"What makes BIT such a unique and great programme is the combination of subjects. All are different, but very relevant for the work field."
Hi! I’m Alexandra Vujkovic, born in 1996 in Serbia. When I was a young girl, my parents decided to emmigrate to Belgium. Growing up, I grew eager to learn about all facets of human (infectious) diseases. More specifically, I felt a strong affinity toward diseases that receive ‘little’ attention from the research community (i.e., neglected tropical diseases like Leishmaniasis and dengue fever). This is what led me to specialise myself in tropical infectious diseases, and to pursue a career in the biomedical sector. I studied biomedical sciences at the University of Antwerp (UA) from 2014-2019. After graduating, I got a job at the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM). Although I always enjoyed doing wet lab work, I wanted to learn computer methods to process molecular biological data to become more independent as a researcher. I looked for a training programme in Bioinformatics and came across the Advanced Bachelor in Bioinformatics (BIT) at Howest.
Because I had already started working, I was looking for a bioinformatic programme that I could combine with my job. Besides, I had heard positive things about BIT from my colleagues who had finished it already. BIT is a programme that can be followed as day courses for one year. However, there is also the possibility of a two-year @home programme which is ideal to combine with working and/or family. I was especially interested in the two-year programme, but those start every other year and not in the year I wanted to start. For that reason, I decided to complete the programme in one year (2019-2020). After BIT, I came across Artificial Intelligence @Home also at Howest. This is a “microdegree” consisting of 2 courses consisting of 6 study points each: Machine Learning and Deep Learning. I enrolled in that programme for this academic year (2020-2021) because I wanted to learn how to use machine learning methods.
This is really a hard question. What makes BIT such a unique and great programme is the combination of subjects. All are different, but very relevant for the work field. I think for me personally, it was the most fun to learning how to process/analyse NGS data, in “High throughput analysis”. This was linked to a project that I really enjoyed doing. These subjects were given by 3 lecturers and all of them did a great job!
Innovative, flexible, encouraging
PhD student (at the Institute of Tropical Medicine and University of Antwerp) working on T-cell receptor sequencing based viral diagnostics.
What I like most about it is how multidisciplinary my topic is. It is a combination of clinical, biomedical and bioinformatic sciences. This way I get to combine the knowledge I got from both the UA and Howest.
During my education in Biomedical Sciences (UA), I gained many lab skills that I still use at work on a daily basis to perform the necessary experiments. The Bioinformatics education (Howest) helped me learn how to use programming languages and bioinformatic tools that I need to process my results (e.g. NGS data).
Howest helped me gain and broaden my bioinformatic skills. It inspired me and showed me that besides wet lab work, the dry lab part can also be fun. I think that without this training I would probably be working somewhere else and I would be more focused on wet lab work. I am definitely content with my decision and I would advise it to anyone who has completed either their bachelor’s or master’s and wants to learn how to practically use bioinformatic methods.
Seek internship opportunities and keep your skills up to date. Don’t get discouraged by obstacles and rejections along the way, thy are all part of our journey. Pursue your passion, be positive and positive things will happen!
"The students were able to successfully complete these challenging projects and to go beyond what they learned in school."
Over the past few years our group (Bioinformatics Laboratory, Amsterdam University Medical Centers) has hosted several students of the Advanced Bachelor of Bioinformatics. Our experiences have been very positive. The students were highly motivated and due to their background able to quickly familiarize themselves with the topic of their internship. Examples of projects they worked on are the development of Galaxy pipelines for the analysis of omics data and a R/Shiny app for the Interactive visualization of DNA methylation and gene expression data. The students were able to successfully complete these challenging projects and to go beyond what they learned in school.
Next to their professional skills, they also blended in very well in our group. Not to mention that the various Belgian specialties (chocolates, beers) they brought with them to Amsterdam were also well appreciated. ;-)
Wist je dat ...
Perry Moerland (left) with Howest alumna Laurence Dedrie (right) during a group outing at the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam
"I can work much faster and be more focused"
In the molecular lab where I work as a lab manager, we started working on Next-Generation Sequencing techniques around 2008. I wanted to deepen and improve my know-how in this area, especially as this domain is developing rapidly. Hence, I made this advanced bachelor my choice, which moreover allowed me to combine studying with work and a family of four children. Initially, some subjects did not seem immediately usable to me for my job, but in the end, I was able to practically apply all the knowledge I had acquired in my work. I also got to know a lot about updates, insights and new methods for areas I already had a lot of experience with. This means that, today, I can work much faster and be more focused.
Now working at ...
"So far, we have only had positive experiences with Howest’s trainees."
This advanced bachelor’s degree fulfils a very clear need: it provides the field with multifunctional bioinformatics technicians. Specialists who bridge the gap between the laboratory world and the world of IT. Trainees are deployed for a variety of tasks: data configuration, setting up and maintaining bioinformatics workflows, performing genomic data analysis, and so on. So far, we have only had positive experiences with Howest’s trainees. What do they learn here? They have learned to work together within a multidisciplinary team and experience firsthand how you can contribute to a larger project in such a team.
Now working at ...
"After completing this course, I intend to look for new professional opportunities, based on the new know-how that I have acquired, combined with the necessary self-study."
I have been working as a laboratory technician for three years now and thought it was time to deepen and expand my knowledge - especially in the field of computer science, a field that has been of interest to me for a long time. That’s why I thought this advanced bachelor’s programme was the right one, as it links computer science directly to the biomedical world. In this way, experiments can now also be designed on the computer, instead of just standard in a lab. After completing this course, I intend to look for new professional opportunities, based on the new know-how that I have acquired, combined with the necessary self-study.
"Thanks to the advanced bachelor I got the chance to have an amazing international experience that I’ll never forget."
I’ve always wanted to go and study or perform a traineeship abroad. When I got the opportunity to do this during my advanced bachelor of bioinformatics, I went for it. I performed my traineeship at the Parc de Recerca Biomèdica de Barcelona, PRBB in Barcelona, Spain. It was a unique experience where I learned a lot about bioinformatics.
But besides only the biomedical applications in programming I also learned a lot about life in general that I’ll never forget. Besides the knowledge and practice that you get within the bioinformatics field, you also get to know a new culture which is vastly different from our own. Having the holiday like intermezzos in between the traineeship work was amazing and something you should at least experience once in your lifetime.
"Going abroad really made me grow both personally and professionally"
During my first bachelor in medical laboratory sciences, opportunities to go international for my traineeship were limited, so I stayed in Belgium. So when I enrolled in the advanced bachelor of Bioinformatics, I really wanted to perform my traineeship abroad, preferably in the United Kingdom. Because of the hands on mentality and quick follow up by HOWEST I was able to perform my traineeship at the Thomas Keane lab, part of the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), located on the Wellcome Genome Campus near Hinxton, a small village located in the neighbourhood of Cambridge.
My project was writing Python scripts for the creation of pseudochromosomes of rodent species. There is a large amount of study groups at EMBL-EBI that offer a wide variety of tasks, from creating and following genome pipelines to database maintenance and writing scripts. The nine colleagues in my office were all great people with various international backgrounds (Chinese, Indian, Spanish, Finish, Ukrainian, British).
I can say that I definitely enjoyed my stay in Cambridge and working at EMBL-EBI. I would recommend the experience to everyone who is still hesitating to go on an international traineeship. After this traineeship, I felt that I had become much more independent. My view on the world has also broadened a lot by coming in contact with so many different people and cultures.
I had heard about Howest DAE before, mainly from classmates as I follow them on their social media. But I never imagined that I would have that opportunity and get to have this experience as I had already chose my study program in a different university. Until one day when I discussed it with a classmate and we though, maybe we could go together on exchange. Then of course the first thing we check was this university and the rest was history! Our dream came true.
Another university, different studies, different country and people – I was drawn to do it. I found it very nice that Howest use a different system which would broaden my experience and at the same time it would be a bigger challenge to me. But It was one of those decisions you have the opportunity to take once in a lifetime! We were brave enough to jump together and go on an exchange, and on top of that, it was during the COVID challenge. And you can see it on our faces, It was by far one of the greatest experiences ever!
We had great local buddies that met us with a lot of other students. They took care of us during the whole exchange and they made the experience less stressful for us. The teachers are awesome, very friendly and are so passionate about their courses, up to the point they transferred their passion to us.
It was a pleasure to share such energy in a great environment. I know we could feel it mainly through the screens and I can only wonder what the full DAE experience would have been if there were not a global pandemic. This means one thing, I must come again and see it for myself. (A second bachelor does not sound that far away after all.)
It’s definitely a weird time (due to corona) to go abroad, but I couldn’t be more grateful and happy that I still went. I will never forget this half year that I spent in Brugge.
We all know that this could have been a lot different if it wasn’t because of this pandemic, but we also know that we still enjoyed every bit that we were here. Despite all, this has been a true, but good, rollercoaster.
I met amazing people that are now part of my family. I’m sure that when everything calms down and when it’s possible, we will visit each other. It was mainly because of these people that I had the most amazing months. These people helped me to get through this weird time, we helped each other. We all needed each other. It was the right time for us, and we didn’t even realize it. We were lucky enough to have met each other, that’s all I can say.
We tried to enjoy the little that we had. We tried to do the best that we could. Enjoy every second of everyday. Enjoy the little moments. Enjoy the present. We had each other and I couldn’t be more grateful.
This was exactly what I needed. I grew up because of this experience. I learned a lot about myself but also about everything around me.
I’m really thankful for my experience, not only in Bruges, but also in Howest. I really appreciate everything they did, so that, despite everything, we could have the best months here, and we did. Somehow, they made it through. They were always supportive. They had creative ideas and activities to keep us motivated and to still enjoy our experience.
I always wanted to go on an exchange semester to Belgium and I never doubted it even when the Corona crisis became present in Europe. And I am grateful that I made this decision because despite some restrictions such as some online lectures, limited travel options and closed bars, my time in Belgium was unforgettable. That thanks to the special people from all over the world that became true friends. In the student dorm “The Wing” in Kortrijk we made great memories. In addition to that, I really enjoyed my courses at Howest and the practical way of teaching us knowledge. I had the opportunity to learn a lot not only professionally but also personally, to get out of my comfort zone and be more confident.
I really recommend anyone to study abroad and to live this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I would describe my semester at Howest as fun, interesting and definitely recommendable. Due to the ongoing COVID-pandemic I wasn’t sure if it was a good decision to take part at an Erasmus-exchange before my arrival in Bruges, but I must confess that I didn’t regret it a single time!
The staff members and lecturers at Howest did their best to make sure that everybody enjoyed their semester. From online group meetings, personal talks to the buddy-programme, everybody had the opportunity to join the Howest international community. Especially interesting, I found the study content of my programme “Migration and Refugees”. I enjoyed that the lecturers were so passionate about their modules and as our group was very small, we got deep insight into the topics and had a very friendly and caring relationship with our lecturers.
In my free time, I enjoyed spending time with international and Belgian students as well as going for a walk or a bike ride at or around Bruges. Bruges is definitely a must-see in Belgium!
On my way back to Germany, I take along with me international friends from all over Europe, who I hopefully will be able visit once the pandemic will get better; the experience of a way of teaching, which is very different to the one I experienced in Germany and a broad knowledge about migrants and refugees.
While it has been stressful with the classes and the Covid pandemic complicated a lot, my exchange studies will still be a time that I always remember fondly. I have learned a lot, developed as a person, met new people and made friends. Thanks to everyone that made my time in Kortrijk the wonderful experience it was.
I was very undecided whether to leave Italy or not in this hard and uncertain (corona) situation. Thanks to Howest's reassurances and its way of involving us all with all the initiatives for the international students, I decided to throw myself into this adventure without overthinking. After 5 months, I’m very proud about how I dealt with all the problems of this pandemic era, almost always with positivity. But I’m quite sure that I did it thanks to the people I met: the other Erasmus guys, my teachers and administrative officers, my roommates, the Belgian students. Without this big family, I think I would not have not enjoyed my time in Belgium. During my experience, I understood the importance of people, of friendship and I’m glad of that: before leaving I took this for granted.
Also, I really felt at home in Bruges: it’s a city with a magic atmosphere, an elegant beauty and a lot of hidden places to get lost in. I found some special places in which I could relax: a new comfort zone.
So I just have to thank everyone who worked to make my time special, because, despite the situation, I’ll always remember my time in Belgium as one of the hardest and at the same time most special of my life.
Even though going on an exchange semester during Corona proved to be quite complicated, I absolutly loved my time at Howest. The DAE study programme is amazing and taught me an incredible amount for the short time I was there. It was quite a lot of work at times but considering the limitations that we had due to corona I was really happy to have such a good use for my time.
Unfortunatly we could not have in-person classes, but I think the school did a really great job at providing everything in an online format. I was also very fortunate to live in a dorm throughout my stay and so I thankfully was able to meet lots of amazing people even without in-person classes.
This is the second time I spent a Semester abroad and I would recommend it to anyone that is interested! Meeting people from all over the world and discovering a different environment than you are used to is an asbolutly amazing experience.
At the beginning, I wanted to do my exchange semester in Taiwan, but because of covid-19 my mother wanted me to stay in Europe. So, my second option was Belgium (Campus Bruges). I was a little bit disappointed to not be able to go Taiwan, but I found my time at Howest Bruges really interesting and better than expected. Despite being in Belgium, I had the opportunity to continue learning Mandarin and do Calligraphy with “Confuciusinstituut Howest,” a community in partnership with Howest Bruges.
All of the international team really did their best to adapt to the current situation and even if we couldn’t meet each other in person and do many things, they took a lot of time to help us by sending important information and keeping us informed by emails. They even organized online activities and many little events where they gave us free food like waffles, beer, chips/crisps, chocolate.
I am really grateful to all the team, my buddy and everybody involved for everything they did for us!
I also had the opportunity to meet new people from different countries (Austria, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Venezuela, Germany, Finland, Lithuania) and discover cultures with international and local friends. I finally was able to see the snow in person for the first time in my life.
It was a really great experience that I will never forget!!
As a master student in Sustainable Energy System Management, I have had the opportunity to choose the specialisation semester between Spain (University of Zaragoza) - Sustainable Energy Management, The Netherlands (Hanze UAS) - Sustainable Innovation Management, and Belgium (Howest UAS) - Sustainable Energy and ICT.
I chose Howest for my specialisation due to the Energy ICT courses such as Big Data & Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning and Blockchain & Security. By following these courses, among other things, I broadened my knowledge and understanding of current trends occurring in the Energy ICT sector. Likewise, students following these courses have all been introduced and encouraged to learn and use Python programming language for Data Analysis. To sum up, this specialisation was the best possible choice and I would definitely recommend to other students to follow it.
Moreover, the specialisation should not be considered as main driver for choosing Howest for your study semester. Student life is about so much more than just preparing you for lifetime of achievement. During your time in Howest, Kortrijk, you will get to experience everything the city has to offer from alluring architecture and design to unique student nightlife.
The sustainable energy and ICT study programme at Howest indeed gave me a good combination of academic knowledge and practical tools that I needed in the current energy transition scenario. This programme provided the best pathway because of the modules taught and the projects/assignments involved with the programme.
I really appreciate the cooperative, constructive and challenging atmosphere at Howest.
This has been one of the best experiences of my life even in these difficult times and Howest was a pillar of support that knew how to adapt and still found time to make my exchange a great adventure.
I’m very thankful for choosing Belgium as my exchange (and much more for having studied in Bruges as it is a fairytale city) due to the ease of getting to know every corner of the country by train and bike. I highly recommend anyone to come to live this unique life experience.
At the beginning, I was afraid go abroad for my first time living alone. But it turns out to be the best decision I ever made. I not only had the opportunity to meet new people with different cultures and habits and get important knowledge and values but also to discover myself.
I was able to visit different cities at very low prices, to taste new products (local beer and food), and to enjoy myself with all of my friends.
As I stayed the whole year, I had the chance to meet a lot of exchange students through both of the semesters. Some of them became my best friends and we already decided when and where we are going to meet and the others are also really good friends, as we shared amazing experiences that had created unbroken binds between us all. I hope we will get a chance to see each other again, and we’ll keep talking in the weekly basis via social media.
So, if you want to study abroad but have insecurities, fear not and just go for it! This is going to be the most unique and wonderful experience of your student life and will help you become who you truly are.
The Creative Communication Project semester I studied at their Kortrijk campus was simply wonderful. I truly enjoyed my courses, learned a lot, and had plenty of opportunities to put theory and skills into practice.
I also met a beautiful bunch of new people, many of whom I became really close friends with. From being nervous with me for biking in a city for the first time to movie and board game nights and cooking experiments to discovering what Belgium has to offer, I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to connect with them. I am sure our friendship will endure.
Confucius once wrote: “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” If you decide to come to Howest, I must urge you to follow his advice. If you do, it’s a guaranteed once-in-a-lifetime experience.