Bioinformatics and Systems Biology

Bioinformatics and Systems Biology is a 2-year (120 ECTS) master’s program which provides student with an opportunity to deepen his or her knowledge of the various aspects of Bioinformatics, while the student has ample possibility to specialize in one or a few areas of choice.  It is expected that the breadth and flexibility of the master’s program resulting from the multi-disciplinary setup of the Integrative Bioinformatics Institute as well as the emphasis on creating bioinformatics tools from the strong embedding in the Informatics department (e.g. AI, Computer Systems) will be attractive for students.

Research in Bioinformatics in its broadest definition concerns the analysis of informational processes within living systems with the help of computers. To do this successfully, Bioinformatics actively uses and integrates contributions from areas such as Mathematics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Medicine and Biology. Bioinformatics has recently become one of the keywords in the life sciences as well as in Biotechnological and Pharmaceutical industries. Although in essence the field exists for over two decades and bioinformatics techniques developed over the years have come of age, the field has gained major prominence relatively recently.

Currently, many new small/medium enterprises (SMEs) and large international biotechnological and pharmaceutical companies are actively recruiting bioinformaticians, but experience hardship in doing so due to the lack of individuals with proper training. Similar problems are encountered at national academic centers in The Netherlands, particularly in microarray centers. As the interpretation of the data coming from all the above large-scale projects is crucially depending on the application and creation of new bioinformatics techniques, it is clear that a broad based and integrative master’s curriculum in bioinformatics at the Vrije Universiteit is timely.


You can choose to complete your program either with a more theoretical focus on the computational aspects of systems biology and on bioinformatics, or with a more experimental training relevant to systems biology. However, all students will be provided with a program that guarantees cross-over to such an extent that the successful student can communicate with his colleagues irrespective of his focus on experimental or computational disciplines.

All students will get a basic introduction to biomathematics, biostatistics and programming. Aside from this, there are two tracks to choose from:

  • Bioinformatics
    This track has a theoretical focus on the computational aspects. Some of the topics that are covered by this track are: Algorithms in sequence analysis, Protein structure prediction and simulation, Next Generation Sequencing, Medical applications of Bioinformatics.
  • Systems Biology
    This track has a strong experimental focus. Some of the topics that are covered by this track are: Modeling techniques, Experimental verification of models, Relevance of Systems Biology to cancer research, Synthetic biology (possibility to join the iGEM competition).

Study components

The program is shared between VU University Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam (UvA), combining the resources of two excellent universities.

Depending on the individual furnishing of his/her Master program, the student can attend lectures in other faculties and centres, for example Biology or the Centre for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR). Graduation projects (60 ECTS total) can vary from practical to rather fundamental, depending on the preferences and capacities of the students. Students can also go to companies, research institutes or universities either in The Netherlands or abroad.

For more information on the courses see the study guide page on the VU website and for a more detailed overview of the courses see the yearly schedule on the IBIVU website.


Since bioinformatics is an inherently multi-disciplinary field, prospective students may come from many walks of life. Typically, students with a Bachelor’s (or equivalent) in Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Medical Natural Sciences or Pharmaceutical Sciences are particularly suited for this program.

The program is open to you if you have a Bachelor, Drs or Master’s degree obtained at a Dutch institute or foreign university recognized by VU University Amsterdam. You should have a thorough interest and experience in biomolecular and computational sciences. Some experience in programming is required. Depending upon your specific background, it may be necessary for you to take a number of supplementary courses in biology or computer science in order to bring your knowledge in these areas up to standard.

The program is also open to students with other diplomas from universities or other research/teaching institutions they deem equivalent. They should contact the PR officer (contact details are in the notes) if they are interested in following the international Master’s program in Bioinformatics at the Center for Integrative Bioinformatics VU.

If you hold a first degree from an institute of higher vocational education (Dutch HBO or equivalent), the followed subjects during the higher vocation education will determine your admission procedure. If your studies focused on bioinformatics and molecular biology subjects, you can generally join the Master’s program without difficulty.

Please note the following:

  • VU University Amsterdam requires all international applicants to pass an English language proficiency test.
  • In order to contact this master’s PR officer please email to Erik van Zwol, MSc at . For more information see the contacts page of this master.
  • The deadlines for application are 1st of June for all students with a Dutch degree, 1st of April non-Dutch students with an international degree and 1st of March for non-EU/EAA and EU/EEA students who wish to apply for a VUFP grant. More information and how to apply can be found on the admission and application page on the VU website.

Further information

  • For more information check out the masters departmental website (IBIVU).
  • Further information about the MSc Bioinformatics and Systems Biology can be found at the master’s page on the VU website.
  • A complete program description can be found in the VU study guide.

Disclaimer: This page contains a consolidation of information found on the VU, FALW, VUmc and master specific websites; hence no rights can be derived from the information on this page, for more up to date, detailed and accurate information please refer to aforementioned websites!