Study programme

You can create your own Master’s programme of 120 European Credits (EC). The components of the programme can be followed in any given order.

Component of study programmeEC
Major research project51
Mandatory theoretical courses15
Elective component12
Writing assignment7.5
Life Sciences Academy1.5


Mandatory theoretical courses (15 EC)

You will spend ten weeks completing compulsory theoretical courses.  

Elective courses (12 EC)

Elective courses enable you to increase your knowledge within your field of interest or (in part) to address educational deficiencies.

Major Research Project (51 EC)

Students are required to complete a major research project.

Profiles (33 EC)

Profiles take up a big part of your 2nd year and can be viewed as the minor in your Master’s. They are designed to equip you with skills for your next step while studying. You select 1 out of 9 profiles, all with an own theme and focus. You can choose profiles that provide you with a broad skill set and help you prepare for a business, educational or societal career, or profiles that provide you with in-depth research skills, catering for a research career. The options include:

  1. Applied Data Science profile
  2. Bioinformatics profile
  3. Communication profile
  4. Complex Systems profile
  5. Education profile
  6. General Research profile
  7. Life Science and Society profile
  8. Management profile
  9. Translational Science profile

Life Sciences Academy (1.5 EC)

During the course of the Master’s programme, you are required to attend the Introducing Life Sciences week, at least seven Life Sciences seminars, and three workshops of the Navigation Towards Personal Excellence programme.

Writing assignment (7.5 EC)

This writing assignment may consist of either a clear and thorough overview of recent literature, concluded by an in-depth discussion, or a PhD grant proposal.

    This Master's programme consists of programme-specific courses and general elective courses. This page offers more information about the programme-specific courses and about the general elective courses at the end of this page.

    Risk assessment fundamentals (1 week)

    Introduction Risk Assessment

    The fundamentals of risk assessment will be introduced. Related concepts including health impact assessment and burden of disease assessment will be explained.  The role of different disciplines (exposure science, toxicology, epidemiology) will be outlined. The importance of not only human risk assessment, but also environmental and ecosystem risk assessment will be made clear. Moreover, an introduction to inter- and transdisciplinarity and the One Health approach will be given. The exposome will also be introduced, underlining the new and important omics research.

    Introduction to the research fields

    The student will be introduced to the different research fields: One Health, Exposure Science/Environmental Epidemiology and Toxicology. The differences and similarities for microbial, chemical, and toxicological agents related to risk assessment (e.g. terminology differences, calculation similarities, etc.) will be explained.

    Study design

    Lectures and active classes related to study designs will contain the basics of epidemiological, experimental animal studies and in vitro studies: such as study design, study biases, population studies, experimental studies, sample size analyses/determination, exposure strategies/determination as applied to environmental issues. Differences for communicable vs non-communicable diseases will also be addressed.

    Exposure (2 weeks)

    This course will provide an overview of the different aspects of exposure sciences, elucidating the similarities and differences between the three tracks.

    Concepts of exposure

    A short introduction regarding the concepts of exposure will be given. Simple frameworks, concentrations, etc.

    Sources and determinants of exposure

    Within this part, we will teach the students about different sources of exposure, routes of exposure and other factors related to exposure determination. This includes fate processes, bioaccumulation, source attribution (air, water, soil, diet, etc.), determinants of exposure, modes of transmission (blood-borne, droplet, airborne, foodborne etc), multi-host infectious diseases and infectious disease cycles, co-exposures (chemicals-microbes, e.g. biofilm).

    Exposure assessment: measurement and modelling

    Here, the students will be introduced to measurement techniques and modelling related to assessing exposure, e.g. chemical analyses in complex matrices (in vitro cultures, human samples), vector-borne vs direct transmission, estimation of internal exposure based on external data, bioaerosols, modelling and measurement of external environmental exposure surfaces, behavioural influences on personal exposure, personal exposure assessment and the use of biomarkers (linking to omics) and the Exposome concept.


    The different state-of-the-art omics techniques will be discussed, including the concept of omics research, e.g. exposome, microbiome, virome, toxicogenomics and resistome. Moreover, approaches in omics (from PCR to sequencing, micro arrays and whole genome sequencing), bioinformatics of sequencing data, and pathway analyses will be addressed.

    Planetary health effects (2 weeks)

    This course will describe the health effects related to the environment. How can disturbances in the ecosystem (deforestation, melting of the polar ice caps, etc.) influence our body, down to molecular levels?

    Population and ecosystem

    Different types of populations will be described, e.g. wildlife and ecosystems, general public and workers as specific population. 

    The topics that will be further discussed are climate change, antimicrobial resistance, multi-stressors, emerging chemical- and biological agents in air, water and soil, green space and blue space, occupational health. A variety of environmental stressors will be covered to illustrate methodological issues and to obtain knowledge on major environmental factors. Multiple assessment methods will be discussed, e.g. modelling, ecotoxicology, health monitoring. Moreover, the importance and different methods of monitoring and (disease) surveillance in human and animal populations and ecosystems will also be discussed. Complex systems will also be introduced.

    Adverse outcome pathway

    An introduction of the toxicological and immunological mechanisms of health effects at individual organism level, down to the molecular level will be given. How can observed exposures affect population health? This will be explained via dose-effect relationships associated with particular agents (chemical, biological, etc.) in specific target (organ) systems. Moreover, an introduction of integrated approach to testing and assessment (IATA) will be given.


    Omics can also be used to assess health outcomes in addition to omics in exposure research. The course will build on the earlier omics use for exposure. This will include health effects related to microbiome, virome, resistome.

    Tracks courses

    Students choose one of the following track courses:

    • Advanced One Health
    • Advanced Exposure Science and Environmental Health
    • Advanced Toxicology

    Advanced One Health (3 weeks)

    The One Health specialization will focus on infectious diseases. Trends and drivers for the emergence and spread of multispecies diseases (including zoonotic diseases) (e.g. demographic, behaviour, biodiversity loss etc.), surveillance and prevention will be addressed, as well as the basics of infectious disease epidemiology. The role of wildlife and ecosystems, for instance, transmission between livestock and wildlife will be included. The emergence of antimicrobial resistance in pathogens and indicator organisms and potential interventions in antimicrobial use will be highlighted. The resistome will be introduced, including the transmission of genes between different reservoirs. Risk analysis will be performed, including quantitative microbial risk assessment (e.g. foodborne infections).

    Advanced Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology (3 weeks)

    The Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology specialization will train students in more advanced methods of exposure science and environmental epidemiology. We will address exposures in the general environment (i.e. air pollution, green space, noise, EMF,  pesticides, climate change) and specifically the occupational environment. Topics that will be addressed include the implementation of the exposome concept; improvement of individual exposure assessment using wearables; exposure modelling and epidemiological data analysis using the computer program R; analysis of correlated exposure data; practical measurement of exposure and lung function. We will discuss methods to translate epidemiological study results into assessment of health impacts and (global) burden of disease, using systematic reviews, meta-analysis and recent (controversial) confidence assessment methods (risk of bias, GRADE).

    Advanced Toxicology (3 weeks)

    The Toxicology specialization will be a research-based teaching approach: lectures and (individual) assignments related to the current themes that the Toxicology department is working on: immunotoxicology, neurotoxicology, endocrine toxicology and exposure. For this study year, microplastic research will be the focus. What are the effects of microplastics on the immune system, or the developing foetus? Can microplastics cross the blood-brain barrier and how is this researched? The reduction of animal testing in toxicological research will also be discussed. Students will work in groups on a theme and will present the highlights to other students. PhD students will present their current research in an interactive form.

    Capstone Project (2 weeks)

    In the last two weeks of the ten weeks course period, all students will be together for a joint course. Subject matter from the different tracks will be integrated.  Possible topics are:

    • Sustainable livestock farming
    • Tackling AMR
    • Pandemic preparedness
    • Food chain (exposure at farm level, exposure to ecosystem (manure), food hygiene, cultural differences)

    Risk management and risk communication will also be a part of this process, to train the student in a complete risk analysis process.

    Next to these programme-specific courses, you also have to follow general elective courses. 

    Educational methods

    During the 10-week obligatory courses, we work with the following educational methods:

    • Lectures 
    • Case studies (3 - 4 students/case)
    • Computer practicals (1 - 2 students/practical)
    • Literature reviews and discussion 

    Group size

    There is no maximum group size for this Master’s programme.

    Examination methods

    Evaluation of the theoretical part of the Master’s programme is based on:

    • written exams;
    • research proposal;
    • presentations;
    • essays; 
    • research reports.

    Research projects are graded based on:

    • practical work (60%);
    • written report (30%); 
    • oral presentation (10%)

    Extra opportunities

    Are you looking for an extra challenge?Utrecht University offers several honours programmes for students looking for an extra challenge. Honours education is followed on top of your regular Master’s programme and goes beyond the regular curriculum. Honours programmes are available at both faculty and interdisciplinary level and allow you to go deeper into subjects or work on projects that transcend your own discipline.

    Read more about the honours programmes