Evolutionary Systems Biology

Focus Point: Master

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With the proliferation of huge data sets (DNA/RNA sequences, 4D imaging and geometric morphometrics), modern biology is rapidly becoming a quantitative science. Research laboratories and biotech companies around the world are looking for people who can use these data to solve biological and medical problems. To fulfill this demand, the new Evolutionary Systems Biology (ESB) master's programme provides the training necessary for this new type of scientist.

Master of Science

Kennzahl: 066 220

4 Semester / 120 ECTS Credits

Sprache: Englisch



Specifically, ESB master's students will:

  • Learn how to understand and handle modern “-omics” data sets.
  • Develop key computational skills and delve into biological modelling.
  • Combine experimental “wet-lab” technologies with quantitative “dry-lab” methods.
  • Apply these skills to questions arising from evolutionary biology, development, comparative genomics, and systems biology.

Vienna offers a unique scientific environment for the ESB master's programme, which will benefit from the expertise of research groups in population genetics, evo-devo, systems biology, and biomathematics at the University of Vienna and the Vetmeduni Vienna. Master's students will be able to draw upon the resources of two universities, and on established connections to world-class research institutes such as the Gregor Mendel Institute, IST Austria, the Vienna Graduate School of Population Genetics, and the evolVienna network.

Study Overview

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The ESB master’s programme aims to provide hands-on education, with practical skills courses designed to complement all lectures in the core curriculum. Furthermore, there is a strong emphasis on research, with two lab rotations and a research-based master's thesis project providing training in cutting-edge research methods. This programme particularly includes:

  • Courses covering population genetics, comparative genomics, molecular evolution, EvoDevo and systems biology.
  • Practical courses introducing modelling, programming, and statistical data analysis for biologists.
  • An extensive research component, including rotations in multiple research groups, one-on-one training, and individual research projects.
  • Special skill courses on giving scientific talks and writing successful grant proposals.

The expected length of the ESB master programme is four semesters. In line with the curriculum nine modules (MES1-9), a master’s thesis and an oral defense, totalling 120 ECTS, have to be completed to be awarded the degree.

Specifically, these nine modules are:

  • Population Genetics
  • EvoDevo and Molecular Evolution
  • Quantitative Biology and Systems Biology
  • Methodological Basics
  • Supplemental Module
  • Applied Data Analysis
  • Lab rotation I in preparation for the master’s thesis.
  • Lab rotation II in preparation for the master’s thesis.
  • Proposal Writing

Detailed information about the curriculum

Teachers' opinion

"The ESB master’s programme is embedded in a top-notch research environment. A special feature is the offered training in quantitative skills by focusing on topics centred around evolutionary biology. The programme covers the entire spectrum from the analysis of populations to between species differences. For me, it is a pleasure to train the next generation of biologists. They will be familiar with quantitative data analysis and gain a thorough education in a high-profile biological sub-discipline.
My research focus is on adaptation of evolving populations to a novel environment and functional innovations. Both topics are central to the training provided in the master’s programme and students will be given the opportunity to participate in cutting edge studies on these research topics."

- Prof. Dr. Christian Schlötterer

"I am working on construction and analysis of quantitative models to understand key phenomena in evolution, such as conditions for adaptation and speciation. Modelling is a central topic of the ESB master’s programme right from the start. In lecture courses, students will learn about the key models of population genetics and systems biology. In practical courses, they will learn how to play with these models and analyse them using analytical and computational tools."

- Prof. Dr. Joachim Hermisson

"Due to the development of second generation sequencing technologies, EvoDevo has converged with Comparative Genomics and Molecular Evolution. We follow this integrative approach, which promises deep insights into the evolution of animal body plans and cellular differentiation. New technologies allow to tackle the evolution of genomic features, including chromatin marks, DNA methylation, cis-regulatory elements, regulatory non-coding RNA, alternative splicing, transposable elements and gene duplications in non-model organisms. This new ESB master will fill a gap and train a new generation of scientists who know to ask the relevant biological questions but also know how to analyse big data from the genomic and systems biological approaches. Researchers with this profile and expertise are highly searched for in many related modern fields of biology."

- Prof. Dr. Ulrich Technau

Admission/Entrance Examination

The ESB master's programme is aimed at students with an interest in biological research and quantitative methods. As an entry requirement applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in biology or in a related field (such as biotechnology, biomedicine, or bioinformatics). Advanced quantitative skills are not a prerequisite. Applicants with a BSc in other natural sciences (e.g. Physics) or mathematics and statistics may also be admitted to the ESB master's programme, provided that they complete additional courses in basic biology.

Non-native speakers are required to prove their English language competence.

For further details on the application process and application deadlines, please see here.

After Graduation

An ESB master's degree will provide degree holders with an excellent foundation which will either enable them to pursue a doctorate, such as a PhD in quantitative biological research, or will open up a wide variety of career opportunities in research-oriented biomedical/biotechnological companies.


Please find contact information here.