Master of Science in Bioinformatics (Engineering)
Bioinformatics aims at gaining a better and preferentially more quantitative molecular understanding of cellular processes by integrating and modelling high-throughput molecular data (omics data). This requires the use and development of state-of-the-art techniques for storing, retrieving, organizing, analysing and interpreting biological data.
Recent technological advances have changed our view on life science research dramatically, and have turned biology into a data-driven science. It is in this context that bioinformatics, a booming interdisciplinary field, has evolved from a new research field into a basic discipline in only fifteen years. Bioinformatics aims at gaining a better and preferentially more quantitative molecular understanding of cellular processes by integrating and modelling high-throughput molecular data.
Are you fascinated with both engineering/mathematics and the biological aspects of science?
- Do you like problem-solving through data analysis and data mining?
- Are you intrigued by understanding and modelling complex biological processes,
- Do you want to make biological discoveries by decoding big data?
- Do you like to work in an interdisciplinary environment?
- Do you want to study fundamental biological processes through integration of modern sequencing techniques and mathematical models?
- Do you want to apply individual genome sequencing for personalized health care?
- Do you want to contribute to facilitating the use of modern molecular technologies in the industry and the public sector?
If the answer to the questions above is a resounding ‘yes’, our Bioinformatics programme is the right choice for you!
As a bioinformatician you will become an interdisciplinary scientist or engineer who can develop or use state-of-the art statistical and computer science techniques to mine molecular data in order to answer fundamental or applied biological and biomedical questions. Ghent University offers an interfaculty Master of Science in Bioinformatics programme, which - depending on the chosen track - can result in an Engineering or Bioscience Engineering degree.
- offers a track tuned to your specific interests and background, which prepares you for different job profiles in the field of bioinformatics (bioinformatics scientist and bioinformatics engineer, respectively);
- offers both in-depth theoretical and data analytical/ problem-solving skills;
- is embedded in a strong bioinformatics and biotechnology research environment, located at the Faculties of Sciences, Medicine and Health Sciences, Bioscience Engineering, and Engineering and Architecture. It is also affiliated with VIB and IMEC.
Master of Science in Bioinformatics: Engineering
A Bachelor’s degree in Engineering or Computer Science is the perfect preparation for entering the Engineering track, and becoming a bioinformatics engineer.
Bioninformatics engineers are skilled in the development of new algorithms and complex software implementations with a primary focus on the field of bioinformatics, but equally applicable beyond. Students take a biology-oriented module of 9 credits, which will provide you with the basic knowledge to understand a data-driven biology problem. The rest of the curriculum largely focuses on advanced engineering and computer science techniques (36-credit Engineering module) that elaborate on the already advanced knowledge obtained in the Bachelor’s programme. The Applied Informatics module (33 credits) will familiarize you with the data specificities of bioinformatics (preprocessing techniques, noise and potential biases, assumptions, etc.), and will allow you to acquire the interdisciplinary skill set that is essential for success in modern science and engineering. The Master’s dissertation takes up 30 credits and focuses on a research topic. In your curriculum there is opportunity to do a work placement to familiarize yourself with the role and expectations of a bioinformatics scientist in the industry or at a government agency.
The admission requirements vary. Depending on your preliminary training, you are either able to enrol directly, or there are additional requirements.
Technological advances have turned biology into a data-driven science. The wealth of molecular data enables key discoveries in biology, ecology and molecular evolution, drives innovation in the biotech and pharma industry and supports medical and governmental decision-making. However, the power of using these data for innovation depends on interdisciplinary skills to analyse, integrate and interpret the data. There is thus an urgent need for bioinformatics scientists and engineers with an interdisciplinary mindset. There is currently a large discrepancy between the exponential increase of biological data (28% each year) and the number of newly graduated bioinformaticians (increase of only 5.8%) who typically find a job in agro, biotech and pharma industry, in research and government agencies, and in genetics centres and hospitals. Because of their interdisciplinary and analytical skill sets, bioinformaticians also find their way into consultancy, spin-offs and data analytics.
At Ghent University, we strive to educate people who dare to think about the challenges of tomorrow. For that purpose, we provide education that is embedded in six strategic objectives: Think Broadly, Keep Researching, Cultivate Talent, Contribute, Extend Horizons, Opt for Quality.
Ghent University continuously focuses on quality assurance and quality culture. The Ghent University's quality assurance system offers information on each study programme’s unique selling points, and on its strengths and weaknesses with regard to quality assurance.
Ghent University's Education Objectives
Unique Selling Points
- Interdisciplinary education: Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary domain situated at the crossroads of computer science, statistics and molecular biology. Having sufficient knowledge of each of these different domains is a prerequisite for any bioinformatician. The unique asset of our Bioinformatics programme is that it provides knowledge of the different domains while maintaining a balance between generalization and specialization. Our two-year Master’s programme (120 ECTS credits) offers three tracks (at three different faculties) designed for students with different study backgrounds, i.e. a bioscience engineering track, an engineering track and a systems biology track. Each track consists of (1) a generalization module in which students are introduced to the disciplines complementary to the ones they studied in their Bachelor’s programme. This allows students to understand the interdisciplinary context in which they will need to work, (2) a specialization package in which the disciplines of their Bachelor’s programme are further elaborated, and (3) a common module in which all students of the different tracks/backgrounds follow bioinformatics-related course units together.
- Thanks to the balance between generalization and specialization, (1) the Master’s programme respects the students’ primary domain of interest (which is usually reflected by their Bachelor’s degree). The goal is not to turn an engineer into a biologist or vice versa, but to provide sufficient domain knowledge to be able to understand the intricacies of the bioinformatics domain. (2) Our Master’s programme trains students with well-defined and different profiles (bioinformatics scientist, bioinformatics engineer). In so doing, it meets the needs of the professional field.
- Bioinformatics is a fast evolving domain, in which one has to anticipate novel technologies in molecular biology and computer sciences continuously. In addition to an overview of state-of-the-art bioinformatics tools and concepts, the programme aims to offer students enough theoretical background to allow them to keep up with future developments in the domain. Through examples, we teach students to be critical towards analytical results, to reflect on the methodology and to be creative problem-solvers. Our students learn the importance of lifelong learning, problem-solving and having a critical mindset.
- Through projects, we train our students in essential programming and interdisciplinary communication skills.
- The professional field is actively involved in the Master’s programme through Master’s dissertation projects, work placements and various course units (Capita Selecta in Bioinformatics). This allows students to become familiar with the way bioinformatics is applied in the industry, in research or in government institutes.
- Exclusivity rule: only students with a sufficient background are accepted into the specialization course units. As a result, the Master’s programme uses very strict admittance rules and achieve high study efficiency and exit level in each of the three different tracks.
- The strong modularity of our curriculum guarantees that each student has a sufficient number of in-depth and broadening course units (specialization and generalization), e.g. engineering, bioengineering versus sciences, biology, etc. Each graduate thus has a well-defined profile, which is important in terms of visibility and branding on the labour market.
- Our professional staff consists of motivated lecturers from different faculties with excellent research records either in bioinformatics (ranging from applied microbial, plant or human bioinformatics to method and tool development) or in related domains (e.g. computer science). This guarantees research-based teaching and interdisciplinary points of view.
- Our programme reflects the multidisciplinary character of the professional field, and stimulates students and lecturers to think outside the box to develop and apply creative solutions.
- Stakeholders and the professional field are heavily involved in the programme (by means of guest lectures, work placements and the Master’s dissertation).
- As our programme is still relatively young, we are looking for ways to optimize our strategy for gathering feedback from (international) alumni to improve our curriculum further.
- Our programme is perceived as rather challenging, particularly for students with a weaker mathematical background, which explains the strict admission criteria. Depending on the student’s prior education, (limited) self-study may be required to ensure that all essential concepts are understood before starting a course unit. Self-study materials are available at https://www.masterbioinformatics.ugent.be/prerequisites.
- As the number of comparable bioinformatics programmes abroad is limited, we have fewer study-abroad options (e.g. Erasmus) compared to more traditional Master’s programmes.
This study programme is accredited by the Accreditation Organization of the Netherlands and Flanders (Dutch: NVAO). Accreditation was extended following the positive outcome of the institutional review in 2022. Programme quality was validated by a quality review, i.e. a screening of the Education Monitor by the Education Quality Board. The Quality Assurance Resolution (in Dutch) can be found here.
This information was last updated on 01/02/2023.
In case of questions or suggestions with regard to the publicly available information, please contact the study programme.