Start your research project

The main part of your training as a Master's student of the Graduate School of Life Sciences is formed by the one or two research projects. You will find more information about the start of your research project below.

After finishing his/her research project the student is capable of:

  • Translating a Life Sciences problem into a relevant research question, suitable for research development or product design.
  • Designing a suitable research plan to test the formulated research questions, according to methodological and scientific standards.
  • Independently performing research, with the required accuracy. Graduates are able to handle, analyse, interpret and evaluate the empirically derived data in a correct manner.
  • Discussing the outcomes of empirical research and linking them with scientific theories.
  • Indicating the importance of research activities for solving a biomedical question or problem, if applicable from a social perspective.
  • Critically reflecting on their own research work in Life Sciences, from a social perspective.
  • Comprehensibly reporting research results orally and in writing, to specialised and non-specialised audiences in an international context.

In order to assess whether the student has achieved these learning outcomes or to discuss the specific criteria on beforehand, the research project rubrics for research skills, research report and presentation can be used.


Scientific Integrity is the moral code of academia. Please read more about this subject here.

At the start of your project it is important to set agreements with your examiner/supervisor about the publication of the work you do. Usually publication rights will be transferred to your supervisor or his/her research group.

As to copyrights (auteursrecht), by signing the application form the student declares to transfer the copyright of any and all products, including the tangible and intellectual products, of the research project to the institute where you perform your project. This can be either Utrecht University, the University Medical Centre Utrecht (UMC Utrecht) or your host institute. The rights of the student by scientific standards to be a co-author of publications or to be otherwise acknowledged are still recognized. Your contribution may be acknowledged in different ways. Not only does this depend on the amount of data/texts, but it also depends on the quality of your work and the level of independence during the project. You may be named in the acknowledgments, your report/writing assignment may be used as a literature reference or you may be asked to be a co-author for an article.

Any questions regarding these issues should be addressed to the head of your group.

When looking for a suitable research group for your research project, checking websites of the different Master’s programmes can be a good starting point. They often have an overview of the research groups involved in the programme. Furthermore, in January of each year a Research Project Market is organized for GSLS and medicine students. Additionally, the Sciences faculty hosts an internship database, which also contains some projects for Life Sciences students at companies within the Netherlands. However, you are probably most successful in finding a good project when you use your network:

  • ask teachers from courses you liked about their research (group)
  • talk to your (older) fellow students about their research projects
  • talk to the programme coordinator about interesting groups
  • talk to lab chiefs / scientists / profs / postdocs

When you are looking for a research project, keep the following in mind:

  • Choose a research project within the scope of your Master’s programme.
  • Ask for approval from your programme coordinator and the Board of Examiners.
  • Your major research project has to be done at Utrecht University or at the UMC Utrecht. Research projects of Science and Business Management, Biomedical Image Sciences, and Epidemiology (Postgraduate) can partly be conducted elsewhere/abroad, but only in cooperation with Utrecht University.

Impression of the Research Project Market:

When you find a suitable project, make sure you meet both your examiner as well as your daily supervisor, to see if you get along. Discuss all details with your (laboratory) supervisor. An overview of what you should discuss can be found on the General application form and include:

  • subject of your project;
  • starting date and planning of general matters such as your holidays and courses
  • agreements on other meetings in which you should participate such as weekly lab meetings, journal clubs, seminars, etc.

More information about extending your research project for credits is available here.

Unable to finish your research project within three months after the end of the defined research project period? Read this information.

How much time should be scheduled for a Major (or Minor) Research Project?

 Major research project 9 months (39 weeks)  51 EC
 Minor research project  6 months (26 weeks)  33 EC

The Major Research Project is credited with 51 credits (minor: 33 credits). This means that on average the total duration of the project-based on a working week of 40 hours, is 36 weeks (minor: 23 weeks). This includes writing your report. During your project we estimate there will be approximately three weeks spent on holidays, regular days off and time while you wait for your assessment. Therefore, while planning your programme take into account that in practice a Major Research Project takes 9 months (minor: 6 months), which corresponds to 39 weeks (minor: 26 weeks). However, the most important thing about a project is not the precise time you spend in the laboratory, but rather meeting the learning outcomes of the research project. Your aim should be to deliver a good project, preferably within the time indicated.


The quality and suitability of the research projects is assessed by the Board of Examiners before the start of your the project. You cannot start your project unless you have received approval from the Board of Examiners in the form of an email from the Research Project Coordinator. 

  • Use the General application form to ask for approval from the Board of Examiners.
  • Hand in the application form at the Master’s Administration Office at least one month (20 working days) before the starting date of your project. 
  • Only typed and printed (so no handwritten) forms will be accepted.

External projects, projects at a non-university institute, and projects abroad require signing of an additional contract, the Internship contract, from the GSLS by the student, the external supervisor and the examiner.

You will receive the approval by the Board of Examiners of your research project application via email, sent to you by one of the research project coordinators. This email will be sent to you, your supervisors and your Master’s programme coordinator. Please note: you can only start your research project after you have received this approval.

For more information and guidelines with regard to research project supervision and progress you can consult the:

On the website of UU Library a libguide about PubMed and other libguides are available.

There are also general guidelines for writing a scientific paper: