European Master in Animal Breeding and Genetics

Set-up of the MSc course

The EMABG concentrates on the development of scientific expertise in the areas of quantitative, population and molecular genetics related to animal breeding. This involves four study tracks:

  • Breeding programmes in low-income countries (study track WU - BOKU)
  • Biological and societal context of breeding (study track WU – SLU or UGOE - SLU)
  • Genomic selection and precise phenotypes (study track WU – NMBU or UGOE - NMBU)
  • Functional genomics (study track UGOE - APT)

The global structure of the EM-ABG is presented in the figure below

Figure: The structure of the EMABG study programme

You can choose one of four specialisations or study tracks. The two first-year universities (UGOE and WU) both provide solid general training in basic quantitative genetics and breeding principles with some early emphasis on breeding programme design (WU) and genomics and biotechnology (UGOE). During the first year there is a choice of courses that will help you to tailor your programme towards your desired route of specialisation in the second year (flexible learning paths). These specialisations match with the area of scientific expertise of each participating university. WU is a research leader on breeding programme design and genomics of biodiversity. BOKU is at the forefront in research on tailor-made breeding programmes for indigenous breeds in low-income countries. SLU leads in research on animal welfare, focussing on the biological and societal context of animal breeding. NMBU is the leader in statistical methodology for genomic selection with large data, while APT, through its association with INRA, is leading in research on functional genotype-phenotype relationships.
The Welcome Course, breeding lab, internship placement, summer course, and thesis work provide the rich learning environment where you will work closely together with industry partners on individual or group assignments (breeding lab and internship), discussions on societal issues (summer course) and specific research questions with data sets provided by industry partners (thesis).

Welcome Course
The Welcome Course is held at the end of August interchangeably by the two first-year universities, WU and UGOE. EMABG first-year students are introduced to the academic system in Europe, the European and Global dimension of farm-animal breeding, have the opportunity to establish friendships and get settled in before the start of the academic year. During teaching and group work, close attention will be paid to cultural differences and to the rights and responsibilities of students and teachers in EMABG. The course includes an intensive skills training section which introduces students to scientific skills and topics ranging from poster and presentation skills to information literacy and scientific writing. Staff from all six partners participate in this event, which makes it possible to introduce each partner university and discuss the individual learning paths and study track choices of students.

Breeding Lab
All first-year students participate in this course which is simultaneously organised by WU and UGOE. Groups of students work on an assignment in close collaboration with an associated industry partner. Typical assignment projects may be the design of a breeding programme for a specific environment or market, the definition of a new breeding goal, or the validation of a novel technology for breeding purposes. The aim of this course is to familiarize the students with the competences and skills that are needed to work in a professional environment and to implement their knowledge of different elements of animal breeding acquired in the first year into a practical context. This will help the students to identify preferences for the second-year study track and the choice of master projects. All Breeding Lab projects will be presented at the Summer Course, where each group will give a short presentation on its results to the entire EMABG consortium.

Internship or placement (in a national or international organisation or company)
The aim of the internship is to offer students the opportunity to learn about the needs of national and international organisations and companies in their field and to apply their skills and knowledge. The opportunity for an internship is included as an integral part of the EMABG programme during the summer period between semester two and three (formally belonging to semester two). Organisations and companies will be offered the opportunity to formulate assignments for internships, and students can suggest an organisation and assignment for their internship. The internship is equivalent to 6 ECTS. The exact period depends on the course schedules of the first-year universities and industry partners. Assignment, placement, and reporting are agreed upon in advance by the organisation and one of the host universities. The internship will be mentored by a representative of the industry partner and one academic member of the consortium. ECTS credits are awarded for the internship and are included in the Diploma Supplement.
Representatives of the industry will be involved in the introduction period, where they introduce the animal breeding industry, present future needs and explain what the industry expects from employees. Professionals in other areas of the animal breeding sector contribute to ensure that students have a good understanding of the needs of the sector and to enhance their employment perspectives. Links to the animal breeding sector also offer students the opportunity to conduct research on topics proposed by professionals working in the sector. EMABG partner universities have strong links with organisations (from NGO to industry) working in the field of animal breeding and genetics. All partners are involved in industry-funded projects and in EU-funded projects (e.g. Robustmilk, SABRE). In addition, NMBU has close contacts with breeding organisations in farm animals (pigs and cattle) and fish, because sharing general office space at the university. SLU hosts the INTERBULL Centre and collaborates with ILRI in animal breeding and genetics training in low-income countries. APT, WU, and SLU are involved in European Graduate School for Animal Breeding and Genetics. BOKU, SLU, and WU have research projects with developing countries, many of them involving ILRI. APT has joint research teams the national research centre INRA.

Summer Course
The summer event takes place between the second and third semester, organized by BOKU, partially overlapping with the graduation ceremony. The content of the summer course will be focused on widening the knowledge of students in terms of the societal context of animal breeding and practical relevance, with participation of industry representatives and other associated partners. This networking opportunity outside of the academic environment will enable students to decide their final preferences on the master thesis topic, including the possibility to collaborate with industry experts in order to solve currently relevant problems. The overlap of the summer course with the graduation ceremony will enable the meeting of two student groups at a crucial time point in their studies. In this joint event the graduating students will share their experience and give valuable advice to their younger colleagues regarding the habits, expectations and workplace culture at the second-year universities.

Collaborative student project
Students participate in a transversal educational project, where they will expand their knowledge and review various aspects of animal breeding and genetics in the context of the UN`s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This transversal project will involve all students, including lecturer support from second-year partner universities, with optional involvement of students from academic associated partners (Chinese Agricultural University, University of New England and Iowa State University). Preparatory sessions will be conducted during the Summer Course. Each group at each second-year university will be given a specific task or aspect related to the SDGs, with potential contribution of animal breeding. The groups will then work together at the partner university, coming together in a joint video conference call to discuss their conclusions. Apart from the academic improvement of students this transversal project will also increase students’ awareness and sense of responsibility in a global society and further contribute to the unique harmony of the EMABG programme.

Graduation ceremony
The EMABG student graduation is a two-day event when the students from all second-year universities reunite to present their Master theses, celebrate their success and receive their EMABG Diploma certificate. The structured meetings with the summer course students take place during the first day, consisting of a joint session presented by groups of graduates per second-year university, with follow-up personal discussions among students. During the second day the graduates will present their MSc thesis in a conference-like setting, attended by all Summer Course participants, including associated partners and industry representatives. This small conference gives an additional possibility for the students to highlight their professional qualities and connect to potential employers. The graduation itself will be held as a formal ceremony, with the attendance of representatives from all EMABG partner universities, as well as senior officials from the organising university.