The Graduate School of Life Sciences is an inter-departmental graduate school in the life sciences funded by the German Excellence Initiative since 2006. It integrates more than 190 researchers from biology, medicine, chemistry, pharmacy, physics and psychology and more than 300 doctoral researchers from 40 countries.
The GSLS prepares doctoral researchers for a successful career in academia and industry. Several world-class research institutions have joined forces to offer doctoral researchers interdisciplinary research projects at the forefront of science and a curriculum tailored to the individual needs of each graduate. Among the participating institutions are the Biocenter, the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research (IZKF), the Research Center for Infectious Diseases (ZINF) and the Rudolf Virchow Center/DFG Research Center for Experimental Biomedicine (RVZ). The participating faculties include biology, medicine, chemistry and pharmacy, physics and astronomy and parts of the philosophical faculty II (psychology). The school's concept has again won support by the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments in its second program phase (2012-2017).
One of the key features of the GSLS is its emphasis on interdisciplinarity. Progress in modern life sciences has increasingly been fostered by collaboration across the boundaries of traditional disciplines, which is reflected in the interdisciplinary structure of the GSLS. We consider doctoral candidates early stage researchers and believe that original research is at the heart of any good doctoral program. Activities of the doctoral study program besides work on the PhD project are organized such that they support doctoral researchers in the acquisition of key academic skills directly useful for their ongoing dissertation work. Transferable skills workshops and mentoring programs help prepare doctoral researchers for career pathways in academia, but also outside of academia.
The GSLS comprises five sections: Biomedicine, Infection and Immunity, Integrative Biology, Neuroscience as well as Clinical Sciences and an MD/PhD program. Thematically related PhD projects are thereby grouped into research fields. The sections are characterized by intense cooperation of the participating principal investigators. Within each section, the doctoral researchers are associated with programs such as DFG-funded Graduate Training Groups (GKs) or Collaborative Research Centers (SFBs). The programs serve as immediate reference points and provide the doctoral researchers with a "scientific home" and a peer-group for scientific and social exchange.
The GSLS offers a three-year study program "Life Sciences" that confers either the degree "Dr. rer. nat." or "PhD", depending on the candidate's choice. Admission to the study program typically requires a very good to excellent master's ("Diplom") degree. Fast-track options including an international MSc program "Life Sciences" for candidates with a bachelor's degree exist as well. Funding is provided to doctoral researchers in a variety of different ways. The GSLS itself awards fellowships and funded positions based on a competitive selection process. Besides these central funds, the majority of GSLS doctoral researchers are funded through various project grants of their supervisors. On average, it takes doctoral researchers about 3.5 years to complete their project with a drop-out rate of below 5%. These figures testify to the success of the GSLS concept.
Research and teaching of the GSLS spans the entire spectrum of the life sciences from the molecular to the organismic and ecosystem level.
Research and teaching activities of the GSLS are organized into five sections. They each reflect broad research fields with multiple links both within and across sections. The current sections are formed around ongoing collaborative research efforts.
The section Biomedicine involves the study of physiological and patho-physiological processes. Current research efforts range from molecular interactions to the study of consequences at the in vivo level. Ultimately, the goal is to explore new strategies for diagnosis and therapy. The section particularly emphasizes tumor and cardiovascular diseases. Proteins as potential targets of therapeutic drugs are a prime focus. Such "target proteins" are key determinants of cellular functions, and they orchestrate the fundamental properties of cells, organs and organisms. The comprehensive analysis of target proteins and their integration in physiological networks is one of the main challenges in biomedical research.
The section Infection and Immunity represents a second major research focus of the University of Würzburg. Scientists from the participating faculties rely on state-of-the-art methodologies to tackle pressing questions in infectious disease research. The scientific program spans research on host-pathogen interactions, genome research in pathogenic microbes, identification of novel anti-infectives, molecular processes of immune responses, mechanisms of tumorigenesis induced by microbes, T- and B-cell immunity, and new concepts in immune therapy.
The section Integrative Biology aims at a cross-taxon approach to complex biological phenomena and systems. It deals with integration across all levels of biological organization and emphasizes common concepts in living organisms. The hallmark of research in this section is the combination of organismic and molecular biology and a focus on the use of model organisms. Subject areas include biochemistry, bio-organic chemistry, biophysics, molecular biology, microbiology, physiology, cell and developmental biology, genetics, bioinformatics, ecology, and evolutionary biology.
Neuroscience is one of the most rapidly developing areas in the life sciences. The section Neuroscience brings together expertise in system physiology, behavioral neuroscience, molecular biology, molecular structure and function, organic and pharmaceutical chemistry and bioinformatics. Current research focuses on developing a common language for theoretical research on neuronal networks, intelligent control systems in computing sciences, identification of new drugs based on knowledge of disease processes and structures of key molecules, and the development of new concepts to characterize the neurobiological principles underlying cognition, emotion, and behavior.
The research of the section Clinical Sciences aims at translating target molecule identification and new diagnostic and therapeutic venues into treatment and prevention strategies in clinical settings and the general population. Doctoral researchers are integrated into three main research areas: Clinical Research, Clinical Epidemiology and Health Services Research.
In addition to the above sections, the MD/PhD-program is designed to attract medical students who want to embark on a career in translational and clinical research. Doctoral researchers who graduated from the MD/PhD program are active in diverse positions in biomedical and clinical research. The MD/PhD program is not linked to any particular area of research, but offers research projects in all subject areas covered by the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research (IZKF). The unifying principle is to train MDs in biomedical research on projects of clinical relevance.
The GSLS offers a three-year doctoral study program in English with options for fast-track careers, an integrated international master program, as well as additional support throughout the postdoctoral phase.
"...The core component of doctoral training is the advancement of knowledge through original research ... We urge universities to ensure that their doctoral programmes promote interdisciplinary training and the development of transferable skills, thus meeting the needs of the wider employment market ..." (Communiqué of the Conference of European Ministers responsible for Higher Education, Bergen 2005)
The GSLS regards doctoral candidates as early stage researchers and believes that original research must be the centerpiece of doctoral training. Activities of the doctoral study program help doctoral researchers improve key academic skills directly useful for their ongoing dissertation work. In addition, a wide spectrum of methods courses and transferable skills training is offered.
A core element of doctoral training in the GSLS is the thesis committee that works out an individual training plan together with the doctoral researchers depending on their individual academic backgrounds and goals. For each doctoral researcher, there is an individual "prescription".
Mandatory training elements are taught in English and include lab meetings, literature seminars, seminars of the research training group, annual retreats and summer schools. Doctoral researchers are encouraged to present their results to the international scientific community. Graduation in the GSLS requires active participation at international meetings and contributions to publications in international peer-reviewed journals. The elective courses include lectures/workshops on specific laboratory methods and transferable skills workshops ranging from hands-on seminars on presentation techniques and academic writing skills to courses on patent law and leadership qualities in academia and industry. GSLS doctoral researchers are also encouraged to spend a period of the dissertation phase abroad, ideally in collaborating labs, and contribute to GSLS activities by organizing doctoral conferences, teaching or membership in the Doctoral Researchers' Council (DRC). All training elements attended are documented in a diploma supplement that accompanies the doctoral diploma at graduation.
The GSLS offers a fast-track program to exceptionally qualified candidates with a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. The candidates in this program undergo a qualification period of up to one year which is completed by oral exams and a short experimental thesis work. Having passed the qualification exam, the candidates then directly enter the doctoral phase. An international master program "Life Sciences" has admitted its first students in the winter term 2012/2013. Outstanding candidates have the opportunity to continue with their doctoral dissertation after only one year in this program. Female doctoral researchers are welcome to join the MENTORINGlife sciences program. This program builds on three key elements: mentee-mentor relationship, workshops and network meetings. It aims at encouraging female doctoral researchers to further advance their careers. The GSLS provides support to postdoctoral researchers in several ways. Postdoctoral researchers are granted "career development fellowships" that are intended to help them prepare their first independent grant application. The GSLS is also establishing a coaching program that supports postdoctoral researchers with all issues particularly relevant at this career stage (proposal writing, managing one's own laboratory, team building etc.).
Application to the GSLS requires a master's ("Diplom") degree in a relevant field. Admission to the initial qualification phase for candidates with a bachelor's degree is also possible. Admission can take place any time. It will be followed by enrollment at the university at the earliest date possible.
Doctoral researchers in the GSLS are funded in different ways. The majority are employed as research assistants in ongoing research projects of the graduate school's principal investigators. A number of doctoral researchers of the GSLS are supported by individual fellowships of various sources. The GSLS also awards scholarships funded through the Excellence Initiative. Calls for these scholarships are announced on a regular basis. For more information on future application rounds and deadlines, please visit our website.
To be admitted to the MSc FOKUS Life Sciences, candidates are expected to have completed a BSc program in biology or similar training in a specific field of the life sciences (e.g. biophysics, biochemistry, biotechnology, pharmacology, pharmacy or similar).
Candidates should have excellent theoretical knowledge, want to enter research and a doctoral thesis project as quickly as possible without omitting the MSc degree, are willing and able to take a high work load, want to study in a highly international class of peers with English as the language of instruction, and are keen on working in an interdisciplinary environment.
Applying to the international MSc FOKUS Life Sciences is possible from January 15th to March 15th each year. Please see our website for more information.
97080 Würzburg, Germany
Phone: +49 (0)931 3183308