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Explore the influence of our genetic code on behaviour and health

Genes in Behaviour and Health (Research)

What is the influence of genetic and environmental factors on mental illness and lifestyle? Why is quitting smoking so much easier for one person than another?

How we develop, what we observe, what decisions we make: everything is behaviour. That behaviour is influenced by where and how we grow up and the predispositions passed on to us by our parents. The interplay between all these factors shapes who we are, what we do, and how we view the world. To what extent can these differences between people be attributed to genetic factors and/or environmental factors?

Be part of a new generation of talented researchers
The two-year Research Master’s programme will equip you with the knowledge and understanding of the relevant research methods to design and carry out high-quality research within the field of behaviour/molecular genetics and genetic epidemiology. In choosing this programme, you’ll take the first steps to become part of a new generation of talented researchers capable of contributing to the rapid spread of omics, from curative medicine to wider applications in the behavioural and health sciences involving prevention and care.

Well known Twin Register
Opting for the Research Master’s programme brings you into an inspiring research environment. The Department of Biological Psychology is famous for its Netherlands Twin Register: a unique data repository containing genetic and environmental information for more than 50,000 twin families, who are followed longitudinally.

Small groups
You will be taught by expert staff members and researchers from other institutes worldwide who regularly visit to give lectures and workshops. Teaching takes place in small groups, providing ample opportunities for interaction with staff.

Specific information about the courses can be found in the study guide.

The start date of this programme is September 1st.

First year

In the first year, you’ll gain basic background knowledge on the organisation and transcriptional regulation of the human genome, and how this forms the cornerstone of the biological pathways that influence behaviour and health. You’ll also learn the basic computational skills needed to conduct gene-finding studies.

You’ll focus on classical twin studies as well as extended pedigree analyses, to learn to formulate structural equation models to investigate the heritability of traits within the area of psychology, behaviour and health, and to test gene x environment interactions and correlations.

Other courses focus on Epigenomics and Sequencing in Behaviour and Health and statistical programming. In addition, you’ll take an in-depth programming course, covering R are and some Python.

At the end of the year, you’ll apply your knowledge in an internship in which you’ll carry out a research project in close collaboration with an experienced VU supervisor. These internships are often an integral part of active academic projects and frequently contribute to publication.

Specific information about the courses can be found in the Study Guide.


  • Internship 1
  • Introduction to omics
  • Statistical Programming in R and Python
  • Behavioural Genetics
  • Gene Finding: Genome-Wide Association Studies and beyond
  • Epigenomics and Sequencing in Behaviour and Health
  • Imaging and cardiovascular genetics

Second year

In the second year, you’ll learn how to use large population-based information databases in the study of human genetics.
You’ll focus on the theoretical foundation of biometrical and quantitative genetics, and the insights needed to understand genetic findings from empirical studies. For example, one course is all about a rapidly developing and growing field: personalised medicine and health. You’ll also choose one elective course to extend your knowledge in a specific area of your interest.

To help you write a good grant proposal, the lecturers will share their knowledge. You’ll also actively practice scientific communication through interviews, newspaper articles, websites and social media.

Finally, as part of a second internship, you’ll independently conduct a research project, which will be completed by writing your Master’s thesis.

Specific information about the courses can be found in the Study Guide.


  • Internship 2
  • Complex Trait Genetics
  • Nature of nurture: gene-environment correlation and interaction in the family
  • Personalised Health and Medicine
  • Grant Writing and Science communication

Graduate School

The Graduate School of the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences is responsible for the quality of education for Research Master’s and the training and supervision of PhD candidates. Find more information about the Graduate School.

Change your future with the Genes in Behaviour and Health Research Master’s programme

Change your future with the Genes in Behaviour and Health Research Master’s programme

The rapid growth of genetic knowledge and research has led to a great demand for professionals with the expertise and skills to link genetics to human behaviour and health. Young researchers with knowledge of behavioural sciences, statistics, genetic epidemiology, statistical genetics and omics are very much needed in the growing and promising field of genetics. This results in excellent career prospects for graduates from the programme.

Explore your future prospects
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