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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.

After each Top Leture there is a Masterclass during which the students pose questions to the speaker about their research. The students have to thoroughly prepare for each lecture, by reading the review article and two research papers provided, and by thinking of two questions to put to the speaker during their Masterclass. Students are expected to actively engage in a scientific discussion with the speaker during this Masterclass. 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 Top Lectures they attended.

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

  • give a critical presentation about a scientific paper


You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, tutorials, symposia and student presentations.

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).

Assessment method

To complete the course, the student must have attended 6 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: after the end symposia.

Minimum grade:
Courses require a minimum, unrounded 5.5 grade to complete.

If a course has 2 or more written partial exams, the minimum grade only applies to the weighted average of the exams.
For partial grades from components other than exams (e.g. practicals, seminars, writing assignments), the bottom grade does apply to the individual components.

Please refer to the Student Charter for an overview of regulations.

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).


All students have to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.

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


Administrative issues (Brightspace, timetables etc.): Contact: IBL Student Affairs Email:

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


Maximum capacity: 50 students.
Your registration is not complete if you have not registered for all course components available in MyStudymap (exam, lecture, etc.).