Major Systems Biology
Why should you want to study Systems Biology?
Systems Biology is all about trying to get the big picture instead of focusing on one specific gene, protein or process. Therefore you need quantitative data, which you subsequently try to model. Next step is to check it again with new experimental data and fine-tuning the model, after which you will have figured out the relationships and biological function.
In the Master you will combine both the experimental side and the modelling side. In the end you will be able to perform both kinds of science, even at the same time, although also several of our alumni focus on one of these types of research. However, because of your background, you know the right terminology and will be at home in both worlds.
You should be pretty fond of modelling, math and even programming, but at the same time be able to perform experiments in a laboratory to get the quantitative data you need to feed to the models.
Why should you want to study it in Heidelberg?
In Heidelberg there is a major emphasis on systems biology research. There is the BioQuant, a research center dedicated to the ‘Quantitative Analysis of Molecular and Cellular Biosystems’, the faculty of Biosciences and the Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing. Moreover, Heidelberg is an epi-center of life sciences research, with Heidelberg University, the German Cancer Research Center, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research all located here. This will give you ample opportunities to find exactly those topics that interest you. Moreover, it easily facilitates the next step in your scientific career, a potential PhD position. But also if you are not interested in a PhD, there are a lot of biotech companies looking for the skillset that you will acquire during your master’s degree. Especially the combination of laboratory experience, biological knowledge and modelling skills is sought after.
Heidelberg University is a large university with 30.000 students, 12 faculties and a lot of learning opportunities. However, there are only around 12 students in the systems biology program each year, which leaves a lot of room for individual tutoring and a personal approach.
Most of our graduates pursue a career in science and therefore continue with a PhD. However, there are also students who opt for a career in industry or in other professions. Especially the combination of biological knowledge, practical experience and programming and modelling skills is an interesting blend of skills.
In total the program takes two years to complete, four semesters in total. In the first semester there are some general courses covering the basics of molecular biosciences and more specifically those of systems biology. In the second semester there are two courses focusing much more in depth on systems biology and several other accompanying techniques. During both these semesters there are several optional courses you can take covering mathematics and programming for instance. In semester three you have to do two labrotations in two different research groups here in Heidelberg, however you can also opt to go abroad and do them there. There is some funding available to cover part of the travel expenses. Then in the fourth semester you will have to write your master’s thesis with one of the research groups associated to the program.
For more in depth information about the different courses, please consult the ‘Current students’ pages in the menu on the left.
Admission and Application
You should hold a BSc or equivalent degree in any field of biosciences incl. biophysics. Since systems biology thrives on the interplay between experimental and computational approaches, you should possess an interdisciplinary interest and should be able to underline this point by your past studies, e.g. by track record that includes mathematical, IT-related or similar training.