Master in Systems Biology

Maastricht University, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Program Description

Master in Systems Biology

Maastricht University, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Do you want to better understand the underlying mechanisms of life? Would you like know more about how you can use biology and mathematics to gain deeper insight into the evolution of animals and plants, the development of diseases and the possibly the development of new therapies? Then Systems Biology is the right programme for you!

Systems Biology will become the mainstream in biological sciences this century. It can be used to systematically gather knowledge at all levels, from molecules to entire ecosystems and its integration into quantitative (computer) models. These models make an accurate simulation of biological processes possible.

This programme will give you the knowledge and practical skills necessary to unravel the complexity of these systems and use it for academic, industrial and societal progress. After you’ve graduated, your ability to unify life sciences and mathematics will make you a great candidate for a career in medical research, drug development and biotechnology.

Maastricht Centre for Systems Biology (MaCSBio)

Launched in 2015, the Maastricht Centre for Systems Biology (MaCSBio) strives to perform cutting-edge research in the interdisciplinary field of Systems Biology to create a “virtual physiological human”, a set of computational and mathematical models based on biological evidence that will help to understand and predict human systems.

Research projects at MaCSBio focus on multi-scale modeling within two complementary research lines tackling areas that are highly relevant for society:

  • Systems Medicine of Chronic Diseases
  • Computational Biology of Neural and Genetic Systems

Quick facts

  • merges biology with mathematical modeling
  • teaching staff are top researchers (Veni, Vidi, Vici and ERC scholars)
  • the academic community is in close contact with local industry
  • 2-year, full-time master’s, taught in English
  • starts in September
  • weekly: 20 hrs classes, 20 hrs individual study
  • you’ll get an MSc in Systems Biology

Why this programme?

Systems Biology is an exciting new, holistic approach that combines biology, computational modeling, and mathematics to create innovative models. The ultimate goal is the development of virtual versions of biological systems, which lead to new insights and eventually predictions concerning the behavior of such systems.

Our approach builds on integrating knowledge of biological systems at different scales: from molecules and cells to organisms and populations. Currently, huge amounts of so-called “big data” on biological systems are being generated at astonishing speed. In systems biology, this “big data” is integrated and used to make the models that form the foundation of the virtual biological systems.

Programme highlights

  • A wide spectrum of science courses and skills leading to a multi-disciplinary programme
  • A unique combination of biology, computational modeling and mathematics
  • An open curriculum that allows you to build your own curriculum
  • Innovative instructional format directed to problem-solving and student-centered learning (problem-based learning and research-based learning)
  • A large proportion of student research in the programme
  • An international academic community in close contact with local industry
  • An educational setting in small groups meaning high staff/student ratio
  • The staff consisting of top researchers (Veni, Vidi, Vici, and ERC award winners)
  • participation in ongoing, cross-border research, giving you hands-on experience

Systems Biology is quickly becoming mainstream in biological sciences, applicable for academic innovations, industrial applications, and societal progress. Examples are early detection of neurodegenerative diseases, a design of personally optimized foods and diets, and a reduction in the need for animal testing by replacing them with virtual, computational models. Are you interested? Then Systems Biology is the right programme for you!

Open curriculum

In order to solve the scientific challenges in biological systems, a new generation of multidisciplinary professionals is required that design creative solutions. In our programme, we offer you a vibrant academic community in which you collaborate closely with researchers to achieve the ambitious goals set for Systems Biology: a computer-based virtual version of cells, organs, animal models, patients, populations, and ecosystems. You can make your own unique combination of biology, computer science, and mathematics, giving you the unique opportunity to build your own curriculum that suits your interests and needs for a future career. An individually-assigned mentor will guide you in making these choices.


You can enter our programme from a range of bachelor programmes including Biomedical Sciences, Bioinformatics, Neuroscience, (Molecular) Biology, Mathematics, Biomedical Engineering, Data Science, Informatics or Computer Science, Physics and University Colleges. Only by combining different backgrounds and disciplines we can master the challenges in Systems Biology. The holistic and interdisciplinary approach of our programme suits students with a diverse background, who all have an important contribution to the programme.

Courses & curriculum

Systems Biology combines life sciences with mathematics. Because a life scientist may have a limited mathematical background and vice versa a mathematician little knowledge of the life sciences, you’ll focus on creating a common base during the first courses.

Common base

Life Sciences

  • gene systems
  • protein systems
  • metabolic systems
  • signaling systems
  • subcellular systems
  • cell systems
  • organ systems
  • organisms
  • population systems
  • ecosystems and intervention systems


  • complex dynamical systems
  • network theory
  • phylogenetic analysis
  • population models
  • systems and control theory
  • statistics
  • informatics data mining and machine learning

Download the full course catalog for a full overview of the courses and detailed course descriptions.



In the 4-week project period, you will get your their first practical experience of setting up and conducting scientific research in systems biology. It emphasizes the exploration of new and relevant research techniques and methodologies and data sets. You are introduced to and gain practical experience in several state-of-the-art techniques/methodologies, both from a biological point of view and a mathematical perspective.

The project will be carried out in small groups. Data and experimental approaches will be based on the skills training of the previous blocks, completed with data sets, available from research groups or the web.


The second year starts with a theoretical course aiming at familiarising you with setting up fundamental or applied research and writing an academic or translational research proposal. The central theme of the second year of the master’s programme is the practical application of the scientific process: hypothesis - problem definition - experiment - result - interpretation - conclusions.

The general point of departure is the setup of a follow-up study which relates to ongoing research at UM, or abroad, where you will work individually, supervised by a tutor or researcher. In this framework, you also participate in the regular meetings of the relevant research team.


The Systems Biology programme has a strong focus on research with two long internship periods (two 4-week project periods and 32-week senior internship).

You’ll have the opportunity to develop your own profile in the domain of Systems Biology by choosing an internship within Maastricht University. Or you may also opt to go abroad with the help of a travel grant or pursue your own research interests and intern at a laboratory of your choice.

The Maastricht Centre for Systems Biology (MaCSBio) offers a wide variety of internships and student research projects.

Ranking & recognition

UM is the 6th best young university in the world

Maastricht University is placed sixth place in the 2017 Times Higher Education (THE) '200 Under 50' ranking for best young universities in the world. UM is proud to have its continued efforts, for example toward internationalization affirmed in this THE ranking. UM also scores a top 10 position (with 7th place) in the 2016 QS ‘Top 50 under 50’; ranking highest of all European universities. These special rankings for young universities are published to give an indication as to which universities are expected in the future to become the top universities worldwide.

Your future

Systems Biology is a relatively new and rapidly developing field of science. This means there is a large demand for graduates that can combine biology and life sciences with computational modeling and mathematics.

Because the programme has a strong emphasis on professional research skills, you will have all the skills you need to pursue a career in:

  • academic research groups (as a Ph.D. candidate)
  • research institutes (like MaCSBio or Institute Data Sciences)
  • medical research at the hospital (MUMC+) or start-up companies
  • industrial R&D departments
  • start-ups & SMEs
  • governmental institutions
  • consultancy firms
  • NGOs

Admission requirements

Only by combining different backgrounds and disciplines we can master the challenges in Systems Biology. The holistic and interdisciplinary approach of our programme suits students with a diverse background, who all have an important contribution to the programme.
For this master's programme, selection takes place on the basis of your quality and suitability.

For this your motivation, prior qualifications, and your (professional) experience are important.

All candidates should meet the general requirements:

  1. submit your curriculum vitae
  2. write a letter of motivation,
  3. submit two letters of recommendation,
  4. demonstrate proficiency in English.

You are eligible for admission if you have:

1) a bachelor’s degree (composed of 180 ECTS) in one of the fields listed below or equivalent:

  • Biomedical Sciences or Life Sciences
  • Biology
  • Bioinformatics
  • Mathematics
  • Data Sciences
  • Informatics or Computer Sciences
  • University Colleges
  • or bachelor programmes related to or containing Systems Biology.

2) at least 15 ECTS (or equivalent) in mathematics and/or statistics at bachelor level. Topics should include: linear and/or geometric algebra, analysis & calculus, trigonometry, and/or basic statistics (data analysis and evaluation). This prerequisite can be waived dependent on individual backgrounds and programmes. Please contact us!

Tuition fees

  • The statutory fee for this programme is: €2,060
  • The institutional fee for this programme is: €17,500
  • The statutory part-time fee for this programme is: Not applicable
  • The institutional part-time fee for this programme is: Not applicable
This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated November 22, 2018
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Sept. 2019
2 years
Full time
2,060 EUR
Netherlands - Maastricht, Limburg
Start date : Sept. 2019
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Sept. 2019
Netherlands - Maastricht, Limburg
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info