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PHD Orientation Course

Vak 2013-2014

Admission requirements

A BSc in Biology or related subject (University or HLO), with a solid theoretical and practical training and sufficient knowledge of Mathematics and Statistics. The student should be in the final stage of his/her (last) MSc research project.


Coordinator: Dr. H.W. Slabbekoorn


This course concerns a four-weeks MSc-training in all skills that are required for prospective PhD-students, but that will also come in handy in almost any academic-level job. We aim at the development of conceptual understanding and associative and interdisciplinary thinking. We also intend to provide a better perspective on the nature and speed of scientific developments within a discipline. The course spans four weeks, starting from the 2nd of June until the 27th of June. Students will be educated at an advanced level in various scientific skills, such as writing scientific texts, presenting scientific papers, communicating facts and opinions, reviewing and criticizing work by peers, and writing novel research proposals. The course is open for students of all four IBL-MSc-specialisations and welcomes top-quality MSc-students from anywhere. Students are allowed to further develop their own individual expertise in the direction of their choice by selecting primary literature for the various assignments and by scientific sparring with: the course coordinator, MSc-specialisation specific supervisors and fellow students with similar and different interests.

Learning goals

Course objectives:
Students should develop into independent researchers that are ready to start a PhD-project.

Final qualifications:
Students should be able to think about, make conceptual associations and integrate across different scientific disciplines at an advanced MSc-level. They should also be able to communicate scientific insights and formulate personal opinions during oral presentations and in written accounts. They will also obtain experience in preparing for, planning and writing a PhD research proposal.


From 2 June to 27 June 2014, during which students are required to work for the equivalent of four full work-weeks. Although there will be fixed contact hours typically in the morning throughout the course, and in the afternoons for the second week, there is reasonable flexibility and independence in how and when students allocate their effort and time.

Total number of contact hours

Every week there will be about 8 contact hours with one or more of the teachers. Several hours per week will also be spend on interactions with fellow students and, in the second two weeks, with MSc-track specific supervisors.

Mode of instruction

This course is based on lectures, discussions, student presentations, essay assignments, and self study, using primary literature. There will be special attention for so-called break-through papers and how they change a particular field of research. The time schedule involves a limited number of fixed contact hours with teachers, every day one or more hours. The course will require presence for about 4 hours per day. The rest of the time will be spent on self study and student interactions independent of teachers. Do expect a heavy workload for a five-day work week and full day commitment at least during office hours.

Assessment method

Testing will be done by two short written assignments (once in a pair and once individually) and by an oral presentation and a longer written assignment (both individually, each student will present).


Hand-outs of lectures, informative documents, references to primary literature and links to important websites will be provided via Blackboard.

Reading list

Students will read a variable number of documents and scientific papers. Several will be provided by the teachers and are the same for all students. Others will be selected by students themselves guided by their own interests.


Via USIS and enroll in Blackboard

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