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Top Lectures in Biology


Admission requirements

The course is open to Biology master students.


The Top Lectures in Biology course consists of 6 lectures, selected by each MSc student from a preset program of 16 lectures (over two years) by invited experts from different fields of biology. Each lecture is organised by one of the research groups in the IBL that participate in the Masters (Biology) teaching, by NCB Naturalis or by CML. The level of each lecture is aimed at both MSc students and IBL staff. An important aspect of the course is to learn to critically evaluate scientific data, and the hypotheses and models derived from these data. The speakers actively participate in the teaching part.
The students on this course have to thoroughly prepare for each lecture, by reading the review and the two research papers provided, and by thinking of two questions for the speaker, as they are expected to actively engage in a scientific discussion with the speaker. The course also includes a final symposium, during which each participant gives a presentation in which they discuss a research paper of choice related to one of the attended Top Lectures.

Course objectives

After completion of this course students are able to:

  • analyse biological research papers scientifically and critically

  • understand the scientific thinking and methodological issues that underlie biological research papers

  • critically assess the research presented

  • critically evaluate scientific data


29 January 2024 – 28 June 2024
There are one or two Top Lectures per month, starting in February of each year, at times to be announced on Brightspace and on websites (e.g. IBL, Sciences). You may complete the 6 lectures and presentation in one year or over two years (with the end presentation in the second year).

Mode of instruction

Lectures, tutorials, symposia and student presentations.

Assessment method

To complete the course, the student must have attended six top lectures and their associated masterclasses. Having met this requirement, a grade is then assigned according to an end-presentation of 15 minutes duration given by the student. This grade is 100% of the final grade. The grade may be influenced +/- 1 point by the student’s active participation in discussion during the masterclass sessions and the end-presentation session.

Inspection and feedback on the examination:
Date: N.A

Reading list

The students are informed in advance via Brightspace of one review article and two primary research articles that they must find and download as pdfs (e.g. using the Leiden University online catalog).


Via Usis before December 31, 2023
The maximum number of participants is 50 students.

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


Administrative issues (Brightspace, timetables etc.): Contact: N. Veld Email:

Academic issues: Coordinator: Prof.dr.M.K. Richardson Email:


Your registration is not complete if you have not registered for all course components available in my study map (exam, lecture, etc.).