First Dutch Master’s degree programme in nanobiology launched today in Rotterdam and Delft

15 September 2015 by Webredactie Communication

Today sees the start of a new joint Nanobiology Master’s degree programme at Erasmus University Rotterdam and TU Delft. This is the first Master’s degree programme in nanobiology in the Netherlands. A relatively new field of research that straddles the boundaries of physics, nanophysics, biology and medical science, nanobiology is of primary importance with regard to the ongoing battle against illnesses such as cancer.


This September, thirteen students are embarking upon the Nanobiology Master’s degree programme, attending subjects in both Delft and Rotterdam. These ‘pioneers’ are all part of the first wave of graduates from the Nanobiology Bachelor’s degree programme, another joint venture of Erasmus University Rotterdam and TU Delft. Having started the programme in 2012, the students graduated within three years. This first group of graduates will be awarded their Bachelor’s degree on Wednesday, 23 September. 


The Nanobiology Master’s degree programme is the first in this subject in the Netherlands. Comparable Master’s programmes are currently being developed around the world, each with a different emphasis. Nanobiology is a relatively new field of research that straddles the boundaries of physics, nanophysics, biology and medical science. Rapid advances in the field have only recently made it possible to perform biological research at nano-level (the level at which individual molecules and atoms become visible). This allows the development of an increasing number of tools allowing the observation of cells and for work to be conducted within them. The application of physical and mathematical principles now facilitates a better understanding of biology. Students and researchers who are able to build bridges between physics and biology are therefore in strong demand, and the Nanobiology degree programme will help to satisfy this demand.


Roland Kanaar from Erasmus University Rotterdam, researcher and Director of Studies, emphasises the major relevance of the new specialisation: ‘Incorrect interactions between molecules in our cells are the underlying cause of diseases, including cancer. Nanobiology students learn how to use the nanobiology ‘toolbox’ to visualise, quantify and manipulate these molecular interactions. Their skills and insights are expected to revolutionise a range of aspects of medical diagnoses and treatment.’

Kanaar himself studies genetic stability in relation to cancer and congenital disorders. He examines the process of DNA damage and recovery at all levels. For example, Kanaar recently showed that heating to 42° Celsius causes one of the repair systems in DNA to shut down. In combination with medicines, this could result in a new treatment for certain cancer patients.

SARS and the flu virus 

Nanobiology is also important at TU Delft with regard to health-related research. For example, TU Delft researchers recently examined the behaviour of RNA polymerase, a critical protein in viruses. The ‘errors’ made by the proteins in the cell are crucial to the viability of a virus population. The findings increase our understanding of viruses such as SARS and influenza, and provide fresh potential for the development of antiviral medicines. 

Additional information 
About the Nanobiology programme: 
Nanobiology Bachelor’s degree programme
Nanobiology Master’s degree programme 

About related research:  
Nynke Dekker lab  
Cees Dekker lab 
Marileen Dogterom lab

Claire Hallewas (TU Delft press relations office),, +31 (0)15 278 4259.
Sylvia Marmelstein (Erasmus MC press relations office),, +31 (0)10 704 4537.   

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