Advanced Molecular Cell Biology

This course aims to provide an authentic learning environment, where you will be working in a group of 9-14 students like scientists to design three experimental projects that together form the basis for a formal grant in the field of molecular cell biology.

The general topic is assigned by the instructor, but within those constraints there is freedom to choose your own direction based on shared interest in the group. You will be analysing and working with the latest insights from the field, reaching an incredible level of depth in a particular field that goes way beyond the required bachelor level. And within a few weeks you will know more than the course instructor, so will have consult with real experts in order to get things right. 

Students will organise themselves in smaller working groups and choose from within their midst a programme leader and project groups leaders, and everyone will have to adopt necessary roles and learn to work in a team of larger size than most UCU courses. There is a lot of autonomy for students as class sessions will be led by the students themselves, with the teacher being present as a co-learner.

All of this will result in the co-creation of a grant proposal that adheres to standards of a real grant proposal worth approximately €800,000 to pay for 3 employees for 3-4 years each, and will be presented and defended before a jury of experts.

This course is quite a challenge and requires great commitment from everyone, but you will be rewarded with immense academic and personal growth (see student testimonials below).

Who is it for?

There is no selection for the UCSCIBIO31 course; everyone who passed the UCSCIBIO21 course with a C- or higher can enter the UCSCIBIO31 using the standard course registration procedures. Although the majority of students taking this course are considering a career in biology or medicine, the transferable skills taught in this course make this an invaluable course for anyone aspiring academic research in related fields as well. The collaborative setup requires full commitment from all participants, so don’t take this course lightly.

What is its place in the curriculum? Why choose this option?

UCSCIBIO31 is a level 3 course that is taught only in the Fall semester. The course is a BIO track finisher and serves as great preparation for a thesis in BIO or other natural sciences. Due to the nature of the course, UCSCIBIO31 can count as Curriculum Enrichment towards the Honours certificate.

Overview of previous topics

  • 2021(1) The Emerging Role of RNA Modifications in DNA Double-Strand Break Repair
  • 2021(2) The role of retrotransposable elements in ageing and age-associated diseases.
  • 2020(1) Controlling loci-specific gene regulation by metabolic enzymes
  • 2020(2) Maintenance cellular identity through gene ‘bookmarking’ throughout mitosis.
  • 2018: Regulation of protein translation through upstream open reading frames.
  • 2017: Cell polarity and the response of plants to salt-stress conditions.

Testimonials from previous students

UCSCIBIO31 is one of the most valuable courses I have taken at UCU. Next to all the knowledge that I learned during the course, it taught me some invaluable transferable skills. Most importantly, during the course I learned how to effectively work in a team, and that contributing equally to a project doesn't always mean contributing in the same way or to all parts of the project. (Barend Spanninga, 2020)

I would describe the UCSCIBIO31 course as the most important course I have taken for my scientific training during my undergraduate degree. The skills I acquired in this course enabled me to engage with my thesis supervisors at the experimental design stage, permitting me to discuss the application of techniques with greater scientific maturity and appreciation for their limitations. This knowledge created a much tighter bond between myself and my supervisor, where I was taken more seriously, was given greater responsibility and believe built a much more valuable connection as I was able to hold conversation about and contribute at all stages of the experimental process. (Yasmin Barenco Abbas, 2021)

It was unlike any other course I had done. I was challenged right from day one, and we were mostly left to our own devices. This experience trained me to think past the basic biology I had encountered in the other courses and forced me to grapple with how research is actually conducted. (Ishar Abraham Mayor, 2020)

More info:

Please check out the UCSCIBIO31 course under the curriculum planner: