A challenge-based interdisciplinary undergraduate concept fostering translational medicine

14 November 2023

Educational project

A challenge-based interdisciplinary undergraduate concept fostering translational medicine

This project aims to develop an interdisciplinary challenge-based educational concept to implement translational medicine in undergraduate (bio)medical education.

Background information

Translational medicine (TM) is an interdisciplinary branch of biomedicine that bridges the gap between (fundamental) biomedical research and patients from bench-to-bedside (1,2,3). The goal of TM is to improve global health by combining disciplines, resources, expertise, and techniques in biomedicine. Fundamental TM skills include interdisciplinary collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving (so-called 4C’s) (1,2). TM is currently limited in undergraduate (bio)medical education programs with limited opportunities for collaboration between disciplines.


We aimed to develop a novel interdisciplinary challenge-based educational concept, grounded in the theoretical framework of research-based education, to implement TM in undergraduate (bio)medical education. Research question: “How does this novel educational concept improve 4C skills, and motivation?”

Project description

Medicine and biomedical students were introduced to an authentic clinical problem through an interdisciplinary session with patients, medical doctors, and scientists. Next, students collaborated in mixed groups to design laboratory-based research proposals addressing this problem. Finally, the best proposal was executed hands-on by mixed student teams in a consecutive interdisciplinary laboratory course. For this, we founded the Bachelor Research Hub, a dedicated wet laboratory within the UMC Utrecht where students can do biomedical research together with researchers and stakeholders. Questionnaires and focus groups were used to evaluate the efficacy of the educational concept on student learning, especially regarding the 4C’s and student motivation.

Results and conclusion

Questionnaire results revealed that students developed 4C skills and acquired a 4C mindset. Working on an authentic patient case positively contributed to communication, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving skills. Working in an interdisciplinary setting helped students to develop collaboration and communication skills. Furthermore, focus groups showed that students were motivated by:

  • the relevance of their work that made them feel taken seriously and competent,
  • the patient involvement that highlighted the societal relevance of their work, and
  • the acquisition of a realistic view of science.

We have showcased a widely applicable challenge-based undergraduate (laboratory) concept fostering TM in education that positively stimulates the development of 4C skills. Students find working on an authentic patient case and interdisciplinary working motivating because they feel competent, they feel taken seriously, and they understand the social relevance better. Additionally, in the laboratory course, medical students were motivated by the technical skills and biomedical knowledge of biomedical students, while biomedical students valued the clinical perspective of the medicine students.


  1. Bovenschen N, et al. Towards Bachelor Research Hub networks to foster transdisciplinary challenge-based education in Translational Medicine | Nature Portfolio Bioengineering Community. (2021)
  2. Drost RH, et al. How a four-year-old boy connects healthcare, biomedical research and undergraduate education. Nat Biotechnol. 2019;37(9):1092-1095.
  3. Albani S, Prakken B. The advancement of translational medicine-from regional challenges to global solutions. Nat Med. 2009 Sep;15(9):1006-9. doi: 10.1038/nm0909-1006. PMID: 19734876.

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