Faculty of Science

At the Faculty of Science, innovative education and world-class fundamental and applied research in biology, chemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, physics, mathematics, and information and computing Sciences come together. Our researchers contribute to society by developing new insights into the natural and life sciences. This helps us find solutions for pressing societal issues related to food, energy, climate, biodiversity, artificial intelligence and health. We feel privileged to pass our knowledge and expertise on to the next generation of change-makers and world-shapers.

The Faculty of Science is a faculty where people make fundamental connections. Our 7,000 students and 1,300 employees perform best when working together in an open environment of teams and communities. We encourage and enable the creation of these communities within our faculty. Our scientists actively contribute to the strategic themes Life Sciences, Pathways to Sustainability, Dynamics of Youth and the Driven by Data focus areas. Students connect with each other not only in their degree programmes, but also through the embedded activities of the student associations.

We take good care of our students and staff and expand their space for curiosity and creativity.

In continuation of the previous strategic plan, we aim to strengthen our leading position in an international academic community by building on our 11 research institutes. We attract top national and international talent as future research leaders, inspirational teachers and organisation leaders. We take good care of our students and staff and expand their space for curiosity and creativity, the essential ingredients to foster frontier science and technology. We embrace the principles of open science as a means to make scientific progress more transparent and accessible, to keep scientific careers attractive and to ensure they are also rewarding.

Fundamental connections

Cooperative network

Our teaching and research staff maintain close ties to the people and institutions around them by working together with other faculties, universities, the private sector, and government and social organisations. The faculty’s cooperative network includes local campus-based organisations as well as national and international partners. We also work closely with our alliance partners (TU/e, WUR and UMC Utrecht) and with other universities, often within powerful EU networks.

Two excellent examples of strategic partnerships are the Advanced Research Centre Chemical Building Blocks Consortium (ARC-CBBC) and the AI - Police Lab. The ARC-CBBC aims to build long-term partnerships to create a circular economy by developing more sustainable chemical processes and clean energy production routes. The AI - Police Lab is a strategic long-term PhD programme in which UU and UvA s cientists work with the National Police on dedicated real-life artificial intelligence topics to improve the security in the Netherlands in a social, legal and ethical way.

Fundamentele connecties

Our close ties are also visible in the Lifelong Learning programmes we offer. Through these programmes, we keep professionals educated. Some programmes developed in-house, especially in Computer Science and Pharmacy, offer education specifically aimed at the labour market. With our Master’s programmes Science & Business Management and Business Informatics, we educate students with a keen interest in entrepreneurship. To strengthen our connection with alumni and external stakeholders, we are also launching a special programme to boost knowledge-sharing and cooperation between the bright minds from within our faculty and those in business, government and social organisations.

We actively invite a broader audience to engage in research through outreach activities and research programmes with e.g. the participation of the general public, patient organisations and secondary schools. This will lead to an increase in citizen science and will stimulate Open Science.

The next step

In order to feed our strong fundamental basis and forge stronger connections with the world around us, we will put even more effort into interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research and education. We also believe that greater stability in the national academic funding schemes for fundamental and unfettered research, as advocated by the KNAW’s Weckhuysen committee, is essential to this ambition. In addition, we will continue to work on a change in culture within the faculty: a culture with an open mind, with playfulness and with room to experiment. For this, we need an improved work-life balance, even more teamwork and continuous attention to a safe environment with support for all different types of academics, support staff and students.

We will continue to work on a culture with an open mind, with playfulness and with room to experiment.

The following ambitions and actions, designed and supported by our broad community, will contribute to this attractive work environment and enable us to excel in teaching and research.

An open and resilient academic community

Taking care of our students and staff

We achieve quality in our work with each other, not at the expense of each other. In times of high workloads and an imbalance between work and personal life, we need a culture change. To achieve this, we will examine our work, our new projects and the requirements for students and staff critically and make clear choices to stay focused and reduce workloads.

Our ambition is to build a diverse, inclusive and open community with a high standard of well-being for students and staff. Our diversity and inclusion committee keeps us on track. We highly value the participation of students in the ongoing improvement of our education and organisation.

Lines of action

  • Identify at least five projects and tasks we can eliminate at the organisational level to reduce our workloads.
  • We guide students to draw up their own plan and make their own choices with regard to electives.
  • Identify and develop future leaders who stimulate well-being, teamwork and inclusiveness. Leadership is included in our Future Leaders training and part of selection procedures.
  • Take further action to prevent harassment by organising regular active bystander training and intercultural awareness training.
  • Embrace and support diversity through a buddy programme for young, new and international staff, including PhD candidates.
  • Appoint a faculty confidential counsellor for PhD candidates.
We value every student and staff member equally and acknowledge everyone’s contribution to the team.

Recognition, rewards and feedback

We want to make more use of rewards and positive feedback for individuals and teams. We value every student and staff member equally and acknowledge everyone’s contribution to the team. Furthermore, we want to extend our learning organisation, and we see mistakes and successes as opportunities to learn and provide formative feedback.

Lines of action

  • Use the MERIT model for recognition and rewards for all staff (MERIT = management, education, research, impact and team spirit).
  • Create new criteria for all career paths (assistant professors, associate professors, full professors) with a fair system.
  • Offer training for teams, share responsibilities and use peer assessment and group assessment.
  • Use feedback in a structural way to improve every process within our faculty.

Honesty and integrity

Scientific integrity is an important topic for both students and staff, and we practice the standards that we preach. We also want to maintain and enhance our culture of respect, honesty and integrity. This process starts with the recruitment of new students and staff and is maintained throughout their degree programmes and careers. We encourage reflection on one’s own actions in all layers of our research community.

Lines of action

  • Integrity training will be part of the core programme followed by every PhD candidate at the graduate schools of Life Sciences and Natural Sciences.
  • Yearly staff meeting to discuss and reflect on scientific integrity.

Empowering the community

We usually thrive when we are able to connect with others, which is emphasised in the COVID-19 crisis. We innovate and create more and achieve greater interdisciplinarity when we work together. Utrecht Science Park and the Botanic Gardens are an essential meeting place for our community, in which our student associations also play an important role.

Lines of action

  • Design and shape buildings that suit our flexible and multidisciplinary organisation. The redevelopment of the Kruyt location offers an opportunity to create state-of-the-art experimental facilities for life sciences and material sciences.
  • Pay extra attention to creating enough space to meet and connect, especially in our new buildings and the new circular pavilion in the Botanic Gardens.
  • Guarantee that all our buildings are accessible and user-friendly for all students and staff.
  • Sustain our Faculty Day, where we meet, learn and find inspiration, as an important event.
  • Invest in the introduction and the first year of new employees, academic staff and support staff with a buddy programme, special events and a personal approach.

Contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals

Our organisation’s contributions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are clear, as they are the fruits of our fundamental connections. We strive for energyefficient buildings and a sustainable use of lab environments and materials. We aim for a paperless organisation. Accelerated by the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis, we will employ more digital and blended education to reduce the use of paper and the necessity of travel. Within the international community, we will be more equipped for online meetings and online conferences, which will reduce our carbon footprint.

Lines of action

  • Create energy-efficient buildings and use these as living labs. The new circular pavilion at the new entrance of the Botanic Gardens is an example.
  • Use the digital infrastructure at the Teaching and Learning Lab lecture rooms and the studio to reduce the use of paper and the necessity of travel.
  • Organise and take part in more virtual conferences, thereby reducing our carbon footprint.
  • Start a ‘Circular Materials’ project to make more sustainable use of our lab materials, for example by reducing the use of plastic disposables.

Outstanding education

In Dutch society, there is a strong demand for highly qualified Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD and teacher-training graduates. Our strategy is to facilitate this demand by growing in a sustainable way, while holding on to our high-quality standards. We therefore welcome the government’s plans for the science sector, including a National Outreach and Teacher Programme to which our Freudenthal Institute and U-talent programme are excellently positioned to contribute. Closer by, we want to strengthen the collaboration at Utrecht Science Park.

We want students to feel they have sufficient room to satisfy their curiosity and creativity and to shape their own curriculum. Our university teaching model is already built to provide this, but students do not always use all of the possibilities. Therefore, we will investigate what the current obstacles could be. Moreover, we believe that student wellbeing is essential for their development. We focus on educating good students instead of producing theses. Furthermore, we want to encourage students to move away from the familiar environment of their peers and engage in partnerships with students from other faculties or universities of applied sciences, alumni and the private sector in new ‘Science in Context’ courses.

We believe that student wellbeing is essential for their development.

Thanks to the great efforts of our teaching staff, online education has taken a giant leap during the COVID-19 crisis. We want to maintain these gains and boost our online teaching even further, while normalising the teaching workload of our teaching staff. We understand and will exploit the differences between online and on-campus teaching while keeping them in balance. The Teaching and Learning Lab gives us access to virtual classrooms and helps us try out new initiatives. We make online learning interactive. These developments will be monitored and fostered through educational research, for instance within the Freudenthal Institute.

Lines of action

  • Follow the ambitions formulated in the plans for the science sector to educate a growing population of students in mathematics, physics, chemistry and information and computing sciences, with sufficient capacity in both Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes.
  • Support future sector plans in the fields of biology and pharmacy, with similar ambitions to educate more students in those fields.
  • Contribute to the ‘Nationale Bètalerarenkamer’ and the National Outreach Programme.
  • Enrol more students in a Master’s in Science Education or the regular Master’s in Education programmes.
  • Investigate and remove current obstacles for students to shape a personal curriculum.
  • Develop Science in Context courses on community service learning, courses on secondary-school teaching and interdisciplinary courses on sustainability and circularity (such as circular economy, sustainable reuse, climate and new materials).
  • Incorporate and further develop the learning methods we developed for our degree programmes during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Use future learning spaces, such as flexible classrooms, and create possibilities for contact with students at home as well as meeting points on campus.
  • Explore possibilities to forge closer ties between our faculty and HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, for example in the area of computing sciences and circular chemistry.

Fostering new multidisciplinary degree programmes

A growing number of departments within the Faculty of Science are cooperating on new multidisciplinary degree programmes. The new degree programmes link several robust disciplines within the fundamental life sciences and natural sciences. This cooperation will foster new ideas and insights. Excellent examples are the upcoming international Bachelor’s programme in Molecular and Biophysical Life Sciences and the new Master’s programmes in Bioinformatics and Applied Data Science. For these and other degree programmes, we work closely together with other faculties and we play an active role in several graduate schools. The multidisciplinary curricula will prepare our students even better for the rapidly evolving technologies in our domain.

Lines of action

  • Implement and foster the upcoming Bachelor’s programme in Molecular and Biophysical Life Sciences and the new Master’s programmes in Bioinformatics and Applied Data Science.
  • Develop and start new multidisciplinary Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes.
  • Promote multidisciplinary education and joint curricula between departments, faculties and universities through funding and support.
Our alumni are an important link with society.

Connecting with alumni and professionals

Our alumni are an important link with society. We will expand online and offline teaching for our alumni and professionals to meet the increasing demand in society, starting with Information and Computing Sciences, interdisciplinary modules on climate change and courses to strengthen teaching skills. Professionals have busy schedules, which means that programmes must be offered in a flexible and more compact manner.

Lines of action

  • Start a buddy system to connect students and alumni.
  • Actively involve alumni and the private sector in our degree programmes, especially regarding big challenges in the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Start making our teaching material available for free to our alumni, while charging for certificates.
  • Open up the Science in Context courses for alumni and exchange students, e.g. in combination with a summer school.
  • Develop Education for Professionals for our professional partners and alumni, with an EC voucher for our MSc graduates.

Contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals and the research we conduct in related fields will be interwoven in our disciplinary and multidisciplinary degree programmes. This connection has to be visible online and offline. Within Pathways to Sustainability, we will create courses for all students.

We will also start ‘The Science Games’: an annual competition for Bachelor’s and Master’s students in which students from different disciplines work together on a project. The best project will receive a Science Award. Our student associations, which play an important part in our community, will be given an active role in these Science Games.

Lines of action

  • Show and expand the explicit connection with the SDGs in our degree programmes.
  • Participate in Pathways to Sustainability and the Hub Sustainability Education.
  • Organise The Science Games.

Frontier research

Our research is based on fundamental roots with the aim to stimulate both curiosity and strategic research with national and international appeal. Our extensive technology-based infrastructures and expert researchers are embedded in national and European Roadmaps and contribute to new fundamental insights in natural and life sciences that reach other disciplines and faculties. Scientific research in biology, chemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, physics, mathematics, and information and computing sciences forms the heart of our faculty. Our research contributes to national and international initiatives of societal importance, such as the Dutch Research Agenda and the Dutch Top Sectors, Horizon Europe, the European Commission priorities ‘European Green Deal’ and ‘Europe fit for the digital age’ and the UN SDGs, where transdisciplinary research is key.

Our research contributes to national and international initiatives of societal importance.

The sector plans strengthen our basis in these disciplines and also give a boost to our partnerships with our alliance partners (TU/e, WUR and UMC Utrecht). We keep focusing, of course, on current and new international alliances.

Lines of action

  • Maintain a focus on obtaining fundamental insights and stimulate impactful and unfettered frontier research and innovation.
  • Contribute to the mission-oriented research and innovation policy in the Dutch Research Agenda and Top Sectors as well as international research schemes, including the ‘European Green Deal’.
  • Sustain, renew and develop our advanced technology research infrastructures and make these available for partners.
  • Cherish and foster cooperation with national and international partners and expand our networks.
We actively respond to current and future societal challenges.

Creating Impact

Our research is relevant to society, and we actively respond to current and future societal challenges. An example is the COVID-19 pandemic, to which our researchers in disciplines ranging from computational to life sciences have responded swiftly. To make an impact, it is essential to connect with alumni and stakeholders and to stimulate our own staff to be more entrepreneurial. As we want to accelerate the impact on societal challenges, we strongly stimulate and promote open science. This will also give us an opportunity to be more active in public engagement.

Lines of action

  • Build and strengthen a professional alumni and stakeholders network for cocreation and future scientific perspectives, to support public engagement and to increase the visibility of our societally relevant research.
  • Strengthen the network function of our IMPACT committee and keep facilitating infrastructure for knowledge transfer support.
  • Encourage entrepreneurship and start-ups.
  • Apply the knowledge from our own science for the benefit of our organisation.
  • Support disciplinary and interdisciplinary research in a flexible way.

Stimulating Open Science

We believe open science is the way forward. Open science aims to make science more accessible, reproducible and transparent. Fair and accessible data, open-access publications and open software allow us to really share our research and allow knowledge to be built upon.

We strongly stimulate and promote open science.

We will train both graduate and undergraduate students in open science practices and will encourage teaching staff to share material as open educational resources.

Lines of action

  • Start a faculty task force and organise knowledge sessions on open science in connection with the Utrecht University task force.
  • Draw up a plan of action on open software and make sure research data are FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) to stimulate and promote open science.
  • Encourage teaching staff to share material as open educational resources.
  • Integrate open science practices in the degree programmes.

Stimulating inter- and transdisciplinary research

Researchers within the Faculty of Science are uniquely positioned to contribute to the strategic themes of Utrecht University, which focus on Life Sciences, Pathways to Sustainability and Dynamics of Youth. Due to the wide scale of expertise and knowledge, interdisciplinary teams will be able to create and implement synergistic effects within the available hubs and focus areas.

In the strategic theme Pathways to Sustainability, our fundamental researchers contribute to climate science, zero-carbon emission technologies, circularity, food innovations and research for sustainable energy. The new circular economy hub will allow even more researchers within the faculty and their colleagues in other faculties to conduct impactful research. This research can be both fundamental and more applied in nature. Societal partners, including governmental organisations and the public sector, will be directly involved. This research will also inspire interdisciplinary degree programs.

The strategic theme Life Sciences unites research and teaching and translates them for surrounding partners, with our researchers participating in the communities for regenerative medicine, personalised medicine and one health, as well as the hubs for molecular immunology, organoids and advanced in-vitro models. As a Science for Life community, we uphold world-class and campus-accessible infrastructure in NMR, cell-imaging, omic technologies, high-performance computing and electron microscopy, together with the material science community.

In the strategic theme Dynamics of Youth, information and computing scientists conduct research into games for ill and multi-resident children and the influence of fake videos on the processing of information on social media by young people. Neurobiologists research the brain development during the first 1,001 critical days of a child’s life.

We also collaborate in the Driven by Data research programme, which brings together all of the University’s data science, bioinformatics, complex systems, game research, artificial intelligence and mathematics specialists. The Driven by Data programme will provide the building blocks and new paradigms for rethinking the existing methodological frameworks contributing to societal issues. In addition, we work closely with our partners in the strategic alliance between TU/e, WUR and UMC Utrecht on artificial intelligence for health, living technologies and food.

Lines of action

  • Empower the communities in the strategic themes and the focus areas by stimulating more cocreation with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Expand collaboration in data science, especially to include Pathways to Sustainability and life sciences.
  • Support data-intensive science with our IT infrastructure and enable sharing data with a good and affordable data storage system.
  • Work on artificial intelligence for health, living technologies and food within the strategic alliance between TU/e, WUR and UMC Utrecht and within the national AI coalition.

Contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals

The UN SDGs presented as the fruits in the faculty tree are clearly visible in many of the faculty’s research programmes. Our researchers work on themes like biodiversity, climate, energy, health, sustainable and affordable medicine and good-quality education. With this knowledge, they contribute to our transdisciplinary strategic themes, focus areas and hubs (future food, AI, bioinformatics, data science, health, climate). We feel it is our responsibility to educate the general public and professionals on knowledge about the basic science regarding the Sustainable Development Goals. We actively connect our surroundings to our research by creating living labs. U-talent is a good example. The public opinion needs trustworthy and solid information on facts, which we actively provide.

Lines of action

  • Increase our cooperation with regional alliances on the Sustainable Development Goals. We will create living labs on the themes AI & mobility, biodiversity, climate, energy, future food, health, infection & immunology and good-quality e ducation and participate in those labs.
  • Stimulate realistic innovations that reduce the need for animal testing.
  • Strengthen the hub ‘Towards a Circular Economy and Society’ with our sister faculties, including more focus on sustainable and circular chemistry within our own faculty.

Strategic Plan 2025