Research in universities across the world is limited by funds and for an interdisciplinary area like Biomedical Engineering collaborations between universities is highly crucial to capitalize on the diverse set of expertise. CEMACUBE is the Common European Master’s in Biomedical Engineering that seeks to achieve this goal. CEMACUBE is a dual degree Master’s programme where you get to study in two different partner universities. I pursued my first year of study at RWTH Aachen and the second year at Trinity College Dublin. These two universities offer excellent research opportunities in tissue engineering.
Recently, I have been getting a lot of queries from prospective applicants regarding the selection process and various other insights about the program. Here is my take.
In September 2010 the Erasmus Mundus Master’s course CEMACUBE (Common European MAster’s CoUrse in Biomedical Engineering) was initiated under the Erasmus Mundus Programme 2009-2013 of the European Commission. It is currently running as a CEMACUBE EIT Innovation & Entrepreneurship Masters under the EIT Health label. EIT Health is a knowledge and Innovation Community established by the European Institute for Innovation & Technology (EIT), and an independent EU body set up to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe.
2. Perks Of Being A CEMACUBE-ite
Being a CEMACUBEite has several perks. I have jotted down just 5 perks. There is more to the list but you need to be a part of the program to actually experience it. The two years of CEMACUBE have been one of the major highlights of my life so far, despite the COVID-19 situation.
2.1. Two Master’s Degree
You get to study in 2 universities and receive 2 Master’s degree simultaneously. Many of the recruiters prefer students who have exposure to multiple work cultures. So, that’s a great boost to your resume.
2.2. International Exposure
All CEMACUBE partner universities have an international classroom environment. Chances are that more than 50% of the students in your classroom will be from abroad. In Trinity College, out of 15 students in my batch, only 6 were Irish. In RWTH Aachen, only 7 out of 16 students were native Germans. So, you get to interact with a diverse group of people and make international friends. CEMACUBE gives you that opportunity ti=o experience the culture of 2 different countries.
2.3. CEMACUBE Social
CEMACUBE Social held in late October is a major highlight of the programme. You get to interact with your fellow CEMACUBites from other universities and chances are that you also meet CEMACUBE alumni. A CEMACUBE alumnus can help you with career insights and insights about various research opportunities.
2.4. Summer School in August
The 7-day summer school in the last week of August, sponsored by EIT, was perhaps one of my most cherished experiences in Europe so far. This summer school takes place at the end of the first year of study ad you don’t have to pay any participation fee for this.
2.5. Member of EIT Health Alumni Network
You also become an alumnus of the EIT Network. European Innovation Technology (EIT) organizes several workshops and webinars throughout the year and you can attend those events. If you have an entrepreneurial fervor, EIT has an extensive network of entrepreneurs and researchers to help you out there.
3. CEMACUBE Selection Process and Interview Round
CEMACUBE has a two-step selection process. For the first part, you need to submit an application with grades, reference letters and a motivation letter. If you get through this round, you have to attend an interview round.
The interview round takes place over Skype in the first week of April (from 2020 onwards it’s being conducted in January. So, check for updates on the website). For the interview, the applicant needs to prepare a PowerPoint presentation of not more than 7 slides on a topic of interest. Two interviewers are likely to evaluate you based on your technical acumen, presentation skills,
The interview lasts around 20-30 minutes. In the last 10-15 minutes, the interviewers try to gauge your motivation and evaluate the merit and basis of your choice of universities.
Here are a few questions that I faced in the interview.
- Why are you keen to make a transition from Mechanical Engineering to Biomedical Engineering?
- Did you take any electives in your undergraduate curriculum to make yourself better prepared for Biomedical Engineering?
- What are your two choices of universities and why did you opt for them? I mentioned the University of Groningen as my first choice and RWTH Aachen as my second choice. This is because I had previously worked on exoskeletons during my internship in France and these two universities are ideal for implants. However, the interviewers told me that the course at RWTH is more focused on ‘Tissue Engineering’ than general prosthetics and implants.
- How do you plan to fund your studies?
- What’s your favorite subject and what are the future prospects of its application in biomedical engineering?
4. Interview Tips
Although you can present on any topic of interest, I would suggest you present on a topic in which you have the first-hand experience. I presented on the exoskeleton project that I worked on during the internship.
4.2. Presentation Slides: PAR Strategy
Don’t add unnecessary details. I prefer following PAR strategy for the presentations and each time I have got effective results.
PAR stands for Problem, Action, and Result.
Since you have to prepare just 7 slides, you can easily dedicate 2 slides to each of the P-A-R. You can including one slide giving some background details (read as theory related to the presentation topic). Since I was working on a patient-specific exoskeleton design, I decided to give the patient background as the background details.
4.3. Neat and Clean Presentation
I prefer not to use any background colors for scientific presentations. However, if you are using colors, maintain the contrast. Try keeping the presentation as minimal as possible.
Use Sans Serif fonts for headings. Professionals prefer to use Helvetica, Calibri, Futura, Gotham, Verdana for the headings. Sans Serif fonts are bold and
4.4. Use Graphs, Flow Charts Wherever Possible
I summarized my exoskeleton design process on a single slide shown above. Presenting statistical results using graphs and charts create a lasting impression in the minds of the viewers.
4.5. Choice Of Universities
Try to know as much as possible about your choices of universities. I can cite 6 reasons which you may cite during your interview.
4.5.1. Paid Research Assistant positions
While paid Research Assistant positions are common in the US and Canada, it’s not common in European countries except for Germany. Students have to take part-time jobs outside academia (usually) to fund their expenses.
Since Germany is the only Western European country which offers paid research opportunity, that would be a great way to boost your resume and earn simultaneously. RWTH Aachen is the only CEMACUBE partner university that allows students to take paid Research Assistant jobs (HiWi).
4.5.2. Course Specialization
You can talk about the specializations and how the courses in a particular university are tailor-made for that specialization. For example, RWTH Aachen offers breadths of courses in ‘Tissue Engineering’ and ‘Medical Imaging’. Trinity College Dublin has awesome tissue engineering opportunities.
4.5.3. World Ranking on Universities
You can even talk about the World Rankings of Universities being your basis of choice. You can take either the QS ranking or Time Higher Education (THE) ranking as your basis. Based on rankings, Trinity College Dublin, University of Groningen and RWTH Aachen are ranked higher compared to the University of Ghent and Prague Technical University.
4.5.4. Proximity to Industry
Proximity to the MedTech and biopharma industries can be a major factor to influence your decision. For example, Trinity College Dublin has a great strategic location. There are over 100 biomedical and pharmaceutical sector companies within a periphery of 50 kilometers radius of Dublin, thus, easing your quest for jobs. Ireland is also a small country. You can reach any other Irish city from Dublin within 3 hours.
4.5.5. Extracurricular Opportunities
Trinity College Dublin and the University of Groningen are the two colleges that have better extracurricular opportunities. Trinity College has societies like Neurological society and Trinity Entrepreneurial Society (TES). These societies have likeminded people who can help you garner new interests and enhance your knowledge. These kinds of clubs or societies for extracurricular opportunities are not available in Ghent, Prague, and RWTH Aachen.
4.5.6. Living Expenses
If you are worried about living expenses, Prague may be one of your choice of cities. You can say in your interview that Prague is quite cheap for a student and you can get access to top-notch research facilities without getting into financial stress. If I rank the cities where the CEMACUBE partner universities are located in terms of their living indices, the list from the cheapest to the most expensive city is Prague, Aachen, Ghent, Groningen, and Dublin.
In fact, Dublin is one of the top 5 most expensive cities in Europe. While a student dorm in Prague and Aachen cost anywhere between €200-300, the rent prices in Dublin range from €800-1000 per month.
4.5.7. Startup Ecosystem
The University of Groningen has a great MedTech startup ecosystem. They have great specializations in ‘biomaterials’ and ‘surgical robotics’. It ranks among the top 100 world universities and it’s one of the best Dutch universities. I have written a detailed article on 5 reasons to choose the University of Groningen Biomedical Engineering Master’s program. I have also listed the spinoffs from University of Groningen and explained in detail its startup ecosystem.
4.6. Always Have Something To Ask At The End
This is a common interview question that people face at the end. However, many people end up asking really stupid and irrelevant questions. I was that stupid guy once upon a time.
Nevertheless, I asked about the possibility of Research Assistantship in various partner universities. I think this question led the interviewers to shuffle my choices, making RWTH as my first year of study. I would later pat myself for asking that question.
If you are making a transition from a core engineering field like Mechanical Engineering or Electrical Engineering, I can certainly tell you that the course is well designed to bridge your gap in the knowledge of biology and medicine. Good luck with the application and selection process!