The OOA educational programme is flexible and focuses on cutting edge scientific topics and the core research activities of the OOA, covering diverse topics in oncology ranging from functional genomics to model animals, from protein structure to invasion and metastasis. This programme is supplemented by courses on transferable skills. Students make a selection from these courses, in compliance with their interest and background.
Students at NKI-AVL are obliged to follow at least four courses during their PhD trajectory (about 4,5 ECTS) and to attend the retreat three times. At VUmc, PhD students spend 3 ECTS on OOA courses, and attend the retreat twice during their PhD trajectory whereas at the AMC participation to courses and the retreat is optional.
In consultation with the supervisor, courses organized outside the OOA may also count as part of the education programme. For instance, all OOA PhD students can participate in the courses of the AMC Graduate School (please note: 250 euro per day, not subsidized by OOA). In addition, an agreement has been made with the Medical Genetics Centre South-West Netherlands (MGC), the Graduate Schools of the Radboud University Medical Center and Utrecht graduate school Clinical & Translational Oncology (CTO). All courses are free of charge. If you register, please indicate that you are an OOA PhD student. Major aim of this collaboration is to join forces by making the educational programme accessible to all PhD students in oncology of the participating graduate schools.
For on-the-job training, the PhD student gets support in his/her work from the project leader, post-docs and technicians, and this research is embedded in established research groups within the three participating institutes. The PhD students attend and participate in scientific staff meetings, work discussions, journal clubs, and – where applicable – patient meetings. Moreover, attending seminars, symposia and congresses is encouraged. Students regularly meet with experts in the field through meet-the-expert sessions after seminars given by internationally acclaimed scientists. The three OOA institutes are actively involved in organizing and co-organizing national and international scientific conferences/symposia. Prominent international scientists visit the OOA research institutes within the context of existing or new research collaborations in which PhD students are also involved
A highlight of the educational programme is the three-day annual PhD student retreat, which focuses entirely on the research conducted by the students themselves. Students present their work as a poster in the first year of their PhD and as an oral presentation in subsequent years. PhD students are also responsible for chairing sessions and participate in the peer review of presentations given by others to award the prizes for the best poster and oral presentations. The retreat aims to develop important skills in presentation and peer review but it also provides an overview of the research conducted within the OOA at an early stage of the student’s career, contributing significantly to active networking between groups. Basic science students benefit from clinical science exposure and vice versa.
In general, when embarking on the PhD track, the PhD student and the supervisor (promotor) will agree on a research plan, the PhD curriculum and supervision. The promotor is responsible for providing the PhD students with supervision, guidance and feedback. In most cases a daily supervisor is appointed to continuously assess the progress of the PhD project and performance of the PhD student.
Occasional disputes between student and supervisor are inevitable, ranging from minor disagreements about the order of experiments to severe conflicts about the quality of the thesis and the financial support. PhD students are encouraged to discuss those issues directly with their supervisor and/or promotor or supervisory committee. If a problem becomes insurmountable, the three OOA institutes have counsellors (please check the websites AMC, NKI-AvL and VUmc) who can help to find a solution.