My Animal Research: Experimental Design

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Course description

Making sure that all animals used for research count. Ensure your research can be reproduced and actually aid the patients or subjects you use them for. This sounds logical and challenging at the same time. How can you achieve this and improve the quality of your research? During this course you will train yourself further in your experimental design skills, while designing your next study.

‘My Animal Research: Experimental Design’ is an interactive, blended (online and face-to-face) learning track, with the aim to complete a work protocol (experimental design) involving experimental animals. The learning track is composed of online training modules, face-to-face sessions, group workshops under supervision of an expert, a practice run of the assessment and a final assessment. An e-moderator will guide your learning process remotely.

The learning track starts with online and face-to-face diagnostic tests to identify gaps in knowledge and skills on which your personal learning path will be based. During this blended knowledge & skills track, you can go through several topics: choosing your animal model, experimental designs, statistics, determining your sample size, bias and bias prevention and quality control. By adapting the trajectory to your personal needs, you will create an optimal experimental design to be used in practice that meets all the current quality criteria with the greatest efficiency. 

Parallel to the knowledge and skills track, you will follow the culture track, in which we will personally guide you in applying your new insights in your own working environment. Face-to-face sessions with your community group gives you the opportunity to exchange perspectives with peer PhD candidates and will help you overcome professional issues.


  • You have completed the course ‘Laboratory Animal Science’ (art. 9, ‘function B’, or a foreign (FELASA accredited) alternative);
  • You are about to start (or in the starting phase of) writing your work protocol/experimental design for your research project;
  • You are available to attend the set gatherings with the community group (described below under 'Course schedule');
  • You are enthusiastic for participating in the learning track;
  • Your supervisor is available for a co-assessment on your behalf for another candidate.

The benefits of this learning track:

  • Work under personal supervision on the design of your next animal experiment;
  • Access to study materials and fellow PhD candidates (community) in the field via an online learning environment;
  • You will often work on 'things that you must do anyway'. So also see it as 'time to work on your experimental design/work protocol';
  • A certificate with regard to experimental design when you pass the personalized assessment (3 ECs).

Learning objectives

After following the learning track, you will be able to:

  • Apply the current quality criteria on the experimental design of your animal experiment;
  • Explain and/or support how and why you made the methodological and statistical choices in your experimental design;
  • Reflect on your working environment and describe ways to integrate the learned content in your day-to-day practice and deal with issues you experience.

All of the above will lead to a solid experimental design/work protocol ready for submission and execution.

Instructional method

The learning track consists of the following didactic methods:

  • An online diagnostic test at the start to define your level and knowledge gaps, with a short face-to-face assessment for the weeks to follow;
  • A personalized advice for the weeks to follow;
  • An online learning environment with content and exercises, directly applicable to your own experimental design/work protocol;
  • Group workshops (face-to-face) under supervision of a subject matter expert;
  • Participation in a community group of peer PhD candidates, with both online and face-to-face exchange of insights and experiences;


You will be trained by many experts in the field in small groups so personal dilemmas within a protocol can be addressed. Throughout the course you will be advised by e-moderators and contact persons.

Course schedule

The course will start end September 28th 2021. It is possible to register here.

Community group meetings (obligatory)

  • Tuesday September 28th - Kick-off meeting
  • Thursday November 18th - Culture session 1
  • Tuesday December 14th - Culture session 2
  • Thursday January 13th - Culture session 3

Work sessions
Depending on your level of knowledge you will be advised to attend (some of) the workshops below, with a duration of half a day (3 hours). During the weeks of the work sessions, you need to reserve time to study the material provided, to use it to improve your work protcol.

  • Tuesday November 9th - Choosing your animal model
  • Tuesday November 16th - Experimental designs
  • Tuesday November 23rd - Statistics
  • Tuesday November 30th - Determining your sample size
  • Tuesday December 7th - Bias and bias prevention
  • Thursday December 16th - Quality contro


After the Kick-off and self-test you will have your first assessment to establish your level of expertise (pre-assessments are planned between October 18th and October 29th). In preparation of the final assessment there will be a practice run of the assessment. Final assessment with two assessors (final assessments are planned between January 17th and February 4th).

Number of participants

15 - 20

Number of credits

3.0 ECs

Course certificate

You will receive a certificate with regard to experimental design when you pass the personalized assessment.

Course fee

Course fee GSLS PhD candidates: €500.
Course fee academic staff UU/UMCU: €500.
Course fee external participants (if space permits): €2500.

‘GSLS PhD candidates’ include

  • PhD candidates registered to the Graduate School of Life Sciences of Utrecht University via MyPhD.

‘Academic staff UU/UMC’ include:

  • PhD candidates of Utrecht University, not registered to the Graduate School of Life Sciences via MyPhD; 
  • Postdocs employed by the Utrecht University or UMC Utrecht;
  • Other academic staff employed at Utrecht University or UMC Utrecht.


This is the cancellation and no-show policy for this course:

  • Once you have signed up for a course, we expect you to attend;
  • If you need to cancel your registration, do so at the earliest possible moment, at least four weeks before the start of the course;
  • All community group meetings are obligatory.
  • Not meeting the attendance requirements or cancelling within four weeks before the course starts means you will be charged no-show fee (50% of course fee);
  • We are unable to make any exceptions.

I think that I will definitely use what I have learned mainly because we have focused our learning towards a final assignment which consist on the realization and design of a work protocol. This is exactly what our work will require from us, so the way of learning has been performed in a quite practical and useful way.

I think that the performance of the final assessment, as well as the feedback from the examiners really helped me realizing about the mistakes of the experiment design I made and will have, obviously, a direct impact on my research. They helped me to identify problems that otherwise I wouldn't notice myself.

My Animal Research Experimental Design

Start date and time
End date and time
Utrecht Science Park
Entrance fee
GSLS PhD candidates: €500. Academic staff UU/UMCU: €500. External participants: €2500.

Register for the course here

More information
Jane Pieplenbosch