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Elementary practical biology and methods for non-biologists


Admission requirements

This course is open to all students that have been admitted to the minor ‘Quantitative Biology’.
Students have to select either this course or the course ‘Elementary practical mathematics for non-mathematicians’, depending on their background. Please consult the course or minor coordinator when there is uncertainty about which course is the most appropriate.

Contact information

Course coordinator: Prof. Dr. B. van Duijn


Biology can be described as the dynamic study of life, i.e. the study of the vital functions of living organisms and their organs, cells and molecules. In this course we will focus on the functioning of organisms at the level of individual cells and the integration of the cellular functions at the organ and whole body levels.
In the course we will study, at a basic level, the cell biology and cellular physiology of excitable and non-excitable cells, the understanding and analysis of ion fluxes in cell signaling, examples of cellular regulation systems and some practical implications of cell physiology dis-functioning in health and disease.
The course includes lectures, and possibly hands-on experience of the patch-clamp technique in the laboratory (i.e. measure the ionic current through an ion channel by yourself) to make you understand the cellular physiological principles and their interactions underlying the functioning of organisms. The role of cellular and molecular physiology in the organ and whole system physiology is discussed and we explore research techniques and key scientific research methods.

Learning goals

‘Course objectives:’
Students with a mathematically oriented background will learn basic concepts and methods from biology that are necessary to properly understand and communicate with researchers in the Life Sciences. In particular, they gain insight into the type of research questions that are typically considered and their motivation. Focus is on questions from the fields of physiology and cell biology. The students learn related research methodologies.

‘Final qualifications:’

  • Students have basic knowledge of biological terminology and concepts.

  • Understanding what type of research questions are biologically (ir)relevant in a selected part of the field of physiology and cell biology and being able to explain why.

  • Knowledge and understanding of some methodologies to examine afore mentioned research questions experimentally, including their limitations.

  • Skills to communicate with Life Science researchers, grasping the essential research questions of interest and the motivation to study these questions in particular.

Time table

The time table is provisional and provided times are indicative. A detailed final schedule will become available before the start of the minor. It is foreseen that he course starts intensively in the first two weeks of September, then less intensively in the next two weeks. In week 5 the course is closed by a written exam.

Mode of instruction

Lectures and exercise sessions.

Assessment method

a) Assignments (20%)
b) Written exam (80%)

Blackboard will be used for communication and provision of course material.

Will be announced.


Via Usis. Enroll also for the course in Blackboard.
Exchange and Study Abroad students: please see the Prospective students website for information on the application procedure.