Chemistry and Science Communication and Society


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Master details

  • This is a specialisation of: Chemistry
  • Degree Master of Science in Chemistry
  • Mode of study Full-time
  • Duration 2 years
  • Start date September, February
  • Language of instruction English
  • Location Leiden
  • Croho/isat code 66857

Prof. Overkleeft

“An organic chemist can make a con-tribution to the development of new medicines.”

“My specialisation is organic chemistry, a very research-intensive science that couples a healthy dose of knowledge and a strong feeling for the subject with a highly developed capacity for imagination and
intuition. What makes one molecule react with another? How can I predict and control this reaction, and then apply the knowledge gained to develop new molecules with new characteristics?

Organic chemistry fulfils an important bridging function between physics on the one hand and biology on the other. This means an organic chemist can make a contribution to the development of new medicines. My inspiration comes primarily from nature. In the laboratory environment I try to prepare and imitate molecules which occur readily in nature, which are often very complex. I then use these molecules to influence biological processes, in order to gain more insight into the underlying biological processes. Certainly now that the human genome and that of other organisms has been identified, more emphasis will be placed on gaining insight into biological processes at molecular level. The combination of organic chemistry and biology has in this light a great future.”

Prof. Noteborn

“In Leiden we introduce small pieces of DNA in bacteria and in human cells.”

“May 20, 2010, U.S. Scientist Craig Venter announced his team succeed in producing bacterial DNA in their laboratory and introducing this DNA into a bacteria whose own DNA had been removed.

With the aid of the synthetic DNA the scientists were able to revive a bacteria that had nearly died and get it to breed an bacteria colony. You can compare this to a computer. When you take out a software pack and replace it with a new one, the computer will retain new characteristics and start working again. To this “empty bacteria” the synthetic DNA was a new software pack.

The synthetic DNA the scientists introduced is a replica of natural bacterial DNA. The synthetic DNA resembled the original DNA of the bacteria. Does this make the discovery less important? No. Creating such a large bacterial genome in a laboratory still is a large technological challenge. Have these US scientists created new life? No, absolutely not. The scientists used a natural mechanism. This discovery may be used for a great number of applications: advancements in the production of proteins used to produce medications, combating oil pollution more effectively and improved methods for capturing CO2.

It’s not surprising that the entire would wanted to know more about this discovery. Friday the 21 of May reporters from the RTL4 asked me to explain about this new discovery in their seven thirty news bulletin, and they also asked whether it would be possible to film the interview in our brand new Cell Observatory. A large number of scientists of the LIC and other institutes at Leiden University have been introducing smaller DNA pieces into bacteria and human cells, similar to what to Craig Venter did, but much more small scale in terms of the size of the DNA involved. By doing this we are for example trying to find out which DNA particles deter the development of growing cancer cells. My colleague Dr Claude Backendorf and a number of students Life Sience and Technology were working on these experiments on May 21st.”

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