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Top Lectures in Biology


Admission requirements

The course is open to Biology master students.

Contact information

Administrative issues (Brightspace, timetables etc.): Contact: S. Wijfjes Email:

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


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.

Learning goals

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


30 January 2023 – 30 June 2023
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

Each Top Lecture is given by an expert in a relevant Biology field, who is a National or International scientist of high reputation. The scientist will give their Top Lecture based on their own field of research subject. It is a public lecture open to all staff and students of the IBL. Before or after this lecture, there is a discussion session (‘master class’) with the Top Lecture students only, in which the invited scientist discusses the questions that the students have thought of. The students will previously have read two research articles and one review article relevant to the lecture, the links to which have been placed for them on Brightspace.

Assessment method

3 EC are awarded for (i) attendance of six Top Lectures of the student’s choice; (ii) attendance at the discussion session (master class) of each of those six lectures; (iv) for presenting a research paper in the final symposium. Students will be graded based on their presentation in the final symposium; consideration is also given to the extent to which the student participated in the master class sessions.

Inspection and feedback on the examination

Date: N.A


Brightspace will be used for communication.

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, 2022
The maximum number of participants is 30 students.

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