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Biology: Evolutionary Biology

This research-oriented master specialisation provides students with in-depth knowledge about Evolutionary Sciences. Students learn about evolutionary changes over time and study the origin and maintenance of biological variation all over the tree of life. The mechanisms that drive the adaptation of organisms and their features are investigated at all biological levels. Thus, the specialisation includes genomics, functional developmental genetics, paleobiology, behavioural biology and evolutionary ecology. With this master specialisation completed, the students are well equipped to start a career in evolutionary research or to take the responsibility for projects in an industrial or institutional research environment.

Coordinator: Dr. M. van der Zee

Website Instituut Biologie Leiden

For a description of the full programme click the more information button!

This MSc specialisation will start on Monday 2 September, 2019 at the Sylvius Laboratory, with an information lecture.


Vak EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Compulsory elements:

Orientation on Evolutionary Biology 2
Advanced Statistics 4
Genomic Architecture 6
Development and Evolution 6
Integrative Taxonomy 6
Research Project Min. 60

Specialisation related electives

Vak EC Semester 1 Semester 2
Advanced Academic Skills Elite Course 6
Animal Personality 6
Biogeochemistry of System Earth 3
Bird species in animal experimentation 2
Book exam 6
Ecotoxicology 6
Fish species in animal experimentation 2
Human Impacts on Biodiversity 6
Metabolomics 6
Methods in Biodiversity Analysis 6
Paleobiology 3
Pharmaceuticals from Plants 4
Plant Families of the Tropics 5
Top Lectures Elite 3
Tropical Biodiversity and Field Methods (South East Asia) 6

Courses organized by the Faculty of Science or LUMC (please check with the coordinator of the course whether you can join the course):

Advances in Data Mining 6
Computational Molecular Biology 6
Image Analysis with Applications in Microscopy 6
Science and the public: contemporary and historical perspectives 6
Science Methodology (SCM) 4

Other electives

Vak EC Semester 1 Semester 2
Advanced Cell Biology 4
Advanced Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology 3
Innate Immune Systems 6
Mechanisms of Disease 6
Practical Assistance 2-10

Courses organized by the Faculty of Science or LUMC (please check with the coordinator of the course whether you can join the course):

Model organisms in cancer drug discovery and development 4
Multiscale Mathematical Biology (BM) 6
Other approved electives 1-6

Study and Career Orientation


Education Office Biology


During the master several meetings and activities concerning Study and Career Orientation will be organized in collaboration with the Science Career Service. Through lectures, information meetings, individual and / or group assignments, students are encouraged to plan a future professional career.

Learning goals

Study and Career Orientation aims to get students to think about his or her choices during the masters degree in biology and to encourage students to plan their future career. Topics covered include:

  • Thinking about your own career wishes and potentials;

  • Orientating yourself in the job market and examining job opportunities for biologists;

  • Developing your skills such as writing your CV, writing a job application letter and presenting yourself;

  • Being aware that a social/professional network can help you;

  • Preparing yourself for interviews and application procedures including psychological tests and assessments.

End terms:
After having followed this course, a student can, on the basis of their personal profile and individual and group orientation, make a motivated choice for a future career.


Various meetings and activities per year. The timetable can be found under ‘files’


More information about Study and Career Orientation can be found on Blackboard ‘Teaching programme BSc and MSc Biology’ / Master

More info

Programme (120 EC)
The MSc specialisation consists of:

  • a theoretical part (30-60 EC)

  • and one or more research projects (60-90 EC)

TThe programme includes some compulsory components and can be expanded with a wide choice of elective elements. The mandatory components in the 1st semester aim to provide students with the theoretical and practical background needed for an efficient start of the Research Project at the end of this semester. The Research Projects are the actual core of the MSc programme. Students will be member of a research group of their choice and work full time on a specific project. Each project will be finished with a MSc thesis written in the form of a manuscript for an international scientific journal. At least one but preferably two Research Projects are part of the study programme.
The Specialisation Research Project has to be done within the theme of the specialisation at the IBL, Naturalis, CML, other departments of the Faculty of Science, the LUMC or NIOO. Prior to the start of the Research Project, the Board of Examiners has to approve the individual study plan of the student and the Research Project agreement.

Compulsory components
Each MSc-programme consists for at least 30 EC of theoretical components and the Research project(s) contribute at least 60 EC. The specialisation Research Project should be minimally 36 EC, and a second Research Project should be at least 30 EC. A single research project cannot exceed 60 EC. A “Fish specific animal experimentation course (2 EC) or a “Bird specific animal experimentation course (2 EC) is obligatory in case of a research project that involves handling or experimental use of fish species or birds species.

Electives/optional elements
The optional part of the programme can consist of either additional courses or lectures, or an extension of the duration of a research project. A list of approved elective courses is available on the e-prospectus. For courses outside the Leiden University biology programme and for all research projects, prior approval of the Board of Examiners is required.
Note: No more than 12 EC of optional theoretical elements of level < 400 are permitted and at most 15 EC of non-biology courses.

Approval of programme
The individual study programme consisting of choices of courses and one or two research projects must have prior approval of the Board of Examiners.

Short description of the courses
The Evolutionary Biology study programme comprises several compulsory courses. The course Orientation on Evolutionary Biology provides a state of the art overview of the scientific research and research methods used in the departments participating in this MSc specialisation. The course “Genomic Architecture” aims at training students to become “genome-enabled” biologists by giving an overview of the structure, function and evolution of genomes, and an introduction into the bio-informatics required to study these genomes. Together with the Advanced Statistics course, and one of the specialisation courses this will prepare the students theoretically for their training in scientific research during the Research Project(s).
A variety of additional courses from other MSc specialisations in Biology and from other MSc programmes at the Faculty of Science and LUMC can be chosen as electives. For details (description, literature, exam dates and further calendar events) about the different courses see the e-prospectus and Blackboard.