Life Sciences and Society profile
Profile start date: February 6, 2023 (start 3rd period)
The profile Life Sciences & Society allows students to broaden their horizons. Students will learn the history of life sciences and how the views and values of society have influenced life science research and continue to do so.
It is important that students understand that life sciences research occurs in a cultural and societal context which is marked by the diversity of our society. Students must not only learn the impact of science on society but also how life sciences research can benefit society and what the interaction between life sciences and society can bring us.
For more information, please contact the profile coordinator: Gisela van der Velden (e-mail to LSSprofile@umcutrecht.nl).
To learn more about the profile, listen to episode 10 of the Radio Life Sciences podcast in which coordinator Gisela van der Velden and student Elisa Ballan tell you more.
Are you curious about the differences between the profiles Life Sciences & Society and Translational Life Sciences? Download this PDF to compare the two profiles! It was designed by former students of the Translational Life Sciences profile and shows a comparison of both profiles and can help you with choosing one of them.
We will start the profile with an introduction, during which we will get to know each other and build our profile community. You will be offered workshops and training sessions to train skills which you will need throughout the profile. We will also introduce and assign the capstone projects and you will have your first meeting with our research project and writing coach.
The Life Sciences and Society profile aims to show students how life sciences and society are intertwined and how they continuously influence each other. One of the ways in which students will see this is during the Capstone Project. You will work on a contemporary research project provided by an external stakeholder such as the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) or the blood bank Sanquin. The project will be a contemporary societal challenge which allows you to get to know the perspective of the Life Sciences institute that provided the project and gives you the opportunity to have an impact on a contemporary societal problem.
You will have a supervisor for the project but will also have the support of a research project and writing coach, dr. Christine Fox. She is highly experienced with both quantitative and qualitative research methods and will be available to help guide you through your capstone research projects. She can help you formulate your research topic and question/s, create a research outline, provide advice on research design and methodology, advise on how best to communicate your data/results, along with providing feedback on your writing.
Alongside the project, you will follow different modules to gain knowledge on specific areas. You will integrate everything you learn in the modules into your project during weekly meetings with your project team and your supervisor. In this way you can make steady progress on your project. At the end of the profile, you will have three weeks to complete the project and to prepare a presentation for the symposium. At the symposium all groups will present their projects to each other and to the external stakeholders involved in the profile. This will also be an opportunity for you to network with potential future employers!
During the profile you will follow six modules alongside the capstone project. During each of these modules you will gain knowledge on a societal topic which you can then integrate into your capstone project. The following modules are a part of the profile:
At the end of this module, students:
- Are aware of the contrasts between holistic and reductionistic approaches in (bio)medicine
- Understand how contingent framing assumptions of the life sciences influence their approach to cases of societal concern such as epidemics and disputes over mental health classifications
- Are capable of critically reflecting the practical implications of assumptions that frame different ways in which the life sciences approach societal problems
- Are aware of the importance of individual motivation and social legitimacy for the success of life science solutions to societal problems
- Are capable of situating their own (biomedical) perspective in relation to other perspectives, inside and outside the biomedical sciences
- Can articulate and critically reflect on their starting assumptions and how they were affected by the module
In this module we familiarize students with what it is to be a scientist in real life. What does it take to have a career in science in the current academic system, what does it mean on a personal level, and how does the academic culture affect the general workings of science? Are the ‘truths’ about science that we are taught during our Bachelor’s degrees actual academic practice? And how do we handle the challenges in science?
In this course, students are shown how an Open Science approach provides answers to current issues in academia and how it might advance science and society. Lively discussions, debates and written rebuttals will be used as methods to ascertain what incentives and rewards are at the core of current (suboptimal) research practices.
Additionally, students will be offered workshops on one or more of the tools in the Open Science Toolkit to give them some handles for grappling challenges after their Master’s programme.
All people have unconscious associations or biases in their mind, which affect the way they behave or work. If we take a critical look at science, many biases are present in research settings. Consequently, we have less knowledge about disease progression in women and pharmacokinetics in different ethnical populations or age groups. Also, biomedical researchers might not be aware of the biomedical mechanisms underlying unconscious biases that influence their (research) choices. Being aware of implicit biases in science is therefore important as biomedical innovations affect healthcare choices.
During this module we will focus on biomedical knowledge linked to bias. Students will learn which neurobiological mechanisms are behind implicit bias and what effect these biases have on research choices. The difference between the terms sex and gender will be discussed and students will be taught about sex-differences in different diseases such as cardiovascular disease as well as sex- and ethnicity-differences in pharmacology. The consequences of biases which have prevailed in the past will also be discussed. We will discuss the importance of considering sex- and ethnicity-differences in research and practice this when designing our own research.
Suppose that your supervisor in the organization you work for asks you a favour, namely, not to be too harsh in your conclusions. “It makes the organization look bad”, he says. This seems like what could be a potential conflict of interests. Or imagine that your capstone project organization shares a data analysis with you on which current policy is built. When checking the dataset, you see that some relevant data has been left out. What do you do? These are two examples of what is known as an integrity issue.
In this course, we focus on such issues that are both parts of the domain of research integrity and research ethics. We offer you some in-depth cases and literature, which we will discuss collectively. Yet, the main assignment is to reflect on those issues that could be or are already relevant in your Capstone Project. The course is meant to help you become a more responsible and reflective professional, who is able to account for your own decisions and actions and to teach you whom to turn to when in need of support when confronted with dilemmas.
The environment we live in is inextricably part of our day-to-day existence and perturbations in that environment can have disastrous consequences on our livelihoods and health. Ongoing environmental crises including climate change and air pollution have inequitable impacts globally – disproportionately affecting low- and middle-income communities. Therefore, to understand health and lifestyle impacts globally and specifically of these populations an appreciation of both planetary and global health is required.
Global and Planetary Health in the Life Sciences aims to introduce the principles of global health and their relationship to planetary health. Participants will learn key concepts in both disciplines which will be underscored by real-world case studies and practical exercises. The key objective of the course is to provide an introduction to fundamental concepts of global and planetary health and to facilitate engagement and reflection on current global and planetary health developments.
How do you bridge the gap between your scientific education and your future employment? How do you enter the labour market as a starter? How do you make the impact that you find important and how do you add value to the organisation where you work? This 10 day-module offers you the unique opportunity to discover this.
Where the focus in your studies was largely on gaining knowledge and research skills, more is required of you in working life. For instance, taking on a project from A-Z, profiling yourself, and dealing well with expectations and networks. In the module, you actively work on building up these professional skills. You will work with concrete cases from companies to learn how companies deal with societal issues. While you are doing this, we will offer you the training, the methods, and the challenges to develop yourself as a professional. This way you learn more essential professional skills that prepare you for your future career. You will work together with various (scientific) experts and trainers from Utrecht University, companies, and organisations.
What do you gain with this module?
- Strengthen the bridge between your graduation and a successful career
- Translating your talents and skills into the work context
- Better view of the reality of working life
- The feeling of being ready for your first real job as a graduate academic, either in business, public domain, or academia
- Professional tools to make a social impact
Self-knowledge – who are you as a professional?; Project skills; Effective communication; Organizational dynamics & networks; Personal leadership & resilience; Innovation & creativity.
Application deadline for start of the profile in February 2023: December 1, 2022.
Application takes place via OSIRIS Case. You can access OSIRIS Case via OSIRIS Student. More information about the new procedure OSIRIS Case can be found in the manual for students.
The profile coordinator will let you know within two weeks after the registration deadline if you are admitted to the profile.
Please confirm your participation within one week by sending a confirmation email to the profile coordinator.
In the following short video former Life Sciences and Society student Joanne van Keulen tells you about her experiences during the profile. Furthermore, three written testimonials of former students Rea Tatem-Dokter, Stamatina Violaki, and Denise Peeters can be found below the video.
"This profile really broadened my horizon."
~ Joanne van Keulen
"Not only have I learned a lot about my own skills and working habits, I have also developed a lot more confidence in my academic skills. Especially with regards to my writing."
~ Rea Tatem-Dokter
"I am usually really bad at putting into words and pointing out the positive aspects of an experience. Therefore, I would like to mention what I have been telling myself throughout the profile, which is that I should have done this profile before my major research project. I would have done a lot of things differently with the knowledge I gained throughout the profile. On top of that, the profile gave me the opportunity to learn about qualitative research and deepen my knowledge of scientific matters like academic writing."
~ Stamatina Violaki
"[This profile] has made me enthusiastic to include all new perspectives and lessons learned in a possible PhD and further career. My personal and scientific perspective has been widened (...). Understanding both perspectives, from society and life sciences, and communicating it in a clear manner is needed in order to solve future and current societal challenges."
~ Denise Peeters
Upon completion of the LS&S profile, the student is able to:
- Understand that Life Sciences research occurs in a societal context and has gained knowledge about specific mechanisms through which Life Sciences research and society are interconnected and mutually influenced by each other.
- Understand to which extent the core values of society at any given moment influence the interpretation and outcome of scientific research.
- Understand the effect of Life Sciences research on society and how scientific research helps to present, communicate, and integrate new knowledge within society.
- Translate Life Sciences research data and outcomes to the societal context and understand the translation of these data into policy.
- Implement adequate approaches, methodologies, and theories for integrating the societal context into Life Sciences research.