Teaching students with very diverse backgrounds can be extremely challenging. This article uses the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology MSc in Amsterdam as a case study to describe how the knowledge gap for students with heterogeneous backgrounds can be bridged. We show that a mix in backgrounds can be turned into an advantage by creating a stimulating learning environment for the students. In the MSc Programme, conversion classes help to bridge differences between students, by mending initial knowledge and skill gaps. Mixing students from different backgrounds in a group to solve a complex task creates an opportunity for the students to reflect on their own abilities. We explain how a truly interdisciplinary approach to teaching helps students of all backgrounds to achieve the MSc end terms. Moreover, transferable skills obtained by the students in such a mixed study environment are invaluable for their later careers.
Keywords: bioinformatics; education; systems biology.