhD candidates should have a Dutch or equivalent foreign MSc degree in life sciences (medicine, biomedical sciences, biology, chemistry). We expect PhD candidates to be highly motivated, talented and capable of working independently as well as in groups.

Mission of the training programme

The programme offers training programmes at both the Master’s and PhD level, which are frequently combined in joint courses and other activities so as to offer students a truly integrated research and educational programme with a natural progression from the Master’s to the PhD level. The aim of the programme is to offer research, training and education that builds on novel methodology in genomics, proteomics, metabolomics and bioinformatics technology applied to biomedical and developmental systems and processes. PhD candidates participate in the research lines of the participating groups, collaborating with their fellow PhD candidates and postdocs yet at the same time developing their own research project and expertise within the group that should lead to a series of articles and a PhD thesis to be defended in public before an expert committee. PhD candidates are encouraged to seek collaborations outside Utrecht and The Netherlands and to attend international workshops and meetings in addition to the course and seminar programme offered by the CS&D PhD programme.

Master’s students seeking a PhD position within CS&D are expected to be highly motivated to perform their thesis research in this field, as the programme aims to attract the most talented and motivated students in the life sciences from the Netherlands and abroad.

Training programme

Seminar series

Every Thursday at 16.00 pm an invited (international) speaker presents a seminar on a topic relevant to the programme’s research programme. PhD candidates are expected to attend the seminars and engage in the discussion sessions. A seminar committee is responsible for the selection of high quality speakers. Both group leaders and PhD candidates are asked to send suggestions for speakers to the committee’s chair.

Introductory course

All first-year PhD candidates participate in a one-day course aimed at introducing them to each other and the school’s research programme and organisation. The course consists of a theoretical part and visits at the organizing departments as an introduction to the practical aspects of the research performed by the affiliated research groups.

Specialized courses

Several specialized 1-5 day courses are organized every year or biannually on topics related to cancer, stem cells and developmental biology, but also on bioinformatics and various technologies.

Master class

Every December, a 2-day Master class is organized for all PhD candidates at a conference centre away from the lab. International leaders in the field of cancer, stem cells and developmental biology are invited to present their latest research and actively participate in workshops with the PhD students. The PhD award for the best publication of the year is announced during this Master class.

PhD candidate retreat

This 3-day meeting in June is organized entirely by and for the PhD candidates. The programme’s PhD committee composes a programme consisting of seminars by the senior PhD candidates and poster presentations by the junior PhD candidates that are discussed between themselves without any interference from supervisors.

Programme organization

Programme director 

Prof. Boudewijn Burgering, PhD 


Programme coordinator

Eric Kalkhoven, PhD



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