The pharmacogenetic passport and techniques to quickly and cheaply modify DNA are two examples of lightning-fast developments in genomics, an interdisciplinary field of biology that focuses on the structure, function, evolution, mapping, and processing of hereditary material.
The new research master Genomics in Society trains a new generation of researchers who know how to link genomics with society. ‘As contemporary scientists and society, we want technological developments to have a positive social impact, in line with the needs and values in society,’ says associate professor Dr. Sam Riedijk of the Department of Clinical Genetics at Erasmus MC. Together with a multidisciplinary team, she leads the development of the new master’s program at the Erasmus MC Graduate School.
During the two-year master’s program, students will learn in-depth about genomics and in breadth about ethics, communication, governance, psychology, and entrepreneurship. Students will identify stakeholders and learn how to engage different audiences so that science does not end with a scientific publication, but with, for example, a change in policy or implementation in the clinic.
In the second year, students immediately put into practice what they have learned about impact research. For example in the form of a graduation assignment on the application of gene therapy as a new treatment, where students engage with patient groups and scientists working on the technique.
Walk the path
The research master welcomes students from all bachelor’s programs with sufficient background in statistics. Riedijk: We do not look for excellence, but assess whether the program fits the path that the student is walking. Therefore, we do not ask students for a letter of recommendation or a grade list, but for their motivation. We want to attract students who fit what we have to offer.’
‘We believe that learning to make an impact starts with the impact we have on our students’
Riedijk: ‘Our educational vision is to stimulate the growth curve of students. Therefore, we have chosen forms of testing that give students a lot of feedback and feedforward, such as programmatic testing. We believe that learning to make an impact starts with the impact we have on our students. We do everything we can to ensure that this impact is positive.’
It is already clear that the new research master fills a need, observes Riedijk. ‘There is already great interest in our students, even at foreign research institutes.’
The students will start the program in September 2022. The program is part of the Erasmus MC Graduate School. More information about Genomics in Society and the application procedure can be found on the EUR website.