Core Curriculum

Training and PhD candidate education is very important and plays a major role in our doctoral school.  Here we list the main elements of the core curriculum that are necessary, we also encourage students to organize their own courses and activities to foster interdisciplinary exchange.

Main Elements

At the beginning of their PhD training, students must participate in the ‘Priming your PhD' introductory course. This three-week course aims to prime skills and competencies that are essential for a successful PhD and to form a strong peer group. The course takes place twice a year: in January for the Summer Class and in June/July for the Winter class. With this course we expect students:

  • To Develop scientific reasoning skills (SR): How to critically evaluate and integrate scientific lectures, literature and data Raise Awareness of different technologies and experimental approaches
  • To improve communication skills (CS): Scientific writing Presenting At the workplace (interpersonal communication) Strengthen the PhD student’s network and resourcefulness on campus (NR)

The "Monday Seminar" is a 15-min presentation given by every student every 1-1.5 years, followed by a feedback session with the faculty. The ability to give a good presentation and convey ideas succinctly is built up through a practice and constructive criticism. The benefits of these seminars are two-fold. One, to hone the presentation skills of the PhD students, and two to nourish an intellectually stimulating environment at the VBC. The Mattias Lauwers award will be presented on an annual basis to the PhD student who delivers the best presentation.

  • More information on the Monday seminar preparation and scheduling is available here

RISE Lectures (Research/Inspiration/Support/Empowerment): Students are supported by the VBC faculty in inviting ten internationally renowned scientists per year to give a talk at the VBC Campus, as part of the established and prestigious VBC lecture series. RISE lectures are preceded by one short talk held by a PhD student whose research falls into the speaker’s field.

Journal clubs and work in progress meetings are held every week. Journal clubs teach critical reading of relevant literature. They are organized by topic-related labs and facilitate staying on top of the relevant literature in a certain field. They also invite deep discussions on a research topic examining experiments done by collaborators as well as competitors, learning about new techniques, and finding inspiration for future work of their own. Journal clubs and the collaborative reading of the literature also aids to learning about other groups in the field who could be reached out to for future career steps.

Work in progress meetings provide feedback on new data, experimental challenges, as well as guidance on how to drive progress forward - from a group of researchers in the field. These can be within one lab, or overarching multiple labs that can give specific and relevant feedback.

During the Annual Retreat, PhD students will form important social and professional interactions. They will bring posters and give flash-talks, preceding discussions at the posters. The retreat also entails team building activities. Attendance is strongly encouraged but is limited to 150 participants/year, on a first-come-first-serve basis. Organization will be in the hands of the students.

This module is to prepare the student for successfully completing a PhD and move towards the next career step. Each student is required to create a career development plan early in their PhD, which will be discussed and adjusted with their supervisor in semesterly one-on-one mentoring meetings (1 ECTS per semester). Additionally, students will participate in a one-day workshop that teaches conflict, stress and time management, as well as professional development tools (1 ECTS).

Student-organized Activities

Monthly meetings where students present their specific methods or specific pieces of equipment. Slides are uploaded on the expert user group platform.

Online platform to discuss applications, troubleshooting, and further developments. Open to all students and group leaders so that everybody can profit from the specific expertise in the program.