Elke van Gils


You can decide where and about which subject to write your thesis

Student Biology
Prior Education: Biology, University of Utrecht

If you can dream it, you can do it
Elke van Gils, student Biology

‘Later, when I am older I want to work with monkeys’. From a young age my goal was clear, but then I still had to find the path to achieve it.

Prior Education

I started my Bachelor’s Biology at the University of Utrecht. During the Open Day a student told about research on primates within the Behavioural Biology group, I was in immediately. In the first year of Biology I got a mountain of information which showed me how diverse biology is and how many different directions it can go in. However, I remained set of my goal, primatology. Unfortunately this is not a separate program in the Netherlands, so I chose the courses that most closely fit primatology. Ecology, Behavioural Biology, Nature Conservation, Neurology and Endocrinology.

In my final year at Utrecht University I needed to start orientation for a Master’s program. However, the Master’s in Utrecht did not fit the picture that I had in mind; international internships, research in the rainforest and a self designed study program. To find out at which Master’s I belonged, I visited different universities to meet with the study advisors.

Wageningen University

When I arrived in Wageningen I fell in love with the rural and wide-set surroundings of the campus instantly. Very different from the stuffed, urban Utrecht... After the meeting with the Study Advisor I immediately knew that this was the place where I wanted to do my Master’s. According to my Study Advisor all of the plans that I had had for my Master’s program could be realised here. Extra courses (within primatology) in Belgium, thesis in Africa with primates, going abroad prior to taking courses and more than one Master’s specialisation.

‘If you can dream it, you can do it’, and Wageningen University can lend me a helping hand. I am really pleased with my transition from Utrecht University to Wageningen UR. Wageningen University gives the opportunities to organise my Master’s exactly as I want to. I started with a couple of mandatory and introductory courses that belong to my specialisations. The lectures are given in quite small groups, hereby one really gets involved in the topic. Apart from that, everything is in English, so a lot of international students come to Wageningen. This gives the advantage that a student is knowledgable in the English jargon when starting an international internship/thesis.


At the moment, I have just gotten back from Madagascar a few weeks ago, where I did my first thesis. Field research on Lemurs, half apes. Next month I will start the research in the lab, in which I will look at the feces samples under a microscope to determine the parasite prevalence. Possibly the parasite prevalence can be linked to an external factor such as anthropogenic disturbance.

You can decided about which subject to write your thesis and if you would rather stay in the Netherlands or go abroad. I had not arrived back home or I had already made plans for my next thesis. Preferably in Africa again, specialised on primates.

After my Master’s I would like to end up in conservation. Protecting animal species and their environments so that they are conserved for the future.

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