The training in biochemistry and biotechnology has the aim of forming scientists who not only have a thorough knowledge of biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, and physiology but who can also use the biochemical and biotechnological techniques in a creative and inventive manner on plants, animals or humans. The students are also initiated in the interesting world of bioinformatics.
The program also has a social aim: to apply research and knowledge in favor of humanity and society. The focus within the training reflects this social involvement in research on the origin and treatment of all kinds of illnesses (such as cancer, chronic inflammation and metabolic diseases), on the improvement of plants (sustainable food production, production of food with improved nutritional quality, production of biofuels) and on the use of micro-organisms in certain chemical processes (detoxification of contaminants).
Knowledge and research results are continuously implemented in the program courses. This close interaction between education and research in the biochemistry and biotechnology program is based on a strong and world-famous research tradition in biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics of the 3 departments involved in the education program: Plant Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Biochemistry and Microbiology, and Biomedical Molecular Biology. This ultimately leads to an interesting master dissertation and creates ample possibilities for doctoral research in an international research environment under the guidance of excellent researchers.
The two-year master’s program (120 credits) consists of four modules of 30 credits each:
- Common general courses (general, broadening).
- Major course package (specializing).
- Minor course package (broadening).
- Master dissertation (practical training).
The master’s program offers five specializing majors:
- The major Bio-informatics and System Biology is based on the recent need for bio-computing and computational biology for the processing of the vast amount of data generated from the biological information flow on different levels (genome, transcriptome, proteome, interactome, signalosome).
- The major Biochemistry and Structural Biology focuses on the determination of protein structures and the study of the functioning of molecular ‘machines’.
- The major Biomedical Biotechnology studies the relation between basic cell biological processes and pathological processes (inflammation, cancer, metabolic illnesses) and pays also attention to biomedical applications such as the development of new vaccines and new therapies.
- The major Microbial Biotechnology studies microbial diversity and functionality and applies the fundamental knowledge of the molecular genetics of micro-organisms such as bacteria, yeast, molds, and viruses in a broad variety of biotechnological applications.
- The major Plant Biotechnology aims at the development of biotechnological applications of plants in agriculture (e.g. disease resistance or drought tolerance), production of biofuels and the biosynthesis of products with medical applications.
The major is supported by a training period (6 credits) in the first master and a master dissertation (30 credits) in the second master. The master's program offers three broadening minors:
- The minor Research offers the students an extra specialty, chosen from the remaining majors and offers an extra training period (this minor is particularly interesting for English speaking students).
- The minor Economics and Business Administration offers an introduction to different aspects of business life.
- The minor Interdisciplinary Combination permits to combine a major with a coherent package of courses from a different field (informatics, chemistry, engineering sciences, etc.).
In the second year, a research project (master's dissertation) of 30 credits is scheduled. The master's dissertation is a requirement for every student to obtain a master’s degree. The master's dissertation is an original piece of research work. It aims to develop and strengthen the research capacity skills of the students. The student selects a topic and is given guidance by a supervisor. The master's dissertation consists of a literature review part, practical research and an original analysis of the topic.
A very large number of the current graduates in biochemistry and biotechnology (between 40-60 % in the past 5 years), start doctoral studies and mostly graduate successfully. Ghent University has a very strong research tradition in the domain of biochemistry and biotechnology, which leads to highly qualified PhDs in an internationally competitive research environment. Later, these doctors find their way to national and international universities, research institutions and a growing number of young biotechnological companies.
The use of biochemical and biotechnological methods and production strategies increases in health care, the environmental sector, food industry, the agricultural industry, the chemical industry. This implies that there is and will be a demand for academically educated, but also practically trained biochemists and biotechnologists. Given the broad scientific basic education, the combination of chemistry and biology, the practical and research-oriented aspects of the study program, the biochemist and the biotechnologist are well trained for the jobmarket.
The employment sectors are scientific research at universities, research centers, R&D in companies, the pharmaceutical industry, cosmetics companies, laboratories for medical analysis, the food industry, fermentation industry, agricultural industry, chemical industry, biotechnological companies, companies in environmental technology, the environmental sector.