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Molecular Design: Biotechnology-oriented Engineering of Life


Admission requirements

The course is open for all students that are enrolled in the minor Molecular Biotechnology and who have followed the previous three courses that are part of this minor.

Contact information

Coordinator: Dr. D. Claessen


Many societal and environmental problems can be solved by modern biotechnology approaches. In this course, students work in teams on a research topic of their own choice, with options from the green, red, and white biotechnology fields. After a series of brainstorming sessions and creative thinking, teams write a grant proposal for an innovative (and tractable) idea. In the subsequent part of the course, teams have the unique opportunity to learn how to design, plan, and possibly even execute part of their own proposed research project in the lab. Teams use their combined and complementary knowledge, skills and creativity to design and build biological systems of their choice. Such biological systems can be used, for instance, to reduce environmental pollution, to provide an easy detection for diseases, to make environmental-friendly coatings, to discover new natural products, or to make (new) biofuels. Apart from the feasibility of executing the project, ideas are only limited by the creativity of the teams. By the end of the course, the teams will present their ideas and results in a mini-symposium and a written report. Please note that some, but not all projects may include lab work.

Learning goals

Course objectives:
Students will be able to translate scientific literature into a written research proposal and to plan and design experiments. Depending on the feasibility of the project, the students may then execute part of their proposed research in the lab. Because students work during this course in small groups, they will also learn how to plan, divide and manage the different tasks of the group.

Final qualifications:

  • Grant writing skills

  • Creative thinking (problem-based learning)

  • Planning, and executing scientific research (experimental design)

  • Project management

  • Experience in working in teams (project planning and management)

  • Experience in conducting scientific research


From 23 November 2020 to 29 January 2021. Week 1: lectures (reading and finding scientific literature) Week 1-3: writing a research proposal Week 3: lectures (instructions for designing experimental setup) Week 3/4: research design (experimental outline of proposal) Week 4: project presentations Week 5-8: practical part (execution of planned research) Week 8: final presentation and writing of research report (individual) A detailed schedule will be provided on Brightspace before the start of the course.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, written reports, presentations

Assessment method

Evaluation of reports, presentations, and performance during practical part. Please note that students will work in small groups, and that consequently marks will be given based on the performance of the entire group. A personal mark will be given to the individual reports written in week 8 of this course.

The final grade consists of the following partial grades:

  • Proposal: percentage of final grade 25%, minimum grade: 6,0

  • Talk 1: percentage of final grade 12,5%, minimum grade: 6,0

  • Practicals: percentage of final grade 25%, minimum grade: 6,0

  • Report: percentage of final grade 25%, minimum grade: 6,0

  • Talk 2: percentage of final grade 12,5%, minimum grade: 6,0


Brightspace will be used for communication and exchange of documents

Reading list

Available course material will be provided by the teachers, at least in part, via Blackboard


Register for this course via Usis

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.