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Biology in the heart of Europe

Biology is by nature a multifaceted science. Today’s biologists face a growing number of research challenges, such as the link between global change and the ongoing biodiversity crisis, or the emergence of multidrug-resistant bacteria. Such topics require integrative approaches, combining elements from different scientific domains. The Master of Science in Biology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel includes five graduation options. Each of these allows you to specialise in your research field of interest, while a broad range of electives provide the opportunity to maintain and develop a multidisciplinary scope.

3 graduation options, 3 ways to start your scientific career

  • Ecology & Biodiversity (with tracks: Ecology and Evolution, Global Change and Herpetology)
  • Molecular & Cellular Life Sciences
  • Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in Tropical Biodiversity & Ecosystems

We also offer a Master of Science in Marine and Lacustrine Science and Management.

Regardless of the graduation option you choose, our primary goal is to provide you with the best preparation for your scientific career. Therefore, our graduation options share a number of course units to develop your skills in indispensable aspects of scientific research:

  • Master’s Thesis Biology
  • Project Writing
  • Professional Internship
  • Integrated Practicals and/or Field excursions

Claudia Parra Paitan, alumna

It was love at first sight

"After I finished my Bachelor in Biology in Peru, I have been working 4 years in the interface between policy-making and research. However, I decided to scale up my knowledge to be able to contribute better to society. When I came across the Master in Human Ecology, it was love at first sight as the programme combines basic science, applied science and policy. The international environment was fascinating to me. To have the possibility to learn from the experience of people from Madagascar, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Samoa, Denmark, etc. was truly amazing. I especially liked the courses about statistics, impact assessment, agroforestry, biotechnology and fisheries, and was impressed with the passionate and knowledgeable professors. I would strongly recommend this programme to all students who think science should be used to promote sustainable development. To those who believe understanding human society is crucial to maintain healthy environments where humans receive the benefits of nature, but also provide the conditions to maintain nature."

Dr. Philippe J. R. Kok, Amphibian Evolution Lab

My research focuses on the tepui ecosystem

"Like many scientists, my life has been greatly influenced by reading of adventurers' stories while I was a child, dreaming of exploration and discovery of unknown fabulous animals in untouched places and impressive landscapes. Since 2007 my main research project focuses on the tepui ecosystem in northern South America where I am trying to disentangle the processes behind the evolution of organisms in these islands in the sky. Rising hundreds of meters vertically from the surrounding savannas and forests, the summits of individual tepuis are known to harbor high percentages of endemic species of plants and animals that have evolved in isolation over millions of years. My coworkers and I helicoptered on to the summits of 17 tepuis to take tissue samples from amphibian species for genetic analysis. The genetic data suggest that substantial elements of the fauna may be less than 1 million years old - far less than the forbidding nature of the tepuis would seem to predict."

Why choose Brussels and the VUB?

Learning beyond the classroom

Every year VUB's Biology students travel to the Mediterranean for an integrated field course. They witness first hand how culture, history, ecology and evolution have shaped these landscapes and their biodiversity. They learn about environmental conflicts, nature conservation and environmental law, not from the classroom but out there in the field.

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Sciences and Bioengineering Sciences

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New programme for 2022-2023

Which path do you choose? Three graduation options, three excellent ways to start you scientific career.

Graduation option: Ecology and Biodiversity

This option allows you to gain experience in the research methods used to study the ecology, evolution and conservation of organisms found in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. You'll be introduced into ecological research by means of practical field training and excursions in Belgium and abroad.

You are being prepared for a career in fundamental or applied research, nature conservation and management, environmental management and policy at different levels (regional, national, international).

In this graduation option we propose three tracks with different sets of recommended elective courses. However, you are free to diverge from these tracks. Students can mix and match and pick courses from different tracks, and beyond, to assemble their own programme.

Track: Ecology and Evolution

This track is ideal for students with a broad range of interests who want to keep their options open.

It emphasizes general courses and a broad training as a biologist with expertise in ecology, evolution and biodiversity. You'll get courses about different ecosystems in courses as ‘Marine Ecology’, ‘Freshwater Ecology’ and ‘Terrestrial Ecology’ as well as courses that explain the dominant processes that structure populations and ecosystems such as ‘Animal Behavior’, ‘Evolutionary Ecology’ and ‘Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution’.

Track: Global Change

This track includes specific courses that are essential to understand the current challenges of global change in terms of climate, land use and pollution.

With courses such as ‘Biogeochemistry’ and ‘Global Change Biology’, you learn exactly how global ecosystems are changing. However, you also get courses that explain how anthropogenic activities can be combined with biodiversity and ecosystem services. For instance, in ‘Agroecology’ you will investigate the sustainability of current agricultural practices. In the course ‘Sustainability: an interdisciplinary approach’ you learn which leverage points exist to fuel a transition towards a more sustainable society.

Track: Herpetology

Herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles and, as a result, this track caters for students that are fascinated by these animals.

Because our department has a rich history of groundbreaking research on these organisms, our programme has a number of unique herpetological courses. For instance, you will follow ‘Natural History of Amphibians’ and ‘Natural History of Reptiles’ and you will study the evolution of frog poisons and snake venom in ‘Toxins in Amphibians and Reptiles’. In addition, you will get the opportunity to develop a thesis project on these animals.

 

Overview of courses per track:

Overview compulsory courses

This is a preview of the programme and is subject to change. The final course list will be available soon.

courses track ecology and evolution

This is a preview of the programme and is subject to change. The final course list will be available soon.

courses track Global Change

This is a preview of the programme and is subject to change. The final course list will be available soon.

courses track Herpetology

This is a preview of the programme and is subject to change. The final course list will be available soon.

Graduation option: Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences

This option introduces students to the study of animal and plant development, microbiology, cell signaling pathways, cancer biology, stem cell biology, human biology, virology and immunology. Courses of this profile span multiple levels of biological organisation, from whole organisms down to the molecular level. Students choosing this profile not only gain detailed insights into these topics but also acquire the laboratory skills required to engage in cutting-edge research. The presence of a highly experienced research staff and state-of-the-art equipment ensures an ideal training ground, and excellent opportunities to enter a PhD programme after graduation or to join the biotechnological or pharmaceutical industry.

Graduation option: Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems

TROPIMUNDO is an EC-funded and excellence-labeled Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems. We bring together top institutes and universities, with long-standing worldwide expertise in tropical rainforests and woodlands and in tropical coastal ecosystems. Students can focus on botany, zoology and integrative ecosystem approaches in institutions worldwide in two Master years, of which an entire semester is spent in the tropics.

Detailed information on TROPIMUNDO facts, conditions, procedures, deadlines, etc... is available on the TROPIMUNDO website

Scholarships
TROPIMUNDO candidates can apply for an EC scholarship, which is limited by a number of criteria. Only candidates who have applied to and have been accepted by the TROPIMUNDO consortium in accordance with its specific students' application and selection criteria, are eligible. For more information, check the programme website.

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Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes describe the intended knowledge and understanding, skills and attitudes that you must master after completing your studies.

Do you want to know more about the specific learning outcomes of this programme? Click here for more information.

THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER

International experiences give incredible opportunities and memories that last forever. They can also seriously improve your academic performance and your career prospects. That is why we want our students to go out into the world and become true world citizens. At VUB, the world is your oyster!

Practice makes perfect

During your studies you will gain a lot of (international) practical experience, both in research labs and in the field. Ecological excursions in Belgium, abroad (Northern France and Southern Europe) and possibly even at sea help you to broaden your horizon.

You can do part of your study programme abroad through the well-known Erasmus+ programme, but there is also a whole range of other possibilities both inside and outside of Europe. You might choose to study a semester at another European university, or you can do your entire master's thesis or the fieldwork for your thesis abroad. Alternatively, you can also opt for an international internship.

They did it!

Do you want to know how Pieter-Jan experienced his semester in Lisbon? Or are you more interested in Simon's adventures in Vienna?
Read their testimonials and start dreaming of your own Erasmus+ adventures.

VUB research Abroad

Did you know that more than 70% of our students go abroad for their MSc thesis? Every year, VUB professors organize field expeditions to the four corners of the world and students join to collect data for their thesis.

Go abroad?

Possibilities

Where will you go?

Destinations

What's next?

A master degree opens doors in many different branches and sectors. You will be able to work in the private sector, (non-) governmental organisations, or continue your academic career as a PhD researcher. Not sure what your next step should be? The VUB helps you with your first steps on the job market.

Start your scientific career in Brussels

A Master of Science in Biology, is a gateway to jobs in a wide range of sectors. Most graduates begin their a career in research, at a university, a specialised research institute such as nature conservation, environmental protection, natural history musea, public health institutes and hospitals, or in industry at a pharmaceutical or agricultural company. In addition, biologists are involved in environmental policy and governance work at regional, national or international level. And, many biologists have a vocation to pass their knowledge on to others, and start teaching either at high schools, colleges, or educational centers. Regardless of your career choice, the knowledge and skills that you acquired during your master’s programme in Brussels will be a major asset.

Phd?


IF YOU WANT TO CONTINUE YOUR ACADEMIC CAREER, YOU CAN APPLY FOR A PHD POSITION AT THE VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT BRUSSEL. ALL YOU NEED IS A PROMOTER, RESEARCH SUBJECT AND SUFFICIENT FUNDING. ARE YOU UP FOR THIS CHALLENGE?

More info
Francisco Benitez Capistros, PhD student

A unique perspective

"Biologists will usually see and understand things in a unique perspective: from systems to units, from macro to micro, from global to local. We generate this perspective throug study, reflections, observations and fun. However, outside this community of biologists, views and perspectives can be very different. Human thoughts and actions are linked and they have an effect on our surrounding systems. Over the past years I’ve been studying these linkages in one of the most well-known natural wonders of the world: The Galapagos Islands of my home country Ecuador. I use a set of methods both from the social and ecological fields, to understand the dynamics that are taking place in Galapagos: environmental impacts and perceptions, conservation discourses, human-wildlife conflicts and decisions analysis for conservation-sustainability management options. Our research has produced interesting results; such as for example that a farmers’ direct actions against giant tortoises is associated to crop and fence damages in the agricultural areas, but not to the negative perception of this iconic species. This information can be used to identify risk areas to mitigate socioecological conflicts and to move towards better conservation and sustainability objectives in the archipelago."

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Admissions

Students who don't have a Flemish degree are required to submit an online application for permission to study.

Admission criteria

For all graduation options, except EMMC TROPIMUNDO:

  • Holders of a Flemish Bachelor degree in Biology can enroll directly in the Master of Biology.
  • Holders of other Flemish academic bachelors in science, applied science and life sciences will have to contact the Learning Path Counselor.
  • Holders of non-Flemish academic bachelors in science, applied science and life sciences will have to submit an online application.

For the EMJMD TROPIMUNDO only candidates who have applied to and have been accepted by the TROPIMUNDO consortium in accordance with its specific students' application and selection criteria, are eligible. For more information, check the programme website.

Online application

Students who don't have a Flemish bachelor degree are required to submit an online application. The application procedure consists out of three steps:

  1. Apply online
    Fill out your personal information and upload your documents.
  2. Screening of your application
    The Admissions Office and the Faculty will check if you are eligible.
  3. Result via e-mail
    If your application is accepted, we will send you a Letter of Acceptance.

All information on the admission procedure, requirements, deadlines and application forms can be found on the application page

Application deadlines

There are two separate deadlines to submit an application if you are applying with a foreign degree, depending on whether or not you require a visa to enter Belgium.

You can find all information on the application page.

For more details on admission requirements and application

How to apply?

Practical information

Not sure how to get started? Wondering about housing?

Prepare your stay

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Housing


Depending on your situation, you can either arrange your own accommodation off campus, or apply for a VUB room on campus.

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Brochure

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Tuition fee


All information about our tuition fees in one place.

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Scholarships

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How much money do I need?


A general idea of how much money you'll need for housing, food and other living costs in Belgium.

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Convinced to come and study at the VUB?

Start your application now!

Online Info Session

Do you want to learn more about the VUB and this programme? Are you looking for an opportunity to ask all your questions? Join the online infosession and find out all there is to know!

First Online Info Session: 9 december 2021 (2pm CET)

We will start this online info session with a general introduction to VUB and the application process. After that, we will provide breakout rooms per programme for a more in depth presentation on the specifics of each programme.

Worried you might still have questions afterwards? We will leave plenty of time for a Q&A at the end as well.

Join the online info session

Register now!