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Interdisciplinary MSc thesis courses will strengthen experimental teaching in natural science programmes

MSc students will get the opportunity to develop their competencies in experimental research by personally testing innovative technologies and scientific methods.

With a total grant budget of DKK 18 million, the Novo Nordisk Foundation has taken the initiative to support the development of several new MSc thesis courses within university programmes in the natural and technical sciences in Denmark. The aim is to promote research-based teaching with an experimental and interdisciplinary approach at Denmark’s universities. Thus, the courses should supplement the often more theory-based teaching in MSc programmes and are expected to inspire the students to use new experimental methods and develop new creative ideas for future research projects.

By conducting experiments and integrating disciplines such as biology and computer science, the students will also obtain practical experience with the latest technology and insight into complementary workflows from various disciplines, which can pave the way for new research breakthroughs in the long term.

Finally, the overall ambition is to boost the quality of university teaching within the natural and technical sciences in Denmark. Kasper Nørgaard, Senior Scientific Lead, Novo Nordisk Foundation, elaborates: “In addition to giving the students hands-on experience with the latest technologies, an important purpose of this package of courses is to promote the development of exciting learning situations, thereby contributing to making teaching at universities more attractive.”

Four courses starting in 2022/2023
Of the total grant budget, the Foundation has now awarded four grants of DKK 2 million each for developing and holding MSc thesis courses with interdisciplinary and experimental content. The duration of the grant will be 3 years, with courses starting in the academic year 2022/2023.

The Foundation has awarded a grant to Kresten Lindorff-Larsen, Professor at the Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, to hold a course on integrative structural biology. The course, which targets students in the health sciences and natural sciences, will focus on how to map biological structures by integrating data from computer-based techniques. To bridge the various disciplines, when the course starts, the students will have the opportunity to improve their qualifications in either protein science or computer science.

Anders Bjorholm Dahl, Professor at the Technical University of Denmark, has received a grant for a course on 3D quantitative imaging and analysis. The purpose is to enable the students to work with 3D imaging, such as in connection with designing experiments, advanced image analysis and quantifying three-dimensional structures. The course will target students in such disciplines as biomedicine and materials science and will comprise three modules that can be taken separately.

Lars Porskjær Christensen, Professor at the University of Southern Denmark, has received a grant for the course Hands-on Approach to Early-stage Drug Discovery. The course will aim to enable MSc thesis students in the natural and technical sciences and health sciences to understand the chemistry and bioactivity of natural substances and how to use computational chemistry to investigate bioactivity. The course will focus on experimental strategies for the early stages of drug development.

Finally, Stig Uggerhøj Andersen, Associate Professor at Aarhus University, has received a grant for the course Single-cell, Single-molecule: the Next Level in Cell Biology, which will focus on how new technologies and integrating research fields can lead to new knowledge about single cells and molecules. The course will target students in molecular biology, molecular medicine, biochemistry, chemistry, nanoscience, bioinformatics, computer science, mathematics and physics.

In addition to the four course grants, the Foundation has also awarded DKK 2 million to establish a network for the participating teachers and students. The goal is to create synergy between the courses and promote the exchange of knowledge and experience around interdisciplinary teaching and learning within the natural and technical sciences. In addition, the network will support students at Denmark’s other universities in getting the opportunity to take the courses offered.

Support needed for teaching activities
Berith Bjørnholm, Senior Vice President, Education & Outreach, Novo Nordisk Foundation, stresses the importance of providing support for universities’ teaching activities: “This type of grant is the first within the Foundation’s new 2030 strategy which focuses on the quality of teaching the natural science at the university level in Denmark. The grants fill a gap in the funding system, since obtaining external funding for teaching activities has been really difficult.”

The Foundation expects to use the remaining DKK 8 million of the grant budget to support the creation of four additional courses during 2024.

Further information

Nils Eskestad
Senior Corporate Writer, PhD
+45 30232904 [email protected]