30 June 2017
Simultaneous graduation in Maastricht and Tomsk via live stream

First graduates of Biomedicine and Biophysics double degree programme

On 29 June 2017, it was the first time that a university in Russia and a university in the Netherlands performed their graduation ceremony together with a live stream connecting them. The reason for this was the graduation of one Dutch and two Russian master’s students of the Biomedicine and Biophysics double degree programme (DDP). In this programme they studied Biophysics for one year at the Russian Tomsk State University (TSU), and the following year they studied Biomedicine at Maastricht University (UM).

‘Best of both worlds’ synergy
The origin of the Biomedicine and Biophysics double degree programme lies in the celebrations of 400 years of Dutch-Russian friendship in 2013. As part of stimulating cooperation between the two countries, TSU and UM started a cooperation with respect to education. The added value of the DDP for students is that they are able to obtain two Master of Science degrees in considerably less time than it would take to earn them separately. “But also”, Wilfred Germeraad (master coordinator Biomedical Sciences at UM) says, “the students get the best of two worlds, with the synergy of TSU’s expertise in fundamental sciences and UM’s knowledge in biomedical science.”

When he directs the DDP students in his graduation speech, Germeraad refers to this ‘best of both worlds’ synergy as follows: “You are in a unique situation compared to your fellow students, because you do not only know basic physics principles, you can also apply them in the biomedical field. You can use that knowledge for developing better medical treatments, apply it for novel improved diagnostics, or for monitoring if installed medications are effective. Another advantage you have is that you worked in labs with people from different countries, where everyone speaks English with a funny accent, like me. To be exposed to that will help you later on in life, when you travel the world visiting conferences and meeting scientists from other countries.”

Barriers
The language barrier is a problem in itself. In the future, some TSU teachers will receive training in English. The English language proficiency of Russian students Valeriia and Dmitrii wasn’t very good either when they arrived in Maastricht. But during their graduation ceremony they addressed the audience in good English. Dmitrii: “Two years ago I could not imagine me studying in Maastricht in English. But I managed it!” Herman Kingma, who is involved in the programme as chairman of the UM taskforce Russia, saw that too: “Now you can speak in English with everyone, and more importantly you can communicate with your fellow scientists and work with them in the lab. The double degree programme is a good example of bridging different cultures, especially in education and science. And these three students have crossed that bridge successfully, we are very proud of them.”