Do you want to use a microscope to study cells, but also understand how the microscope itself works? Do you want to design and synthesize molecules that can target specific molecules, cells or organs? What chemical reactions happen in the body when taking medication? Are you looking for a diversity in courses and a multidisciplinary approach to scientific questions?
In this degree programme in Life Science and Technology (LST) you will learn how to find answers to questions like these. This degree programme combines elements from a variety of disciplines, including chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics/computing sciences and pharmacology. You will learn how to use this knowledge so you can look at problems from different scientific angles.
Our lecturers study the intricate details of living organisms, each with their own perspective. If we want to understand signaling through our nervous system, we must understand electricity and charge differences across biological membranes. If we want to make more effective drugs, we have to understand the chemistry involved in creating drugs – and what happens to those drugs in the body.
These are just a few examples of the things we explore. By the time you start this programme, numerous other new research projects will undoubtedly have started up. You're bound to find something that arouses your interest.
There is still so much to discover
I currently work as a PhD student in the Molecular Microbiology group, under the supervision of Dr Billerbeck (billerbecklab.com). During my undergraduate studies, I followed course units in general subjects such as ecology, maths, biochemistry and genetics, plus a Minor in medicine, and I found myself intrigued by immunology and microbiology.
I took part in the IGEM competition and started to develop an interest in synthetic biology and biotechnology. I really enjoyed all the research internships during my Master’s degree programme Medical and Pharmaceutical Drug Innovation, so I knew I wanted to continue in that direction.
We work with killer toxins. These proteins are produced by yeast, which likely helps to compete for nutrients by killing other yeast and fungi in its environment. Killer toxins are interesting for many reasons, one particular reason being the rise in antimicrobial resistance, which urges the need for novel effective antimicrobial compounds. Some killer toxins can kill important human pathogens, such as Candida glabrata, and may be helpful in fighting these infections in the future. We isolate yeast from the environment to find novel killer toxins, investigate the properties, activity and function of these toxins, and use directed evolution to engineer them.
When I arrive at work in the morning, I usually check whether the yeast or bacteria for my experiment have grown, or I analyse the results of experiments carried out the day before. We meet weekly to discuss our results and to help each other solve any problems we may have come across. I spend part of the day in the lab, doing experiments, and part in the office, analysing the data on the computer or planning new experiments.
It is amazing to see how life works at the molecular level, and there is still so much to discover about the world that we live in! Hopefully, what we learn will help us to build a better and more sustainable world. We have the freedom to follow our curiosity, to come up with hypotheses and to try them out in the lab. I like how my work is both theoretical and practical. Sometimes, when you encounter problems during experiments, it takes some time to figure things out – but with a little patience and perseverance, we are usually able to solve any challenges together.
Being a student can mean so much more than just studying
Hello! My name is Thomas Westerhuis, I am a 22-year-old student and I have been living in Groningen for four and a half years. I started studying at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, where I did the Bachelor's programme in Biology and Medical Laboratory Research.
During those years, I developed a love for the complexity that life has to offer. The unlimited processes that need to work together flawlessly to keep the biological cell functioning have always inspired my awe and wonder. Based on these interests, it was only natural to start the Life Science and Technology programme at the University of Groningen.
Besides studying, Groningen has a lot of different aspects to offer to give you a full student life. During your studies, you can embark on various social, sport, or other activities which allow you to meet a lot of different people. As for me, I became enthused by GLV Idun, the study association for the Biology, Biomedical Engineering, and Life Science and Technology programmes. This year I became part of the board as chair of the association. As chairman, it is my job to manage the association and the board. My main occupation is making sure that the day-to-day tasks are fulfilled, but I also ensure that we reach the goals set in our policy, and make sure that we keep track of our long-term vision.
I would recommend that you become active during your time at the University, as being a student can mean so much more than just studying. Whether you join a committee, a board, or a student assistantship at the University. Judging from my own experience, such positions can greatly benefit your personal, social, and organizational skills. Above all, I want to emphasize that it is also a lot of fun to take these kinds of responsibilities.
Questions that intrigue me
I chose this degree programme because I am interested in how life works. How did we develop? How will we continue to evolve? These are the questions that intrigue me. In addition, I really enjoyed studying biology in secondary school, especially the internal processes of cells and animals. By following this degree programme, I was able to continue to learn about bodies and evolution whilst also gaining all the skills required to become a successful scientist and researcher.
The objective of the Life Science and Technology degree programme is to understand life. An interest in all living things can take you far. Since this programme comprises course units from many different disciplines, there will always be at least one course unit per semester that you will really like.
LST is a very, very technical take on the natural sciences. It
is much more than just biology, chemistry, or physics. Most of the
course units that are taught in the programme are organized by
other degree programmes at the Faculty of Science and Engineering,
but are then modified to some extent. This means that the cell
biology course unit that you might follow might be mostly similar
to the one taught to biology students, but the course unit on
optics will lay more focus on practical applications (microscopes)
than an average physics student might ever need. Most often, the
course units will be intertwined and combined to create something
with a practical outcome.
General impressions aside: this degree programme is very interesting. In my opinion, it is definitely one of the harder programmes offered at the moment. Not because the course units are too difficult or the lecturers do not provide proper explanations, but because you have to be good at everything.