Systems biology is defined as the study of the interactions between the components of a biological system, and how these interactions give rise to the function and behaviour of that system. The origins of systems biology are investigations of the concerted responses of single cells to drugs and other environmental stresses.
This was (and is) motivated by the important societal problem of microbial resistance, and the loss of effectiveness of most drugs over time. The interplay between drugs, toxins and genetic variability, in single cells and in cell lines, remain central concerns of systems biology and bioinformatics until this day. More specific research areas include (most forms of) cancer and (most) neurological and psychiatric disorders, both of which are among the most important health issues facing Europe’s citizens today and tomorrow.
The aim of euSYSBIO programme is to train professionals who can cope with the expected future demands of a systems biology specialist. Due to the rapid progress within the field, learning to use the current tools and methods for handling data in bioinformatics applications is not yet enough. New measurement techniques are being developed, giving rise to new forms of data (the current new technique is high-throughput sequencing), with ever-increasing quantities. The euSYSBIO programme gives the students a solid back-ground in methodological sciences and hands-on experience in measurement modern measurement technologies, thus providing the students the means for handling large quantities of data and using the information to make valid biological hypotheses, and then to test them.
The euSYSBIO programme has two first-year entry points, one at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and one at Aalto University school of Science and Technology (Espoo, Finland). The euSYSBIO programme has three second year exit points, again one each at KTH and Aalto University, and a third at IST Instituto Superior Técnico (Lisbon, Portugal).
Students enter at KTH or Aalto University, and then continue in the second year at one of the other three institutions.
The programme includes an annual winter conference held at IST, with attendance by all students, many lecturers and researchers from KTH, Aalto Unviersity and IST, and selected invited international lecturers.
Students progress from the first to the second year after having passed first-year courses, and after having passed a comprehensive oral exam. This exam is taken jointly by students enrolling at KTH and at Aalto University. Master theses are supervised jointly by faculty at the institution where the students are enrolled the first year, and by faculty at the institution where the students are enrolled the second year.
Students receive double degrees, i.e. a degree from the institution where they are enrolled the first year, and a degree from the institution where they are enrolled the second year.
The first year of euSYSBIO is organized by Aalto University or KTH and include courses that focus on fundamental methodological aspects, as well as the basics on computational systems biology and courses in experimental techniques in systems biology. The first year of euSYSBIO includes only mandatory courses.
The second year courses is planned so that the first year courses can be taken in either at Aalto University or KTH, and focus on areas where the respective universities are particularly strong in research.
The euSYSBIO programme ends with a master thesis, jointly supervised by the universities where the student was affiliated the first and the second year.
The master thesis comprises 30 ECTS, and is normally carried out in the second half of the second year of the course. Students are supervised and examined by faculty of the institution where they were affiliated the first year, and where they were affiliated the second year.
Topics of master theses are suggested by faculty where the students are affiliated the second year. The master thesis may be carried out either directly in a research laboratory at that university, or at a research laboratory of another university, or in industry, in accordance with the rules in force at the institution where the students are enrolled the second year.
The aim of euSYSBIO is to train professionals, researchers and entrepreneurs, on a fast-evolving systems biology field. After finishing the programme, the students will be competent in designing and implementing mathematical and statistical models of complex computational systems, and have the necessary understanding of the underlying biology in order to apply and interpret computational methods in the context of systems biology. During euSYSBIO studies, the student will work within research groups of at least one leading European university. This will give student a valuable possibility to interact with professors, researchers and scholars working on advanced systems biology research. Perhaps even more importantly, internships in European research groups provide a highly desired opportunity to integrate students into and contribute to the European research network on systems biology.
The skills learned at the euSYSBIO course, as well as the connections made during the course, prepare students for employment as an expert in biotechnology industry and/or for continuing their studies within PhD programmes.
The additional value of the Master’s Course is that it provides the students with an opportunity to experience a multicultural education by carrying out studies in two different European universities in two different countries.
Examples of academia and industry roadmaps for Systems Biology are:
Prof. Erik Aurell, Director
Dept Computational Biology
AlbaNova University Center
KTH the Royal Institute of Technology
SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46 (8) 790 69 84