Read what current and former students say about their study choice and experiences with the programme.
After finishing my Bachelor’s in Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in Utrecht, I started with the Master’s Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences, which I combine with the Bioinformatics Profile.
During my major research project my main focus was on wet-lab experiments, but I was also motivated to learn how to analyze the next-generation sequencing data that would be generated in the lab. This was a challenge, since I didn’t have any programming experience. The Bioinformatics Profile gave me the opportunity to take basic courses in this direction, such as Introduction to R, Python, and Bioinformatics for the Life Sciences. Through these courses I became familiar with the concepts and could implement this new skillset to perform some basic analysis on a CRISPR/Cas9 screen during my first internship. After taking more advanced omics courses (i.e. Advanced Omics for the Life Sciences and Analytics Algorithms for Omics), I got the opportunity to work with ChIP-seq and RNA seq datasets and perform more complex CRISPR screen analyses at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Basel.
In my opinion, the Utrecht Bioinformatics Center (UBC) has set up a unique profile to gain programming experience and expand your bioinformatics skills set. The courses cover a broad range of subjects, are given by experts in their field, and challenge you to implement the new knowledge in your own research project. For example, the Research Data Management course offers you the opportunity to build a SQL database for your own research project.
I really enjoyed the courses, seminars and symposia as well as the hands-on work. Therefore, I even consider the transition to become a fulltime computational biologist in the future, something I would never have thought of when starting my Master’s.
A key component of any scientific research is data analysis, and of course biology is no different in this respect. While analyzing my datasets during my bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences I found that trivial tasks during the analysis process could be incredibly time consuming. Moreover, many of the presented tools were used as black boxes, which created vague conclusions about my data as my understanding of their inner workings was insufficient.
The Bioinformatics courses offered me the knowledge to understand the tools involved in biological data analysis, but also inspired me to expand the toolbox using more generic knowledge of programming and algorithms. By offering a quick introduction into key concepts before letting you compose your own curriculum besides the mandatory internships, you quickly get a feel for both theoretical and practical skills needed in this field. Utrecht University has a wide choice of available groups where you can perform your projects and you are encouraged to participate in an active manner, either locally or abroad.
As Utrecht University actively participates in research on the cutting edge of biology and bioinformatics, finding internships is greatly facilitated. By focusing on internships, you are assured of relevant experience in the field, while at the same time creating a network that can be helpful in finding a job/PhD position after graduation.
Bioinformatics has emerged relatively recently as a discipline, and this Master’s programme offers a great chance to step in at the initial phase. I am convinced that in a few years bioinformatics will be as integrated into many other fields as genomics, and that makes it such an exciting field. Like any IT-related field, new developments are taking place at an incredible pace, so there is always something new to learn: be it a new tool, framework, type of experimental data or algorithm.
Sebastiaan de Graaf, alumnus