Master Cardiovascular Research

The Master Cardiovascular Research is a two-year international program of 120 ECTS. It offers students a challenging compulsory program and a choice of specialized Master’s courses, which prepares them for their research internships at labs at the Amsterdam UMC and at renowned institutes abroad. Dr. Warner (Dop) Simonides is the program director and dr. Miriam van Strien is the program coordinator.

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Interview - dr. Dop Simonides, program director Master Cardiovascular Research

After obtaining my PhD in medicine and biochemistry in Leiden in 1985 I joined the department of Physiology at the VU. Following a sabbatical in the early nineties at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, my research focus has been on the mechanisms underlying the development of chronic heart failure. Next to that I have been involved in developing physiology classes and practical courses and continue to coordinate several teaching courses at the VU and VUmc.

The Master Cardiovascular Research

For several years I had been a lecturer and examiner of a course of the Master Cardiovascular Research when in 2015 prof. Christa Boer, the newly appointed director, proposed a complete overhaul of the curriculum. I agreed to help implement her vision of the Master and be coordinator/examiner of the compulsory first semester. The new program was launched in 2016 and it has proven to be a success. The Master ranked first of 18 Biomedical Master programs in the Netherlands in the 2018 Student Survey and it is only the second such program in Europe. The strength of the program is a combination of the small scale (24 students at most), a focused range of topics presented by over 50 clinical and pre-clinical researchers, with an emphasis on new developments and challenges, and solid program management by the coordinator. As a consequence of the format, in the first semester students already begin to develop a network of contacts enabling them to find internships of their choice. Without exception, the mix of Dutch and foreign students creates a committed and enthusiastic group of future scientists.

The next few years

It is really gratifying to see students present amazing work from their major internship at their graduation, when two years earlier they were timid and anything but confident. So I did not have to think twice about applying when the position of director became available. The challenge for the coming years will be to keep the curriculum up to date, addressing new areas of research, therapy or diagnostic modalities as they develop. The vast expertise within the Amsterdam UMC will allow us to do just that. But equally important, we need to know what the job market requires, so we can prepare our Masters to be the best candidate for a position, be it in academia or industry.

Interview - Dr. Miriam E. van Strien, program coordinator Master Cardiovascular Research & Master Oncology

Career switch
In May 2017, I started as program coordinator of the master Cardiovascular Research and the master Oncology at VUmc School of Medical Sciences. After graduating from the master Oncology at VUmc, I started my PhD at the VUmc, department of Anatomy and Neurosciences. After finishing my PhD in 2010, I worked as a postdoc at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam and the Brain Center Rudolf Magnus in Utrecht. Besides doing research in the lab, I was supervising bachelor-, master- and PhD students and more and more involved in teaching. Since I like to coordinate, improve the quality of education and work with students and scientists, my present job as coordinator of 2 master programs at the VUmc School of Medical Sciences is really something for me.

Motivated students
What I certainly like about the master Cardiovascular Research is that it is a small scale international master program. The level of education is high and the students that are currently enrolled in the program are very motivated. I think that this master program is a good preparation for the future career of our students. Last year, the midterm review of our master program was very positive. In addition, the master Cardiovascular Research reached the 1st place of all biomedical masters in the Netherlands in the Dutch Student Survey 2018.

As program coordinator, I am the contact person and can advise (new) students on practical matters concerning the master Cardiovascular Research program. One of my goals is to continuously optimize the quality of our master program together with Dop Simonides and therefore the feedback of our students is very important. For example, we are improving the content of our courses. I like to help our students with the planning of their career path and making the right choices during the program. I have modified the Academic Core which is designed to prepare students for the transition from student to scientist. The academic skills obtained in the Academic Core will help the students to build up their future career in Cardiovascular Research.