Master of Science in Molecular Biology

In 2018-2019 two scientific programmes will join forces: The Master in Molecular Biology and The Master in Biomolecular Sciences will merge to 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.


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. 

Research in molecular biology not only generates knowledge but also offers new opportunities for the development of diagnostic tools and new strategies for improving agricultural production, animal health, and human health.

The programme, commonly referred to as the Interuniversity Programme in Molecular Biology (IPMB), is jointly organised by KULeuven (,  Vrije Universiteit Brussel ( and Universiteit Antwerpen (

Exchange students studying at one of the organising universities for one or two semesters are also most welcome to attend classes and acquire laboratory skills.


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 two-year Interuniversity 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.


VUB professors received Certificates of Recognition from the Can Tho University (Vietnam) after 20 years of collaboration and attended an alumni meeting of the Molecular Biology programme.

The Interuniversity Programme in Molecular Biology is structured over two academic years.

In view of the diverse background of its students, a pre-test in week 1 of the 1st year is organised to test the student’s previous knowledge in mathematics, statistics, biochemistry, molecular biology and experimental research skills. Any deficiencies will result in a compulsory orientation towards certain electives.

By the end of the first year, students will have obtained the level of knowledge required to successfully take part in the advanced common core and specialised courses of the second year. Intensive training in the first year provides students with the laboratory skills to prepare a thesis in the second year.

Structure 2018-2019

  • First year: Total of 60 ECTS

Common core  (35 ECTS)
Profile-specific courses (9 ECTS)
Electives (16 ECTS)

  • Second year: Total of 60 ECTS

Common core (13 ECTS)
Electives (17 ECTS)
Master thesis (30 ECTS)

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 (30 ECTS)

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 written, 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.

For an overview of all Master courses, click here.

“Thanks to a scholarship, I had a great opportunity to pursue my dream to obtain a Master’s degree in Molecular Biology. Diversified subjects gave me a broad and deep knowledge in the field of molecular biology, especially on plant production, an important area for the agricultural development of Vietnam. That is also the reason why I decided to perform research on plant genetics and molecular biology in my master dissertation. My dissertation gave me an insight in the role of plant dehydrins, a group of plant proteins responding to the abiotic stresses, as well as in the possibility to use these proteins for plant improvement, especially for economically important crops such as rice, maize and wheat. That tough time not only improved my research skills and, but also made me more confident. Now I have four more years to work on my PhD and continue investigating dehydrins. They are great candidates to be transferred to maize with the purpose to increase the stress tolerance and nutritional quality of this important crop.”
Nguyen Nhu Phuong, PhD student

”I’m from Canada, and having completed my bachelor degree there, I sought international opportunities to broaden both my scientific and cultural views. Combining people of several different cultures to explore several different facets of science not only aroused my curiosity but allowed me to develop valuable skills such as perseverance and new techniques, and to refine my interests. Armed with these assets, on completion of the program I immediately transitioned into life as a PhD candidate. I’ve spent the last several years investigating various inflammation-associated pathologies in an attempt to develop more effective diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. This is just the beginning of a world of possibilities!”
Amanda Sparkes, PhD student


”The need to combat the prevailing diseases such as cholera, ebola, polio and African trypanosomosis were the key driving forces that compelled me to pursue further training. Through a VLIR-UOS scholarship, I arrived 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 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 development of affordable immunodiagnostics tests for tropical parasitic diseases.”

Steven Odongo, PhD student


“During the practical training I discovered a very attractive specificity: the field of cancer immunology. I did my master dissertation on this research topic. It was a difficult year. However, carrying out research gave me so much knowledge and experience that I just kept trying until I had interesting results. After finishing the programme, my only wish was to become a PhD student on the topic of macrophages, the top regulators of immune responses that induce cancer growth and metastasis. The depletion of these protumoral macrophages could be a novel cancer therapy. What I learned is that if you really want something, you should work for it. Nothing is impossible; all you need is perseverance and a bit of luck.”
Evangelia Bolli, PhD student