1. Title of PhD programme: Infection and Immunity
2. Focus area: Infection and Immunity
At the core of the Infection and Immunity focus area is the development of new scientific strategies
for the prevention and cure of occurring and recurring infections and chronic inflammatory
diseases within the wider context of public health and the environment.
3. Mission and objectives
The PhD programme trains students to conduct independent and collaborative research. It takes
place mainly in one research department, where the work meetings are held and doctoral students
receive one-to-one supervision, which includes direct feedback on their scientific reasoning. The
training during the PhD process primarily enables students to deepen their understanding of
infection and immunity and to develop the skills essential for a successful career. On completing
the programme, doctoral students are to have acquired the following:
a. knowledge and understanding of the broad area of infectious diseases and immunology
b. knowledge of biological safety requirements and the ability to apply these
c. ability to read and comment on scientific publications with a critical eye (reviewing skills)
d. ability to present research results both in writing and orally to an international audience
e. ability to promote oneself in the international scientific community (networking skills)
f. understanding of grant strategies and the ability to write grant applications
g. knowledge of available career paths and how to pursue them
h. ability to supervise and assess trainees and junior students (teaching skills)
i. understanding of the social implications of research on infectious diseases and immunology.
4. Programme leader and coordinator
Professor Jos A.G. van Strijp and Dr Erna J.G. van Wilsem ewilsem 12-10-09 15:36
Met opmaak: Nederlands
5. Programme committee
The Board of the Infection and Immunity Center Utrecht (IICU) will serve as the PhD programme
committee for the PhD programme. The board consists of the programme leader (van Strijp) and
coordinator (van Wilsem) as well as leading researchers in the area of focus (Prof. Coffer, Prof. van
Putten) and the three themes within it (Prof. van Eden / Prof. Koenderman, Prof. Wagenaar / Dr
van Baarle, and Prof. Rottier / Prof. van Strijp).
There is also an I & I training committee that actively monitors the coordination and integration
between the MSc and PhD programmes and the quality of the training. The chair is Dr E. Knol.
Permanent members are the MSc coordinator, Dr K. Denzer, and the PhD coordinator, Dr E. van
Wilsem. Other staff members and MSc and PhD students will also serve on the training committee.
Committee composition ensures full representation for the departments of Veterinary Medicine
(DGNK), Medicine (GNK) and Beta as well as for both the immunology-focused and the infection-
focused research groups.
6. Transition from MSc to PhD programme
Both the I & I focus area coordinators and the board overseeing the MSc curriculum believe that
the theoretical background education of doctoral students must be complete before they are
admitted and commence the PhD process. This means that the required knowledge for both the
infection and the immunity disciplines must be fully acquired during the masters programme.
Since we know from practice that the current level of I & I MSc graduates is excellent in both areas,
this objective should be easily achieved.
7. Admission criteria
Students who have successfully completed the MSc for I & I and can demonstrate sufficient
scientific and financial support to complete the PhD training may be admitted to the I & I PhD
PhD programme in Infection & Immunity May 2009 1
programme. The programme is also open to students who have completed an MSc in the life
sciences or an equivalent degree and can demonstrate sufficient scientific and financial support.
These ‘transfer students’ may correct theoretical deficiencies to a maximum of 6 EC (4 weeks of
courses). They should determine with their supervisor whether they have such deficiencies and
whether these should be remedied by I & I MSc courses or by self-study.
8. Implementation of the Training and Supervision Agreement (TSA)
During their introductory interview, all doctoral students receive detailed information on the TSA
and consent to the following requirements. Students are responsible for keeping their training
portfolio accurately up to date. They are invited each year to a progress interview and they are
asked to write a short report on it. When they apply for the Utrecht Graduate School for Life
Sciences (GS-LS) certificate, the programme coordinator or programme leader determines whether
the criteria (20 credits and progress interview reports) have been met.
9. Estimated number of doctoral students, distinguished if possible by researchers in
training (AIO or OIO), clinical researcher in training (AGIKO) and clinical staff
113 Academic research trainees (AIOs / OIOs)
55 MD research trainees (arts-onderzoekers / AGIKOs)
5 Specialists in training
2 Junior researchers
1 Hospital pharmacists in training (ZAPIKOs)
176 Doctoral students
PhD programme in Infection & Immunity May 2009 2
10. Detailed programme description
a. I & I seminar series. On the recommendation of members of the focus area, internationally
renowned researchers in the field of infectious diseases and immunology will be invited to
conduct seminars. The managing committee for the focus area will ensure a balanced mixture
of I & I subjects. This seminar series is a compulsory part of the PhD programme. Students are
exposed early in their training to high-level research in the broad field of infectious diseases
b. Master classes. In almost all cases, guest speakers will hold master classes exclusively for PhD
c. 'Meet the Expert' series. Guest speakers from the Netherlands and abroad with expertise in
parts of the focus area will be invited to conduct seminars on the recommendation of specific
research groups in order to promote international collaboration and visibility. This can also be
of benefit for project applications and publications. The Meet the Expert seminars are
required for doctoral students working in the relevant research area.
The combination of seminars, master classes and expert meetings will enable PhD students
and post-docs to have frequent contact with prominent scientists at national and international
d. I & I Science Days. During these annual meetings, the various research groups working in the
focus area present their research studies in thematic sessions. Such exchanges of expertise are
an important basis and stimulus for close collaboration within the focus area. The Science
Days are an ideal opportunity for PhD students to meet other researchers working in infection
and immunity. Research groups also take turns to organise summer school courses, which
encourage international contacts and which project the ’Utrecht’ identity abroad.
e. PhD Retreat (Research Presentation Class). This 2-day yearly retreat for PhD students helps
them with presentation skills, forming networks, and gaining insight into career possibilities
both within and outside academia. It also encourages collaboration and exchange of expertise
between research groups that are active within the focus area.
f. PhD Spring Meeting (Research Management Class). This yearly meeting is intended to inform
PhD students on areas outside I & I and is very important for their personal and scientific
development throughout the PhD process. Subjects range from grant strategies to philosophy,
ethics and career planning.
g. Immunology Introduction. This required course is held in the first week of January. It enables
all recent programme entrants to meet researchers in immunology and familiarise themselves
with the programme. There is also an opportunity to meet PhD colleagues from other
h. Infection Introduction. This required course mostly takes place in the week before Easter. It
enables all recent programme entrants to meet researchers in infection biology and familiarise
themselves with the programme. The course is to include speakers from Utrecht University
and from other university medical centres.
i. Journal Clubs. These meetings train students in the critical reading and discussion of scientific
publications. The initiative and the organisation lie primarily with the PhD students and their
supervisors, but they are overseen by one or more experienced researchers.
j. Generic training. To prepare themselves optimally for professional practice, students need
certain generic skills in addition to their scientific knowledge. Full use is made of the
possibilities on offer at the Utrecht University campus – the Boswell Institute, the Institute of
Education (IVLOS) and the Center for Biostatistics. Students also have access to the yearly
PhD Career Event of Intermediair magazine and the Talent Classes of the Netherlands
Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw). For those interested in the
business sector, the Biobusiness summer school may be beneficial.
PhD programme in Infection & Immunity May 2009 3
k. Elective modules. In addition to the compulsory courses in the PhD programme, students may
choose courses both within and outside academia with the approval of the PhD programme
coordinator. Suggestions of elective modules for the life sciences will be placed on the PhD
programme I & I website.
Students must earn a minimum of 20 EC’s. This should present no problem, as there are ample
courses on offer. When students make their choices from the available courses, they should bear
in mind that it will not always be possible to attend a seminar, master class, science day or
retreat. Students are to keep their training portfolio up to date.
Courses in the Infection and Immunology PhD programme*
Hours / event EC / year EC/ 4 years
1. I & I Seminars + Expert meetings (40 / year) 1 1.5 6
2. Master classes (10 / year) 4 1.5 6
3. PhD Retreat (Research Presentation Class) 16 0.6 1.8
4. PhD Spring Meeting (Research Management 4 0.15 0.6
5. I & I Science Days (2 / year) 8 0.6 1.2
Immunology Introduction 40 1.5 1.5
Infection Introduction 32 1.2 1.2
Journal Clubs 4 1.0 2.0
Conference participation and notes 8-16 0.6 1.8
GS-LS (skills) courses 4.0
Life sciences research field electives 8.0
One day of training = 8 hours = 0.3 European Credit
* PhD students are to attend at least 80 seminars (3 EC), 10 master classes (1 EC), 4 Science Days (1
EC), 8 Journal Clubs (1 EC) and 2 PhD retreats (2 EC) during the 4–year course.
PhD programme in Infection & Immunity May 2009 4