Infection and Immunity - Infection & Immunity

Infection and Immunity - Infection & Immunity

Master’s programme Utrecht University

Infection and Immunity

Graduate School of Life Sciences

Infectious diseases and immune disorders have a huge impact on our health

at the individual level as well as on society. We are challenged by outbreaks of

bird flu, the problem of resistant bacteria in hospitals and growing numbers of

patients with allergies. A better understanding of pathogens and host response

provides the background knowledge for new tools for immunotherapy and

prevention and treatment of infections. The master’s programme Infection and

Immunity trains young scientists to contribute to this field.

Infection and Immunity

Kirsten Kuipers, first-year

Master’s student of Infection and

Immunity (I&I)

“The clever tricks that bacteria

and viruses use to get around

our immune system are


“In the final year of my Biomedical

Sciences Bachelor’s, I took three courses

on infection and immunity. I learned

more about the immune system and

viral infections and discovered how you

can manipulate immune cells to attack

a tumour. All those clever tricks of

bacteria and viruses to get around our

immune system are fascinating.

Although I&I is a very specific Master’s

programme, it opens the door to a

whole range of options: you can do

research on immune diseases, parts of

the immune system, viruses, bacteria,

parasites, you name it. Making a

contribution is a great feeling.

At the moment I’m doing an internship

at Wilhelmina Children’s hospital

in Utrecht, where I’m collaborating

on a study to find out how the

immune system is affected by chronic

stimulation. Our research group is

particularly focused on the dynamics

of T cells in HIV and aging. For the

annual master I&I symposium, we

invited speakers for the topic “To cure

the incurable”, for there are pathogens

that costs many lives each year but

against which there is no medicine


Right now, I’m very busy arranging for

my internship abroad, things like a visa,

ticket, scholarships and insurance. Next

year, I’m going to the University of

California in San Diego for six months

to do research on how a particular

bacterium evades our innate immune

system. I can hardly wait!” n

Developing new scientific strategies for prevention and cure for (re)emerging

infections and chronic inflammatory diseases is the core of the Infection and

Immunity (I&I) research focus area. In our molecular and clinical research

programmes, experts in human, veterinary and environmental health work closely

together. This cooperation provides the optimal setting for the clinical application

of our fundamental research for the development of drugs and vaccines and for the

training of our master students.

Research Programme

Utrecht University has concentrated its internationally most renown research into

fifteen research focus areas. All leading research in Infection biology, Microbiology,

Virology, Inflammation & Immunology within Utrecht Life Sciences is incorporated

into the focus area of Infection & Immunity. This includes the research programmes

Strategic Infection Biology (SIB) at the faculty of Veterinary Medicine and the focus

Infection and Immunity within UMC Utrecht, as well as groups from the Science

Faculty. Thus, the multidisciplinary clusters bring together top-class research groups

from the largest Life Science campus in the Netherlands. The Infection & Immunity

Center Utrecht integrates existing and new initiatives in the area of I&I in Utrecht.

Its PhD programme as well as the master’s programme I&I are linked to the research

focus offering access to academic research in the field.

Major challenges

The multi-disciplinary programme Infection & Immunity aims to improve knowledge

on inflammatory diseases resulting from failing immunity and/or infection. The

programme aims to host the full range of academic research needed to

• understand the (molecular) epidemiology of infections and antimicrobial resistance,

• understand the pathophysiology of infections and of failing or overreacting host


• develop highly innovative strategies to diagnose, treat and prevent infections,

immune deficiency and inflammatory diseases,

• improve health-care through applying (and evaluating) these “research products” in

patients and healthy subjects.

The focus area is subdivided in three main research lines:

1. Allergy, Asthma & Arthritis

2. Global Infections & Antibiotic Resistance

3. Infection Mechanisms & Vaccines

Career prospects

Scientists who possess expert knowledge in both fundamental and disease-oriented

aspects of I&I are in great demand. After graduation, about 80% of our graduates

continue their academic career as a PhD student either at Utrecht University or other

research institutes in the Netherlands or abroad.

Others join the pharmaceutical industry to work in applied research or find a position

in education, science journalism or policy-making in science and health care.

Why opt for Utrecht

All Utrecht Master’s and PhD programmes that focus on micro-organisms, plants,

animals, humans, the molecules of life, and health & disease, are organised by the

Graduate School of Life Sciences. The School combines training and education for

Master’s and PhD students, thus incorporating theory and practice at both levels and

allowing overall quality control and consistency. In addition, Utrecht Science Park

accommodates Utrecht Life Sciences, a strategic alliance between academia, public

institutions private organizations and government in order to drive innovations in

human and veterinary health care.

Study programme

Evelien Berends, alumna of

Infection and Immunity (I&I)

“I’m intrigued by the beauty of

how our body works.”

“The Master’s programme in I&I was

the perfect preparation for my current

PhD position. It covers all elements of

immunology and infectious diseases.

During research projects you acquire

the knowledge and skills needed for

a kick-start of a scientific career. Aside

from the programme content, I very

much liked the atmosphere. Students

start courses together, which makes for

a nice group. I have also appreciated

the supervision and commitment from

our teachers.

In the final year of my Master’s, I did

a six-month internship at a lab of the

University of California in San Diego.

This lab specialises in research on the

interaction of bacteria with the human

immune system. I carried out research

on Staphylococcus aureus. These

bacteria try to evade and outsmart the

immune system. The research I did will

enable us to develop methods that

counter the resistance of bacteria to

the immune system, which protects us

from infectious disease. My research

went very well; it got published!

During the two years master’s programme we train our participants in looking at

both sides of the I&I medal. By studying host and pathogen extensively during two

research projects of 9 and 6 months the complementary fields are covered thereby

giving deeper insight into the underlying mechanisms. During the internships,

students get hands-on experience in setting-up and performing experiments, dataanalysis,

evaluation of the outcome in working discussions and afterwards revisiting

the original research question. The results are summarized in a written report and

defended at departmental meetings. The diversity of Utrecht based groups involved

in fundamental and clinical research offers a large choice for selection of a research

project fitting the student’s interests.

The minor research project might be performed outside Utrecht University. About

50% of our students take this opportunity and rely on the international scientific

network of our staff members. Alternatively, students can choose for a 6 months

module in communication & education, drug-regulatory sciences or management.

Theoretical component

15 ECTS credits

Minor Research Project

(incl. presentation and report)

33 ECTS credits

Elective component

12 ECTS credits

Major Research Project

(incl. presentation and report)

51 ECTS credits

10 Life Science seminars

1.5 ECTS credits

Master’s thesis

7.5 ECTS credits

Gain knowledge in different fields

Students present their results during the Master Symposium. All second year

students prepare a poster presentation; some students are selected for a short

talk. Invited international and national speakers will give key note lectures and

workshops and take part in the jury of the poster presentation. This symposium

is part of the 10 weeks of theoretical component, which consists of two weeks

courses in Clinical Immunology, Bacterial Pathogenesis, Virology and Vaccines. One

course of 3 weeks deals in depth with Signalling and Techniques in I&I providing

molecular insight and evaluation of state-of-the-art methods. All courses feature

lectures, tutorials, assignments, oral presentations and a written exam.

In a master’s thesis, students write a clear and adequate overview of literature.

They critically evaluate hypotheses, present their own views and draw conclusions

that point to new research.

During my Master’s I quickly discovered

that I wanted to continue in science.

My current PhD position is helping

me to achieve this goal. Last year,

my current boss Suzan Rooijakkers,

received a prestigious Vidi grant for

her research proposal, which allowed

her to hire two new PhD students -

one of them being me. In this research,

we look at the interaction of different

kinds of bacteria with our innate

immune system. I’m intrigued by the

beauty of how our body works but also

by how pathogens develop and get

smarter and smarter. It’s a fascinating

battle, in which I want to help the

body remain healthy.” n

Broaden your horizon and add depth

The elective component can be used e.g. to compensate for deficiencies in your

prior education, follow extra theoretical courses or extend a research project to

include supplementary techniques.

To ensure a broader view on Biomedical Sciences, students follow a seminar series

with international key note speakers representing the full range of cutting edge

Life Sciences.

Choices for internships and elective component are discussed with the programme


Further information

Infection and Immunity in Utrecht


• (master, PhD and research focus)

Graduate School of Life Sciences


Entrance requirements

• Applicants must hold a BSc in Biomedical Sciences, Biology, Chemistry or Life

Sciences, including a course of 15 ECTS credits in immunology and microbiology

(or equivalent).

• Annually, the programme has a maximal acceptance of 25 students. Placement

is subject to selection, based on past performance, CV and motivation of the

applicant for biomedical research in the field of I&I.

• Proficiency in written and spoken English

For application and admission fee

• (for Dutch students)

• (for international students)

Application deadlines and the general requirements for the prospective master

students are published here. For general questions on the admission procedure, you

can send an email to

Feel at Home Service


To get you started in Utrecht and The Netherlands, the “Utrecht Feel at Home

Service” guarantees housing for foreign students and offers assistance with priority

visa procedures, Schiphol Airport pick-up service, ISIC international student card and

much more.

Frequently Asked Questions


Colophon September 2011. Published by

Graduate School of Life Sciences, Utrecht

University and University Medical Center

(UMC) Utrecht Compiled and produced by

Communication Department UMC Utrecht.

Photography Ivar Pel, Thomas Dobber a.o.

Although this brochure has been compiled

with the greatest care, no rights may be

derived from any of its contents.

Programme Coordinator

Kristin Denzer PhD

Department of Immunology, UMC Utrecht

KC 02.085.2, PO Box 85090, 3508 AB Utrecht

Phone: (+31) 88 755 7673



More magazines by this user
Similar magazines