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The Core Programme

The Core Programme is the central part of the Graduate School for Biological Sciences. It offers a special programme of training and support during the doctorate. 
Training & support elements within the Core Programme are:

1. Thesis committee

Each student chooses a thesis committee consisting of the supervisor and two further scientists independent of the supervisor, called tutor. It is recommended that one tutor is from a closely related field and the other from a different field but with supportive complementary expertise. One of the tutors needs to be at least an independent group leader. The committee meets with the student minimum once per year to discuss the planning and progress of the research project and any other matters of importance. The members of the committee read and comment upon the project proposal and the first and second year report, and also comment on all oral presentations. The thesis committee is involved in the decision about when the experimental work should be considered complete and the student should write up. They are available for discussions and advice to the student on all matters at all times. The Thesis committee form sheet needs to be filled in in all meetings and a scan of the signed document needs to be sent to the GSfBS office (isabell.witt(at) together with a PDF of the report.

2. Written and oral reports 

To offer possibilities for learning to plan a project and identifying with the purpose of the experiment, doctoral candidates are expected to write a research proposal for their chosen or assigned project within three months of starting work. The project proposal will be discussed with the thesis committee. Format of project proposal
One year later a progress report in the format of a thesis or a scientific research paper will be submitted which will contain a critical discussion of results and of problems encountered. Format for progress reports.
The reports, i.e research proposal and two annual reports, form the basis for meetings with the thesis committee and need to be sent to the tutors at least 10 days in advance, followed by an oral progress report, in which the project, as well as any other matters of relevance, will be discussed. It is compulsory that at the end of the thesis committee meeting the doctoral candidate will meet with the tutors alone for a minimum of ten minutes

3. Breadth of scientific background

Doctoral candidates must focus on a small section of a field in order to become an expert in the area. A number of programme components are designed to counteract a too narrow focus of interest and to broaden the scientific education. The doctoral candidates will attend regular progress reports and literature seminars of their own research group. In addition, they are expected to attend departmental seminar series in which the research of the institute or other assembly of scientists is presented, and during the course of their thesis to become familiar with the research conducted in biology in Cologne. In addition, discussion and active intellectual engagement between doctoral candidates from different research groups will be fostered by annual meetings that are organized and exclusively attended by doctoral candidates.
To extend the doctoral candidates’ exposure to research beyond that of the local area, they will receive funds to entirely organize a conference called "crossroads in biology" to which they invite and host international top scientists.

4. Career development training

For a career in science, doctoral candidates need not only excellent research results and skills but also the ability to present their work orally and in writing and to deal with a complex academic and social environment. Furthermore, a doctoral degree serves not only as a preparation for a research career, but also as entry to other professions, for example in industry and science administration. Doctoral candidates need to learn about career structures and options in these fields. The GSfBS offers training for these skills.

  •  Workshops in statistics literacy, science writing and presentation are an integral part of the core training of all graduate students. 
  •  Bioinformatics and Data Visualisation courses help managing data bases, analyising data sets and understanding the application of statistics.
  •  Workshops in negotiation skills, team management, leadership skills and conflict resolution are offered. 
  •  Language courses in German are offered at two levels

5. PhD related events and networking

Activities such as the Symposium CEWIS, the Alumni Day, Career Day and PhD Days are great opportunities to discuss science with Alumni, famous invited scientists and with many different professionals inside and outside of academic research.

Students are asked to join the alumni on facebook, LinkedIn or XING