Master’s Profile Graduate school of Life Sciences

Complex Systems Studies: Unravelling the complexity of societal challenges

The world around us is becoming more and more complex. A small change in one particle can have a significant impact, resulting in e.g. traffic jams, a sudden epidemic or a financial crisis. Complex Systems are often the driving force behind these phenomena. As a whole they possess characteristics which cannot be deduced simply from its individual parts, but only from the way in which these are combined together. Predicting a traffic jam is e.g. hardly possible by only studying the behavior of individual drivers. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Short description

The profile prepares students for a (research) career in the Life Sciences. You will learn how to look at complex societal issues from an interdisciplinary perspective and how to get grip on them by using a modelling approach. You will obtain an understanding of the various models used in the complexity field and the dynamics (i.e. transitions, predictability) that play an important role. An affinity for this quantitative approach will help you.


The master’s profile is offered as a standard (core) profile of 33 EC or an extended profile (45 EC) for those students with available electives (extra 12 EC) and consists of the following parts:

  • Core Complex Systems profile (33 EC):
    • courses of 15 EC in total
    • a project of 18 EC. The topic of the project must not overlap with the topic of the major research project.  Focus should be on interdisciplinary aspects and preferably two supervisors from different departments/faculties are involved. The topic of the project should be approved by the profile coordinator.
  • Extended Complex Systems profile (45 EC)
    • courses of 12 EC in total
    • a minor research project of 33 EC; focus should be on interdisciplinary aspects and preferably two supervisors from different departments/faculties are involved. The topic of the minor research project should be approved by the profile coordinator and the programme director of the master programme for which the student is admitted.


Students should choose at least one core course. The other courses can either be another core course or a course on master level, that is labelled as a Complex Systems course.

Core courses:

  • Biological Modeling B-MBIMOD, 5 EC, period 2
  • Computational Biology, B-MCOBI, 7.5 EC, period 3
  • Introduction to Complex Systems, WISM484, 7.5 EC, period 1 and 2

Additionally, for people with no or very limited programming background we strongly advice to take on of the two following courses:

  • Introduction to Python for Life Sciences BMB465019, 3 EC, period 1/3
  • Introduction to R BMB502219, 3 EC, period 1/3

You will receive a certificate upon completion.

More information and how to apply

For more information please contact Prof. dr. Kirsten ten Tusscher via
Interested? Please contact the coordinator of your master’s programme for approval. You can apply by sending an email to the profile coordinator of the Graduate School of Life Sciences Prof. dr. Kirsten ten Tusscher.