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MSc Bioinformatics

Course Description

MSc Bioinformatics

The two-year MSc Bioinformatics concerns a new scientific discipline with roots in computer science, statistics and molecular biology. Bioinformaticians apply information technology to store, retrieve and manipulate these data and employ statistical methods capable of analysing large amounts of biological data to predict gene functions and to demonstrate relationships between genes and proteins.

Programme summary

DNA contains information about life, but how is this information used? Biological data, such as DNA and RNA sequence information produced by next-generation sequencing techniques, is accumulating at an unprecedented rate. Life scientists increasingly use bioinformatics resources to address their specific research questions. Bioinformaticians bridge the gap between complex biological research questions and this complex data. Bioinformaticians use and develop computational tools to predict gene function(s) and to demonstrate and model relationships between genes, proteins and metabolites in biological systems. Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field that applies computational and statistical techniques to the classification, interpretation and integration of large-scale biological data sets. If different data types are joined then complex interactions in biological systems can be studied. The use of systems biology methods to study complex biological interactions offers a wealth of possibilities to understand various levels of aggregation and enables control of biological systems on different scales. Systems biology approaches are therefore quickly gaining importance in many disciplines of life sciences, such as in applied biotechnology where these methods are now used to develop strategies for improving production in fermentation. Other examples include bioconversion and enzymatic synthesis, and in the study of human metabolism and its alterations where systems biology methods are applied to understand a variety of complex human diseases, including metabolic syndromes and cancer. The Wageningen Master programme focuses on the practical application of bioinformatics and systems biology approaches in many areas of the Life Sciences. To ensure that students acquire a high level of understanding of modelling and computing principles, the students are trained in the fundamentals of database management, computer programming, structural and functional genomics, proteomics and systems biology methods. This training includes advanced elective courses in molecular biology and biostatistics.

Thesis tracks

The bioinformatics track focuses on the practical application of bioinformatics knowledge and skills in molecular life sciences. It aims at creating and using bioinformatics resources to address specific research questions. The knowledge and skills gained can be applied in many life science disciplines such as molecular & cell biology, biotechnology, (human) genetics, health & medicine and environmental & biobased technology.

Systems Biology
The systems biology track focuses on the study of the complex interactions in biological systems and on the emerging properties derived from these. Systems biology approaches to complex biological problems offer a wealth of possibilities to understand various levels of aggregation. It enables control of biological systems on completely different scales, ranging from the molecular cellular level to marine, plant, or animal ecosystems to a desired state. The knowledge and skills gained can be applied in many life science disciplines including molecular & cell biology, applied biotechnology, genetics, medicine and vaccine development, environmental and biobased technology.

Your future career

Bioinformatics and Systems Biology are new fast growing biology based interdisciplinary fields of research poorly served by the traditional curricula of Life Sciences. As demand has outpaced the supply of bioinformaticians, the first job after graduation is often a PhD project at a research institute or university. It is expected that five years after graduation, about one third will stay employed as a scientist at a university or research centre, while the others choose for careers at research-oriented pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies.

Alumnus Tom van den Bergh.
"It is sometimes difficult for doctors to diagnose genetic diseases caused by missense mutations. A missense mutation does not necessarily mean that you have the gene-associated disease and will become ill since not all missense mutations lead to appreciable protein changes." Tom created a database for Fabry’s disease for his final thesis. He wrote a computer programme that reads publications and stores all information about Fabry mutations in its database. Genetic researchers can, in turn, quickly access this database to determine if the mutation they found in a patient has already been addressed in literature and what the effects were.

Related programmes:
MSc Biotechnology
MSc Molecular Life Sciences
MSc Plant Biotechnology

Visit the MSc Bioinformatics page on the Wageningen University website for more details!

Entry Requirements

Enrolment in a MSc Programme at Wageningen University requires: A BSc degree (or equivalent) bioinformatics, molecular biology, biotechnology, biochemistry, or a related field in life sciences +A Grade Point Average (GPA) for this BSc of at least 70% of the maximum grade +Fluency in English, both written and spoken +Good skills in mathematics and/or statistics + Basic computer skills (Microsoft Office: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook; use and structure of the Internet; RSI-prevention)

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