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Mechanisms of Disease


Admission requirements

Advice: elementary knowledge of Cell Biology, Cell Signaling and Molecular Biology.


The aim of this course is to get a good understanding of the molecular mechanisms of human disease, in particular cancer (oncogenes, tumor suppressors, chromosomal abbreviations and genome instability), infectious disease (tuberculosis, Salmonella infection), diabetes, neuronal-stress disorders, developmental disorders and ageing.

Course objectives

After completion of the course, students are able to:  

  • Explain how specific signal transduction events and molecular mechanisms underlie various pathological processes, and how this knowledge can be applied to develop better treatment strategies for human diseases. 

  • Understand, critically evaluate and discuss lectures by scientists on their current research within a variety of biomedical fields ranging from cancer, infectious and inflammatory diseases, diabetes and stress-related disorders to developmental disorders and ageing. 

  • Integrate the information provided by specialists in the field during the lectures with knowledge gained from one scientific publications to formulate scientific questions and propose the best scientific approach to solve an important biomedical question. 

  • Present the designed research plan on the selected topic to the group and have a discussion about this plan. 

  • Formulate personal interests in biomedical research fields for possible further exploration during their Master studies. 


You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

A series of obligatory lectures provided by invited specialist speakers will be combined with own literature self-study. The students will have to write a short summary on the topic of the lecture before and subsequently formulate a few questions after the lectures.

Assessment method

  • PowerPoint presentation.

  • Written examination requesting knowledge of lectures and the following pages from Alberts: 879-941, 946-954, 1103-1109, 1208-1223, 1230-1265, 1446-1450, and 1485-1491, 1507-1508, 1512.

The final grade consists of the following partical grades:

  • 70% examination (min 5,6 is obligatory)

  • 30% power point presentation and other tasks

Reading list

  • Lectures

  • Recommended: Alberts et al, Molecular Biology of the Cell, 6th edition, ISBN 9780815344643

  • Additional literature required for the lectures and own power point presentation on a chosen topic.


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Coordinator: Dr. B. Ewa Snaar-Jagalska


Course can be followed by Biology MSc and by LST, BFW, BMW MSc students, but please realize this is a difficult course asking your interest and commitment.

The lectures will be given mostly in the morning and the afternoons are meant for self-study on a daily basis. In the last week of the course students will give their own presentation on a chosen topic and prepare for the examination. Participation in lectures is obligatory and this is a full time course.