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EducationProgrammesThe Faculty Graduate SchoolsGraduate School of Medical SciencesJunior Scientific Masterclass
University Medical Center Groningen

General information

The Junior Scientific Masterclass – abbreviation JSM – was set up in 1999 for the purpose of providing medical students who were interested in doing scientific research extra opportunities in addition to the regular degree programme. The ideal is to ensure that in the future more medical doctors will do clinical research as well as taking care of their patients. At present there is a great shortage of physician-scientists.

Junior Scientific Masterclass
Junior Scientific Masterclass

The JSM programme began cautiously with just a few course units, but has now developed into a specially adapted professional programme that medical students can take concurrently with their medical or dental degree programme. The JSM offers a range of courses that start in the first year, expand in the second and third years and, once the student has obtained a Bachelor’s degree, even offer a chance to apply for a position to do PhD research during the Master’s programme (the (D)MD/PhD programme).

What kinds of doctors are there?
Health care has many facets, as is reflected in the various specializations in medical training. In patient care many different kinds of doctors are needed: doctors with an affinity for preventive medicine, for instance (think of health centres or industrial medicine); doctors who want to focus mainly on direct patient care, such as GPs and medical specialists; thirdly, we need physician-teachers to pass medical knowledge on to students, nurses, paramedics, etc. (teachers/trainers); and finally physician-scientists who combine patient care with clinical scientific research. The majority in this last category are to be found in university hospitals and very specialized hospitals such as the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam.

Why do we need scientific research?
So many questions and topics in medical science still require research. There are research opportunities in a wide range of fields: the causes of diseases, improvements in diagnostics, improvement in treatment, prevention possibilities, etcetera. Think of the many neurological diseases associated with severe disability, the many cancer patients who still die in spite of good surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy, the many problems in psychiatry, addictive diseases, the side effects of medication, malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS – the list is long.

There are research problems in practically every field: whether it has to do with improving a method of surgery, finding a safe sleeping pill, discovering a malaria vaccine or a miracle cure for obesity, everywhere doctors and medical specialists are needed who have expertise in these areas and who – in conjunction for instance with laboratory-based biologists or biochemists, or epidemiologists and statisticians working in clinical epidemiology – can ensure that research findings are applied in clinical situations.

What is required to become a doctor and a researcher?
Unlike what most people think, you don’t have to be a young Einstein or some other kind of brilliant potential Nobel prizewinner. A physician-scientist is not necessarily smarter or better than some other kind of doctor. She or he has simply opted for a different kind of job, seeking to combine working as a doctor and also doing scientific research.

What is required is students (future doctors) who enjoy research, are fascinated by research questions and would perhaps like to continue doing research after they have qualified. Most students do not yet have any idea what kind of doctor they want to be later. Usually that becomes clearer in the course of their training, but it is often only during clerkships that they really make choices.

Those who ultimately become medical specialist-scientists, and usually also end up working at a university hospital, have generally had more years of training than those who start work directly in patient care at non-teaching hospitals. Most academic specialists have done PhD research and obtained their PhDs several years after qualifying. Often they have worked abroad for a while to gain extra research experience and wherever they have worked have tried to learn skills and techniques to help them become better scientists. This may include more expertise in medical statistics, biochemistry, cell culture techniques, clinical epidemiology, English language skills (speaking and writing) and so the list goes on! Many of them say that it would have been handy if they had been able to acquire some of this expertise and some research experience during their basic training.

What does JSM offer?
The JSM aims to be a hothouse for future physician-scientists and to give them as good a start as possible. This is why JSM has an extensive programme for all students who are interested in scientific research, including those who are not yet sure, but would like to try. Since the academic year 2006-2007 it has been possible to take an entire programme of courses and activities leading to a BSc Honours degree for research linked to the basic Bachelor’s diploma. A summary is to be found on this website (see Overview of Teaching Programmes).

In the first year there are special JSM newsflash groups which focus on scientific research. In addition, for example six Triple-B lectures are given and students can take part in short research projects known as TTT projects.

Year 2 starts with Science Electives. During these courses students can participate hands-on in current, clinically relevant research relating to the specialism they are interested in. In this academic year there are also 1 to 2-week courses focusing on the acquisition of skills relating to laboratory research or clinical epidemiological research. Throughout the year six Triple-B lectures are given and students can participate in special JSM mentor groups.

Science Week, Schiermonnikoog
Science Week, Schiermonnikoog

Half way the third year a winter science course (‘COMPASS Week’) is given in Drenthefor a small group of students (about 20, with 5-6 teachers). During this week students learn how to deal with scientific articles, how to make posters and abstracts, they have to write and defend a project application (in small groups), and they practise statistics; but the course also give students plenty of opportunity to talk to each other about their training and their futures. In view of the limited capacity, there is a selection procedure for this course.

In year three special JSM Mentor Groups are organized again, and students can choose from a wide range of courses, so that they can choose courses related to their individual interests.

For those who would like to do a research project, there are the 'JSM Pilot Projects’, which enable students to work with an outstanding research group within the UMCG for a few months. The student receives a small reimbursement; the research supervisor also receives some remuneration to compensate for the research materials that are used. Year three concludes with a Project Management course.

Finally, there is also a special programme for students who have discovered, after the initial period of 2-3 years, that they want to continue with the combination of scientific research and medicine: the '(D)MD/PhD programme’. This enables students to start and complete a real PhD research project during their basic medical training – after year 4 – so that when they graduate they have not only a Master’s degree (MD), but also a PhD. Whereas ‘ordinary’ PhD positions are normally for 4 years, in this programme the student aims to complete the whole PhD project in 2 years: in other words, the student saves two years. Obviously this is a very tough programme, and you can only do it if you have already done some research in the preceding period, for example during your Pilot Project and your Research clerkship (possibly an extended placement) in the fourth year. The University offers MD/PhD students a salary for 2 years plus an adapted clerkship schedule. If a student also wants to do part of the programme abroad, that is certainly stimulated and supported.

Pit Vermeltfoort, MD/PhD-student
Pit Vermeltfoort, MD/PhD-student

For whom is the JSM?
As was previously pointed out, you don’t have to be a whizz kid to be able to do some components of this programme. What we do expect is enthusiasm and commitment – the same elements expected if you want to join a rowing club or an orchestra. The JSM does not aim to cultivate an elite group (in case you think the name ‘Masterclass’ suggests that , but to provide sound infrastructure for students who would like to find out if they enjoy doing research.

Dental students who are interested in research can also do components of the JSM programme. The BSc Honours programme in Medicine started in the academic year 2006-2007.

Do you have any further questions?

Available every day for all kinds of questions:
Dr Joke M. van der Mark-van der Wouden
T.: 050 - 363.8263

based in Building 3219, Room 142 (1st floor)
open office hour every Wednesday from 12 noon to 1 p.m.

Prof. dr. Robert J. Porte, Chair of JSM
Tel. 050 - 363.6962 (JSM Office)
By appointment, through the JSM Office (

Dr. Joke M. van der Mark, coordinator JSM
Dr. Joke M. van der Mark, coordinator JSM
Prof. dr. Robert J. Porte, Chair of JSM
Prof. dr. Robert J. Porte, Chair of JSM
Last modified:05 February 2018 3.16 p.m.
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