On Monday the 4th of June, the pre-course will take place. The pre-course is organised for international students, and aims at improving your research skills. To master your research skills, several masterclasses are organised. In addition to that, a lecture about Your Future at the UMCG, two speed keynote lectures, a Science Elective and to finish the day, a spectacular dinner party is organised  at the Plaza Danza with a salsa workshop to improve your dancing!


Medical Statisics

Johannes G.M. Burgerhof MSc

In 90 minutes, an overview of statistical techniques will be given. Together with the participants several questions will be answered including:

  • What is the link between probability theory and statistics?
  • Why is it important to use descriptive statistics?
  • What is a statistical test and when do we use which test?
  • How do we calculate a sample size?

Based on the article of Phung et al. (2002) on risk factors for low birth weight, we will go through several steps of the statistical process. Starting with descriptive statistics, refreshing the theory of univariate tests and confidence intervals, we will end up making and interpreting several regressions models: linear, logistic and Cox regression for survival.

Emphasis will not be on formulas and mathematics, but on understanding the logic behind the statistical tools. Depending on the interest of the participants, more time can be spend on elementary or advanced statistics.

Preparing oral presentations: Capture the public and make your point

Prof. Anton J.W. Scheurink Phd

This masterclass will provide strategies for preparing interesting and engaging presentations. The essence of an effective presentation is engaging the audience, capturing their interest by posing an intriguing question, spelling out a methodology for addressing that question and then answering it. A successful presentation provides the audience with cues and information in an orderly structure, allowing them to form expectations on what they will hear and when they will hear it. Tips for doing so, along with tips on what not to do, will be supplied and the presenter will engage participants in a highly interactive format by crafting storylines and structures from material that they provide. The main focus of this masterclass will be on oral presentations but at the end we will give some do’s and don’ts on poster presentations as well.

FameLab, can you engage your audience in three minutes?

B.J. van de Laar

X-factor, The Voice, MasterChef, you name it, talent scouting is a big thing and makes prize winning television. But do we embrace science communication talent just as passionately as we embrace young singers and chefs? Or is science communication too important to leave to young talents? But on the other hand, they do shape the future of science.

FameLab is the number one science communication contest, an international competition inviting scientists, mathematicians and engineers across the globe to take part. The FameLab contestants have only three minutes to convey a scientific concept of their choice to a professional jury and a PowerPoint is absolutely forbidden. All contestants are judged on the three C’s: content, clarity and charisma.  An unforgettable presentation might make one the winner of a national or international FameLab competition someday, but more than that it’ll prove an essential skill for a PhD-student or post-doc to engage future research partners, funders and all sorts of audiences.

This hands-on masterclass challenges participants to prepare and present a three minute presentation according to the FameLab rules. The masterclass is convened by Bart van de Laar, the host of FameLab – The Netherlands 2016, together with one of the winners of this year’s Groningen FameLab heat.

Scientific Integrity

Dr. Els L.M. Maeckelberghe PhD and Prof. dr. Ineke M. Molenaar PhD 

Scientific integrity is an important topic in research, but what does it actually mean? And how can you be scientifically integer? Are there any guidelines for scientific integrity, including plagiarism?

There is no clear definition of what ‘scientific integrity’ is supposed to mean. However, it is acknowledged that scientific integrity should be guarded, warranted and monitored at both individual and institutional levels. Plagiarism is probably the most frequent violation of scientific integrity. Although definitions are available, there is room for interpretation.

Els Maeckelberghe (lecturer of ethics at the UMCG) and Ineke Molenaar (emeritus professor in medical education) will host a masterclass on scientific integrity. A film about a PhD student at the beginning of her doctoral research will serve as a guide in this course. The audience decides how to respond to realistic scenarios where there is potential for misconduct. The participants will discuss the options and decide together what to do in these specific cases. They will learn a lot about the decisions they make. It is promised to be an interesting and informative masterclass on Scientific Integrity!

In order to get the most out of this masterclass we ask participants to prepare themselves by making two assignments which will be discussed during the session.

An abstract: the invitation to your research!

Prof. Marianne G. Rots PhD

The scientific abstract is one of the most important parts of a scientific paper or grant application as it presents the features of your research and with that immediately shows the quality of the paper. Your abstract can therefore be an invitation for fellow researchers to find out more about your research. This workshop is all about the writing of a convincing scientific abstract. The learning objectives are directed towards the structure of the abstract as well as towards effective and comprehensible formulation of complex problems and research constructions. The course will consist of a short lecture followed by assignments in groups and discussions. Students are expected to bring a (self-written) abstract for peer review during the pre-course.

Critical Reading

Prof. Pieter U. Dijkstra PhD

Medical students are supposed to read an enormous amount of information in textbooks, on the internet, and in medical journals. Research is progressing fast and textbooks often contain dated information. Recent manuscripts (studies) provide up-to-date information, but are we certain that the presented information is valid and should be implemented in patient care? Critical appraisal of a manuscript enables the assessment of the validity of the study results. In this pre-course class, participants will be provided with a general approach to critically appraise clinical research papers and assess research design, identify selection bias, information bias, and confounding factors. Different research designs will be presented, and strength and weaknesses will be discussed. Participants will assess a paper critically. The results of the assessment will be discussed in the masterclass.

The PhD position - finding them, funding them

Tim Zwaagstra MA

Students who are interested in pursuing a PhD degree have a lot of questions to consider, and often do not have ready answers to all of them. And, frustratingly, lots of other questions pop up in the course of preparations that they weren’t aware of at first. Where to go? What to research? Who to approach? Why am I doing this? How am I going to get a position? Who is going to go fund me? This course addresses such questions, known and unknown, in short form and with a focus on common pitfalls, known eye-openers, and generally getting your head straight about things.

The presenter is not a researcher, and not even a PhD himself (though who knows what might still happen). He does have long-time experience in counseling prospective PhD students, especially international ones looking to come to the University of Groningen, and especially those who depend on finding a scholarship to realize their ambition. Much will be about knowing your game, getting your facts straight, getting ahead of the competition, and some tactical smarts. Spoiler warning: it’s not all about talent and passion.

How do scientific journals review your articles

Prof. Kathrin Thedieck PhD

After years of meticulous study design and data analysis and having written it all down neatly, ther is only one task left; getting your article published!

How do you choose the right scientific journal for your manuscript, and what happens after submission of your article to your journal of choice? Which features render your paper attractive to the editor and how do you increase the likelihood that your manuscript gets sent out for review? What will convince the reviewers of your work and how do you respond to their comments? How do you react to a rejection by the editor, accept it or fight for your article?

Prof. Kathrin Thedieck PhD will lead this masterclass. She publishes her research, which centers on metabolic signalling, in high impact journals, act as a reviewer and is member of an editorial board. She will share and discuss insights into what it takes to publish in top scientific journals.

You can choose your own track consisting of a combination of two masterclasses:

Track 1Track 2Track 3Track 4Track 5Track 6Track 7Track 8
Preparing oral presentations: Capture the public and make your pointCritical readingFamelab: Can you engage your audience in three minutes?Medical StatisticsScientific IntegrityThe PhD position: Finding them, funding themAn abstract: The invitation to your researchHow do scientific journals review your articles
An abstract: the invitation to your researchPreparing oral presentations: Capture the public and make your pointHow do scientific journals review your articlesCritical readingMedical StatisticsScientific IntegrityFamelab: Can you engage your audience in three minutes?The PhD position: Finding them, funding them

Your future at the UMCG

If you want to know more about PhD positions and research at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), come to Your Future at the UMCG! The director of the Graduate School of Medical Sciences (GSMS) Martin J. Smit, PhD, will give a detailed presentation about the possibilities of doing research and the opportunities to gain a PhD position at the UMCG. The session will be concluded with a personal story from a PhD graduate.

Science Elective

The Science Elective will be held between the masterclasses. Besides the educational parts of the day, the Science Electives are meant to be a fun part of the day! You can choose between a patient lecture, participate in a debate or think critically about the approach of House M.D. In the patient lecture, a patient who underwent an LVAD-implantation will tell you about the operation and the influence it has on the patient’s life, together with neurologist prof. Prof. dr. Berry Kremer. This year, the debate is about the ethics arising from the biological engineering lab. Do we need to worry about CRISPR editing? What can we expect from the ‘organ-on-a-chip’? We first need to get a good understanding of what ‘engineering life’ is actually about nowadays. Two experts will set the stage for a thorough reflection on the ethical challenges facing us. During the interactive lecture of House M.D., a doctor specialised on the subject will analyse an episode of the fascinating House M.D. series and discuss the myths and facts of doctor. House.

Patient Lecture: Huntington’s disease: fascinating insights in a fascinating disease

Prof. dr. Berry Kremer, neurologist

Chairman Dept. of Neurology at UMCG

Huntington’s disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant hereditary neurodegenerative disorder with an estimated prevalence in the western world of about 10/100,000. Characteristic clinical features are a gradual deterioration of cognition and behaviour, with manifestations such as apathy, mood disorder, impulse control impairment and violent outbursts, and motor impairment. The best known motor manifestation is chorea (hence the old name: Huntington’s chorea), but other hyperkinetic motor impairments such as dystonia, myoclonus and tremor as well as hypo- and bradykinesia can be observed in many patients. The signs and symptoms are related to the distribution of the neuropathology: a progressive degeneration of medium sized spiny interneurons in the neostriatum and, to a lesser extent, of cortical neurons. Although motor manifestations are the most obvious disease manifestations, patients and their families suffer particularly from the cognitive and psychiatric deterioration. Due to the gradual progression and the multi-domain impairments, onset age is difficult to pinpoint but onset is generally after age 25. Onset range is remarkably broad, with many patients starting after age 60 but, also, 10% before age 20.

This onset age distribution is explained by the causative mutation. HD is caused by an expanded CAG trinucleotide repeat sequence in exon 1 of the Htt (huntingtin) gene. The expansion is highly polymorphic in the general population. Non-disease alleles harbour 10 to 29 repeats, while 36 or more repeats lead to HD. CAG repeat length explains 60-70% of onset age variance and meiotic expansion explains the phenomenon of so called anticipation – a progressively earlier disease onset in subsequent generations.

The exact function of the huntingtin protein is as yet unknown although homozygous knock-out mice do not survive embryonic day 8½. Interaction has been demonstrated with more than fifty other proteins. The expanded CAG repeat leads to an expanded poly-glutamine (poly-Q) sequence and abnormal cleavage of the native protein. N-terminal cleaved fragments containing the expanded poly-Q have a propensity to form observable intranuclear and intracytoplasmic protein aggregates. Yet, the hypothesis that has currently most support assumes that it is soluble poly-Q containing monomers or oligomers that are the actual toxic culprits causing neuronal degeneration.

Although HD is as yet incurable, modern genome wide association studies have identified modifier genes that retard or, alternatively, speed up onset age and disease progression, thus suggesting potential targets for disease modifying therapies. An exciting development are trials with intrathecal anti-sense oligonucleotides that target intraneuronal translation of the mutated gene product.

In this lecture, I will present a patient with HD and highlight aspects of this fascinating disease.

Engineering life? A debate about the ethics arising from the biological engineering lab.

Do we need to worry about CRISPR editing? What can we expect from the ‘organ-on-a-chip’? We first need to get a good understanding of what ‘engineering life’ is actually about nowadays. Two experts will set the stage for a thorough reflection on the ethical challenges facing us.

Dr. Jeantine Lunshof, Assistant Professor UMCG, Consultant at Harvard Medical School (Dept. of Genetics, Church Lab) and affiliated with MIT as a Research Scientist in the Media Lab, works on the floor of the lab itself where the lines about e.g. synthetic biology and technologies like the CRISPR editing begin to be drawn in the first place. She says: “Ethicists are called upon when developments in the sciences elicit strong moral intuitions but an expert opinion needs hands-on, real-world data gathered in the biological engineering lab through direct interactions.”

Dr. Iris Jonkers, Rosalind Franklin Fellow UMCG, is interested in uncovering how genetic variants affect gene expression. Her primary focus is on autoimmune diseases, and celiac disease in particular. She has recently been given a prestigious grant for a five year project entitled: “Small changes, big effects: Finding the regulators of immune-mediated disease”. Iris Jonkers about the CRISPR editing: “An explosive expansion of research has been made possible with the discovery and continued development of CRISPR engineering technology. Crossover from the constraints of the research lab to clinical and environmental applications is actively being explored. Clearly, a dynamic discussion about the physical limitations and ethical implications of the application of CRISPR engineering in real-life needs to take place to make informed decisions about this development.”

Dr. Els Maeckelberghe, ethicist at the UMCG, will lead the debate and will challenge the audience to think about what today and the future holds in stock for us. She will invite everybody to engage in setting an agenda for responsible engineering of life.

The facts and myths of dr. House

In this Science Elective we will analyse an episode of the fascinating Dr. House series. During this Science Elective, a specialist on the topic of the episode will discuss the facts and myths of a  dr. House . episode.

Doctor Gregory House is not known for his commitment and empathy towards his patients, staff or interns. These characteristics often place him, his colleagues and patients in problematic situations. However, to what extent is an episode realistic? Are the disease characteristics of the patients similar to those in real life? And are the used diagnostic tools actually suitable? What can we actually learn from this television programme?

These questions will be answered during this interactive course, where participants will be able to judge and discuss the authenticity of a dr. House episode.