Molecular biology is a rapidly developing discipline. It stands at the crossroads of chemical, biological, physical, and computational sciences and focuses on the understanding of cellular processes, biological molecules, and their interactions. Molecular Biology is a multidisciplinary area of study that deals with the structure and function of molecules as well as their interplay in creating the phenomenon of life. The Master of Science in Molecular Biology is a high-level scientific programme with strong multidisciplinary courses that combine a theoretical formation with research-oriented skills. Students can choose between the Profile Biotechnology for Global Health and the Profile Agro- and Plant Biotechnology.
Students as scientists
The programme content has been developed by several outstanding and multidisciplinary scientific teams. The advanced courses and electives are taught by leading researchers with a proven scientific track record, thus contributing to the research-oriented nature of the programme. The programme is jointly organised by Vrije Universiteit Brussel, KULeuven and Universiteit Antwerpen.
The two-year Master in Molecular Biology requires full-time attendance and active participation in lectures and discovery-based laboratory work to develop the mentality that drives the progress of science.
During practical training, problem-solving formats are used in which students work together to make observations and to analyze experimental results. Students who learn via problem-solving formats demonstrate better problem-solving ability, conceptual understanding, and success in subsequent courses than those who learn in traditional, passive ways.
The Vrije Universiteit Brussel has a sound reputation in training and in basic and applied research in molecular biology and biotechnology. Since the biotech revolution in the 1970s, interest in applied biotechnology has grown steadily. Some of our major discoveries at VUB include:
the first development of a genetically modified plant
identification of a unique class of camel antibodies with far-reaching implications in biotechnology and medicine
development of pioneering technology for analysis of protein structure
breakthroughs in the knowledge of the role of macrophages in cancer and parasitic infections
elucidation of the action mechanism of antihypertensive drugs
innovative techniques in the culture of microorganisms involved in fermented food products
Research Management Skills
Our students learn to perform and manage research in a multidisciplinary and international context. We train them in various aspects of research communication and research management. This part of the programme includes a full course on Research Communication Skills (3 ECTS) and a full course on Project Writing and Management (5 ECTS).
Dissertation or Master's Thesis
Under the direction and supervision of a promoter, students carry out an independent research project and prepare a dissertation: a written account of the research and its results. During the experimental part of the thesis, you learn to plan and perform experiments and critically interpret the results. You also learn to report both orally and in writing, prepare presentations and summarize literature data. You learn to present your work in public and answer questions from a jury and the audience. Any topic is potentially acceptable as long as it offers a real contribution to Molecular Biology.
Priority is given to topics closely related to the student’s future work. Given the variety of possible research topics, the student is free to choose any lab, which does not necessarily have to belong to one of the three partner universities.
According to the program-specific intended learning outcomes (ILOs) graduates should:
possess a broad and advanced knowledge of biological processes at the molecular level and of the functioning of living organisms;
have developed advanced knowledge on and insight into the applicability of molecular biology to improve human health or plant production;
be able to use ICT in data mining, data processing, and scientific communication;
master the practical skills to plan and perform research in molecular biology;
be able to operate as a member of a multidisciplinary team;
be able to contribute, through molecular biological research, to solving global problems or problems that either specifically developing or developed countries are facing;
have developed a critical mind allowing him/her to consider and reflect on known and new theories within the speciality;
be able to appraise scientific and social aspects of applied molecular biology;
be able to present personal research, thoughts, ideas, and opinions, both written and orally, to peers and to the general public;
have acquired the skills to write and manage research projects, including international collaborative projects;
be able to disseminate the acquired knowledge in his/her country and region through activities in education and research;
be aware of ethics in research and publication
The Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB) participates in several scholarship programmes which offer grants at different levels of study, from Bachelor to Academic staff, and this in various regions, for long and short stays
Holders of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree awarded by a Flemish university in one of the following disciplines are eligible for direct admission to the programme:
Biochemistry and biotechnology
For other Flemish diplomas in a related discipline (e.g. chemistry; veterinary medicine; pharmaceutical sciences; medicine), admission decisions are based upon an evaluation of a complete application file.
For holders of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree awarded by a non-Flemish university in one of the above disciplines, admission decisions are based upon an evaluation of a complete application file.
”The need to combat the prevailing diseases such as cholera, ebola, polio and African trypanosomosis was the key driving forces that compelled me to pursue further training. Through a VLIR-UOS scholarship, I set foot at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel where I was trained on a number of important molecular techniques and basic research concepts. I was granted a VUB scholarship to continue with a PhD programme. Looking back to where it all started, I can confidently say that the knowledge I gained is enormous. I have contributed to the supervision of students, co-authored a book and participated in a number of technology transfer seminars. Thus, with all this experience I’m in a better position to resume my teaching position in Makerere University (Uganda) and I look forward to starting a research group on the development of affordable immunodiagnostics tests for tropical parasitic diseases.”
Steven Odongo, PhD student