Research project

Every GSLS Master's student performes at least one research project during their Master's programme. The goal of the research project is to train students in working in a research setting, and in using the scientific method.

Guide
The Master research project guide for supervisors contains additional in depth information about research project supervision. There is also a summery available.

Contact
If you can't find the answer to your question, please do not hesitate to contact one of the research project coordinators: 
Els van der Vlist for Biomedical Sciences students, and Kim Weiler for Biosciences students.

As supervisor, you are responsible for coaching the student. You are also responsible for creating the right ambiance, supporting the student, and drawing up agreements. The aim of supervising is to offer a tailor-made approach to the student's needs. 

The supervisor is also responsible for proposing a project that is of a sufficient level and that enables the student to achieve the learning objectives. The student is responsible for his/her own learning process.

Roles
There are different supervisory roles, depending on where a student performs their research project. How these roles are divided is determined by the location of the research project; at the UU/UMCU (and affiliated institutes), or outside of the UU/UMCU.

UU/UMCU research project
The examiner, a senior scientist, has final responsibility for the research project. The examiner grades research skills, written report and oral presentation. The daily supervision of the student on the work floor is often done by a PhD student or Postdoc. This daily supervisor advises the examiner on the assessment, but doesn’t grade the student themselves. The second reviewer, a senior scientist ideally not directly involved in the project, grades the research project and oral presentation independently from the examiner.
The final mark is given by the examiner, in close consultation with the daily supervisor and second reviewer.

Research project outside UU/UMCU (at host institute)
The examiner, a senior scientist, has final responsibility for the research project. The examiner grades the written report and oral presentation. The (daily) supervision of the student on the work floor is done by either a senior scientist, or by a PhD or Postdoc, supported by a senior scientist or staff member. The supervisor of the host institute grades research skills, written report and oral presentation.
The final mark is given by the examiner, in close consultation with the supervisor of the host institute.

Supervision - terminology and responsibilities:

The examiner

  • has final responsibility for the academic level and assessment of the research project.
  • is affiliated to Utrecht University or UMC Utrecht as a full, associate (UHD) or assistant (UD) professor with a tenured position. Professors on a UU/UMCU special chair (bijzonder hoogleraar), but in daily life affiliated to a non-UU/UMCU institute, can also act as examiner.
  • Post-docs, PhD candidates, and professors not affiliated to UU/UMCU cannot act as examiner.
  • One examiner can only assess maximum two of the following components: writing assignment, major research project and minor research project or business internship.
  • Stays in touch with the student. At least once every month in case of project outside UU/UMCU.
  • Keeps in contact with the supervisor host institue. At least once every two months in case of project outside UU/UMCU.

The daily supervisor

  • is responsible for the daily supervision of the MSc student during his/her project.
  • works at the institute where the project is carried out.
  • does not grade the research skills, written report and presentation him/herself, but will advise the examiner on the grades.

The supervisor host institute (project outside UU/UMCU)

  • is responsible for the daily supervision of the MSc student during his/her project.
  • works at the institute where the project is carried out.
  • grades the research skills, written report and presentation.
  • must be sufficiently capable of supervising a MSc student.*
    *If the (daily) supervisor at the host institute is still rather junior (e.g. PhD candidate or postdoc), (s)he must be supported by a senior scientist / staff member (e.g. his/her own supervisor).

The second reviewer (project at UU/UMC)

  • is a senior scientist (not a PhD candidate or postdoc) who is not directly involved in the research performed. Ideally, a second reviewer is a staff member from a different group than the examiner.
  • evaluates the research report and final oral presentation.

A student can start the research project only after both the supervisor and the student have received approval from the Board of Examiners. This approval is sent in the form of an email by one of the research project coordinators

General application form
Before the start of the research project the student has to fill in the general application form. The general application form contains information about the project (including a research proposal), agreements between the student and supervisor, and contact information of the examiner and second reviewer/supervisor host institute. The information on the general application form allows the programme coordinator and the Board of Examiners to review the content and level of the project.

Internship contract
Projects outside UU/UMCU also require a GSLS internship contract, signed by the student, examiner and supervisor host institute. When you are asked to sign a (non-disclosure) contract from the host institute/company, please consult Els van der Vlist (Biomedical Sciences) and Iris-Caris Dentener (Biosciences).

Internship account UMCU
For projects at the UMC Utrecht, students need an UMCU internship account and UMCU card. The students will automatically get this account after approval of their research project. 
More information is available here.

A research project consists of several key stages: drawing up a timetable, reviewing literature, drawing up a research plan, carrying out experiments / collecting data, data analysis, writing the report and presenting orally.
Participation in group meetings and other group activities is also part of the research project.

Report
Reports should be written in English and contain a summary specifically aimed at informing a general audience about the content of the research project (laymen’s summary – in Dutch or English, 500 words, the target audience is able to understand Biology at high school level).

Presentation
All students have to present their work orally (in English) to the research group of their examiner at Utrecht University / UMCU (and, if applicable, also at the external host institute).

During the research project, the student participates in group meetings and other group activities. In addition, the supervisor and student are expected to meet every week to discuss the work of the student.

Interim assessment
A mandatory evaluation meeting between student and examiner, and preferably also the daily supervisor, should take place two or three months after the start of the research project. We encourage supervisors to schedule dedicated feedback moments more often (e.g. also after 6 months).

During the evaluation meeting the student receives feedback on his/her work, progress and performance. We strongly advise you to use rubric about research skills as a tool to discuss the applicable strong points and points of improvement of the student. For Business Internships the rubrics can be found here
Afterwards the student has to either hand in the highlighted rubric or write a short report (½ A4) summarizing the meeting. Alternatively, the student can write the report using either the interim assessment form - inside (project at the UU/UMCU) or the interim assessment form - outside (projects outside the UU/UMCU).

Interim assessment external project
For a project outside UU/UMCU the interim assessment takes place between the student and the supervisor host institute. Afterwards, a copy of the rubric/report should be sent to the examiner. 

Problems or questions
In case of any problems or questions, contact the programme coordinator first, or otherwise the academic counsellor or research project coordinator. In case of a project outside UU/UMCU, the examiner should be contacted first. 
More information about problems, disputes or premature termination of project is available below.

Below you can find the length of the different types of research projects. This period includes time to write the report and to prepare the final presentation. Time spent on courses, holiday or other days off should be added to the duration of the project.

 Research project typeNumber of EC*LengthMaximal duration
 Major5136 weeks12 months
 Minor3323 weeks9 months
 Minor Medical Imaging2014 weeks6.5 months
 Business internship27 / 3019 / 21 weeks8 / 8.5 months
 Epidemiology project6546 weeks14.5 months

*1 EC = 28 hours

Maximal duration
The research project needs to be finished within the maximal duration. This includes handing in the report and presenting the results. This does not include the 10 working days for assessment of the end products.

Delay
The end date of the project might change​, due to unforeseen circumstances. If the new end date falls within the maximal duration of the project, this only needs to be approved by the examiner of the project. If the new end date exceeds the maximal duration, the student has to submit a request to the research project coordinator, which should include the approval of the examiner.

More information about valid reasons for postponing the end date can be found in the Study Guide.

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 question, 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.

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

Rubrics for business internships (for the UU examiner as well as the host examiner) can be found here.

  • The examiner determines the final grade expressed with one decimal figure. Grades lower than 6.0 will be rounded off mathematically according to article 5.4.1 of the EER.
  • All three elements of the research project (research skills - 60% of final grade; the written report - 30%; and the final presentation - 10%) have to be awarded with at least a 5.5 in order for the student to pass the final examination of the research project.
  • The examiner has to provide a motivation for the final grades. We strongly advise to use the Rubric about research skills as a feedback tool. For Business Internships the rubrics can be found here
  • A mark lower than 5.5 for one of the three elements or the final grade is unsatisfactory. In this case, the student will be given a once-only possibility to sit an additional or substitute test.
  • If the examiner's and second reviewer's or host supervisor's grades differ by 2 or more points, the Board of Examiners should be notified by the examiner.
  • In order to meet the cum laude requirements, a student should receive a 8.5 or higher for his/her research project.
  • The examiner and second reviewer must complete the assessment form within 10 working days after the student has handed in the (final) report and has given an oral presentation. To make sure there are no delays, make agreements with your student beforehand about the dates for handing in the final report and presentation.

Project at UU/UMCU 
The assessment is performed by the examiner in close consultation with the daily supervisor and a second, independent reviewer.

Project outside UU/UMCU
The supervisor host institute* grades all three components; research skills, written report and final presentation.
The examiner and the supervisor host institute should contact each other in order to make sure that the assessment of all components is performed according to the guidelines of the GSLS.

The supervisor or the host institute determines the grades according to his/her own marking system (e.g. Anglo/Saxon marking (F-A+)) and then consult the UU/UMCU examiner. The examiner converts the grade according to the Dutch marking system if necessary. The conversion table is available here.

*If the supervisor host institute is still rather junior (PhD candidate or postdoc), (s)he must be supported by a senior scientist (e.g. his/her own supervisor).

The procedure for registrating grades is as follows*: 

  1. The student downloads the assessment form from the Study Guide.
  2. The examiner fills in the grades and signs the assessment form, after ensuring the grades of the second reviewer or host institute supervisor are correct.
  3. The examiner saves the form and sends the following to the Master’s administration office (science.gsls@uu.nl for Biosciences students and infobms@umcutrecht.nl for Biomedical Sciences students)Master’s programme coordinator and the student. The student can provide the contact information.
    1. the form, 
    2. the written motivation for the final grade (e.g. rubrics) and
    3. the summary of (Ephorus) plagiarism check (< 10%)
  4. The student sends a PDF of the report (including laymen's summary) to the Master’s administration office.

*If you participate in the pilot 'Osiris Zaak', please log in to Osiris Begeleider to register your grades and upload the documents there. More information is available here.

The examiner (Utrecht supervisor) should be allowed to have access to the final report at all times. In addition, the student should be able to give the final presentation at the research group of the examiner. The Board of Examiners should be allowed to have access to the final report upon request, as well as third parties concerned with the evaluation and accreditation of the Master's Degrees.

In case of confidentiality, the following assessment procedure applies*:

  1. The student downloads the assessment form from the Study Guide.
  2. The examiner fills in the grades and signs the assessment form, after ensuring the grades of the second reviewer or host institute supervisor are correct.
  3. The final report should be checked via the plagiarism checker Ephorus. The examiner has to upload the file to Ephorus with 'Private check‘ on. The information in the report will not be stored in the Ephorus database.
  4. The examiner saves the form and sends the following to the Master’s administration office (science.gsls@uu.nl for Biosciences students and infobms@umcutrecht.nl for Biomedical Sciences students)Master’s programme coordinator and the student. The student can provide the contact information.
    1. the form, 
    2. the written motivation for the final grade (e.g. rubrics) and
    3. the summary of (Ephorus) plagiarism check (< 10%)
  5. Instead of a PDF of the final report, the student hands in (instead of a PDF of the final report) one A4 with project information, a short summary of the project and a remark regarding confidentiality. The examiner either has to sign the document or confirm via email to the Master's administration that this is indeed a case of confidentiality.

*If you participate in the pilot 'Osiris Zaak', please log in to Osiris Begeleider to register your grades and upload the documents there. More information is available here.

Fraud or plagiarism are absolutely not allowed and will be dealt with as described in the Education- and Examination Regulations (article 5.14). 

The examiner:

  • has the responsibility to ensure that no fraud or plagiarism took place. When you find or suspect that your student is committing fraud or is plagiarizing during his/her research project, this must be reported to the Board of Examiners (BoE). You are invited to contact the BoE first for advice. More information on how to deal with plagiarism or fraud can be found here.
  • should check the final research report for plagiarism using Ephorus, or an alternative comparable plagiarism checker. When the reported percentage of plagiarism in Ephorus is >10%, but there is no case of plagiarism, a motivation written by the examiner explaining this should accompany the assessment form. 

If you want to arrange an Ephorus account, examiners from Biomedical Sciences (UMCU) can contact Pieter Jan van der Schoot and examiners from Biosciences (Faculty of Science) can send an email to science.keyuserplagiaat@uu.nl.

If in doubt who to contact, please do not hesitate to contact the research project coordinators (Els van der Vlist for Biomedical Sciences students (UMCU), Kim Weiler for Biosciences students (Faculty of Science)). You can informally discuss your case with them, so they can advise you on which steps to take or who to contact.

Student with personal problems
If you notice that your student is having any personal problems, but (s)he does not want to discuss this with you or other group members, or neither of them can help him/her, please send the student to their programme coordinator or academic counsellor for help.

If the problem affects the students' chances of finishing the project in time and/or with a passing grade, please also contact the research project coordinator.

Disputes
If a (personal) dispute arises between the student and supervisor(s) during a research project please consider these steps:

  • Try to work out what caused the dispute and if you can resolve it, for example during an interim assessment meeting. 
  • If this fails to resolve the dispute, you and/or the student can consult the programme coordinator or academic counsellor. A conversation with the academic counsellor is confidential. With the prior approval of the student or supervisor, the academic counsellor contacts the other party or other experts (for example the programme coordinator or institute director) for further mediation. 
  • If the dispute is not resolved after consulting the programme coordinator or academic counsellor, the student (but not the supervisor) can submit an appeal to the Board of Examiners, or the complaints coordinator in case of a dispute on personal grounds. The Board of Examiners will assess whether any procedural mistakes were made in handling the dispute.
  • Lastly, the student is entitled to submit a complaint with the university ‘Examinations Appeals Board’. This board is solely charged with assessing procedural mistakes. 

Premature termination of the project
No credits will be allocated to prematurely terminated research projects.

Termination by supervisor
A research project may be terminated by the supervisor. This can be the consequence if the student fails to honour agreements or does not remain in contact with the supervisor, without giving substantiated reasons. The following guidelines should be used:

  • The student has failed to honour the agreements laid down in the application form (and the internship contract if applicable) and has been reprimanded clearly on several occasions in writing (letter or email) by the supervisor.
  • The student has been granted at least two opportunities to redeem him/herself by continuing the research project in the agreed manner. The student must have been notified in writing (letter or email).
  • The supervisor has stipulated a clear deadline in the second notification, warning the student that the research project will be terminated in the event of continued non-compliance. The student will be notified in writing if the research project is deemed to have been terminated.
  • The supervisor has sent copies of this correspondence to the programme coordinator and academic counsellor.
  • The student is entitled to submit an appeal against this decision with the Board of Examiners.

Termination by student
The student is entitled to terminate the research project prematurely. Before deciding to terminate the project prematurely, the student is advised to contact the academic counsellor first to discuss the matter. The academic counsellor will also advise the student on further progress of the study programme. The student must notify the supervisor as soon as possible on the decision to terminate the research project, and inform the programme coordinator and research project coordinator as well. 

Examiners of research projects receive reimbursement both when they supervise students in their own group and when they act as examiners for external projects. External institutes or groups do not receive reimbursements.

Reimbursement of research project and internship supervision between faculties
At the UU and the UMCU agreements have been made and arrangements are in place at faculty level regarding the reimbursement of education and research project or internship supervision. This means that examiners are reimbursed for all students within the GSLS regardless of their programme.

For questions about the reimbursement of supervision of all students -also students from other faculties-, please contact your own faculty:
UMCU - prof. dr. H.V.M. van Rijen.
Science Faculty - dr. C.J.F de Wolf.
Veterinary Sciences Faculty - Education Office of your Faculty.